Treasure Valley Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Feb. 9, 2021

Your Complete Move-Out Guide

 

 

You can hardly wait to move into your new home. You've been picking out paint colors, planning how you'll arrange your belongings, and checking out restaurants and shops in your new community. While all this planning is exciting, there's one very important thing you need to wrap up first - your sold home! Here are some smart tips to make moving out go off without a hitch.

1) Prepare in the weeks and days before.

The more you can get done ahead of time to prepare for moving out of your sold home, the better. On moving day, all of your belongings should be packed in boxes and ready to go to your new home - moving day is not packing day! Packing up your belongings a little each day in the weeks leading up to your move will make the process feel manageable, and you'll also be able to put the time and care into packing your things carefully if you're not rushing.

2) Prepare your kids for the transition.

Change can be difficult, and this can be an especially sensitive time for children. While they hear you constantly talking about the "new home" they might be feeling scared or even sad to leave your current home. In the weeks leading up to your move, be sure to talk positively about the experience. This means no complaining about the work required or any hassles. They'll feel your stress, so make it a joyful time as much as possible to make it seem like moving will be fun.

Hopefully, during your home hunting process, the kids came along, so the new place won't be a surprise. After closing on your new home, bring the kids there to explore. If your kids are feeling sad about leaving your old home, encourage them to take something from their current home as a memory, like rocks from your garden.

3) Handling emotions.

Leaving the memories you've made in your old home can bring up a lot of emotions. Prepare yourself emotionally by letting yourself feel these things instead of trying to push your feelings aside. With the bustle of moving out, emotions will be running at an all-time high. Take the time to acknowledge the emotions of your family members when they surface and, should you notice yourself feeling frustrated or annoyed if the movers show up late or if your boxes aren't fitting in the truck - relax. Stress will only make the move feel harder than it should.

4) Make the move easy on your pets.

Moving is also tough on your four-legged friends. If you can, bring your pets to your new home a few times to explore before moving in. This way, they'll identify it as a familiar space when you arrive on moving day. Sometimes pets' eating habits will change for a while after moving - they may seem uninterested in food for a while. On moving day, let your pets stay with a trusted friend or family member. This way, they'll be out of the way and won't pick up on any moving day excitement that could stress them out further.

5) Keep valuables safe.

It's a smart idea to keep your valuables with you in your vehicle in a small bag or box so you don't need to worry about them getting lost in the moving truck, or during unloading. Unpack these items first and keep them in a safe spot like a small safe or box you can easily identify and stow it in your bedroom closet or kitchen cabinet.

These overall tips are a great guide for what to do when it comes time to move out of your home. When in doubt, if you're not sure when you'll be moving out, or you still need guidance with selling your home, reach out to a local real estate expert for some one-on-one assistance.

Posted in Lifestyle
Feb. 9, 2021

Best Boise Pumpkin Patches

 

 

Can you believe that Halloween is already right around the corner? If you have not found your perfect pumpkin by now, do not worry! There is still time. Here is a list of the best places to pick your own in the Boise area.

 Lowe Family Farmstead-

This farm is a great place to take the whole family. They offer so many different attractions that you will be certain to find something fun to do for everyone. From yard games to farm animals, corn mazes to hayrides, this is one of the best places to visit this October. If you stop by on a Saturday between 2:00-4:00pm you will be able to see a parade with your favorite princesses and superheroes. If a good scare is what you are after, you are in luck, they have the Field of Screams, certain to give you a good fright. https://www.farmsteadfestival.com/

Linder Farms-

If a pumpkin and a fun time are what you are looking for, then you will find it at Linder Farms. With over 20 acres of patch and over 30 varieties of pumpkins, you are bound to find the perfect one to pick for you and your family. Besides great pumpkins, this farm has many attractions. Including a giant slide, a tire playground, and tractors to ride; all included with your admission. Linder Farms is also the proud home to the official corn maze of the Boise State Broncos! http://www.linderfarms.com/

The Berry Ranch-

While The Berry Ranch certainly has enough you-pick pumpkins to keep you satisfied, that is not the only thing that you can pick here. They also offer strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries that you can have the fun of picking. If you are not into that sort of thing, The Berry Ranch has a cute little store front where they sell everything from honey, jam, corn, and meat, all which has been grown on the ranch. Do not forget to feed the animals while you are here, it will be a hit with the kids! https://www.theberryranch.com/

If you have a favorite farm or place to pick pumpkins in the Boise area let me know!

Posted in Lifestyle
Feb. 8, 2021

A Farm Fresh Thanksgiving

 

 

Thanksgiving is such a special time of year. In my family it means that I get to spend quality time with family that I do not see very often, reflect on what I am thankful for, and eat some delicious food. Around our table we always have turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. While I always look forward to the regular menu, I also like to try and change things up a bit. So, this year I plan to grab some fresh and local ingredients to try out a few of these new recipes.

Feeding my family fresh food is important to me, which can sometimes be a challenge this time of year. It is a good thing that the Boise Farmer’s Market operates year-round. They have an indoor market during the fall and winter months to continue providing the community with fresh and local food. You can stop by and make sure to grab all the delicious ingredients to surprise your family with this farm fresh Thanksgiving menu.

To check find out more information on the indoor market and to grab a list of the foods they will have this holiday season, visit their website at http://www.theboisefarmersmarket.com/

After you go and pick up your local groceries at the Boise Farmer’s Market, give one of these delicious Thanksgiving recipes a try! Every one of them takes a traditional holiday dish that you and your family love, but they throw in a unique twist. I think that they will be a hit with my family and hope that they are with yours as well!

Sweet Potato Bites

What is better than sweet potato casserole? How about offering it as a finger food! These cute little bites take everything that you love about this traditional dish but make it even better because you get the ooey gooey goodness in every single bite! You can offer these as an appetizer or in place of the traditional sweet potato casserole. Either way they are sure to be a hit. Click on the link for recipe and instructions.

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a50000/sweet-potato-bites-recipe/

Cheddar Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is one of my favorite things on the Thanksgiving table. I always look forward to it every year. And like all foods, this one is made even better by adding cheddar cheese to it! If you have never had green bean casserole with cheddar cheese in it, I think this is the year that you give it a try. The cheese gives it a little something extra and I am sure no one will be complaining about it. Click on the link for the full recipe.

 https://www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com/cheddar-green-bean-casserole/

Stuffing Muffins

Stuffing is one those Thanksgiving dishes that is necessary to have but does not usually get a lot of attention because let’s be honest, it is kind of a boring side dish. However, if there was ever a way to make stuffing more fun and appealing it would be offering them as muffins. These stuffing muffins are the perfect combination of moist and crunchy. They are sure to shake up your stuffing game! Click on the link for recipe and cooking instructions.

 https://www.popsugar.com/food/Stuffing-Muffins-Recipe-32359858

Brown Butter Garlic Carrots

On Thanksgiving, most people fill their plates with turkey, rolls, and mashed potatoes. Vegetables usually get overlooked, but these carrots are the perfect addition to brighten up your Thanksgiving plate! They are sweet and delicious, but the best part of all is that they are easy to make. If you are looking for a dish to bring to your family Thanksgiving, I suggest this one. Click on the link for the full recipe.

https://rasamalaysia.com/brown-butter-garlic-honey-roasted-carrots/

Cranberry Apple Cider Sangria

A fun festive drink is the perfect final touch to round out a great Thanksgiving feast. This drink incorporates fresh fruit that you can pick up at the farmer’s market and turn into this delicious sangria. It is not too sweet or too tart. You can try replacing the wine with a juice/water mix to make it non-alcoholic for kids or adults who do not drink so that no one has to miss out on this fabulous holiday beverage. Click on the link for the instructions.

https://www.flavourandsavour.com/cranberry-apple-cider-sangria/

What is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish that you look forward to every year?

Posted in Lifestyle
Feb. 8, 2021

Be Informed: What is Escrow?

 

The first time you heard the term, "escrow" you may have been thrown for a loop. While the word may have had you confused the first time, here are some essential things to know about escrow--what it is, what it's used for, and how it works. 

What Is Escrow?

Escrow is a legal notion where money or assets are held by a third-party on behalf of two other parties in the middle of completing a transaction. 

An escrow company provides two parties the service to make sure everyone does what they say they're going to do. The escrow company acts as a middleman to protect the assets while the home purchasing process is happening.  

Applied to real estate transactions--when buying or selling a home, escrow is the trusted third-party, who is someone other than the buyer or seller, who will hold money to make sure you execute the transaction correctly.

The key thing to remember here is that the third-party is a trusted party. This is a neutral entity that doesn't care whether a home buyer or home seller comes out ahead of the other. The primary role of an escrow service is to make sure each party in a real estate transaction holds up its end of the deal. 

Search for a reputable escrow company, or ask your real estate agent for a recommendation to find a trustworthy service.

How Escrow Works When Purchasing A Home

When buying a new home, you agree to pay the purchase amount within a certain time, and the seller will provide the home they're selling. Your home purchase is probably contingent on a few things; namely financing and a home inspection. While you're securing financing and scheduling a professional home inspection, you will make an escrow payment, or an "earnest deposit," writing a check to an escrow provider in an agreed-upon amount that shows your intent or seriousness of purchasing that home. This gives the seller some reassurance that you're serious.

Escrow opens when a buyer and seller sign an agreement for a real estate transaction, then deliver the agreement to an escrow officer who helps make sure everyone meets the contract conditions. 

Escrow closes when everyone did everything they agreed to do, and the homeownership is transferred to the buyer.

Once the escrow provider verifies everyone held up their end of the agreement, they'll either give you a refund, apply it to the purchase price or the home, or pass the money along to the seller (if the buyer doesn't satisfy requirements). 

 

Escrow Accounts For Homeowners Insurance And Property Taxes

The other time you'll hear about escrow may be for an escrow account--which is slightly different than for a real estate transaction. When making your monthly mortgage payments on your home loan, you may also be paying for additional home expenses like property taxes and homeowner's insurance as part of one lump sum.

Property taxes are usually an annual expense, and sometimes homeowner's insurance is as well, though many insurance companies accept monthly payments. To alleviate the lender's risk of you not budgeting properly for these payments, they make sure tax and insurance get paid by adding them to your monthly mortgage payment. 

This portion of your monthly payment is deposited into a separate, escrow account. These funds are kept in escrow (by a company outside of both you and your lender) until their respective payments are due once a year, then they'll make the payment on your behalf. You'll discuss this with your lender when you finalize the purchase of your home, so it shouldn't be a surprise. 

If there's a difference in how much you owe and how much you've contributed to the escrow account, your lender will let you know. You'll either receive a refund if you overpaid, or if you didn't contribute enough, your lender will pay the difference, then send you a bill for the additional amount. You may be able to pay the bill over the coming year.

If you need help finding an escrow company or have any questions about the escrow process for real estate, get in touch! 

Feb. 8, 2021

Treasure Valley Holiday Bucket List

 

The holiday season in Boise is so special. There are so many gorgeous sights to see, so many activities that are offered to the community, and opportunities to spend quality time with your family. The Boise area has snow, glistening lights, beautifully decorated trees, and you can even ice skate with Santa Claus! I mean if that does not put you into the holiday spirit then I do not know what will.

This city brings families together during the holiday season and it is truly magical. There is no place that I rather spend this time of year than right here in my hometown. A huge part of that is because Boise does the holidays right. There is an abundance of entertainment options offered that it is impossible not to feel merry and bright.

There are a few places that I always look forward to visiting each holiday season. Each one of these places puts me into the holiday spirit and gives me some cheer. I call it my Boise Holiday Bucket List. While not all of these places are located in Boise, they are all pretty close and worth the drive. Each place is sure to make your holiday season extra special.

 

Indian Creek Plaza

The Indian Creek Plaza is located in downtown Caldwell. Every year they put on one heck of a winter wonderland festival! They decorate the plaza with over a million twinkling lights which is a sight that needs to be seen! Indian Creek is truly a special place to experience. They offer live entertainment, music, and a kid playland- all which are free to enjoy. While you are there you might get lucky enough to run into a few of your favorite Frozen 2 characters or have a visit with Santa. Take the kids on a pony ride or perhaps a train ride around the plaza. Make sure to grab some last-minute Christmas gifts at the market as well. Finally, you do not want to miss out on the ice-skating at the plaza (costs $4-$10), some days you can even hit the ice with Santa! 

To see the plaza’s full schedule go to their website at https://www.indiancreekplaza.com/calendar?view=calendar&month=12-2019

 

The Village

The Village at Meridian has so much to offer this holiday season. From story time with Santa’s helpers, to photos with Santa (for your kids or pets!), to a holiday light show. Whatever gets you in the holiday spirit this place has! They even offer ice skating until the end of January so be sure to stop in for some family fun on the ice. But my favorite thing that The Village offers is breakfast with Santa on Saturday mornings. How magical is that? Your kids can sit with Santa for a holiday breakfast, meet him in person, and write letters (costs $12 for adults and $9 for kids). I know that this will be a memory that your kid’s will cherish for years to come.

To see everything that The Village has to offer this holiday season go to their website at https://www.thevillageatmeridian.com/events/

 

Botanical Garden

This is one of my favorite places to visit during the holiday season. It runs until January 4th, so there is plenty of time to get there before the Winter Garden aGlow is over. The light display features over a half million lights and sprawls over an impressive 14 acres. If you have been before, you still need to go and check it out this year because they have added a new Illumination interactive display. It is the perfect way to spend the day with your family. Or if you are looking for some adult time, make sure to visit the gardens on the 18th when they will be hosting Wine Wednesday. The Botanical Gardens also offers live entertainment and visits with Santa throughout the whole holiday season. If you are searching for a magical experience, this is the place for you.

To plan your visit to the Botanical Gardens visit their website at https://idahobotanicalgarden.org/events/annual-events/

 

The Egyptian

The Egyptian Theater is one of Boise’s most treasured landmarks. The historical venue is beautiful and offers a warm and cozy environment for movie lovers. During the holiday season Boise Classic Movies hosts some of your favorite holiday films at The Egyptian Theater. They allow the public to vote on which classic Christmas movies they will be showing to ensure a great turnout. There is everything from Home Alone to Christmas Vacation to It’s A Wonderful Life. There is still time to grab your family and some popcorn and go enjoy your favorite holiday film in one of Boise’s most beautiful and unique venues.

To see the full movie schedule visit Boise Classic Movies at https://boiseclassicmovies.com/deals/

American Heritage Trolley Tour

A trolley ride? To see Christmas lights? Yes please! If you are up for a little adventure, then I suggest you check out The American Heritage Trolley Holiday Tour. The trolley, or Molly Trolley as they call her, usually runs tours of historic downtown Boise, but during the holiday season they deck her out to go tour some of the best holiday light displays in town. These hour-long tours are now running nightly until through Christmas Eve. Do not forget to grab your coat, hat, and gloves as this is an open air tour and can get chilly.

To book your trolley tour visit American Heritage’s website at http://www.americanheritagetrolleytours.com/

The Giving Tree

This is one of my absolute favorite Boise holiday traditions! The Giving Tree is such a special event that Boise puts on every year to support the Women’s and Children’s Alliance. If you do not know what this is all about, I suggest that you go and check it out this year. At The Grove Plaza where the Christmas Tree Lighting is held each year is where The Giving Tree program kicks off. Branches of the tree are hung with gift tags and each one has items listed on the tag that are needed by the Women’s and Children’s Alliance. Community members are able to take a tag with them and purchase the needed item to donate. These gifts can be dropped off at any Zion Bank locations. This is such a great way to give back each year and know that you are helping members of our community.

To learn more about The Giving Tree program go to http://www.wcaboise.org/tag/giving-tree/

If none of these events get you in the holiday spirit, then check out everything that Boise has to offer by visiting https://downtownboise.org/events/christmas-in-the-city

What is your favorite thing to do in Boise during the holiday season?

 

Feb. 8, 2021

How To Pick A Neighborhood

 

 

If you've always rented before, then you might not have put too much thought into which neighborhood you were planting your (temporary) roots. After all, most leases are up after a year, so you can change your mind in a matter of months. Buying a house, however, is a different story: if you don't want to pay capital gains taxes, then you'll have to stay there for at least two years, and depending on which concessions you made when you bought the place, the neighborhood can affect everything from the home's appreciation to how easy it is to sell.

Before deciding where exactly you want to buy a house, you'll want to consider the following questions. Once you've outlined the criteria you require in a home, start taking to agents about which neighborhoods meet your needs better than others -- and remember that many of the best agents focus on very specific neighborhoods, so you might want to talk to several agents to get the widest scope for your home search.

What do you like about where you live?

If you already live in or around the area where you want to buy a house, then you've got a big advantage already because you have some idea of what the neighborhoods are alike, and you've had some experience living there yourself. One good way to start narrowing down the neighborhoods where you want to shop is to consider what you like about your current neighborhood and other areas where you've lived. Make a list of the features and amenities that you most appreciate and that you'd like to experience again as a homeowner.

What do you wish was different?

On a similar note, think about the quirks in the different neighborhoods where you've lived that you were happy to leave when your lease was up. Maybe you didn't realize that the sewage plant was right down the road, or perhaps the weekend bar and restaurant traffic in another neighborhood was simply too much to deal with. The previous list might have felt like a bit of a love letter to your former living situations -- consider this your opportunity to level the playing field and remind yourself of the dealbreakers in those neighborhood relationships.

How important are each of these factors to you?

You'll be adding to this list as you go, but it's time to start ranking all of the different items, both your favorite neighborhood features and the ones that you would prefer to live without if you have your choice. As you add more items to the list, try to place them in the proper order so that you have a sense of how to rank neighborhoods once you get to that stage of the process.

What's your budget?

Depending on where you live, this might not be as important as you think (or fear) -- there are often opportunities to get your foot in the door with entry-level-priced homes in upscale neighborhoods, but you will need to have a good sense of how much you can comfortably spend and what price range is more of a stretch for you and your budget. To maximize your purchasing power, you'll want to save up as big a down payment as you can and get your credit into as good as shape as you can. If you haven't already started getting financially fit for your home purchase, it's a good time to start.

Do you have kids? Pets? Will you in the next 5 to 10 years?

One big mistake that buyers make is shopping for the neighborhood that fits the lifestyle you currently have, not one that you'll grow into as you become a homeowner. You never know exactly what life is going to throw at you, so planning (for example) to move into a better school district in a few years when the kids are older might not be a smart idea. What will you do if you lose your job or your household takes some kind of pay cut and you actually can't trade up into a better school district when you planned? Try to think about where you want to be as a household and family, in your career, and in your social life in the next few years, and that includes the non-human members of your household.

Are you in a committed relationship? Do you date? How will that affect your choice?

A studio apartment in the neighborhood with the most vibrant nightlife in the city might seem like a great entry-level housing choice -- but if you think your future plans might involve moving in with a significant other, then it might be better to opt for a place that has enough space for your significant other's things. On a similar note, if you want to date, then perhaps moving to an area known mostly for its population of families might not be your best move. 

What type of home do you want?

If you have a dog or kids -- or a penchant for gardening -- then you probably would prefer a single-family home or even a duplex over a condo. Consider how you're going to clean and maintain the space if you're going to be upgrading the house you live in: Are you willing to do it yourself, or do you have the budget to hire help? Think about the types of homes that fit your lifestyle the best and then consider which neighborhoods have a good supply of those types of homes. When the time comes to start searching, it'll be less frustrating because you'll know exactly what will work (and what won't).

How far are you willing to commute?

Some people find a certain zen in driving while others prefer public transportation, and there are even those who would rather not deal with vehicles at all, walking or biking or working remotely. Your preferred method of getting to work is going to dictate (at least to some extent) which neighborhoods will be a good fit for you and which ones you might love except for the big, hairy commute, a dealbreaker for most people. While you're thinking about your traveling-to-work needs, it also helps to consider other companies in proximity to the neighborhood that might be good future fits for you so that you don't feel stuck in place. And of course, if you're used to working remotely, you'll need to vet the neighborhood for good home internet and plenty of libraries, coffee shops, coworking spaces, or other areas where you can establish your office away from the office.

Where will you get groceries?

Food deserts in urban areas are a real thing, but there are also places where your main options for grocery shopping might be upscale specialty stores, which could be a problem if you're used to subsisting on canned soup and spaghetti. When you start narrowing down your list of possible neighborhoods, look at the grocery options and consider where you'll shop if you were to buy a house there. After all, there's no sense in establishing wealth as a homeowner if you're going to start spending all your discretionary income on takeout because getting groceries is too onerous where you live.

How important is walkability?

Not every neighborhood is all that walkable, but walkability also isn't all that important to everybody. If you didn't include walkability in your list of things you like (or dislike) about where you currently live, now is the time to think about it: Do you enjoy walking to parks or trails, breweries or wineries or bars or restaurants, coffee shops, and so on? If walkability is a big part of your life, or if you'd like it to be a bigger part, then factor that into your home shopping process.

What kind of crime are you willing to deal with?

Nobody wants to live in an area that's considered "high crime," but depending on your personal circumstances, you might be willing or able to tolerate more crime while maintaining your own safety. One thing to keep in mind about crime maps and statistics around different neighborhoods is that they typically map reported crime, and they also usually measure crime as a percentile within the county. So in counties that have very low levels of crime, a neighborhood with one or two incidents might be labeled as "high-crime." If you're doing research around crime, keep in mind the overall crime levels of the county or reporting area, and also look at tools that can differentiate between violent crime and other types of crime.

What parks or recreational facilities are nearby? Tourist attractions?

Parks and recreational facilities are nice things to have near your home, but many people have mixed feelings about living near tourist attractions, such as concert venues, national landmarks, sports arenas, cultural facilities, and so on. If you're thinking about moving to a neighborhood that has a noted attraction, it's a good idea to talk to some of the locals about the pros and cons, and maybe try renting in the area for a little bit before you commit to buying a house there. And research where the parks and recreational facilities are, down to which streets have the best access, so you can be fully educated about the best sales opportunities in the neighborhood.

Is there an HOA? What are the rules?

When you start narrowing your search down to a handful of neighborhoods, it's wise to look into the homeowner's associations (HOAs), if there are any. You'll need to follow the rules and regulations while you live there or face fines that are sometimes hefty. So if there are any rules that you don't think you can follow or that raise a red flag for you, it's a good time to consider eliminating that neighborhood from your options.

Is there a new development planned?

New development is one of those factors that can be wonderful or terrible. If a new high-rise or strip mall is about to block a neighborhood's or street's view from a natural feature, then residents tend to think it's terrible, but if the development includes a hot new restaurant or a public pool, then they might feel differently about it. You can go to the city or county office for neighborhoods where you're looking and ask to look at the new development permits or talk to some of the locals about the big project breaking ground on the main corner of a neighborhood you're considering.

What's the market like?

Even though a home is an investment, this probably isn't the first consideration on your list -- nor should it be. But you do need to consider how a neighborhood's market is doing in comparison to others; there might be two very comparable neighborhoods in all other respects, but home prices appreciate much faster in one than in another. In that case, you might want to look a little bit harder in the higher-value neighborhood so you have more equity to use when you trade up in a few years.

How does it trigger your five senses?

Humans tend to prioritize sight over our other senses, but it's always a mistake to discount how a neighborhood sounds, smells, and even feels when you're shopping around. Take a walk through the areas that are on your shortlist at different times of the day and pay attention to how you feel and why. For example, newer neighborhoods with fewer old-growth trees might feel unbearably hot in the summertime at high noon; maybe the wind blows the odors from the sewer plant toward the neighborhood every evening; perhaps there are trains or airplanes that disturb your sleep.

Are there any red flags?

By this point, you've probably accumulated a list of things you like about at least one neighborhood -- but don't discount any red flags or things that you might seriously dislike about the areas under consideration. It's easy to get rose-colored glasses on when you're doing something fun like browsing neighborhoods, but you'll kick yourself later if you don't take those concerns seriously now. Make a list of things you don't like about any neighborhoods on your list, and do a little digging into each item to see whether it's a real dealbreaker or whether you can live with it.

What do the locals think?

The people who actually live in the neighborhood are one of the best sources of information about what it's really like to live there. Tap into those resources if at all possible: talk to the servers at the diner, the librarians or city, and county clerks, the retail store employees, people you meet walking around at the park or just on the street. If you're a parent, take your kids to a local playground and strike up conversations with some of the other moms and dads about what they like and dislike about the area. You might not learn anything new, but the locals might give you some real food for thought.

Can you stay for a while?

Now that you've thought about all of these different factors of choosing the right neighborhood, spend some time there and see if it really is a good fit for you. A local brokerage can help you find a rental if you can take your time making a decision, which is the perfect way to learn everything about a neighborhood and understand whether you'd enjoy living there. They can also help you find a vacation rental or another short-term option if you can't rent long-term but still want to check out the neighborhoods in advance.

Choosing the right neighborhood is the most critical decision when it comes to buying a house -- apart from which house to buy. When you know which neighborhood is a good fit for you, then you'll find the home search experience much less challenging and frustrating. One of the best resources for educating yourself about neighborhoods is a local real estate brokerage, which typically has agents who specialize in many different neighborhoods and can provide you with the details you need to pick the right neighborhood for your next home purchase. 

Feb. 8, 2021

Annual Home Maintenance Checklist

 

If you’ve been a homeowner before, you know that just like your vehicle needs regular maintenance like oil changes to run well—so does your home. It can be easy to ignore or put these things off, but a well-maintained home will save you money from costly repairs in the long run, and make your home easier to sell when the time comes.

 

While this list is comprehensive, it’s not a complete list of all the things your home needs.

Monthly

  •  Change HVAC or furnace filters. If your family is small and pet-free, simply inspect the filter and replace it every 2-3 months.
  •  Clean range hood filters. Mix a degreaser with hot water, let it soak, then rinse it off.
  •  Check water softener. Check the salt level, add some if needed, and read the display to make sure no error codes are displayed. You’ll usually only add salt a few times a year.

 

Biannually

  • Deep clean. Roll up your sleeves and deep clean appliances, windows, lighting, and every crevice and corner. Keeping a clean home and not letting dirt build-up will help keep it polished.
  • Test the pressure relief valve on the water heater. This prevents corrosion—protecting leaks and helping it run efficiently.
  • Replace batteries in smoke/carbon dioxide detectors. Make it a habit to change batteries every time you set the clocks for daylight savings time.
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils. The fridge can account for up to 15 percent of your home’s total power—keep it running efficiently.

 

Annually Organized by Season

Spring – There’s a reason it’s called “Spring Cleaning”

  • Service central air. Do this before it gets hot and you can often get this done at a discounted rate with enough time to spare before it gets sweltering hot.
  • Check gutters and drainage. When April showers start coming down, will the water flow away from your house? Keep gutters clear so the water can flow where it’s supposed to.
  • Test sump pump. You don’t want to wait until you need it to find out it’s not working!
  • Check grout in the bathroom and kitchen. Fix the grout where needed—This will extend the life of tiled surfaces and keep them looking new.
  • Check windows and screens. Clean window wells of fall and winter debris. 

 

Summer – Shift your focus to the outdoors and enjoy the sunshine

  • Clean ducts, sweep the chimney and get heating systems ready. You’ll be turning these on at the first hint of crisp fall weather, so do this now.
  • Check and clean the clothes dryer vent. While running, check the exhaust for the smell of fresh laundry. If the exhaust is marginal, check for blockages. Also, vacuum the lint from the dryer hose.
  • Clean garage. The garage is easy to ignore, get out there while the weather is nice, and check garage door sensors are working while you’re in there.

 

Fall – prepare for winter during this in-between season

  • Winterize A/C systems. Store window units, and if you have central air, cover the outside unit with a tarp and fasten with bungee cords.
  • Flush and store hoses. Drain the water so it doesn’t freeze.

 

Winter – cozy up and stay warm

  • Break Icicles. As pretty as they look, don’t let them grow—they could fall unexpectedly and hurt someone and can get can cause damage from their weight. When they melt, they can cause water damage to the foundation.
  • Remove showerheads and clean deposits. This will keep your water pressure strong and keep them lasting long.
  • Check the foundation for cracks. Use caulk or silicone to repair any small cracks before the Spring thaw.
Feb. 8, 2021

5 Gorgeous Kitchen Trends That Won't Disappoint

 

Your kitchen is more than just the heart of your home. It’s become the hot-spot of most households as a multi-functional space for entertaining, work, of course, dining. A well-designed kitchen will go a long way in increasing your home’s value and upping the enjoyment of the room you spend most of your time in. While many trends come and go, some stand out. Here are five gorgeous kitchen trends you’ll love. 

1) Rethink Standard White Cabinets With Gray

If you’ve grown tired of looking at white cabinets, the next color that’s ready to pass white as a favorite kitchen cabinet color is gray. Gray is clean and sophisticated and can be a timeless option for both traditional and modern kitchens. It’s a neutral color, that’s close to white, so it can have staying power for years to come. 

2) A Classic Subway Tile Backsplash

When it comes to backsplashes, you can have a ton of fun, but the options can also be overwhelming when you realize backsplashes can come in all kinds of tile shapes, colors, and sizes. You can’t go wrong with a classic subway tile. Even in clean and elegant white, this simple update will give your kitchen a finished and timeless look. Don’t forget about the grout color either—using a gray or dark-colored grout will show off the tile lines and will give you the bonus of being much easier to clean than white or lighter colored grouts. 

3) Quartz Countertops

In the past, granite and quartz were neck and neck as the most popular countertop options. Today, quartz is gaining popularity and for a good reason. Quartz is one of the toughest countertop materials, stronger than natural stone and will resist chips, scratches, and burn marks, making it more durable in the long run than granite counters. If you take a close look, some quartz countertops look just like granite ones. Manufacturers mix resin with crushed quartz stone to craft great-looking countertops that can be solid in color or look just like real granite. Besides being pleasing to the eye, quartz countertops are also easy to clean and maintain. And unlike granite, you won’t need to reseal it every year. 

4) Sleek Black Appliances

While stainless steel appliances have been at the top of many people’s kitchen wish lists, all the sheen of stainless appliances can overwhelm a small kitchen. Many appliance manufacturers have been getting ready for black appliances to make a comeback. Today, you can find many refined and stylish shades like slate gray and granite black. Dark appliances are also easier to clean and don’t show fingerprints and dirt like stainless appliances. 

5) Lighten Up With LEDs

Light will never go out of style, and a well-lit, bright kitchen will give you a welcoming feel every time you step into the room. Check out LED lighting and work one of the many styles into some of your kitchen spaces to show off your favorite kitchen features. Find LEDs along toe kicks as nightlights, inside kitchen cabinets to illuminate your favorite dishes, and even tucked into crown molding to brighten ceilings. You’ll find LEDs that complement your kitchen design perfectly with colors ranging from bright to soft white, red, green, and blue.

They don’t emit heat, so you don’t need to worry about damaging your cabinets or fixtures, and they’re also energy-efficient—they can last an average of 50,000 hours! 

If you’re thinking of giving your kitchen a makeover, and want to know what kitchen design trends will work best in your area, get in touch!

Feb. 8, 2021

5 Essential Financial Steps to Take Before Investing in Real Estate

 

If you've been thinking about investing in real estate, getting your finances in order before you start searching for properties and scheduling appointments will save you from money headaches in the long run. 

Real estate investments could be one of your largest investments, and unless you have cash ready to invest, you'll need a plan for financing and a plan for cash flow in the future. Here's what you need to do before heading out to property shop:

1) Create A Financing Plan

If you have strong credit, consistent W-2 income, and a sizeable down payment, traditional financing could be your best option for your first real estate investment since interest rates are typically low and the terms are attractive. Figure out how much you can afford based on your current expenses, and how much cash you'll need to have on hand for renovations and upgrades. Make sure you know where your liquid funds will come from to improve your chances of landing a good deal. With cash, you can move faster, which will motivate most sellers. 

2) Review Your Credit Report And Keep It Healthy

Request a copy of your credit report through one of the credit bureaus and make sure you dispute any errors or provide an explanation for any derogatory issues or late payments. Keep your credit score from slipping by avoiding any new credit inquiries, canceling any credit accounts, or lowering your limits with any creditors. 

3) Get Mortgage Pre-Approval

With an approved mortgage in hand, most lenders will lock in an interest rate, so if rates fluctuate upwards while you're searching for the perfect investment property, you can relax knowing that your rate isn't going to change. To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll need to have the following in order: 

  • Personal documents: Two forms of government-issued ID, your social security number, as well as proof of ownership of other property, including your primary residence or other investment properties.
  • Tax returns: For the previous year, and potentially for the last two years.
  • Proof of income: W2s, paycheck stubs, 1099s, or if you're self-employed, a year-to-date profit and loss statement. 
  • Proof of assets: Bank statements, 401Ks, IRAs, and money held in stocks or mutual funds.
  • Summary of all debt: Primary property loan(s), credit card balances, student loans, and all monthly payment amounts.

 

4) Stay Competitive By Doing Your Homework

Just because your financing is approved, doesn't mean you're ready to start shopping. Do some comparison shopping and contact other lenders to see what kind of interest rate they can offer. A few percentage points might not seem significant, but can save tens of thousands or more over the lifetime of a loan and affect your monthly cash flow. Consider checking with a bank other than the one you bank with; they might be very likely to be more competitive to win new business. 

5) Liquid Funds

Based on your financing plan, you'll have figured out how much cash you need to have in hand for a down payment and closing costs. Also factor in how much cash you'll need for renovations or repairs if the properties you'll be considering aren't turn-key. Consider your cash flow from month to month to make sure you're not projecting negative cash flow. Or if you are, that you have a backup source of cash such as drawing from your personal accounts.

The goal of real estate investing is usually to make money. As your investment style evolves and matures as a real estate investor, the amount of risk you can withstand is bound to change. Keep your original goals in mind, and do your homework to help position yourself to enjoy the financial returns. 

Thinking of investing in real estate or changing your investing goals? Get in touch!

Feb. 8, 2021

Everything You Need To Know About Selling A House With Tenants

It's stressful being a landlord at the best of times, but when the time comes for you to sell your investment property and move on, the stress can feel palpable. You've probably spent time getting to know your tenants and have built a relationship with them, and most humans don't deal with change all that well. 

Springing the "guess what, I'm selling your residence out from under you" conversation can feel like a big deal, even if everyone involved knows that isn't really what's happening. If you own a home with tenants in it that you want to sell, what do you need to know and address?

 

You can still sell your house even if there are tenants living in it ...

The good news is this: You have the legal right to sell your property, even if there are tenants living there. It's your house and your decision to make, and if you want to sell it, that is well within your purview.

That said, there's a good way to go about selling your home with tenants, and there are a lot of ways that generate resentment and a lack of cooperation and that generally are not pleasant or fun for anyone involved. You do have the right to sell your house; your tenants have rights, too. To make this a tolerable process for them -- and, frankly, to get the place sold faster and for more money -- you'll need to solicit your tenants' cooperation.

... But in most states, they can stay through the end of their lease

One of the rights that your tenants have is to stay in the property until the end of their lease. This applies to both month-to-month leases and fixed-term leases for longer periods of time, such as six months or one year.

Selling a rental house with a month-to-month lease is relatively easy; refresh your memory as to the terms of your lease agreement and give your tenants the appropriate notice that you will not be renewing the lease when it ends. This could be anywhere from 30 to 60 days, depending on how your lease is written and what state the property is in.

Selling a rental with a fixed-term lease can be a bit more complicated. It's possible that your tenants' lease might not be up for several months, and if you really can't wait for them to vacate before buying, then you'll need to work with them throughout the sales process, and they will stay on in their residence after it's sold.

Would the tenant be interested in buying?

One easy solution to the issue of selling a home with tenants is to ask the tenants if they'd be interested in buying. Not everyone is going to be able to afford to do this, of course, but it's very possible that your tenants love where they live enough to consider securing a mortgage loan and making you an offer.

If this happens, it's really a best-case scenario for everybody. You don't have to go through the hassle of preparing a home for sale, putting it on the market, and handling buyer bids; buyers don't have to go through the pain of finding a home that works well for them in their price range. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can take this step without professional help, though; it's still a good idea to hire an agent to make sure your interests are being represented and protected.

Can you wait until the lease is up?

Depending on how long is left on the lease, you might be able to just wait until it's up, gives your tenant the appropriate amount of notice that you won't be renewing the lease and need them to vacate, and then put the home up for sale. Simple! Unfortunately, in some circumstances, the tenant may have more than six months left on the lease, and you may truly need the house to sell as quickly as possible.

If you can't wait until the lease is up, you'll need to have a conversation with your tenants about the sale. This should probably be an in-person conversation, followed by a formal letter -- but the in-person conversation will give you an idea of what you'll need to do to incentivize your tenants to be cooperative, which could mean the difference between an immediate sale or a listing that lingers and lingers.

Decide how you're going to market the property

Most sellers who are trying to offload a rental property have a couple of different options for how to market the home. They can sell it as an investment property -- in which case, an established tenant is a distinct plus -- or they could sell it as an owner-occupied home. Investors won't mind at all that the property has a tenant; in fact, they might consider it a reason to buy in and of itself.

You can market the home as both; that's also an option. There are some traditional buyers who won't be moving immediately and won't mind waiting out a lease, so limiting yourself exclusively to investors isn't necessarily your only possible path forward.

Work with your tenant on appropriate showing times

It's important to remember that you are the person in this relationship who desires the sale. Your tenants probably have a lot of feelings about it, few of them positive; they are likely anxious about the future, unsure of where they will move or whether they will have to, sad about the loss of their residence, and more. So if you want them to cooperate to the best of their abilities, you will need to make this process as easy as possible for them.

The first thing to do -- and possibly the most important -- is to ask your tenant about their schedule. When would it be convenient for them to open their residence for showings, and when are the incredibly inconvenient times? Do what you can to limit showings only to the times that tenants have indicated are convenient for them. Buyers who are motivated will be willing to clear their schedules to see a house that might be a fit, so you can feel free to give your tenants some control over the scheduling.

Offer to pay for cleaning, lawn maintenance, or both

Another big pain point for your tenants is going to be keeping their residence looking showing-worthy just in case a buyer wants to stop by. This is difficult enough for sellers who are motivated to offload their own residence, but when you're a tenant who doesn't have a choice in the matter and you're not going to see any financial benefit from your behavior, why would you be inspired to spend almost all your time outside of work keeping up with your house?

One way you can show your tenants that you care about their experience in this process is to help them out by hiring cleaning or lawn maintenance help -- or both -- to help them keep up with the showings and alleviate some stress. Yes, it's going to cost you some money, as will a few of these suggestions. But is it better to spend some money upfront and sell the place more quickly, or to pinch your pennies and allow the home to languish on the market for months? At that point, you may as well wait for your tenants to vacate if you're not willing to do anything to hasten the process.

Provide 24 hours' notice for showings

Different states have different requirements for how much notice you need to give tenants about showings, but a good rule of thumb that's acceptable in all states is to provide them at least 24 hours' notice. Make sure that all buyer's agents know this is the case, and don't acquiesce to pleas to squeeze someone in at the last minute. It could be illegal, it will very likely leave a bad taste in your tenant's mouth, and you could wind up with an uncooperative tenant on your hands as a result.

Arrange for the tenant to leave during showings

Tenants might not be intrusive when possible buyers are walking through the house, but it's still pretty awkward to try to look at a place with the current occupant present. Talk to your tenants about options for things they can do while buyers come by to look, and do what you can to make those options easy for them. Maybe spending some gift cards to a local coffee shop or brewpub would be welcome ways for them to spend the hour or so they have to vacate the premises?

Send them on a mini-holiday for the open house

Planning on having an open house over the weekend? What will your tenants do during that time? Maybe you can offer them a night or a weekend away in a nice hotel while you host the open house. This is an opportunity for you to get a bunch of buyers in the house at once, especially if the open house is a significant part of the marketing campaign you've established with your agent. Do whatever you can to make it as good as you can make it -- and as comfortable as possible for your tenants.

Help the tenant find a new place to live

As a landlord, it's possible that you have more than one property in the area, and it's also possible that you may have an opening in a residence that would suit your tenant perfectly. If that's the case, you can absolutely present that offer to your tenant. Ask if they'd like to see the new residence, make time to show them around, and if they agree that it would be a good fit, maybe offer to help them move, too. If there's a price difference between their current place and the new one, you might be able to do some negotiating or use it as a bargaining chip.

Even if you don't have any other homes that might be suitable for your tenant, you might know other landlords or property managers in town through your own business. Reach out to them and mine your network to see how you can best situate your tenants. They'll thank you for it later!

What if the tenant is behind in rent?

In an ideal world, you could ask your tenant for the rent owed, collect it, then sell your property with no further issues. But the world we live in is not ideal, and a tenant who owes rent already isn't exactly a selling point when you're trying to offload a rental property. In fact, it's a liability!

There are a few ways you can tackle this problem. You could tell the tenant you will forgive their outstanding rent if they agree to move out immediately. You could try to put them on a payment plan that will help them get current by the time the sale happens. Or, depending on how far behind they are, you could start the eviction process -- which isn't fast or easy, but if there are no other options, it may be your best one.

Consider 'cash for keys'

This term refers to a practice of giving tenants money to move out early. Sometimes landlords do this when the tenant is a problem -- for example, not paying rent, or antagonizing other neighbors. It's essentially exactly what it sounds like: You approach the tenant and offer to pay them to leave.

Your tenant doesn't have to be a problem tenant to use this strategy when you know you want to sell. If you're pretty sure that your tenants would cause problems in the sale, and you can't wait for their lease to end, ask if you could pay them one month's rent and their security deposit, or whatever seems reasonable to you, if they would break their lease and vacate early. You can also offer additional incentives, like paying for a moving company to help them make the move. This might seem counter-intuitive, but if you really need the place sold and you're out of other options, it can be the best solution to your problem.