Category Archives: Buyer Information

What to Look For in a House if you Like to Entertain

“There are several key items that really lend themselves to making a home better for entertaining.  Look for as many of these items as possible when shopping for your home if entertaining  is important to you.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

10 Reasons to Bring Back the Rec Room

“Rec Rooms are great for families and to get away and have fun and relax in.  The other great thing about Rec Rooms is that they can be anywhere in the house!”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

How Much Room Do You Need for a Kitchen Island?

“Is there enough room to add an Island to your Kitchen?  Read here to find out!”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

“Do you know all the deductions you can get with your home? You might be surprised at some of the ways you can use your home to save on your taxes.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Is it Time to Upgrade Your AC?

“Everyone knows it’s expensive to replace the air conditioner, but we all know it needs to be done sometime. So how do you know when it’s the right time?  This article can help you determine just that.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Knowing when to replace your hard-working air conditioner can be tricky. While it’s a major purchase that most people don’t make lightly, nobody wants to wake up to a broken air conditioner on a hot summer day.

There are a lot of factors that go into deciding whether or not it’s time to upgrade your AC. Here are few questions to ask yourself before you start shopping.

4 Questions You Should Ask When Wondering When to Upgrade Your AC Unit  

1. How old is your AC unit?

The age of your unit is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to replace it. A majority of HVAC technicians recommend replacing your AC if it’s 15 years or older. All AC units have a SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Today, the minimum SEER is 13, but if your AC was manufactured before 2006, chances are it’s only rated at a 10. Just by upgrading to the current minimum, you’ll gain at least three points on the SEER scale. Each SEER number you go up increases energy efficiency by 5 to 9 percent, so a 15 to 27 percent boost immediately puts money in your pocket in the form of energy savings.

2. How often should you perform HVAC maintenance and repairs?

The problem starts when your AC needs repair more than once a year. The more work your unit undergoes, the shorter its overall lifespan will be and the more likely it is that it will need repair again. Look over your receipts and calculate how much you’ve spent on AC repairs. If the total amount you’ve spent on repairs exceeds the cost of a new unit, it’s definitely time for a new one.

3. Is Your Energy Bill On the Rise?

As it gets older, your heating and air conditioning system may be getting less efficient. If your energy bills increase as the summer progresses, your AC unit may be working harder to cool the same space that it used to — and using more energy than necessary to do the job. When this happens, you’ll see a rise in energy consumption and cost. Upgrading to a new conditioner can reduce energy costs by an average of 20 to 40 percent. The savings you’ll see on your energy bill will help offset the cost of a new AC unit.

4. Is your AC cooling your entire home consistently?

If your air conditioner is having a hard time keeping up with your home’s demand for cool air, that’s a sure sign of trouble. Test this by setting your thermostat to your preferred temperature and walking into different rooms of your home throughout the day. If your AC is still working properly, there shouldn’t be a noticeable change in temperature from room to room. An efficient A/C unit will effectively cool your entire home without as much effort.

Originally published by American Home Shield

A Moving Checklist

 

A Moving Checklist!

A Moving Checklist!

“Here is a great article that we found on ‘Real Simple’ that could help alleviate some of the stress that comes with moving.  Following this Step by Step guideline can help you make sure everything has been thought of and taken care of.”  

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

 

Two Months Before

  • Sort and purge – Go through every room of your house and decide what you’d like to keep and what you can get rid of. Think about whether any items will require special packing or extra insurance coverage.
  • Research – Start investigating moving company options. Do not rely on a quote over the phone; request an on-site estimate. Get an estimate in writing from each company, and make sure it has a USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) number on it if you are moving to a different state. If you’re moving within a state, some states require a USDOT number, check here to see if your state does. You can also check with your state’s public utilities commission, moving association, or Better Business Bureau.
  • Create a moving binder – Use this binder to keep track of everything—all your estimates, your receipts, and an inventory of all the items you’re moving.
  • Organize school records – Go to your children’s school and arrange for their records to be transferred to their new school district.

Six Weeks Before

  • Order supplies – Order boxes and other supplies such as tape, Bubble Wrap, and permanent markers. Don’t forget to order specialty containers, such as dish barrels or wardrobe boxes.
  • Use it or lose it – Start using up things that you don’t want to move, like frozen or perishable foods and cleaning supplies.
  • Take measurements – Check room dimensions at your new home, if possible, and make sure larger pieces of furniture will fit through the door.

One Month Before

  • Choose your mover and confirm the arrangements – Select a company and get written confirmation of your moving date, costs, and other details
  • Begin packing – Start packing the things that you use most infrequently, such as the waffle iron and croquet set. While packing, note items of special value that might require additional insurance from your moving company. Make sure to declare, in writing, any items valued over $100 per pound, such as a computer.
  • Label – Clearly label and number each box with its contents and the room it’s destined for. This will help you to keep an inventory of your belongings. Pack and label “essentials” boxes of items you’ll need right away.
  • Separate valuables – Add items such as jewelry and important files to a safe box that you’ll personally transport to your new home. Make sure to put the mover’s estimate in this box. You’ll need it for reference on moving day.
  • Do a change of address – Go to your local post office and fill out a change-of-address form, or do it online at usps.gov. But in case there are stragglers, it’s always wise to ask a close neighbor to look out for mail after you’ve moved. Check in with him or her two weeks after the move, and again two weeks after that.
  • Notify important parties – Alert the following of your move: banks, brokerage firms, your employer’s human resources department, magazine and newspapers you subscribe to, and credit card, insurance, and utility companies.
  • Forward medical records – Arrange for medical records to be sent to any new health-care providers or obtain copies of them yourself. Ask for referrals.

Two Weeks Before

  • Arrange to be off from work on moving day – Notify your office that you plan to supervise the move and therefore need the day off.
  • Tune up – Take your car to a garage, and ask the mechanic to consider what services might be needed if you’re moving to a new climate.
  • Clean out your safe-deposit box – If you’ll be changing banks, remove the contents of your safe-deposit box and put them in the safe box that you’ll take with you on moving day.
  • Contact the moving company – Reconfirm the arrangements.

One Week Before

  • Refill prescriptions – Stock up on prescriptions you’ll need during the next couple of weeks.
  • Pack your suitcases – Aim to finish your general packing a few days before your moving date. Then pack suitcases for everyone in the family with enough clothes to wear for a few days.

A Few Days Before

  • Defrost the freezer – If your refrigerator is moving with you, make sure to empty, clean, and defrost it at least 24 hours before moving day.
  • Double-check the details – Reconfirm the moving company’s arrival time and other specifics and make sure you have prepared exact, written directions to your new home for the staff. Include contact information, such as your cell phone number.
  • Plan for the payment – If you haven’t already arranged to pay your mover with a credit card, get a money order, cashier’s check, or cash for payment and tip. If the staff has done a good job, 10 to 15 percent of the total fee is a good tip. If your move was especially difficult, you might tip each mover up to $100. Don’t forget that refreshments are always appreciated.

Moving Day

  • Verify – Make sure that the moving truck that shows up is from the company you hired: The USDOT number painted on its side should match the number on the estimate you were given. Additionally, you can check if the moving truck has the company’s branding, or vehicle number that was listed in your confirmation. Scams are not unheard-of.
  • Take inventory – Before the movers leave, sign the bill of lading/inventory list and keep a copy.

The Polite House: How to Deal With Noisy Neighbors

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
Originally Published on HOUZZ by Lizzie Post

First-Time Homebuyer Guide

“This is a good high level overview of the steps and process of buying a home.  There are more steps once you start working with a Realtor and put an offer in on a home, but this is a great starting place.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team 

Avoid First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes with This Checklist

By Jennifer Nelson, published on HouseLogic

A real yard. Closets bigger than your average microwave. The freedom to decorate however you darn well please! Making the switch from renting to owning is exhilarating, but many rookie homebuyers find the process trickier to navigate than they expected. This is why we created our First-Time Homebuyer Checklist. The 12-month timeline will help you sidestep common mistakes, like paying too much interest or getting stuck with the wrong house. (Yep, it happens!)

12 Months Out

Check your credit score. Get a copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to give you a free credit report once a year. A Federal Trade Commission study found one in four Americans identified errors on their credit report, and 5% had errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Avoid last-minute bombshells by checking your score long before you’re ready to make an offer. And work diligently to correct any mistakes.

Determine how much you can afford. Figure out much house you can afford and want to afford. Lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 43% of your gross monthly income (called the debt-to-income ratio). This figure includes your future mortgage and any other debts, such as a car loan, student loan, or revolving credit cards.

There are plenty of calculators on the web to help you determine what you can afford. If you’re pushing the limits, start reducing your debt-to-income ratio now. To get a reality check on what you may actually be spending every month, use this worksheet.

Make a down payment plan. Most conventional mortgages require a 20% down payment. If you can swing it, do it. Your loan costs will be much less, and you’ll get a better interest rate. If, however, you’re not quite able to save the full amount, there are many programs that can help. FHA offers loans with only a 3.5% down payment. But they require mortgage insurance premiums, which will drive up your monthly payments. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a list of nonprofit homebuying programs by state. Also check with credit unions; and your employer might even have an assistance program.

As you’re planning your savings strategy, keep in mind that banks like you to “season” your money. That is, they like to see that you’ve had stable funds in your account for 60 to 90 days before applying for a loan. Don’t worry: You can still use a financial gift from a family member or bonus received near the time you buy.

9 Months Out

Child exploring a closet at an open houseImage: Emily Dunham

Prioritize what you most want in your new home.
What’s most important in your new home? Proximity to work? A big backyard? An open floor plan? Being on a quiet street? You’ll make a much better decision on what home to buy if you focus on your priorities. If it’s a joint decision, now is the time to work out any differences to avoid frustration and wasted time. Perhaps most important: Know what trade-offs you’re willing to make.

Research neighborhoods and start visiting open houses. But now’s when the fun begins, too. Use property listing sites, such as realtor.com, to find out about neighborhoods, public transport, and cost of living.

Start visiting open houses to get an idea of what kind of homes are in your price range and what neighborhoods appeal the most. Seeing potential homes will also keep you motivated to continue reducing your debts and saving for your down payment.

Budget for miscellaneous homebuying expenses. Buying a home has some miscellaneous upfront costs. A home inspection, title search, propery survey, and home insurance are examples. Costs vary by locale, but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars. If you don’t have the cash, start saving now.

Start a home maintenance account. Speaking of saving, start the good habit now of putting a little aside each month to fund maintenance, repairs, and home emergencies. It’s bad enough to have to call a plumber. It’s worse if you’re paying credit card interest on that plumbing bill.

6 Months Out

Collect your loan paperwork. Banks are very particular when it comes to mortgage loans. They demand a lot of paperwork. What they’ll want from you includes:

  • W-2 forms — or business tax return forms if you’re self-employed — for the last two to three years
  • Personal tax returns for the past two to three years
  • Your most recent pay stubs
  • Credit card and all loan statements
  • Your bank statements
  • Addresses for the past five to seven years
  • Brokerage account statements for the most recent two to four months
  • Most recent retirement account statements, such as 401(k)

If you start collecting these documents now, it’ll lessen the stress when it’s time to get your loan. Bonus: Looking closely at your loan documents each month will also help you stay focused on saving for your down payment and keeping your debt-to-income ratio low.

Research lenders and REALTORS
®. Start interviewing REALTORS®, specifically buyers’ agents. A buyer’s agent will work in your best interest to find you the right property, negotiate with the seller’s agent, and shepherd you through the closing process. Your agent also can be instrumental in finding a lender who’s familiar with first-time homebuyer programs.

Even better, look for a mortgage broker, who will shop for a competitive loan rate for you among multiple lenders, unlike a bank, which can only offer its own products.

3 Months Out

People touring an open houseImage: Jesse Keen

Get pre-approved for your loan. At this point, if you’ve been following this timeline, your credit score, paperwork, and down payment should be on track. You’ve done your research on lenders and buyers’ agents. Now it’s time to start working with them. First you’ll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Make an appointment with your lender or mortgage broker and bring all your paperwork. He’ll run a credit check on you and tell you how much of a loan you’re approved for. It often makes sense to borrow less than the maximum the lender allows so you can live comfortably. Draft a budget that accounts for mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance, and everything else you have going on in your life.

Start shopping for your new home. One you’re pre-approved, the buyer’s agent you’ve chosen will be able to target homes that meet your priorities in your price range. This way you won’t be wasting time looking at homes you can’t afford.

2 Months Out

Make an offer on a home. It usually takes at least four to six weeks to close on a home. So if you have a firm move-out date, allow enough time to deal with any hiccups that can delay closing.

Get a home inspection. One of the first things you’ll want to do after an offer is accepted is have a home inspector look at the property. If the home inspector finds something that needs repair, that’s a common example of something that can delay closing.

In the Last Month

Triple-check that all your financial documents are in order and review all lending documents before closing. You’re in the home stretch! If you’ve been keeping your documents up to date, and your down payment is in reserve, these final steps are the easiest. Reviewing the mortgage documents is probably the most difficult. Your agent can help guide you through them.

Get insurance for your new home. Don’t forget to secure insurance before closing. You’ll need to bring proof of insurance to closing.

Do a final walk-through. Do a final walk-through of your new home, usually a day or two before closing, to make sure the home is in the shape you and the seller have agreed upon.

Get a cashier’s check or bank wire for cash needed at closing. Make sure you get an exact amount of cash needed for closing. You’ll get that number a few days before closing so you can secure a cashier’s check or arrange to have the money wired. Regular checks aren’t accepted.

That’s it. Congratulations!

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-loans-mortgages/first-time-home-buyer-guide/#ixzz3prP3fQFN
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Making Your Move Easier for Your Family

“Moving to a new home is both exciting and stressful on everyone.  But there are some things that you can do to help everyone through the move.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
Moving into a new house is so much more than simply relocating to a different place. When we leave behind a home, especially one we’ve lived in for a long time, we also leave behind all those years spent enjoying it. Children who were tiny when you moved in have grown into strapping teenagers under its roof. Friends have visited, meals have been shared, and the small dramas of everyday life have been played out in it, so it can be emotional to walk away.

Settling into a new home that carries traces of its previous owners also can take time. So in the rush and chaos of moving, take time to celebrate the home you’re leaving and get set to enjoy the place you’re moving into with these tips for easing the transition.

Originally published on HOUZZ, by Joanna Simmons