5 Apps for the Home Buyer

Yes it’s true, we are GLUED to our cell phones. From Facebook to podcasts, we use our phone to keep up with friends and expand our knowledge. Being a millennial myself, I love the tools and resources that apps bring to my phone. When I look at the tools that  app provide, it’s not just calendar reminders and social media, there are also a lot of great tools to help with home buying. Pretty handy, right?

While there are plenty of house hunting apps like Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia, you don’t want to overlook all of the other useful apps that help out homebuyers. I’m sharing my top five apps that help home buyers during their purchasing process.

5 APPS FOR THE HOME BUYER

  • Mortgage Calculator Plus: A quick and simple way to calculate your potential monthly payments for a home. It gives you the opportunity to plug in the customized purchase price of home, downpayment, insurance costs and even potential HOA fees. Is this the MOST accurate? No! That’s what your mortgage lender is there for, but it can get you pretty close.
  • Mint: Get your finances in check! I love, love, LOVE this app. It let’s me have all of my checking and savings accounts, cards and even 401K savings in ONE SPOT. This one provides a great overview of finances and the app even tracks monthly/weekly spending and normal spending behavior and alerts you when you’ve gone a little crazy on that shopping spree last week (HA!).
  • DocuSign: Talk about a handy app! You can easily sign documents on the go for contracts or amendments for your agent or lender. It’s a quick click of a button and the document is SIGNED without needing to open up a computer. You can’t finish the document until you’ve signed everything that your agent or lender asked you to.
  • Houzz: Design your home right from the phone. Open floor plan stressing you out? This app is for you! Love, love Houzz because it helps you get a better idea of where to place different pieces of furniture. Super useful and perfect for the visual person.
  • Evernote: This is not only helpful for you but for your agent! You’re likely going to look at quite a few homes and they’re all going to start blending together. You think it won’t happen, but it does! This app if fantastic for keep your pros and cons for each home and organizing it by property address. You can then simply send it on to your agent and review at your leisure.

There are plenty of other apps that people find useful in the home buying process, but these are some that you may not have thought about downloading. Hope this helps make the home buying process a little less stressful. Happy hunting!

Home Buyers in a Hot Market

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired of a HOT, HOT, HOT real estate market? Real estate agents and sellers are certainly not mad at how quickly homes are moving, but being a home buyer in this situation is just a little frustrating to say the least. I say this from experience because I’m currently a home buyer that’s growing increasingly impatient in a market like this.

Homes are hitting the market and hours later they have a contract or you enter into a bidding war and while it can be exciting, not everyone wins. This is just a little frustrating and a little discouraging for some buyers. When you’re a home buyer in a hot market, it’s important to remember a couple of tips:

  • Don’t settle. Well, duh! This is an important reminder, though. When there’s only so much inventory to choose from, buyers tend to get a little too excited and settle on a property that they don’t truly love. I recommend my buyers really take a step back, look at their need/want list and ensure in their gut that this is THE HOME for them before signing their name on that dotted line.
  • Be decisive. When you’ve gotten to the point of house hunting, you should have already been pre-approved by a lender or bank and have a general idea of what you want. I think it helps to look a couple of homes to guide what you like and dislike, but when homes are moving as quickly as they are in a hot market you have to remember that time is of the essence. So basically, know what you want!
  • Do your homework. Drive by homes, know the neighborhoods you desire and know what is NON-NEGOTIABLE when buying a home. Doing drive-bys and research beyond what your agent provides you with can really eliminate a lot of running around!
  • Stay patient. Inventory may be low or you may have a very specific need when it comes to finding a home. Good things come with time and you need to keep your eyes wide open and know that something will come along, it just may not be in the next 24 hours, 2 days or even month.
  • Help your agent. I am constantly watching the market and sending my clients homes that are hand picked specifically for them with regards to school districts, bedrooms, acreage and more. When your agent is contacting you or sending you emails, let them know if they’re hitting the mark or not getting anywhere near what you’re wanting in a home. They can’t help you if you don’t help them. And that’s a fact, Jack!

As an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®), I can hone in my skills to represent the needs of my home buyers from the comprehensive knowledge I’ve received from real estate education. Each and every home buyer is different and it’s important that you as a buyer are treated that way. I want all of my buyers to know that this process is for THEM and only them because it’s their money and their home. When the housing market is hot, people tend to throw all reason out the window and it’s important to stay grounded and ensure that the home you’re buying is what you know in your gut is the right home for you and your future. After all, this is an INVESTMENT! 

Enjoy the house hunting and don’t let the stressor of a hot market get the best of you! Happy hunting!

Upfront Costs in Purchasing a Home

Money, money, money! When you first start the home buying process, a big concern can be the money and cashflow that you’ll need to pay upfront once you have an accepted contract. Payments can start adding up, so I always try to make sure that my buyers are aware of what checks they’ll be cutting from the beginning once their contract is accepted.

While closing costs are a big concern to buyers, those don’t really come to fruition until closing day (end of the deal). When it comes to upfront costs, you’re top costs will include your Option Period Fee, Earnest Money and paying for your Inspection. I’ve pulled the ranges and explanations for each below.

UPFRONT COSTS IN PURCHASING A HOME

Termination Option Fee: Typically ~$100

Your Termination Option OR Option Period is typically a time frame of 7-10 days where you complete your inspections, come in and get quotes/estimates on any repairs you’re needing and ensure that you’re ready to move forward on purchasing the home. This period starts the next day after the contract is executed.

The Termination Option Fee protects your Earnest Money so that if you back out of the contract within your 7 to 10 day period due to the seller not agreeing to repair certain items or the home not being quite up to par, you would get your Earnest Money back. After the 7 to 10 day Termination Option Period, your property will go UNDER CONTRACT.

This fee is written out the seller of the home as they’re giving you this time frame to complete any inspections, etc. You do not have to complete an inspection or have a Termination Option Period, but it is always recommended.  Your Termination Option Fee CAN BE credited to your closing and negotiated on price point and day period.

Earnest Money: 1% of home purchase price

Typically, your Earnest Money is 1% of the overall price of the home. For example, if you purchase a home for $200,000 then your Earnest Money check will be $2,000. That is 1% of the purchase price. Is the 1% fee negotiable? Yes! But the Earnest Money is seen as good faith that you’re ready to rock and roll as a buyer so most buyers and sellers stick to using the traditional 1% number. If you’re in a bidding war, you may put down more in Earnest Money. It all depends on the buyer and the seller.

This fee is written out to the title company that is handling this transaction. Your Earnest Money IS credited at closing to your costs and can be negotiated.

Inspection Fee:  Truly varies on square footage of home/company – ~$360-$600

Is this a required fee? Not necessarily, but some lenders do require an inspection and I ALWAYS recommend my buyers order one so that they know the ins and outs of the home from a licensed professional. The fee ranges by the company you use and the square footage of the home. The bigger the home, the higher the cost. In my opinion, this cost is WORTH IT! 

This fee is paid directly to the inspector or inspection company. This IS NOT credited to your closing and if you back out of the contract you will not receive a refund for the fee. Inspections are there to give you piece of mind and know what’s going on from plumbing to foundation to electricity. It’s beneficial on ALL fronts!

 

While there are some other upfront costs in purchasing a home, these are the main costs after you receive and accepted offer on a property. These are all fee to expect and later on pull money for your downpayment, lender (appraisal, etc.) and closing costs. This is used to help guide you at the very beginning stages after a contract is accepted.

Preparing Your Home During The Stormy Season

April showers were supposed to bring May flowers, right? But all we feel like we’re getting are scary tornado watch calls from Mark Scirto from our local news station.

WINDOWLESS INTERIOR

In the grand scheme of things, you truly need to worry about finding a small, windowless interior room in the home. Duh! But we also need to think about how you can protect your home during this stormy weather from hail damage and more. Here are a couple of things you can do to protect and prep your home.

Untitled Design

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO

Trim those trees. Look at the limbs close to your roof, where you park your vehicle or near any lines. While I always recommend hiring a professional, if it looks like a smaller job these tree trimmers can help lighten the load and stress. This can help prevent much larger issues after storms.

Cover or move your outdoor items. Do an inventory of your outdoor items like patio furniture, planters, firewood, grills, etc. Either cover those items or bring  them inside to a garage or shop area. You can use patio furniture covers, grill covers and more to protect your outdoor favorites. Securing them to the ground is also very helpful.

Check those gutters and downspouts. Ensure that they’re not logged with leaves or full of miscellaneous items by using gutter cleaners. Clear them out to prepare for proper flow of water during the storms.

Follow local news. Be informed. Pay attention to the weather either on your local weather radars, sign up for texts, calls or email alerts from your local weather station to be in the know on upcoming weather.

Inspect your roof. Hail storms and high winds are not your roof’s best friend. Keep an eye on the condition of your roof and if you see any significant damage, be sure to get in touch with your insurance adjustor to see what they can help cover repair costs.

Do you have an emergency kit? Grab the basics: first aid kit (bandaids, ointments, etc.), food (water and non-perishable snacks – put in those granola bars), flashlight with extra batteries, radio and fully charged phones or portable chargers. Have those ready just in case. 

Lastly…

FIND THAT SAFE ROOM! Be prepared and have a cleared and clean windowless, interior room or area identified for storms.  Stay safe!

Stay safe out there, my friends.

Home Buyers: Here’s Why I’m YOUR Expert!

Buying a home is one of the biggest and likely most $$EXPENSIVE$$ purchases you will make in your life. As a REALTOR®, I do NOT take that lightly and want to ensure that I can represent my clients in the best way possible by being knowledgable and experienced. To ensure that I can be YOUR home buying expert, I completed a designation course to become an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®). In order to become an ABR®, a REALTOR® must complete training that is specialized in understanding a home buyer’s perspective and promoting and protecting the buyer’s interest. 

While through experience and time as a REALTOR® you learn the ins and outs of representing a home buyer, this ABR® designation teaches you so much more. I joined a network of ABR® designees across the nation and we worked in groups on scenarios and how to better help our home buyers. I also took an additional course on New Home Construction to help assist my buyers that are looking to possibly build instead of buy and learned building process from beginning to end. I am here to help my buyers make informed decisions! 

So what can I do for you as an ABR®? I can assist you…

  • With needs and wants, and locate properties appropriate for buyer’s specifications
  • Help determine budget (pre-qualify)
  • Accompany in showing properties
  • Assisting in creating offer
  • Negotiation strategy for home buying
  • Vendor referrals (inspector, lenders, etc.)
  • Buying process from beginning to end in transaction – to closing and after!

All buyer’s representatives are NOT EQUAL! With my knowledge as an experience agent and as an agent that has earned the Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation, I have made the extra effort to raise the bar with additional training and education. I am confident that you’ll receive the HIGHEST level of buyer representation because I have taken the time to expand my knowledge in real estate and the home buying process.

If you’re  interested in buying a home, I would LOVE to help guide you in the process. Feel free to email me at bethanybreannenolan@gmail.com or call at (903) 738-8858.

Closing Costs: Here’s Your Breakdown

Home buying… it can be fun, it can be stressful and it can be overwhelming! There are so many steps and processes and costs involved in the process, and as a Realtor it is my job to have answers to all of my client’s questions and concerns. While I always get asked about negotiations, inspections and more, one of the main questions I receive from my buyers is…

“What will my closing costs look like…?”

Honestly, it’s important to have a nice breakdown to show where all of your money is going and possible costs that seem hidden to the first time home buyer. This is likely BIGGEST purchase a person will make during their life, so people need to know what it’s going to cost and where their money is going. It can get complicated on whether the buyer or seller is paying for certain portions of closing costs, but that’s where your handy-dandy Realtor swoops in to guide you in the negotiating process!

So first of all… what are closing costs? Closing costs are fees associated with the purchase of your property/home that are paid at the closing of your real estate transaction. A closing is when the title of the property purchased is transferred from the seller to the buyer. Closing costs are incurred by either the seller or the buyer, these CAN be negotiated.

Now that we understand the high level description of closings costs, let’s break it down. While there is a rather large list of items that can go into closings costs, what I’m going to do is break down the biggest costs first and dwindle it down to other associated costs.

CLOSING COSTS

Title Company Fees (Cost Ranges Follow the Descriptions)

  • Appraisal: Paid to appraisal company to ensure fair market value of purchased home. Cost: Ranges are ~$500. 
  • Flood Certification: Pulled by third-party, determines if property is located in a flood zone. Cost: Ranges close to $10-$15. 
  • Postage or Courier Fees: Cost for transfer of documents. Cost: Ranges close to $40.
  • Recording Fee: Recording of public land records. Cost: Typically around $130-$150.
  • Settlement Fees: The title company is paid for handling the closing. Cost: Ranges from $200-$300.
  • Survey: Goes to a survey company to verify property lines. This is not always necessary as some sellers already have a survey on file. Cost: Ranges around $650 for a normal lot.
  • Tax Services: This includes transfer taxes, property taxes that will either be prorated or handled at the closing table. Cost: Ranges close to $100. 
  • Title Search: The title company is paid for their search of the property’s records. They check on the deed of the home and ensure there are no liens, etc.

Lender Fees (These fees vary, so depend on lender for guidance with your situation)

  • Credit Report: Pulled by lender, grabs credit history for loan approval.
  • Homeowner’s Insurance: You’re typically paying your first year of insurance at closing. Simple as it sounds, it’s insurance and covers any potential damages to the home.
  • Origination Fee: Covers lender’s research and administrative costs. Typically 1 percent of loan.  
  • Owner’s Title Insurance Fees: Can be optional, but protects you in the event that there are challenges to the ownership of your home.
  • Underwriting and Processing Fee: Goes to lender and pulls history/researches buyer for loan approval.

A great estimate that I like to give my buyers on their potential closing costs would be to vary it from 2 to 4 percent of the overall purchase price of the property. So if you’re purchase a $200,000 home, you can think ~$8,000 on the very high end and ~$4,000 on the low end. I find it better to give my clients an estimate that near a number than nothing at all. It gives my buyers and sellers a little piece of mind.