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!

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.

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.

Listing Your Home? Here’s What You Can Do Now

Making moves? Then it’s probably time you start thinking about putting your home on the market. Now it’s not as simple as one, two, three… but it’s not as scary as it seems. I’ve pulled together some simple steps to take care of before you put your home on the market.

Deep Clean

Do it yourself or hire a professional. From the baseboards to every corner in the home, dust should go POOF! One man’s trash is not another man’s treasure in this situation. Potential buyers are looking at EVERY corner of your home, so keep it clean.

Declutter

Clean out your shelves, pantry, countertops and the bottom of your closet! When people come in to look at your home, you want them to see the bare minimum. If it doesn’t add to the aesthetic of the home, it needs to go.

Move Those Family Photos

Yes, you’re proud of you family or significant other, but they need to go! You don’t want your family on display for your pictures on Realtor.com and you probably would prefer that the potential buyer isn’t concerned about who currently lives in the home instead of seeing the beauty of the home. Depersonalize!

Inspect Your Home

This is not a requirement, but it could show you potential hiccups or issues that could come up once you get an offer. An inspector can point out some big or small issues that you can fix before putting your home on the market.

Curb Appeal

Pull out those weeds, rake those leaves and sweep that front porch. Curb appeal is EVERYTHING! Does the outside of the home need some love? A good power wash could do the trick or even a fresh coat of paint on the trim or shutters. A lot of potential buyers will make their rounds to check the outside of the home before they asking their Realtor to show it to them.

Freshen Up That Paint

Keep it neutral and keep it cute. If you have the funds and the time, cover up that lime green or bubble gum pink room and paint over an spots or scratches and definitely think about replacing that wallpaper. This makes a bigger difference than you would imagine. A lot of potential buyers want move in ready and having a great, neutral paint color throughout the home can be just what they want.

Find Those Documents

Your Listing Agent is going to ask for any documents that you have involving the home. This includes any existing surveys, restrictions or manuals on an fixtures for the home (operating manuals for appliances, security system, etc.). If you can’t find everyone, no worries! Your Listing Agent can help you gather details from your local title company or other resources.

And finally….

Call Me!

Don’t blindly hire an agent. Let me help you list your home and market it to the right clientele. I specialize in social media and marketing, helping me direct your property to people in the area and outside of our area. I also happily meet with clients before listing to help guide with any updates needed in the home. I never recommend throwing a ton of money in updates unless it is NECESSARY, so consult an agent first.

Not in the East Texas area? I can refer you to the top agents in your area and ensure you’re listing with an agent that specializes in residential or land sales in your community. I refer friends and family to clients in large and small cities that help market and SELL properties!

Looking to buy a property? 5 Things to Do Before You Call A Real Estate Agent

Is buying a new property or home on your horizon? It’s the most exciting, stressful time and likely the biggest purchase of your life! There’s no doubt that the whole process of buying a home or property can be overwhelming. Luckily, real estate agents and brokers provide local expertise and are a great resource to help you find exactly what you are looking for.

Select an agent with the right credentials for your buy. While you may want to immediately pick up the phone and call me to help find your DREAM HOME, there is some groundwork that can be accomplished beforehand. Here are five things that you can do before calling a real estate agent:                                               

1. Get pre-qualified for your loan.

Hands down, this should be your first step as it is the most important! Getting pre-qualified means that a lender (your bank) has looked closely at employment history, credit reports, income, etc. The lender will then determine loan programs that you qualify for and find what works best for your financial situation. Basically, you can’t go spending more than your credit limit will let you!

Going through the pre-qualification process helps your real estate agent find a property that is in your price range. Most of the time clients get very eager and want to look at homes before speaking with a lender or bank, but I prefer not to show them homes without knowing their limits. You can really sour the house hunting process by showing a home out of a client’s price range, letting them fall in love, only to realize that they can’t afford it. Getting pre-qualified can be as simple as a phone call so it doesn’t have to take up your whole day. I do highly recommend meeting with the lender in person just to make the initial connection and help build a relationship.

If you don’t know where to start or who to call to get qualified, I can guide you in the right direction to help find a mortgage lender or bank that fits your needs.

2. Know the area that you want to purchase.

When it comes down to it, you need to know the location or area of where you plan to purchase a property. This decision can come down to the school districts, access to hospitals, or dining. Determining the location of the property helps the real estate agent zero in on where the buyer is focused on living or investing and eliminates questions about other locations. Real estate agents have great programs in the MLS systems that allow us to map out or search specifically by district.

Knowing the location you want to purchase a property in may take some time. I always recommend that my clients take a cruise in the areas they’re leaning toward in the morning and evening. It really helps you get a feel of the neighborhood. Wanting a neighborhood perfect for a growing family? Take a look and see if there are kids playing basketball outside or families going for walks in the evening. Looking for something quiet like a retirement community? Do a night drive by to see if the nightlife is popping in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. These little cruises can really cut down the house-hunting search. There’s nothing worse than when a real estate agent takes a client to a home they requested to see and the client pulling up and not even wanting to look inside the home (that you made clients leave so you could show) because they’re not a fan of the neighborhood. Yes, your agent is there and happy to help you in the elimination process, but help them out too!

3. Study the market.

Look at the economic situation that surrounds you. Research the market for homes in the area where you want to purchase. While a real estate agent can share the length of time homes have been on the market and estimated closing costs, research done ahead of time gives buyers expectations of costs in the location area of where they want to purchase a property. It can also help you see when the competitive times are in the market (typically in the spring/summer).

4. Know the usage of the property that you plan to purchase.

Typically, I’m searching for residential or luxury homes for my clients. So while is seems like an obvious answer that most clients want a subdivision, your real estate agent needs a little more information than that. Clarifying the usage of the property can narrow down the selection to more ‘prime’ choices. Do you want a minimum of five acres so you have room to breathe? Do you want a property where the Home Owner’s Association (HOA) takes care of the lawn? These little tid bits of information can really help narrow it down for your agent’s search.

Another potential deterrent can be deed restrictions on some properties. Some clients want to build a shop or add a pool to their backyard. Having those deed restrictions let’s you know what you’re allowed to build and add-on in neighborhoods. It can really make or break a decision.

5. Research your real estate agent.

Shopping for a real estate agent can be time-consuming, but knowing that you are using the right person for the type of property you want can help make the buying process a breeze. When looking to purchase a property, look at what your agent has listed or helped buyers purchase in the past. I’ve listed and helped as a buyer’s agent in luxury, residential, waterfront, commercial and other types of properties. Having an agent that has knowledge and a proven background in what you want to buy ensures a smooth process. It also doesn’t hurt to check out an agent’s Zillow or Facebook pages to see what properties and clientele they work with to find the right fit. Reviews can also be useful! But, trust me; I know I can help you find the PERFECT property!

 

Buying a property brings in a roller coaster of emotions. Doing homework ahead of time and keeping expectations clear between the buyer and the real estate agent can make this exciting journey a simpler one. These five simple steps to take care of before calling me to be your real estate agent helps set you, the buyer, up for success when looking for a property. Call Bethany Nolan with Murray Real Estate Services, LLC to get started on your house hunting today!

 

Meet Bethany: Realtor®, Consultant and East Texas Native

Hello! Howdy! Hi there! I am Bethany Nolan, a Realtor® and Consultant, with a lot on my mind! Starting a blog has always been an aspiration for me, but finding the time and narrowing down content that I am passionate about has been my struggle. Before we get into all of that fun, here’s a little bit about me:

I’m a ninth generation Texan with seven generations in Upshur County. Growing up in rural Gilmer, Texas was always a treat and I’m a proud Gilmer Buckeye and alumna. After high school, I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Communications and Journalism at Texas A&M University and a minor in Horticulture with an Event Planning Certification. Upon completion at Texas A&M  I moved to Lubbock, Texas to receive a Master of Science in Agricultural Communications. Once all of my fun schooling was over, I moved to Houston and began working for a public relations firm specializing in their food, agriculture and beverage department focusing on media relations and social media. Working in public relations gave me a great background to transition into opening up Bethany Nolan Consulting, LLC, to assist clients with their social media, media relations and more. Unknowingly at the time, but my background serves as an advantage for marketing and selling real estate. Summed up in a nutshell… that’s a little bit about ME!

Now that you have a little bit of a backgrounder on ya girl, here are some fun little tid bits to get to know me a little better:

  • Hobby: I love to bake and test out new recipes; it’s a great escape for me!
  • Favorite Movie: Son-In-Law, Troop Beverly Hills and Heavyweights
  • Favorite TV Series: Hart of Dixie, Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl
  • Biggest Pet Peeve: Smacking… GETS. UNDER. MY. SKIN!
  • Biggest Fear: Needles, just can’t shake the fear

I’m excited to take a deep dive into real estate, consulting and the life of Bethany! My hope and plan is to help guide you in the home buying process, preparation tips for preparing your home for the market or the holidays and even give some insight on social media marketing that I use to guide my consulting clients. Follow along, subscribe and enjoy the ride.