How to Take the Uncertainty Out of Home Ownership

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you can make during your lifetime and for many people, it can cause a little bit of apprehension at first. For first time home buyers, there are many unknowns and many questions to be asked: what can I afford? What neighborhood should I live in? What will my property taxes look like? Is buying a home a worthwhile investment? These are just some of the thoughts that can happen throughout the home buying process. We’re here to help answer these questions and make sure you feel ready and excited to start your journey to buying the home you’ve always wanted. Here are some ways to take the uncertainty out of home ownership.

#1: Know what you can afford.
Before you start shopping for a home, talk to an experienced lender to find out what you can afford. They will sit down and talk to you about your income, debt or other financial obligations, and any other factors that will provide the information they need to give you a pre-approval letter with the amount that you can spend. Remember, even though you are given a set price, you don’t have to spend to the limit. If you use your full pre-approved amount, your monthly payment will be higher, and you will need to determine if that is something that you are willing to take on.

#2: Ask questions.
There is no doubt about it – the home buying process can be overwhelming at times. There are a lot of different steps involved and stacks of papers that need to be explained and signed. If there is anything along the way that confuses you, don’t ignore it. Ask questions so you can be sure you fully understand what is going on. This will help take some of the uncertainty out of the future for you. Our team has years of experience with real estate transactions and know the inner-workings of the process of buying a home. If there is anything you are unsure of, we are glad to explain it to you.

#3: Be flexible.
When you start shopping for a home, it can easily become an emotional process. You may feel a sense of urgency to purchase a home before interest rates climb, which can cause you to feel stress, and when combined with finding a house that you really love, it can be difficult to be flexible. While emotions are good to an extent, it’s important to factor a sense of flexibility into the process, too. Understand that you may not get the first home that you fall in love with, and you may need to be flexible in marching onward to find a different house. Talk to us about your feelings along the way and we can help keep reality at the forefront of your home search.

Buying a home is an exciting time. Not only does it mean you get to make an investment that will likely reap great rewards for your future, but it will also allow you to find a place that you can put down roots and enjoy for many years to come. If you are ready to set out on the path toward home ownership, contact us today to get started!

Posted on February 4, 2019 at 6:11 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tips for Keeping Your Home Renovation Projects Within Budget

Owning a home requires paying for home repairs and improvements every so often. Major renovation projects, however, will take some more planning and preparation. It is very easy to go over budget on home remodeling plans, so here are some tips on how to curtail the spending but still get the updates you want.

#1: Take time to plan.
As a homeowner, there is almost always a to-do list of things that you want to complete on your home. Make a list of some of the most important things that you want changed and start doing some research on how much it will cost to change them. For example, if your windows and doors are old and inefficient, get quotes on how much it will cost to replace them and do some calculating on how this can end up saving you money in the long term on utility bills. Or, determine if your kitchen needs a full remodel and how that will impact the value of your home, or if just replacing or refinishing the cabinets will do the job. If you have a detailed plan with a specific budget set aside for it, the less chance you have on overspending.

#2: Figure out what you can do yourself.
Do-it-yourself home improvements are very desirable for many homeowners, simply because of the significant amount of money that can be saved. However, it’s important to know your limits. If you end up messing up something that you thought you could do yourself, then you might end up having to call a professional to fix it. This could cost you a lot more in the long run. Be sure to pick home improvement projects that are within your skill set and expertise and anything outside of that, hire a reputable company or contractor.

#3: Do your research.
If you want to pay a professional to undertake your home improvement projects, be vigilant on your research. Take time to read online reviews, ask questions, get details on how they intend to complete the job, and make sure you have a written estimate in hand. If you are not sure where to start, I am glad to help provide references of reputable places and people that are good to work with.

Home repairs and renovations are inevitable at some point. Make sure you have a plan of action, so you can stay on track with your budget. In the end, you will have a space to come home to that is exactly how you envisioned it.  Or, if you have decided that it is time to move on and find a new home that better suits your specific needs, I am ready to help get the process started! As a Realtor®, I can help get your current home listed and sold and can help you find your next home. Contact me today so you can get the information you need to start your adventure.

 

Posted on December 19, 2018 at 7:15 am
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guide to Relocating to Clark County

Moving is a very busy time that involves coordinating a lot of details but relocating to a new city entirely adds another layer of research and planning. If you’re planning relocating to Clark County, give me a call. I can provide a lot of background information to support the following step by step guide, so you are ready to get settled into this beautiful part of the Pacific Northwest.

Step #1: Schedule a time to visit the area.
If you’re planning on a move to Clark County, set aside a time to visit the area and do some exploring. This will allow you to get familiar with where things are and what activities and amenities exist. It will also give you a chance to drive around and get a feel for what living areas might suit you best.

Step #2: Start researching Clark County neighborhoods.
Whether you love being in the middle of city living, or you are looking for something more rural so you can be closer to country life, the first step in your search is to find an area of town that is accessible to the things that are important to you. Research what places are close to public transportation, grocery stores, restaurants, activities, or hospitals. If you plan on commuting to work, determine which neighborhoods are closest and if you telecommute, be sure you know how you’ll get that done in your new location. Next, look for neighborhoods that demonstrate pride of ownership, so you can ensure that you’re in a place where homes are well taken care of and neighbors look out for one another. Not sure where to begin? I can help take you with a tour of some neighborhoods that can fit your specific request.

Step #3: Start home search.
Knowledgeable real estate agents can help you find the right home that fits your specific needs and desires. I have more than two decades of experience helping clients of all kinds helping find a home that fits their unique requirements. I am happy to sit down and talk to you about your budget, the type and size of house you prefer, and help you narrow down some options to make your search more efficient and less stressful.

Step #4: Get pre-approved.
If you’re planning on purchasing a home in Clark County, it’s important to talk to a mortgage professional early in the planning process. This gives you a clear idea of what you can afford to buy and will help you determine which loan is right for your situation. I am happy direct you to reliable companies and individuals that work in the mortgage industry to help get you started.

Relocating can be an exciting process and doing some planning ahead of time can help make the moving process go smoothly. As a Realtor®, I can help you start the process and can provide tips before, during and after your relocation. I am glad to help you with the information you need to start your adventure.

Posted on December 5, 2018 at 5:51 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Ways To Improve Equity In Your Home

Buying a home is a dream come true for many people and the longer you live in it, the more opportunity you have to build equity. Equity is the difference between what the home’s market value is versus what you owe on it and with each house payment you make, the more equity you gain. Also as your home’s value starts to increase your equity also grows. If you’re looking for additional ways to improve equity in your home, here are a couple of ideas.

#1: Large down payment.
When you’re ready to buy a home, you can get a head start right at the get-go, by making a large down payment. Putting down 20% or more of the property’s value is a great way to not only add instant equity, but it can also keep your house payment lower and it will also allow you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance each month which doesn’t insure you but rather insures the lender against a possible loss.

#2: Shorter mortgage terms.
It’s very common for homeowners to take out 30-year loans on their home, but if you can swing refinancing your home to a 15-year mortgage, you will be able to pile on the equity and help pay off the loan quicker. Your monthly payments will be higher, but the payoff can be significant when your mortgage is paid off in half of the time. If you can’t swing the refinance to a 15-year mortgage, consider paying a little more on the principal of your loan with your payment each month or make one or two extra payments a year and apply it toward the principal. This can help you pay off the loan sooner and will help bolster equity over time.

#3: Home renovations.
There are some remodeling and home improvement projects that can help increase the value of your home and boost the equity. Replacing windows and doors, adding attic insulation, and completing a kitchen or bathroom remodel can all help with increased property value and greater home equity. There are certain home projects that do not add as much value. If you’re not sure, I’m glad to provide advice on which to-dos reap the most return.

If you’re ready to explore the option of buying or selling a home, contact me. I’ve been helping clients of all kinds for more than two decades. As a Realtor®, I can help you start the process and can provide tips along the way. I am glad to help you with the information you need to start your adventure.

 

Posted on October 22, 2018 at 8:37 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Home Maintenance, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How your credit score affects your mortgage

If you are considering stepping into the housing market to purchase a home, chances are, you are doing some research on mortgage rates and what it takes to obtain a home loan. Figuring out what the mortgage rates are right now and figuring out how you can get the lowest rate possible is an important part of the home purchasing process. There are several things that determine what your mortgage rate is and your credit score is one of the primary things that lenders will look for before they loan you money.

What is a FICO credit score?
This is a credit score that is determined by FICO, a company specializing in predictive analytics, which is used to analyze and predict future happenings. For credit scores, the company uses a variety of credit information to develop scores that will help lenders predict consumer behavior, including how likely it is for the person to pay bills on time and if they are able to handle a large mortgage or credit line. Your credit score is based on several factors including your payment history for all accounts, the amount of debt you currently have, how long you’ve been using credit, and what types of credit you use.

There are several minimum requirements to receive a credit score, including at least one credit account opened for at least six months. If you have a poor credit score, there are several things you can do to help improve it. First, bring active past due accounts current and keep on top of paying things on time. Keep credit card balances as low as possible and limit your applications for new revolving debt such as credit cards. (1)

Can you get a mortgage with a low credit score?
You can generally obtain a mortgage if your credit score is poor, but keep in mind that you may not get the lowest rate available.  However, if your score is below 580, it may be difficult to get a loan approved. The higher credit score you have, the more likely you are to get a lower mortgage rate. Raising your credit score even by 20 points or so can really help in getting a better rate.  For some people it’s best to wait to buy a home and improve your score and work on financial planning before you apply for a home loan.

A home purchase is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make in your lifetime. Maintaining good credit, paying your bills on time and managing your overall finances with responsibility are all important things to have figured out before you take on a large home loan.

When you’re ready to take the leap to home ownership, I have more than two decades of experience as a Realtor® and can help you start the process of looking for a new home and can provide tips on the whole process. I love working with people around Clark County and am glad to help you with the information you need to start your adventure.

  1. American Reporting Company. FICO Source Overview. Accessed via Lynn Posselt, Penrith Home Loans, NMLS#41393.
Posted on July 25, 2018 at 5:21 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Inexpensive Curb Appeal Tricks That Offer Good Return on Investment

What does your home look like from the outside? Curb appeal makes a big difference, especially when it comes to selling your home and enticing prospective buyers to look at it. If you don’t want to drop a lot of cash on things like expensive landscaping, there are some simple solutions that can bolster curb appeal in addition to offering a good return on investment.

#1: Paint the little things.
Painting your entire home can be expensive, so instead of investing in a whole home re-paint project, work on painting smaller things on the outside of your home, like the mailbox, the home’s trim, or porch hand rails. Potential buyers will notice the attention to detail and it can help make your space look fresh.

#2: Add a welcoming spot to the front of the home.
If your porch or patio in the front of your home is lacking a sitting area, adding some cozy chairs, a small bench with some decorative pillows, and/or a little table can create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for people walking or driving by. Not only does that, it allows people to imagine themselves sitting there someday enjoying their new home and neighborhood.

#3: Clean up the clutter.
Garbage bins, recycling containers, tools, or kid’s toys should all be kept out of sight from the front of the house. If you’re short on space and don’t have a place to put these, try arranging some large pots of flowers or shrubs around the items so the clutter is out of the line of vision for people looking at your house.

#4: Mow and edge the lawn.
Trim hedges, mow the lawn, and weed flower beds. Overgrown yards are almost always an eyesore and can have a real negative impact on curb appeal. It won’t cost you any money to keep up on yard maintenance if you do it yourself, but the time you put in will pay off when potential buyers notice the beautiful yard.

Adding curb appeal and making your home look great on the outside can be simple and affordable. When it comes time to list your property, you’ll increase the likelihood of having more showings. Need other tips on the appearance of your home before you’re ready to put it on the market? My two decades of experience as a Realtor® can help! I love working with buyers and sellers around Clark County.  I’m happy to help you start your adventure in buying or selling a home.

Posted on May 25, 2018 at 8:38 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Spring Is A Great Time To Sell Your Home

The market is hot, and it is a great time to be a seller in Clark County. Potential homebuyers are out and about and are ready to put down roots in a new home. Spring is usually the most popular season for buying and selling a home and here’s why.

#1: Inventory is tight, and demand remains high.
Home inventory in Clark County is still relatively low, which means that many buyers are clamoring to get in the real estate game and find the home of their dreams. This means that there is more competition out there, so buyers and sellers should be prepared for multiple offer situations, which requires patience and plenty of discussion with your experienced real estate broker.

#2: The weather is great.
Garden flowers are starting to bloom, the grass is green and inviting, and the weather is getting warmer. Not to mention, the days are getting longer, and we have more daylight to work with, so that boosts the amount of people that can see the home during the day. The springtime brings buyers out of winter hibernation and they are generally excited and more energetic when it comes to looking at homes in person, with the goal of getting settled in before the summer heat starts.

#3: Kids can remain in school.
Moving in the middle of the year is a hassle for kids and parents alike. Spring is a great time to sell because kids can finish out the school year and you’ll be able to move, register for a new school district if needed, and have everything in place before autumn starts and the new school year begins.

If you’re ready to list your home this spring, or if you’re ready to buy and want to start looking, my two decades of experience as a Realtor® can help! I love working with buyers and sellers around Clark County and am happy to help you with the information you need to start your adventure in buying or selling a home.

Posted on May 8, 2018 at 5:25 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Day In The Life of a Realtor

Realtors have a busy job that sometimes looks different from one day to the next. In addition to staying on top of what current real estate regulations and trends are happening within their sphere of work, real estate agents have a multitude of other tasks that come with the job of helping people through the process of buying and/or selling homes. For me, these tasks are part of what makes my job fun, and the different things that transpire week after week, are what keeps things interesting and exciting. Here’s a snapshot of what my days as a realtor looks like.

#1: Driving by homes.
I know that my clients are on the hunt for the right home, so I am on the lookout for homes that could work for active buyers that are in the market for their next space to call home.  Having an idea of what each client wants means that I won’t be bringing them to homes that are clearly not what they want. This saves time for all parties involved!

#2: Handle multiple emails/phone calls.
Aww, the never-ending list of inbox emails and phone messages. A lot of people can relate with this, so I make sure I spend time each day emailing and calling people that have requested assistance. Most of the time, I’m coordinating multiple details regarding showings, closings, offers with clients, escrow, lenders, and more!

#3: Coordinate details for new listings.
Considering selling a house? I work with many people that are not sure if they want to sell yet, so for these people, I work up a Comparative Market Analysis that provides information on recently sold properties in the area. These reports look at houses that are somewhat similar and give real estate professionals an idea of what price a potential client’s home could be listed for.

If you’ve just listed a house, there are a lot of little details that need to come together before it goes “live” to the public. For example, we’ll need to prep for an open house by ordering printed materials and snacks, order a sign for the yard, and put a lockbox on the listing so pictures can happen. These are just some of the things that need to happen before we can start showing the home.

#4: Go over repairs and other mid-sale to-dos.
For clients that have found a home that they’ve put an offer in on, there are often repairs that need to be requested. As a buyer’s agent, to determine a list of reasonable repairs and will advise which items are necessary and which could be left out. As a seller’s agent, I will review and recommend to the seller what the buyers requested, and which ones should be completed.

#5: Coordinate paperwork and financial details.
Once a home is ready to close, there are several pieces of paperwork and other financial details that need to be coordinated. There are often questions on specific terms within the paperwork as well as questions on when things will happen once papers are signed.  Whether it’s leaving a check for the contractor at a pending sale or laying out a schedule before recording for a client who will sign out of town, I work with clients to help make the paperwork process as easy as possible.

My daily responsibilities as a real estate agent require a balance. However, with my two decades of experience and my combined love of meeting with all varieties of clients, real estate is a natural fit for me. Contact me today for information on what it will take to start your adventure in buying or selling a home.

Posted on April 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mortgage Insurance: What Am I Insured Against?

If you’re buying a new house, you’re likely looking at the various terms on your paperwork and have noticed “mortgage insurance” on there. It’s not something that everyone is familiar with, so here is some basic info that can help answer your questions.

What is mortgage insurance?
Mortgage insurance is not a benefit to the home buyer and does not protect them against anything. Actually, it will only protect the mortgage company/bank in the event that the borrower defaults on the loan and doesn’t pay their mortgage. It is required when a borrower puts less than 20% down on the purchase or has less than 20% in equity during the refinance process on a home.

Aaron Hicks, Mortgage Consultant with Homestreet Bank shares that when a borrower is looking to get a mortgage, it can affect the loan approval process. Hicks shares, “It can increase the borrower’s monthly payment, which overall effects a borrower’s debt-to-income qualifications. Mortgage insurance companies require stricter guidelines depending on a borrower’s debt-to-income, credit score, loan to value, and type of property. Sometimes mortgage insurance companies require additional supporting documentation above what the bank may require and/or additional underwriting review.”

What kind of mortgage insurance is there?
Hicks says that there are multiple types of mortgage insurance for conventional loans. There is monthly mortgage insurance, single premium mortgage insurance, or split premium mortgage insurance. There is also lender paid mortgage insurance. For some loans, especially FHA loans, the premium will last for the life of the loan, even when your equity position gets you above the 20% mark. If the homeowner has a conventional financing method, the insurance can be removed once 20% equity in the home is reached. I can do a quick market analysis to determine if borrowers are at the 20% equity mark.  The lender will require a formal appraisal to remove mortgage insurance, which costs $400-$600. So, it is a good idea to verify you’ve reached that point before ‘getting official’ with your request.

Purchasing a home is very involved and requires various steps and attention to detail. Oftentimes, questions and issues will arise, and this is one of the many reasons why it’s critical to work with an experienced Realtor. Whether it’s a question about mortgage insurance or something else entirely, I’m happy to answer your questions and will work with you to help get the answers you need. Contact me for info!

Posted on March 19, 2018 at 10:38 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Story of a Client’s Housing Adventure

This is the story of a family of four: Dad works in Portland, Mom works in Camas, and their two kids are in elementary and middle school. This family had lived in their 1966 home for 14 years and were ready for a change— they wanted more space, new features, and a change of schools.  But like many of us, they had to sell to buy, even though their equity position was a good one.  With the tight market of 2017 (predicted to be the same in 2018), they knew they might not be able to “step across” from one home to the other.

Their first job was to get their current house ready to put on the market. This included yard cleanup, carpet stretching, some minor paint touchup, and some other small things.  These to-do items were not expensive, but they were important to make the home look “crisper” and more appealing to a buyer.  In working with me on home value, we discovered the previous listing had overstated the square footage by several hundred square feet.  We knew the real square footage from a more recent refinance appraisal, so we used that to determine value.  Checking this is an important part of the buying process!

In mid-May, we launched the home on the market and had lots of showings with five offers in just a few days.  This can be quite overwhelming.  With my help, we dealt with all the complexity of evaluating these offers and selected one to accept.  Meanwhile, another buyer who just missed out, decided to write a backup offer just in case something happened with the first accepted buyer.

Now, came time for the home inspection. The inspector said there were “sink holes” in the crawlspace! So, the buyer backed out.  Now what?  Something as serious as this needed to be investigated.  We just don’t have “sink holes” in Clark County, so we believed there was another explanation.  Turns out, when this house was built in the mid-60’s several large trees were cut down and the stumps were not removed.  As they rotted over time, what was left was a hole – one particularly large one even had the trenches from large roots.  We worked with the backup buyer who understand the issue, got the holes filled in with gravel, and then we closed in late June.

Next came the question of where to move. Nothing had turned up in the target location for the next home, so these folks signed up for the adventure of moving temporarily into a rental.  They did this once we were through home inspection with the backup buyer, so they would have time to overlap and move over several weeks.  There are several places around town that will do leases shorter than a year.  Although the rental was smaller, they used the garage for storage of their many boxes. Now, finding the new house became our top priority.

It took a couple of months and we looked at many properties as they came onto the market.  Eventually we found one, got our offer accepted and negotiated home inspection items including unpermitted square footage.  The happy ending is that this family moved into their new place by the end of September, just in time for school to start and before the holidays!

Hopefully you will find this a positive story.  Yes, it took commitment on their part to go through the ups and downs of buying, selling, and moving into the rental, but in the end, this family is “living the dream” and everyone is excited about their new future in their new home.

Thank you to these special clients for letting me share their story! Where does your new home story begin? Contact me today for information on what it will take to embark on your journey in buying or selling a home.

Posted on January 15, 2018 at 7:30 am
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,