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

Aug. 29, 2019

10 First-Time Home Buyer Grants and Programs

Becoming a homeowner is still seen as the American Dream.

However, being a first time home buyer can be a frustrating situation.

Traditional mortgages require high down payments and can be fairly difficult to qualify for.

Fortunately, there are first-time home buyer programs, grants, and down-payment assistance available.

Here are 10 first-time homebuyer programs and grants you should apply for before buying a house.


1. HUD First Time Home Buyer Programs

You can check different first time home buyer grants in your state by going to the HUD website. You can also check your local county website for more information on first-time home buyer programs and down payment assistance programs.

Some states and counties offer various forms of homebuyer assistance programs that offer grants for down payments and closing costs for borrowers.

Programs for Public Housing Residence For residence in a public housing situation may qualify to buy the home they’re renting with HUD’s public housing program. Public Housing Authorities (PHA) are able to sell their public housing home/apartment/condo to organization residences.

2. FHA Home Loan Program

FHA loans help more first time homebuyers become homeowners than any other type of mortgage program available.

The guidelines to qualify for these loans are much more flexible than a traditional home loan.

It is usually recommended to work on improving your credit scores before applying for a mortgage. If you have a minimum 580 credit score you can qualify for an FHA loan with just 3.5% down.

For a $200,000 house that means you will just need $7,000 for your downpayment.

The best thing for first-time home buyers is that your downpayment for an FHA loan can be a gift from a family member or friend. This means you can get into your new home with little, or no money upfront.

FHA closing costs are rolled into the loan so you don’t have to pay them upfront.

FHA Loan Requirements

  • 500-579 FICO score with 10% down
  • 580+ FICO score with  3.5% down
  • Tax returns, bank statements W2’s, and paycheck stubs required
  • Primary residence only, no investment properties
  • Mortgage insurance Premium (MIP) is required regardless of the loan-to-value ratio
  • Steady employment

 

 

 

 

Posted in Buying a Home
Aug. 26, 2019

Top 10 Myths That Trip Up First-Time Home Buyers

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably received your share of advice from family and friends. Add to that the constant stream of TV shows, news segments, and social media posts that over-simplify the home buying process for easy entertainment.

With so much information to sift through, it can be tough to distinguish fact from fiction. That’s why I'm revealing the truth behind some of the most common home buyer myths and misconceptions.

Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. If you arm yourself with knowledge and a qualified team of support professionals, you’ll be well equipped to make the right choices for your family and financial future.

DON’T FALL FOR THESE COMMON HOME BUYER MYTHS

Myth #1: You need a 20% down payment.

Plenty of buyers are purchasing homes with down payments that are much less than 20% of the total cost of the property. Today, you can buy a home with as little as 3-5% down.

There are multiple programs out there that allow you to have a lower down payment, and a lender or mortgage broker can talk you through which option is the best for you. Since you’re putting less money down, you’re a riskier borrower to your lender than people who put down a full 20%. Because of this, you will most likely need to pay mortgaginsurance as part of your monthly payment.

 

Myth #2: Real estate agents are expensive.

Your agent is with you every step of the way throughout your home buying journey, and he or she spends countless hours working on your behalf. It sounds like having an agent is expensive, right? Well, not for you. Buyers usually don’t pay a real estate agent’s commission. Your agent’s fee is paid for at closing by the seller of the home you’re buying.1 The seller knows to factor this cost into the property’s total purchase price.

 

Myth #3: Don’t call a real estate agent until you're ready to buy.

The earlier you bring in an agent to help with the purchasing process, the better. Even if you’re in the very early stages of casually browsing Zillow, a real estate professional can be a huge help.

 They can create a search for you in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), so you get notifications for every house that meets your criteria as soon as it hits the market. The MLS is typically more up-to-date than popular home search sites like Zillow and Trulia. Setting up a search a few months before you’re considering buying gives you a good idea of what’s out there in your town that’s in your budget. Reviewing the MLS and speaking with an agent as soon as possible can help you set realistic expectations for when you actually start the house hunting process.


Myth #4: Fixer-uppers are more budget friendly.

We’ve all watched the shows on HGTV that encourage people to go after fixer-uppers because they’re more affordable and allow buyers to eventually renovate the home to include everything on their wishlist. But, this isn’t always the case.

 Sometimes, homes that need a lot of work also require a lot of money. Big renovations, like add-ons, a total kitchen remodel, or installing a pool, take a lot longer than it looks on TV. If you’re really interested in a fixer-upper, ask your agent to show you a mix of newer homes and older homes. If you fall in love with an older home that needs a lot of work, get some quotes from contractors before you buy so you know the real cost of the renovations and see if you can work them into your budget.

 

Myth #5: Your only upfront cost is your down payment.

Your down payment is big, but it isn’t the only money you’ll spend during the home buying process. At closing, you’ll pay your down payment, but you’ll also bring closing costs to the table. Closing costs are typically anywhere from 2-4% of the total purchase price of the home.2 This amount includes the cost for items like homeowners insurance, title fees, and more.

 You’ll also need to pay for an inspection before closing, which usually costs a few hundred dollars. This price will be higher or lower based on the size of your new property. Your lender will also require an appraisal. An appraiser will come in and inspect the home to determine how much it’s worth. Depending on your lender, you may have to pay this when the appraisal is conducted or it might be rolled into your closing costs.

 

Myth #6: You need a high credit score to buy a house.

You don’t need perfect credit to buy the perfect home. There are loans out there that buyers with lower credit scores can qualify for. These are good options for people who have had credit issues in the past, but some of them come with additional fees you will need to pay. Speak to a few local lenders or mortgage brokers to talk through which options might be best for you.


Myth #7: You can't qualify for a mortgage if you're still paying off student loans.

While some buyers may feel more comfortable paying off their existing debts before taking the leap into homeownership, it’s not a requirement. When you’re applying for a mortgage, the lender takes a close look at your debt-to-income ratio.3 If you want to calculate this on your own, add up all of your monthly debt payments and divide those by your monthly income. When you’re lender does this, they’re trying to make sure that you will be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments along with your other existing payments. If your income is high enough to allow you to make all of these payments each month, having a student loan will most likely not stop you from getting a mortgage.

 

Myth #8: You should base your budget on what your lender approves.

How much house you qualify for and how much you can afford are two totally different numbers. When you prequalify for a mortgage, your lender will look at your income, debt, assets, credit score, and financial history to determine how much money you might qualify for.4 For some people, this number might be much higher than you thought because lenders tend to approve for the highest amount they think you can afford. But that doesn’t mean that’s how much you should borrow.

 Instead, figure out how much house you can actually afford. An online mortgage calculator can be a good first step in determining this number. We recommend thinking about what you want your monthly payment to be as a starting point. And remember to include your principal, interest, taxes, and, insurance. You should also think about ownership expenses that aren’t part of your monthly payment, like HOA dues and maintenance.


Myth #9: It's all about location.

You’ve heard the phrase. Location, location, location is basically the real estate industry’s motto, but we’ll let you in on a little known secret: It’s not always true. Yes, location is great to consider when it comes to school districts and commute times, but you also need to think about how the home will function for you and/or your family’s lifestyle. If a family of five is choosing between a one bedroom condo in the bustling city center and a 4-bedroom home out in the suburbs, the latter is probably the best, most functional choice for them. Also, by buying in a less sought after neighborhood, your property taxes will most likely be much lower!

 Obviously, you might still want to choose an area with great resale potential, and this is something that your agent can speak to you about. They’re an expert in your city and are constantly monitoring buying and selling trends.

 

Myth #10: If you look hard enough, you'll find a home that checks every box on your wishlist.

You’ve seen that famous house hunting show. And while we have our suspicions about how real it is, the one thing they get right is that almost every buyer needs to compromise on something. Yes, the perfect house that meets every item on your wishlist is probably out there, but it’s also probably double or triple your budget.

A long wishlist can be a great starting point for figuring out what you want and don’t want, but we recommend narrowing that wishlist down to the top five things that are important to you in order of priority. We also recommend noting on your wishlist what your absolute deal breakers are, like “must have a yard for our dog,” and noting what you can live without, like “heated bathroom floors.”

 

This is a great list to discuss when you first start talking to an agent. A good real estate agent will be able to look at your list and find properties that might work for you. By coming to that first meeting with realistic expectations and knowledge about home buying rather than a bunch of myths heard here and there, you’ll be able to start the process off on the right foot and be in your new house in no time.

 

I'M HERE TO HELP

 Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, there’s no reason to go through the home buying process without an advocate on your side. I'm here to answer your questions and do the hard work for you, so you can spend your time dreaming about your new home. Call me today at 502.702.6436 to schedule a consultation.

 

Get a FREE copy of my Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready

 

Now that we’ve cleared up these common homebuyer myths, find out if you know the steps you should take to prepare financially before you apply for a mortgage. Contact me to request a complimentary copy of our “Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready.”

 

 

 
Sources:

1.      Realtor.com -

https://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/realtor-fees-closing-costs/

2.      The Balance -
https://www.thebalance.com/buyer-s-closing-costs-1798422

3.      StudentLoanHero -

https://studentloanhero.com/featured/student-loans-buying-house/

4.      Zillow -

https://www.zillow.com/mortgage-learning/pre-qualification-vs-pre-approval/

 

Posted in Buying a Home
June 3, 2019

Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block

We all want to be good neighbors. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why I've outlined my proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

Use these five tactics to help your home get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbors!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential

The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. While  those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

I can help you determine the appropriate effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighborhood. 

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos

You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers and many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, I only work with the top local professionals to photograph my listings. 

I go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. I'm always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end by attracting more potential buyers.  

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start

Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions and could lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

I can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

 STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing

Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

 STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan

One of my primary responsibilities is to properly market your home so that you sell your home for the highest value and in the shortest amount of time. This requires that I do much more than put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. 

I invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. My dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.

By utilizing online and social marketing platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents, your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.


LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact me for a copy of my Home Seller’s Guide which offers a complete guide to the home selling process or call to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. I'd love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

My Best,

Britt Leece

Posted in Selling a Home
Feb. 26, 2019

MAKE A LIST: Extras Help Sell Your Home

 

To help me sell your home more quickly and for the most money, take a few minutes to tour your home and make a list of the extra that may not be immediately obvious.When showing your house, I can use the list to point these out to buyers.  

Your list can include things like:

1. Central air conditioning

2. Tankless water heater

3. Heat pump

4. A central vacuuming system

5. Lawn sprinklers

6. Soft-close cabinets in the kitchen

7.  Pull-out shelves in the kitchen

8.  A convection oven

9. A security system

10. Anything energy efficient

11. Built-in surround sound system

12. Gas log fireplaces or gas starters in wood-burning fireplaces

13. Pull-down stairs in a storage area

14. Quiet garage door opener

15. New appliances

16. New furnace, water heater, or air-conditioning

17. Basement waterproofing with a transferable warranty

18. 4 x 6 construction instead of 4 x 4

19. Extra insulation added

20. An attic fan

21. Location and number of outdoor electrical outlets

22. Number of outdoor faucets

23. Higher-quality materials used in the house, such as superior woods, metals, or stones.

24. Windows with superior insulation or UV ray-blocking abilities.

25. A humidifer on the furnace

26. Zoned heating and air

27. Recent improvements to the home, any remodeling

28. Outdoor security lights, motion lights

29. Keyless dead bolts

30. Low-flow toilets or showers

31. Non-standard hardware

32. Non-standard doors like 6-panels doors

33. In older homes, any original features that in great condition such as wood trim, pocket doors, or the original hardwood floors.

34. Multiple laundry hook-ups

35. Extra outdoor lighting, like low lights that illuminate outdoor living spaces and landscapes

36. Cedar closets

37. Heated floors

38. Maintenance-free siding

39. Custom-made anything

40. Programmable thermostat

 

All of these items may not necassarily increase the value of your home.  However, they will give you a competitive advantage when buyers are shopping and comparing homes.

If you have any questions about the demand for certain features in your home, please reachout.

Posted in Selling a Home
Feb. 5, 2019

Curious About Local Real Estate?

Receive the Latest Local Market Stats

Curious about local real estate? So am I! Every month I review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. I’d love to invite you to do the same!

Get Local Market Reports Sent Directly to You

You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact me for clarification or to have any questions answered.

I can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, I hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

Posted in Market Updates