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How to Find a Dog Friendly Neighborhood

by Melissa Thompson


When beginning your home search, you want to be sure to look in neighborhoods that are a good fit for everyone in the family, including your dog. You will likely be looking for a nice yard, but it’s important to look beyond the property line. The type of neighborhood you end up in can make a huge difference in the quality of life for you and your fur babies. Here are a few signs that you have found a dog friendly environment:

  • - There are more groomers in a two-mile radius than hair salons…walk-in appointments welcome!
  • - Restaurants and shops have water bowls and treats for visiting pups.
  • - Pet waste stations are abundant.
  • - The local dog park is always busy with happy pooches frolicking with friends.

Here are some more serious things to think about when considering the home and neighborhood that will work best for you and your pups:

  • NEIGHBORS WITH DOGS.  They will be more understanding if your dog occasionally barks and are more likely to be helpful should you need someone to let your dog out or walk them while you are away from the house.
     
  • PET SHOPS. Areas with a lot of pets mean that there will be pet shops conveniently available.
     
  • SIDEWALKS. A neighborhood with sidewalks is ideal for dog-walking.  Bonus point if they have waste stations too.
     
  • DOG PARKS. These are especially nice for urban areas. Check if there are off-leash hours or dog runs, or at least grassy areas where pups can run and play.
     
  • MEET-UP GROUPS. Check and see if there are local meet-up groups available for playdates with other families with dogs. This is a great way for you to make friends as well!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs! Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: thespruce.com

Perfect Your Patio on a Budget

by Melissa Thompson


Now that warmer weather is here, you will want to start spending more time outside.  But chances are you might have let your patio go over the winter months and it doesn’t look or feel too appealing right now.  Now is the time to give your patio a little makeover so you can bask in the fresh air, whether you are simply enjoying a good book and a cup of tea, or you are dining al fresco.  Here are some ways to upgrade your patio without breaking the bank:

  1. STOP PESTS

Pests can cause your patio to become unsightly with debris from their digging and trampling.A great way to keep them away is to surround your patio with simple pine cones instead of mulch.While critters will be deterred by the spiny cones, your plants will love them because they add acidity to the soil.They will make plants like azaleas and rhododendrons burst with color!Also, pine cones are slow to decompose, so they will last a long time!

  1. REMOVE RUST

If you have metal furniture on your patio that has become covered in rust, you won’t feel much like lounging on it.But you don’t have to get rid of it or replace it with expensive pieces.You can remove the rust and have it looking good as new!There are many ways to get rid of rust.If it’s not too bad, you can simply scrape it off using a wire brush, sandpaper, or steel wool along with a bit of elbow grease.For more severe cases, try an acidic agent like vinegar to help take it off.You can also use a chemical rust converter (such as Rust-Oleum), which changes the rust into a different substance and gives added protection from rusting again. Patio Furniture Rust Removal

  1. ADD COLOR

Nothing brightens up a gloomy concrete patio like a pop of color!You can keep it simple and paint your patio floor a nice, bright color to spice it up. Or you can be super creative and try painting patterns or even using stamps to create a bold design.If painting the concrete seems like too much for you, then add color with accessories like chair cushions and pillows, side tables, and planters. How to Paint Your Concrete Patio

  1. BUILD A FIRE PIT

Did you know that you can build a fire pit with no tools?A fire pit adds a focal point to your patio and creates a cozy atmosphere.The best part is that it doesn’t require much time or money to build one.For a small fire pit you can purchase heat-resistant pavers (or “fire bricks), which cost about $5 each.Stack two layers of them in a small circle, about six blocks in circumference on top of a stone slab, and voila! You have a fire pit!Remember that this will only work on a patio surface that is fire-safe.So, don’t try to do this on a wooden deck!And be sure to check your Local Fire Codes!

  1. DETER INSECTS

There are many ways to keep your patio as insect free as possible.First, keep your patio clean.Be sure to sweep up any crumbs and wipe up spilled liquids after dining. Any tiny morsel or stickiness is sure to attract ants and other insects.Second, replace white light bulbs with yellow bulbs or Sodium-Vapor Lights which are less likely to attract bugs.  Third, plant pest-deterrent flowers and plants. And finally, while on your patio, burn citronella torches or candles to help keep bothersome bugs away.  These are just a few ways to keep your patio insect free.  Here are some others: Keeping Flies and Pests Off the Patio.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs!  Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Buying or Renting - Which is Better?

by Melissa Thompson


With interest rates still relatively low but predicted to start rising, buying a house right now is less expensive than renting in many places, including Memphis, TN.  Now is a great time to lock into a rate.

Buying is often considered to be financially better than renting over the long run because your mortgage payments build equity in your home, which you will eventually own, while rent only goes toward the upkeep of your home and the wallet of your landlord.  That is just one reason buying is better than renting. Here are some others:

  • You can do what you want with your property. Making home improvements will be your choice, from the colors to paint the walls, to light fixtures, to types of floors and more. You won’t need permission from a landlord to make changes.
     
  • Tax benefits. Tax deductions are a great perk of home ownership. Homeowner Tax Benefits 2019
     
  • Stable monthly payments. Rents can go up, but with a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly payments won’t change.
     
  • Forced savings.  Renting might seem less expensive, but would you save the money you don’t spend on rent?  Since your mortgage payments are building equity in your home, which you can later sell for profit, it’s like a forced savings.

Using a Rent vs. Buy Calculator you can see how buying is a better financial option right here in Memphis. For example, after 2 years the cost of homeownership (down payment, mortgage, taxes, etc.) for a $85,800 home in Memphis would be $40,187. The total cost to rent the same house for that period would be $25,683.  Renting would leave you with $14,503 in your pocket (including the money you didn’t spend on a down payment).  So, it would seem that renting would be better financially, right?  But wait…not so fast.  Let’s look at what you gain over the same 2-year period if you buy.  After 2 years, your home will have $28,418 in equity. However, if you instead rent and invest your down payment and other money you save at a 6% return rate, it will earn around $1,743 in 2 years.  So, if you look at your gross costs, equity and investment potential, it’s better for you to buy than rent if you plan to live in your home for more than 1 year and 6 months.

The bottom line is, if you’ve been thinking about buying a home in the Memphis area, don’t wait! Start investing your money in your own home vs that of a landlord today!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Establishing Good Credit

by Melissa Thompson


Having a good credit report is important for all your financial goals, but it is essential when you are applying for a mortgage loan.  Your credit history plays a significant factor in gaining approval for a mortgage. 

Your credit score is your credit history summed up into a single number - your  FICO Credit Score.  With this score, lenders can determine if you qualify for credit when you are applying for a credit card or loan.  It is calculated using five different components:

  1. Payment history - 35%
  2. Credit Utilization - 30%
  3. Length of credit history - 15%
  4. New credit - 10%
  5. Credit Mix - 10%

While waited differently, each of these components matter when determining your credit score, so none should be overlooked when building and maintaining your credit history.

Good credit matters because buying a house is one of the largest financial investments you will make, and you must be financially prepared to take on the expense of a mortgage.  Without a strong credit score, a lender may decide that you are not ready to take on the financial responsibility of owning a home. The higher your credit score, the better the chances are that you will be approved for a mortgage loan.

Building good credit takes time.  It’s something you should start working on as soon as you enter adulthood.  As a young adult you may think that buying a house is a long way off, but it is never too early to start establishing good credit. And even if you have a not so good credit report you can work on strengthening it.  Not sure where to begin?  Here are five ways to start building a strong credit history:

  1. APPLY FOR A SECURED CREDIT CARD - If you are just starting out you may need to apply for a Secured Credit Card.  This is a card that is backed by a cash deposit.  The deposit amount will be the same as your credit limit. You use this card like any other credit card; make purchases and make payments on or before the due date each month.  You will incur interest if you don’t pay your balance in full and your cash deposit will be used as collateral if you fail to make payments. Secured credit cards are not meant to be used long-term.  The purpose of having one is to help qualify you for a card that does not require a deposit to secure it.  When you close your secured credit card account, you will receive your deposit back.
     
  2. ASK SOMEONE TO CO-SIGN A LOAN FOR YOU - You may be able to secure a loan or unsecured credit card using a co-signer.  Just be sure the co-signer understands that he or she will be responsible for the full amount of the loan (or credit) if you are unable to pay. How to Get a Personal Loan with a Co-Signer
     
  3. DON’T MISS OR BE LATE MAKING PAYMENTS - As seen above, your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score.  Financial responsibility is a large factor of your overall credit history and can make or break your ability to obtain new lines of credit, such as a mortgage loan.  Always pay your bills before or by your due date.  Late or missed payments can seriously harm your credit score.
     
  4. TRY TO PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM DUE - While the minimum due is all that you are required to pay each month, it will serve you well to make larger payments to show your creditworthiness. At the same time, you will be reducing your debt at a faster pace and paying less interest over time.
     
  5. DON’T OPEN A LOT OF ACCOUNTS AT THE SAME TIME - New account lower your average account age, which could lower your credit score.  The longer you have accounts open and active, the better off you are (as long as you are making payments on time).

By establishing strong credit early, you will be well on your way to acquiring a mortgage loan when you are ready to buy a home!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Lawn Basics: Where the Green Grass Grows

by Melissa Thompson


No green thumb? Don’t worry!  The grass CAN be greener on your side of the fence. With spring right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start working on a thick carpet of grass for your yard. Here are some tips for growing a lawn that will have your neighbors GREEN with envy:

  1. Start by reseeding and fertilizing. If you have bare spots in your grass, taking the time to reseed now will pay off this spring.  Make sure you fertilize for optimal growth and keep the area moist until you see new growth. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, you can hire someone to do it. Here are the 5 Best Lawn Seeding Companies in Memphis, TN.
     
  2. Look for problems that will hinder growth.  Steep slopes and shady trees can potentially keep grass from growing.  You may want to consider hydroseeding in sloped regions.  And planting fescues in shady zones will help as well. What is Hydroseeding? All Of Your Questions Answered
     
  3. Patch dead areas with sod.  Re-sodding is the best bet if you have large dead areas. Sod can be installed any time of year…just make sure you water it frequently until it sets.
     
  4. Look into xeriscaping. No matter what climate you living, xeriscaping is the best way to weatherproof your lawn.  This low maintenance, low cost method of landscaping will keep your lawn looking beautiful during all the seasons! Xeriscape Landscaping: Meaning, and How it Can Save You Money

Once you have your lawn looking fabulous, you can create a fun outdoor living space to enjoy with your friends and family.  And when you’re ready to sell your home, the first impression potential buyers get from your curb appeal will have them waiting in line to see your house! 

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: twitter.com

Brighten Up Your Home with Color

by Melissa Thompson


It’s been a long, dreary winter and chances are you are ready to add a little color to your life. One great way to do this to embellish your home with some happy hues.  Here are some easy ways to add color to your home without breaking the bank:

  • THROW PILLOWS

Throw pillows make fantastic accent pieces for rooms that are otherwise neutral in color.Another thing that is great about them is that you can purchase washable covers for pillow inserts that can be switched out based on the season.Red and green for Christmas, pink for Valentine’s Day, kelly green for St. Patrick’s Day, pastels for Easter…this list goes on and on.

  • PLANTS

There are many reasons that adding live plants to your home décor is a good idea, not the least of which is the natural beauty it brings to any room.In addition, they purify the air, giving your home a clean, fresh feel.There are so many plants to choose from in a variety of colors, including low maintenance plants for those without a green thumb. Forgiving Houseplants

  • CURTAINS

Add a touch of sophistication to any room with some vibrantly colored curtains. Use solids or simple patterns so that the focus is on the pop of color they provide.

  • ACCENT WALL       

You’ll be amazed by how much one colorful wall can make a room shine! Perhaps your favorite hue is a little too bold to be used on every wall in the room; but it might be just the right shade for an accent wall.Just be sure that the surrounding walls are painted in a neutral or a shade that compliments the accent wall. 16 Living Rooms with Accent Walls

  • LAMPS

You can find them in all shapes and sizes, so why not utilize lamps to add pops of color to a room?Look for bases in accent colors that provide a vivid contrast to neutral shades and furniture.

  • TILE BACKSPLASH

Does your kitchen feel a little “blah”?Brighten it up with a beautiful glass tile backsplash.And if you really want to bring a new lightness to the room, paint your cabinets white to make that tile backsplash really stand out. Kitchen Update: Add a Glass Tile Backsplash

  • AREA RUGS

It’s super easy to add color to a room with throw rugs.Stick to solid colors or simple patterns so that they aren’t too busy.Be sure to choose colors that complement the tones in your furnishings and accent pieces.

  • FRONT DOOR

While it’s common to paint the outside of your front door to accentuate the exterior of your home, it might not have occurred to you that you can do the same with the inside of the door.Make a cheerful statement in your entryway with a colorful front door!

Adding color to your home does not have to be expensive and will add a cheerful aesthetic that will have you feeling happy at home!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Germantown Launches Mobile App

by Melissa Thompson

The City of Germantown is excited to announce the launch of Germantown on the Go, a new mobile app that provides users with the ability to conveniently report issues straight from your phone, find information about community events and sign up receive urgent alerts, such as road closures.

Features of the app include being able to create service requests for a variety of issues such as potholes, missed residential garbage or recycling, dead animal removal, property maintenance issues and much more. From there, users can view their current service request and check the status.

In addition, residents of the city of Germantown will also be able to pay their water bills and property tax all from their mobile devices. As for marketing purposes, Germantown on the Go provides real time access to the City’s various social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. Members of the City’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen even have their own spot on the app which allows users to connect with them via email.

Germantown on the Go is available for both Apple and Android devices. Residents are encouraged to download the app and try out its features. There is an “App Issue/Suggestions” option on the Report an Issue feature. This feedback will be used to update and improve the app as needed. The goal of the app is to provide residents with a source for the latest and most accurate City news and information for all your on-the-go needs. For more information, contact Jessica Comas at JComas@Germantown-TN.gov.

By and photo credit: https://www.germantown-tn.gov/Home/Components/News/News/5782/30

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Unmarried but Buying a Home Together - What You Should Know

by Melissa Thompson


A couple doesn’t have to be joined in matrimony to buy a home together, but it’s important to understand that you are still making a huge commitment.  And being unmarried does present some challenges for home buyers.  So, before you begin your home search, here are some important things for you to consider:

SHARING FINANCIAL INFORMATION

If you’re going to buy a home together, then you need to be transparent with each other regarding your finances.  You don’t want to meet with a lender only to be blindsided by something that your partner didn’t share with you.  So, it’s vital that you review all of your financial history with your partner, including your Credit Score, income, and any debts that are tied to your name.  By doing this, you will not only be able to determine if you both have good credit, but you will also get an idea of how much house you can afford together.

HOW YOU’RE GOING TO SPLIT EXPENSES

You might already be living together, in which case you may have a system in place for who pays what living expenses.  But things can be more complicated with a mortgage in the picture.  You need to discuss this before you start the home buying process.  The first thing you need to figure out is how you’re going to split the down payment and closing costs when you buy a home together.  And if you will be living together for the first time, it would be smart to discuss how you will split the monthly bills including your mortgage, utilities, and home maintenance. What if there is need for a costly, emergency repair?  You may want to consider opening a joint bank account that exists only to cover home expenses.  It’s also a good idea to meet with a real estate attorney so you can get everything in writing and have a legally binding contract just in case things don’t work out down the road. Property Agreements for Unmarried Couples

EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT OWNERSHIP OPTIONS

You are buying a home together and splitting the expenses, but who’s name is going to be on the title?  This is something that requires serious thought because it can have a significant impact on your future.   There are three options to choose from:

     - Joint Tendency - Property is owned equally and if something happens to one owner, the second owner automatically inherits the other’s stake and becomes sole owner of the property.

     - Tendency in Common - Each partner owns a pre-determined percentage of the property. Should something happen to one or the other, the ownership interest would go to whomever is specified in a living will, will, or trust. If none of those are in place, the interest in the property would go to the next of kin and not to the significant other. Living Will vs Living Trust

     - Sole Owner - For some couples it might make more sense for one person to have full ownership of the home even though you are splitting expenses. For example, if one person has poor credit and won’t qualify for a mortgage loan, then the person getting the loan would be the sole owner of the home.

Determining ownership should not be taken lightly.  It’s probably the most important decision you will make when buying a home with someone you aren’t married to.  Keep in mind that if you are splitting the costs of the home, but you aren’t on the title, you probably won’t be able to enjoy the tax perks of being a home owner.

LOOK FORWARD

Whether you are married or not, everyone should think about where you see yourself in 3 to 5 years.  There is a lot to consider.  Do you have job stability?  Is it possible you will need to move soon?  Do you want to start a family?  These are just a few questions to ask yourself before taking on the commitment of home ownership.  It’s crucial that you have a heart-to-heart talk with your partner about your future before you start your home search!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: bankrate.com

Money Saving Tips for Homeowners

by Melissa Thompson


There are a lot of perks to home ownership, but let’s face it; it can be expensive.  You’re not only making a mortgage payment every month, but you are also responsible for maintaining your home.  But there are lots of easy ways to save money without ever leaving the house. Follow these tips and start saving today!

  1. Save money on your electric bill by utilizing natural ways to cool your house.  During the spring and summer, open your windows and use fans to get the air circulating through your home.  Ceiling fans will help too. Moving the air through the house will help cool it down quite a bit.
     
  2. Another way to save on your electric bill is to line dry your clothes.  Dryers use a lot of electricity, and there are many good reasons to choose line drying.  Not only is it an energy saver, but it may extend the life of your clothing! Top 10 Reasons to Line Dry Laundry
     
  3. Get rid of cable television. With all the options for streaming shows on apps like Hulu and Netflix, you could save a lot of money by ending your relationship with cable and using apps to stream your favorite programs.  You might be surprised to discover that even after upgrading your internet, you will still pay less per month than you did for cable television.
     
  4. Always unplug.  Even when you are not using an appliance, if you keep it plugged in, it is still pulling electricity.  It may not seem like much, but over years you can save quite a bit by unplugging when not using things.  Chances are you are not going to want to be bothered with walking around your house to unplug everything, but to make it a little easier, consider using power strips so you can just unplug that at the end of the day.
     
  5. Use a shopping list.  This may sound silly, but when you go shopping without a list you often come home with way more than you need.  Make a list and stick to it. It will not only make shopping more efficient, but it will save you money in the long run.
     
  6. Learn how to do basic home maintenance.  You can save a ton of money over time by being able to take care of home maintenance yourself.  By doing small tasks like replacing filters and cleaning out dust, you can lengthen the lifespan of many appliances, thus saving money that way as well.  Home Maintenance for Dummies Cheat Sheet
     
  7. Bundle up and save on heating costs.  Invest in quality, warm blankets so you can turn the heat down and still be warm and cozy when you sleep at night.  Decreasing your heat by just a few degrees can save you a lot of money over time.
     
  8. Create a budget and try to stick to it. By creating a budget, you will be more conscientious about your spending.  It will not only help you to see where you are spending too much, it will also assist you in prioritizing your spending.

Saving money is important.  Whether you’re saving for retirement or for a special family vacation, it’s the little things you do that make a big difference in the long run!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

6 Tips to Becoming a Landlord in Memphis

by Melissa Thompson


If investing in Memphis real estate isn’t on your ‘To Do’ list in 2019, you may want to reconsider as Memphis made Forbes.com list of Best Markets For Real Estate Investments in 2019. Memphis is on this list because the local economy is doing well with job growth at 2.2% and housing prices are in line with income prices.

If you have read our blog post, Investing in Real Estate – What You Need to Know, and have taken the leap and bought an investment property, you may be thinking “Now what?” Don’t panic! Here are 6 Tips to get you started on your way to becoming a landlord:

1. Know Landlord-Tenant Law

Most states, Tennessee included, have very specific state Landlord-Tenant laws regarding things like security deposits, landlord access, and evictions. There are also national laws regulating Fair Housing and discrimination. You will want to do your homework and become familiar with these laws as violations can be costly.

2. Screen Tenants

Tenant screening is one of the most important steps to becoming a landlord. Thorough screening will help you to eliminate a multitude of problems further down the road. Use a standard application and require a credit check, background check, and references from employers and past landlords. There are online tenant screening services to help make this process convenient and manageable.

It is also a good idea to meet your prospective tenant in person. Make sure this is someone you want to do business with.

3. Have It In Writing

Always, always, always have everything in writing. You may hit it off with your prospective tenant or be renting to a friend and feel that you are both on the same page but don’t fool yourself, having a written lease is a MUST! Your lease should include items such as a code of conduct, late payments, property maintenance, pets, and landlord accessibility. Tennessee lease agreements can be found online that are easily customizable for your property.

4. Perform Inspections

Frequent inspections (every 3-6 months) will ensure your property maintains its value. Let’s face it tenants are not always diligent with reporting issues. Having a dark spot on the ceiling that may indicate a water leak is probably not top of their list of priorities. But for you, catching the leak early can mean the difference between an inexpensive problem and a very costly one. Don’t feel like you are imposing on the tenant by making inspections. Inspections go a long way to keeping good tenants.

5. Make Repairs Promptly

Another thing that makes tenants happy is making repairs promptly. Don’t make them suffer through a leaking toilet or a garbage disposal that doesn’t work. Your interest in the property encourages a tenant’s interest in the property which keeps your property in good condition.

6. Collect Rents On Time

This may sound like a no-brainer but is gets landlords into hot water more often than you would think. Becoming friendly with a tenant and giving them leniency on rent deadlines is a slippery slope to an eviction and ultimate foreclosure. Be friendly and polite but firm when enforcing the terms of your lease agreement.

Following these guidelines makes for happy tenants and happy landlords!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

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