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Home Buyer “To Do” List

by Melissa Thompson

If you are thinking about purchasing a home, there are several things you should do before you even start your home search.  While it’s exciting to look at properties and imagine what your life will be like in a new house, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment and heartbreak if you aren’t prepared for all the steps involved in the home-buying process.  So, do your homework and make sure you are truly ready to find the home of your dreams!

  1. Determine What You Can Afford - You don’t want to find the perfect property and then find out it’s out of reach for you.   Determine how much you can afford for a mortgage payment and create a maximum budget for what you are willing to pay for a house. Your mortgage payment should take up no more than 28% of your income.  If you are currently paying rent or a mortgage payment that is less than what you anticipate for your future home, start saving the difference each month to make sure you are willing and able to live on that.  You don’t want to be house poor.  Home Affordability Calculator
     
  2. Check Your Credit - You can request free credit reports from Annual Credit Report .com.  Check the reports thoroughly for any errors or negative information.  Take the steps needed to improve your credit score.  A higher credit score will possibly qualify you for lower interest rates, which will make your purchase more affordable.
     
  3. Meet with a Lender - Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is vital to the home-buying process, especially in a seller’s market where there might be bidding wars.  Sellers are more likely to choose a potential buyer who has already been pre-approved over one who hasn’t.  It will also help you identify the documents you will need for the final loan application. 
     
  4. Save For a Down Payment- Your meeting with the loan officer will also help you determine how much cash you will need for a down payment.
     
  5. Get Organized - Gather documents you will need for your final loan application and start a house-hunting binder.  As you start looking at homes, you can add any materials you collect along the way.
     
  6. Start Considering Where You Want to Live - If you don’t already have a specific neighborhood in mind, start investigating different areas within your price range.  Visit neighborhoods at different times to get a feel for what it might be like to live there.  Consider things like what your work commute will be and what amenities you want.
     
  7. Take a Home Buyer Education Course - If you are a first-time home buyer, these classes can help you prepare for the responsibilities of being a home owner.
     
  8. Find a Realtor - Choose an experienced real estate professional like Melissa Thompson to represent your interests.

Taking these steps before you start your home-search will make the whole home-buying process easier!  Call Melissa Thompson at (901) 729-9526 and let her guide you through the home buying process today!

Photo Credit: mentalfloss.com

Now is a Great Time to Move Up to Your Dream House!

by Melissa Thompson

We hear a lot about people downsizing and simplifying, but if you are looking for a larger home, now is a great time to sell your smaller home and move up to something that better suits your wants and needs.  Perhaps you have a growing family and need more space, or an additional income-earner has joined your household or maybe you have enough equity in your current home that you can now afford your dream home. Whatever the reason, movin’ on up is an exciting prospect!

Ok, now let’s contain that excitement a bit and think about what it means to purchase a more expensive house.  First, just because you can afford something on paper, doesn’t mean you should commit all your resources to the most expensive property on your radar.  It would behoove you to take a thorough look at your current budget and then play with the numbers a bit to determine how much more you’re willing to spend each month on a higher mortgage payment.  A dream house is wonderful, but being house-poor is not.  Think about your lifestyle and don’t make the mistake of getting into a financial bind that doesn’t allow you to do the activities you enjoy.

When financing your new home, you have a couple of options.  If you haven’t sold your current home yet, you can choose a Home Equity Loan or a Bridge Loan to make the down payment on the new home.  A home equity loan allows you to borrow against your current home’s equity and is usually less expensive than other loans.  A bridge loan is a short-term loan that is used until you can obtain permanent financing.  Because they are short term, the interest rates on them will be relatively high.

Before you put your house on the market and commit to purchasing a new one, educate yourself about the prices of houses in the areas where you will be selling and buying. Whether it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market, an experienced professional Realtor will be able to assist you in navigating the process. The goal is to sell high and buy low, and in today’s market that is an achievable dream!  Call Melissa Thompson at 901-729-9526 and let her help you find your dream home today!

Debunking Real Estate Myths

by Melissa Thompson

Whether you are buying or selling a home for the first time or you are a seasoned veteran of buying/selling real estate, chances are you think you have the knowledge needed to navigate the process based on what you have read or heard from friends and family. Unfortunately there are a plethora of myths circulating about buying and selling houses that have become prevalent, but just aren’t true.  The pitfall of believing everything you hear or read is that real estate myths can hurt you where it counts…in the wallet.  Here are eight common ones that can cause home buyers/sellers to make unnecessary mistakes:

  • Set your home price higher than what you expect to get. Setting your asking price too high may net you a lower price.  That’s because many shoppers and their real estate agents will not look at houses that are priced above market value. While it’s true that you can lower your price if you have not gotten offers in the first few weeks, “Buyers are highly suspicious of houses that have sat on the market for more than three weeks,” says Nela Richardson, chief economist for the brokerage Redfin.
     
  • You can get a better deal as a buyer if you don’t use a real estate agent.

This is a false assumption. When a house is listed with an agent, the total sales commission is already built into the price.  If the buyer doesn’t use and agent, that just means the selling agent will get the entire commission.

  • You can save money selling your home yourself.

While it is possible to successfully sell your home on your own, there is a great deal of work that goes into it. You must know how to get the home listed online, market it to prospective buyers, negotiate the contract and deal with any issues that arise during the inspection or loan application phases.  In addition, buyers will expect a significant discount, so what you might save on real estate commission may not be as much as you thought it would be.

  • The market will only go up.

Over the years, homebuyers and sellers have experienced a time of increasing home values, then a sharp decline due to the economy and then an upturn where values increase again.  But many people believe the market only goes up.  You need to be aware that prices can fall dramatically.

  • You should renovate your kitchen and bathroom before you sell.

If your kitchen and bathroom are in working order, an extensive remodel could be a mistake. Potential buyers might not like what you’ve done with the place, but they don’t want to change something that has just been renovated.  You are better off adjusting your price accordingly.

  • You’ll earn back what you spend on renovations.

Repairing things like your heating system, air conditioner or roof may help your home to sell faster, but you probably will not recoup what you spend. Per Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 cost-vs-value report, the only renovation that is likely to net you as much as you spent is adding fiberglass attic insulation. You will likely only get back 65.3% on a full kitchen renovation. And redoing your bathroom might get you 59.1%.

  • All the properties listed in the multiple listing service show up online.

Your agent must choose to let the listings show up online. Most do, but it’s a good idea to verify that yours will.

  • Open houses sell properties.

Homes rarely sell to buyers who have visited them during open houses.  Agents like to have open houses because it helps them to find additional potential customers.  If you and your agent opt not to have an open house, it probably won’t hurt the chances of selling.  On the other hand, having a broker’s open house for other agents might be worthwhile.

 

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/Buying-a-Home-Can-Be-Scary-Unless-You-Know-the-Facts

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/Should-I-Sell-or-Should-I-Rent

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/Steps-to-Take-Before-Buying-a-Home-A-Guide-for-First-Time-Homebuyers

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The Cost of Renting vs. Buying in the US

by Melissa Thompson

The Cost of Renting vs. Buying in the US [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights:

  • Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a tough decision.
  • Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (29.2%) vs. the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (15.8%), the choice becomes obvious.
  • Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you can put your housing costs to work by buying this year!

Thinking about buying your own Memphis TN home, Call your local expert’s at The Melissa Thompson Team 901-729-9526.

 

 

After several years of an intense focus on process improvement, Germantown now has the highest possible rating when it comes to the Germantown Fire Department’s capacity to respond to and fight fires.

Germantown Fire Department has been awarded a Class 1 rating by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), an organization that independently evaluates municipal fire protection efforts in communities through the United States.  ISO analyzes the data using its Fire Suppression Rating Schedule and then assigns a rating number between 1 and 10 with 1 being the best. 

Germantown’s Class 1 rating is the highest rating possible. It means Germantown homeowners could see a reduction in their insurance premiums. It means businesses looking to locate in Germantown have an even greater incentive to invest. It also proves the Germantown Fire Department, Water Department and dispatch services have demonstrated they are at the top of their game when it comes to reliability.

Currently, only three other fire departments in Tennessee and only 241 fire departments across the country have achieved this top rating, representing the top 0.5% of the over 46,000 evaluated agencies nationwide.  The department had previously received a Class 3 rating.

“The Germantown Fire Department works hard to continuously improve our services to the community,” said Fire Chief John Selberg “We are proud of achieving the Class 1 rating as it reflects the hard work and dedication of all of our personnel, including efforts to reduce loss through fire fighting and fire prevention.  This wouldn’t be possible without the support and commitment to public safety from Mayor Palazzolo, the Aldermen and City Administrator Lawton,” he added.

The ISO evaluation includes an analysis of all fire department operations, including fire suppression capabilities, community risk reduction and fire prevention efforts, available personnel and equipment, and distribution of emergency response resources to provide optimal protection for the community.  The evaluation also includes analysis of key supporting elements, such as those from the Germantown Police Dispatch Center for 911 services and available water supply and hydrant system provided by the Germantown Public Works Department.  The high scores reflect efforts by the Germantown Information Technology Department to support dispatch systems as well as grant funding from the Shelby County 911 Commission to upgrade our dispatch and fire station alerting systems.

The Fire Department’s Class 1 rating is a reflection of Germantown’s commitment to provide the best possible public safety services to the community.  “This is truly a team effort.  Our fire fighters did a great job helping us meet all the requirements for a Class 1 rating.  Our Public Works Department provides us with one of the best water supply systems in our area, our Dispatch Center and Information Technology Department work hard to provide fast and effective dispatch services for Fire and Police, and our Fire Marshal’s Office provides targeted fire prevention education and thorough inspection programs,” said Chief Selberg.

This improved rating will be published in August 2017.  The ISO Class 1 rating is a confirmation of the City’s dedication to the best services for the community and City employees’ motto of “Excellence, Every Day!”

By and photo credit: http://www.germantown-tn.gov/Home/Components/News/News/2807/

 

Tips for Showing Your Home to Potential Buyers

by Melissa Thompson

When potential buyers come to look at your home, it’s vital that they feel like it could be theirs.  Here are some tips for showing your house that will help engage buyers emotionally and leave them feeling like they have found their future home.

  1. Make them feel WELCOME!

The buyer may be a guest in your home, but don’t make them feel like an intruder.  The idea is for them to be able to imagine it as their own.  Leave the house while they are looking so that they can speak freely and comfortably about what they are seeing.  Let them take their time. If they feel rushed they won’t have a positive experience.  Leave a bowl of candy or small treats near the front door with a short note thanking them for coming to see your home.

  1. Check the temperature.

If it is hot outside, turn on the AC. Set the temperature a couple of degrees cooler than usual so that it runs consistently and isn’t kicking on and off while people are looking.  Sometimes HVAC systems can be loud.  The same applies with heat when it is cold outside (set temp a couple of degrees warmer than usual).  You want them to be comfortable in your house so that they will linger as long as possible.

  1. Create a mood.

You want potential buyers to get good vibes from your house the minute they walk through the door.  When weather appropriate, light a fire in the fireplace.  Set your dining table in a way that is appealing.  Have soft music playing.  Create and ambiance that is irresistible!

  1. Be careful with scents.

Some people are very sensitive to certain smells, so don’t spray the air or use plug in deodorizers.  Avoid burning strongly scented candles for the same reason.  If weather permits, open the windows (unless it is too noisy outdoors).  Most people enjoy the smell of freshly baked cookies, but if you are going to bake, make sure you leave some treats out for the visitors so they aren’t disappointed!

  1. Make it visually pleasing.

Open window coverings to let in natural light.  Display appealing seasonal photos in prominent places. If your yard isn’t looking so fabulous, keep window blinds partially closed so that buyers aren’t distracted by what’s outside while looking at the interior of the home.

  1. Light it up!

Turn on every light in the house…even the closet lights. Brighten dark rooms with extra lighting.  A spot light on the floor behind a piece of furniture is a great idea for brightening up a room with few windows. 

  1. Encourage touching.

Drape lush fabrics such as velvet or silk throws over chair arms.  Leave doors slightly ajar so that visitors feel welcome but must open the door to enter the room.  If a room is carpeted, vacuum it in one direction.

  1.  Finish off with food.

Encourage buyers to stick around and notice even more details about your home by offering them food.  You don’t need to have a catered lunch; finger sandwiches, cookies, tea, water and desserts will all suffice. Be sure to have serving utensils, plates, cups and silverware available along with a waste basket in plain sight.

  1. Encourage feedback.

Have a guestbook or a short-pre-printed questionnaire and some pens next to the food.  Feeding the buyers will allow them time to give you some feedback.  This will provide invaluable information to you. Allow buyer anonymity.

Visit our Video Blog for more tips on buying and selling Memphis Real Estate. Contact Melissa Thompson today for assistance in selling your home!

How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

by Melissa Thompson

Making your home more energy efficient is a cost-effective way to not only save money but to also improve the performance of your home.  The most effective strategy for improving your home’s energy efficiency is to focus the “shell” of the house…the walls, attic, windows and doors.  Next, improve the energy efficiency of systems such as heating, cooling, lighting and appliances.  Last, but not least, consider clean energy generation such as solar or geothermal.

The first step toward energy efficiency is to make sure that your walls and attic are well insulated.  High quality insulation slows the rate that heat flows out of the house in the winter or into the house in the summer.  That means it takes less energy to heat or cool your house.  If your walls have no insulation, it will certainly pay off to have blown-in insulation and it will also improve the comfort of your home.  If you have an unfinished attic, it is worthwhile to upgrade its insulation.  It is a good idea to use an Energy Auditor to make sure that the insulation is installed properly.

The next step is to upgrade or replace windows. If your windows are old or leaky, it is time to replace them with energy efficient models or to increase their efficiency by using weather stripping and storm windows.  While it’s not usually cost-effective to replace windows just to save energy, if you are going to replace them anyway, the additional cost of Energy Star-rated replacement windows is very modest and is a comfort improving upgrade that is worth the cost.  Energy Star Replacement Windows

Another way to save some energy in your home is to plant shade trees and shrubs around your house.  If you have an older home with poor insulation and windows, good landscaping can help, especially if planted on the house’s west side.  Deciduous trees are the best way to go for this purpose.  During the summer, the foliage will block the infrared radiation that would warm the house, while in the winter the bare branches will let the radiation through.

Replacing an older furnace with a new high-efficiency system may seem like a huge expense, but in the long run it will save energy and money.  If your furnace was built before 1992 and has a standing pilot, it likely wastes 35% of the fuel it uses, and it’s probably near the end of its service life.  ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) recommends you replace it with a condensing furnace with annual efficiency of at least 90%.

You can improve the efficiency of your hot water system by turning down the temperature of your water heater to the “warm” setting (120 degrees F).  You can also insulate your hot water lines so that they don’t cool off as quickly between uses. And using low-flow fixtures in your showers and baths will help as well.

You can use ¾ of the energy used with incandescent light bulbs by replacing them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).  You may not realize that the cost of the electricity used to run a light bulb is more than the cost of the bulb itself.  A CFL may be a little more expensive than the traditional light bulb, but it lasts for 10,000 hours and uses only 27 watts to generate as much light as 100-watt incandescent bulb. Over the long haul, you will save money by investing in CFLs.

You can save money with an energy efficient home in many ways, including the tax benefits that are available to you.  Federal tax incentives are out there for energy efficiency upgrades to existing homes. 

 

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/Saving-Money-at-Tax-TimeSome-Common-and-Not-So-Common-Deductions-Every-Homeowner-Should-Know-About

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/Saving-Money-at-Tax-TimeSome-Common-and-Not-So-Common-Deductions-Every-Homeowner-Should-Know-About

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/What-Is-a-Home-Warranty-Peace-of-Mind-for-Home-Buyers-and-Sellers

Making Your New House a Home

by Melissa Thompson

Congratulations!  You’ve just moved into your new house and now it is time to make it your own!  Here are some tips for how to make your house your home:

  1. Be active.  If you have moved to a new area where you don’t know anyone, you may be tempted to isolate yourself.  After all, you have unpacking to do and maybe a new job to start. But try to resist that temptation.  Staying socially, physically and communally active, triggers significant  cognitive processes that create the sense of home.  Make sure you take time to exercise; join a community such as a church, the school PTA or a book club and shop locally to get to know your surroundings.
  2. Surround yourself with living things.  A move can be difficult, especially if you are grieving the place you left.  It’s not uncommon for people to become depressed after moving to a new home.  Combat those feelings by cultivating relationships with living things. Start a garden, spend time with your children and pets or volunteer in the community. 
  3. Comfort yourself with colors.  Decorate with a palette of colors that makes you feel at home.  Choose colors that promote calm, happy feelings.  For example, earth tones create a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere that evokes feelings stability, reassurance and ease, while light pastel colors stimulate feelings of peacefulness, calm and cleanliness.
  4. Surround yourself with the familiar. Even before you are completely settled into your home, placing familiar items such as family pictures and heirlooms in your new space can make it feel more like you.  Some other ways to make you feel at home: cook favorite meals, burn candle with favorite scents, play your favorite music.
  5. Unpack.  This may seem obvious, but it’s not unusual for people to still have boxes cluttering the house months after moving in.  Take your belongings out of the boxes right away and begin decorating and arranging furniture. The sooner you do this, the sooner this once strange place will feel like home!

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/101-Things-To-Do-In-Memphis-48-Aldos-Pizza-Pies

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/Starting-to-Look-for-a-Home-Know-What-You-WANT-vs-What-You-NEED

http://www.yourkeytomemphis.com/Blog/101-Things-To-Do-In-Memphis-22-Flight-Restaurant-and-Wine-Bar

Learn more about buying or selling Memphis Real Estate at yourkeytomemphis.com. 901.729.9526 or [email protected]

What Is a Home Warranty? Peace of Mind for Home Buyers and Sellers

by Melissa Thompson

Lots of things you buy come with a warranty in case they break down, from cars to smartphones. But what about homes? It turns out you can get a home warranty, too.

So what the heck is a home warranty, anyway? In a nutshell, it’s a policy you pay for that covers the cost of repairing many of your home appliances if they break down.

“Home warranties provide financial protection for homeowners who might be faced with unexpected problems with their appliances,” explains Shawna Bell of Landmark Home Warranty.

Many people buy a home warranty right when they close on a home, since such protections can provide some much-needed peace of mind that you won’t get hit with unexpected expenses soon after moving in. Imagine what a bummer it would be, after all, to wake up one morning to a broken boiler or leaking, malfunctioning fridge in your brand-new home. A home warranty can lessen those worries, which for many is worth every penny.

What does a home warranty cover?

Don’t mistake a home warranty for homeowners insurance, which covers your home’s structure and belongings in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident. A home warranty, in comparison, will cover repairs and replacements on systems and appliances due to normal wear and tear—no calamities required.

A home warranty generally covers these items:

  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Washer and dryer
  • Kitchen appliances such as the oven, range, and garbage disposal

How much does a home warranty cost?

While home buyers are often required to get homeowners insurance along with their mortgage, home warranties are a fully optional purchase. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans, says Bell. A homeowner can add extras if needed, such as coverage for a swimming pool or an external well.

Although many companies offer home warranties to homeowners at any point, the best deals can often be snagged if purchased at the same time you buy the home.

“The warranty plans offered at the time of the real estate transaction typically offer the most comprehensive coverage and price points, so that’s why it’s the ideal time to lock it in,” Bell says. At the end of the first year, you usually have the option to renew your plan or bail.

Benefits for home buyers and sellers:

A home warranty benefits home buyers by providing reassurance that they can move in without worrying about shelling out even more for surprise repairs.

A home warranty can also benefit home sellers (if they don’t have it already), since it can cover these elements during the listing period; some companies even offer free seller’s coverage during this time with the hopes that the buyer will decide to continue the coverage. Oftentimes, home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer’s home warranty to entice buyers to bite.

But not everyone thinks home warranties are worth the cost. Typically they aren’t necessary with new homes, since most of the appliances are already covered under manufacturers’ warranties. But in general, the older your home, the greater the odds are that something’s bound to break, and the wiser it is to get a home warranty. Best of all? Many companies don’t differentiate between newer and older homes in terms of cost, making a warranty an especially cost-effective option if you are purchasing an older home.

What to do if something breaks

If something covered under your home warranty breaks, you just call your provider and it will connect you with a qualified contractor in your area. One thing to remember is that a home warranty does not mean you’re off scot-free; typically you’ll have to pay for a service call or a certain amount of the bill up to your deductible first.

While not everyone will think a home warranty is worth it, it is a good idea for people who lean toward the “better safe than sorry” approach when buying a home.

 

Learn more about buying or selling Memphis Real Estate at yourkeytomemphis.com. 901.729.9526 or [email protected]

 

By , Realtor.com

 

Preparing for an Emergency or Natural Disaster

by Melissa Thompson

Nobody enjoys thinking about the possibility of a family emergency or natural disaster, but taking steps to prepare for those possibilities should be a priority.   While not lessening the shock and anguish of an unexpected, tragic situation, being prepared will help you to get your life back in order faster and easier.

One thing to consider is having important paper work organized in an emergency binder .  The binder should contain all the important information about your life.  Think about any paperwork or vital information you would need access to in an emergency, such as:

  • Vital Records
  • copies of birth certificates, adoption records
  • copies of marriage licenses, driver’s licenses and passports
  • copies of all property and auto records – deeds, leases, titles, etc.
  • copies of all property/umbrella insurance policies
  • a list of where off-site and original documents are stored
  • Financial Information
  • list of all bank account numbers
  • copies of front and back of all credit cards
  • list of all investment account numbers
  • list of all retirement/pension account numbers
  • detailed information about current income/benefits
  • detailed information about mortgages/loans
  • Medical Information
  • copies of health/life/disability insurance cards and policies
  • medical history for each family member
  • list of medications and prescriptions, including dose and pharmacy
  • details about any ongoing medical conditions/treatments
  • Contact Information
  • friends and family to reach in case of emergency
  • neighbors who have access to your house
  • financial institutions, insurance companies, legal advisors
  • physicians, specialists, hospitals and other healthcare providers
  • employers and benefit administrators
  • including a family emergency plan in your binder will help you to keep yourself calm and organized during what may be a stressful time

Make sure that your emergency binder is kept in a place where it is easy to get to and that it is easy to carry and that family members are aware of its location.

Secondly, it is a good idea to have a safety deposit box or lock box in which to store your original documents.  This can also be used for storing important computer files and passwords, priceless family photos and valuable jewelry and memorabilia. Include a photo of each member of your family along with fingerprints and dental records.  A home inventory list is also a useful item to have in storage.  Remember that most of the documents in your “Emergency Binder” will be copies.  Originals should be placed in a safety deposit box or lock box for safekeeping.

Whether it’s a family emergency or a natural disaster, tragic events almost always leave people feeling blindsided.  Preparing in advance will help ease the feelings of being overwhelmed and panicked as you put your life back in order.  So, set aside a day to put together your emergency binder to help protect your family now!

 

Learn more about buying or selling Memphis Real Estate at yourkeytomemphis.com. 901.729.9526 or [email protected]

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