Top Ways to Save for the Down Payment of Your First Home

Posted on by Sean Creedon

External View of HouseAre you ready to buy your first home? Want to make sure you have enough for a down payment? There are advantages to making a down payment on your first home. You can secure a lower interest rate on your mortgage as well as a lower monthly payment. But it may seem daunting to try to save up that much money. Before you start looking at any Greensboro houses for sale, consider the top ways to save for a down payment on your first home.

Start an Automated Savings Plan

Most potential home buyers find it easiest to save by having an automated savings plan in place. Typically, this involves having your financial institution automatically withdraw a portion of your direct deposit paycheck and put it in a designated savings account. It is wise to have a separate savings account that is designated only for saving for your down payment. If you are not paid by direct deposit you can set up an automatic transfer on certain days of the month to transfer funds to your designated down payment savings account. When the money gets moved automatically, it keeps you from forgetting and the money is put away before you can spend it.

Open a High-interest Savings Account or Investment Account

By putting your savings into an account that yields higher dividends, you will reach your savings goal faster. Interest-earning money market accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) earn more interest than a basic savings account. Another option is to invest your savings in a conservative type of stock or set of mutual funds. Speak to your financial advisor about this before proceeding to make sure you are investing wisely.

Use Your IRA (Individual Retirement Account) for Your Down Payment

It is possible to use the funds in your IRA as a down payment for a home. But it is important to understand the tax implications of this decision. A traditional IRA is subject to federal and state income tax when you make a withdrawal before the age of 59½ because the funds went into the account pre-tax. A Roth IRA is not subject to taxes because the funds were placed in the account after being taxed. It is also important to understand that taking funds from your retirement account may affect your future retirement security. Speak with your financial or tax advisor before proceeding.

Real Estate Agents in Greensboro Can Help Before and After You Save

Before you make any immediate plans to buy your first home, you need to find out how much you will need to save. Meet with your real estate to get an idea of how much the home you want to build will cost, taking a few years of inflation into consideration. Once you have saved your down payment, meet with your real estate agent to begin viewing Greensboro houses for sale. Smith Marketing of Allen Tate Realtors® will work with you every step of the way to help you realize your dreams of owning your own home. Call (336) 451-4921 or (336) 663-1320 to set up a free consultation today.

Top Reasons to Downsize Your Home

Posted on by Sean Creedon

Home ExteriorMany of us spend our lives moving from a smaller home to bigger and bigger homes as our families grow and our lives change. But when it comes to homes, bigger is not always better. There are some true advantages to downsizing your home, and some may surprise you. If you’re thinking of downsizing or maybe moving to one of the maintenance free communities in Greensboro, NC, look for the best real estate agents who will make sure you get the most for your money.

Downsizing to a Smaller Home has Major Benefits:

  1. Lower monthly mortgage payment. Smaller house, smaller payment. A huge home may seem like a great idea at first, but once you start making those payments you may find that the financial burden is too much to bear.
  2. Lower monthly utility bills. Less square feet of home means less area to heat, cool, and light. Lower energy bills can make a big difference in your monthly budget, leaving you more money for other things.
  3. Less maintenance required. The bigger your home, the more maintenance and upkeep it will need. Cleaning, yard work, and other chores add up and take up a lot of your spare time. It may be too much for your family to handle alone, which leads to hiring costly help.
  4. Pay off your mortgage faster. Interest accrues daily on most home loans, meaning the faster you pay it off, the less total interest you will end up paying. Lenders don’t like this, which means it’s great for the borrower.
  5. Pay off debt faster. If you have other debt besides your home, such as student loans, credit cards, or car payments, you will have more money left over to pay on these loans. Paying these off faster, especially high rate credit cards, will save you the most money in the long run.
  6. Have more spending money. You’ve heard the term “house poor” before. It means you put too much of your household income into your home, leaving you without much left for enjoyment. If you buy a home that’s above your means, you better like it a lot because you’ll be spending most of your time there.
  7. Unburden yourself from too much “stuff.” Like most people, you are likely holding onto possessions that are not crucial to your well-being. In fact, it may even negatively impact your mental and emotional health. Let go of the things you don’t need. Once you feel the weight that is lifted by selling or donating things you rarely use, you’ll understand. Your home is meant for living, not storage.

Find the Right Sized Home for Your Lifestyle in Greensboro

If you’re tired of paying too much for your home or wish to simplify your home’s upkeep, consider downsizing or moving to one of the maintenance free communities in Greensboro, NC. You can find an existing property or have a custom home designed and built that still includes all the luxuries and quality craftsmanship you desire. Enjoy your dream home and your life outside your home as well. Contact Smith Marketing of Allen Tate Realtors® at (336) 451-4921 or (336) 663-1320.

What to Do When you are Willed a Late Family Member’s Home

Posted on by Sean Creedon

Have you been given property from a family member’s estate settlement? Whether it was your parents’ home or another family member who has passed, you have a choice in how to proceed. You can move into the home yourself, rent it out, or sell it. This decision is sometimes difficult due to the emotions associated with a loved one’s home. If you choose to sell it, there are some steps you will need to take in order to do so. Working with experienced real estate agents in Greensboro, NC, will help make the process easier.

Step 1: Find out the tax implications of selling the home. There are specific laws regarding the taxing of inherited property. You can refer to IRS.gov or meet with a trusted tax advisor or accountant who can explain the tax implications that will apply when you sell the home so that you will be prepared.

Step 2: Prepare the home for sale. Clean out personal items and hold an estate sale or yard sale for items you don’t wish to keep. Only the executor of the estate and other family members can determine what items should be kept and what should be sold, donated, or tossed.

Step 3: Wait for the estate to go through probate. This means the court system has to authenticate the will to be sure it is legitimate. The executor of the estate, or the trustee if the property is part of a trust, will then be free to proceed with the sale of the property.

Step 4: Choose the right real estate agents in Greensboro, NC, to sell the home. When it is finally time to put the home on the market, you need experienced, knowledgeable real estate agents to get the home sold.

Step 5: Set a price with the help of your real estate agent. Allow the experts to help you set an official asking price that is not too high or too low.

Step 6: Let your real estate agent do the work. This is the part where real estate agents truly shine. They list the home, get it out on the market and in front of the right people. And it sells.

Selling is Stress-Free with Smith Marketing and Allen Tate Realtors®

It’s not always easy when you receive property in someone’s will, especially when it’s a close loved one. You may have trouble selling because of your emotional attachment to the home or property. But if you decide that the best option is to sell, Smith Marketing’s team of Allen Tate Realtors® will help reduce the stress and anxiety you may feel. Your agent will help you get the home ready for sale, then list it in the most attractive way to draw potential buyers. Once it sells, your agent offers continued support through the final closing.

If you find yourself the benefactor of some property you don’t wish to keep, let experienced real estate agents in Greensboro, NC, get it sold in a timely manner for the best possible price. Call (336) 215-7880 to speak with an agent today.

Using a Vacation Home on the Lake, Mountain or Beach as a Rental Property

Posted on by Sean Creedon

A vacation home is a wonderful investment. Years of enjoyment and family memories will be made there. But if it’s used as a vacation home only and no one lives there full time, it can be a financial drain. Maintenance costs and utilities, not to mention the mortgage itself, can really add up. People who want to be able to afford their luxury homes in the Triad, NC, and a vacation home as well, could consider renting out the second home when it’s not in use. But before doing so, here are some things the homeowner should know about renting out a vacation home.

1. Tax implications. The way you use a vacation home, how long you stay, how long you rent it out, all affect the way you file your taxes.

  • If you rent out the property for 14 days or less it is considered a second home and not a rental, meaning the income will not have to be reported to the IRS.
  • If you rent out the property for 15 days or more and use it for less than 14 days or 10% of the days rented it is considered a rental property and all income from rent must be reported to the IRS. The rental expenses can be deducted from the owner’s taxes.
  • If you use the property for more than 14 days or 10% of the total days rented it is considered a personal residence and will be taxed as such.

The regulations from the IRS are very particular, but there is one possible “loophole.” The owner may stay in the home longer than 14 days while performing maintenance, as long as that is the primary use during that time, and the property can still be considered a rental.

2. Rental success depends on a few important elements:

  • One possible issue with renting out your vacation home is that peak dates for renters may be the same dates you wish to use the home. You may want to consider using the home more in the off season to make enough rental income.
  • It’s important to set rental rates carefully so that they are comparable to similar homes in the area and still high enough to generate income.
  • Property management. An expert property manager with experience renting luxury homes in vacation areas can help to market the property and handle the rental process from scheduling to collecting fees. This takes the hassle out of renting your home, allowing you to enjoy the home when you can, and collect income when you can’t.

Keep your Luxury Home in the Triad, NC, and Afford a Vacation Home Too

If you have dreamed of owning a luxury home in the Triad area, NC, and a lake, mountain or beach house or other vacation home, it is possible. Renting out your vacation home can bring in enough income for maintenance and the mortgage payment, making it possible for you to afford a second home.

 

Smith Marketing with Allen Tate Realtors® can help you find the home you want in the Triad area and help you find a REALTOR® in the vacation area you want.

How to Sell Your Home and Hold on to Your Sanity (and your Money)

Posted on by Megan Boyd

The complete guide to selling your home Are you wanting to move into a bigger home? Looking to downsize? Career change leading you to a new town? Whatever the reason, you are now trying to sell your current home, a daunting task. You probably have plenty of questions. How much will I spend on improvements? Is selling a home without a Realtor possible? What are the tax implications of selling a home? Don’t worry. Before you starting preparing your home to sell, consider this guide.

Preparing Your Home for Sale: Which renovations are worth the Money and Which Aren’t?

Attempting to sell your home as is without performing repairs or doing away with eye sores could mean it will sell for much less than what you hoped for, if it sells at all.

You could spend a great deal of time and money on improvements to your home before you sell it, but some projects offer a greater return than others.

Improvements that are worth it:

  1. Paint. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way toward giving your home a new look. And it’s a fairly inexpensive improvement. Go for neutral colors that are likely to please more people. Avoid bold colors that make a strong statement. Buyers should be able to envision their own style in the home.
  2. Clean windows and curtains. Windows and window treatments matter for more than one reason. Windows let light in and are often the first thing people notice about each room. Cleaning curtains or replacing them if they are outdated is a worthwhile upgrade. It’s not hard to find simple, inexpensive curtains in neutral colors to match any décor. Clean the windows well so the glass is clear and the area between the window and screen is free of bugs and dust.
  3. Fix things. That leaky faucet in the master bathroom, the closet door that’s off track, the hole in the screen door—these need to be repaired. Fixing small details, or hiring someone to fix them if necessary, is well worth the time and money. Little problems, no matter how small, give the impression your home is in bad shape overall.
  4. Update hardware. Door knobs, cabinet pulls and handles, and other hardware should be in good shape and match throughout your home. If your cabinets are plain front, consider adding hardware to spruce them up. Replace or polish any damaged or tarnished hardware.
  5. Clean carpets and grout. If you have carpets in your home, have them professionally cleaned to remove any stains or odors. Depending on their condition, carpets may need to be replaced. Make sure the grout between tiles in your kitchen or bathroom is clean, especially if it is white or a light color.
  6. Improve lighting. Make sure as much natural light as possible enters your home. Add new light fixtures, get new lampshades, even consider replacing lightbulbs with higher wattage bulbs (within the maximum suggested by the light fixture). The majority of buyers consider lighting to be the most important feature of a home after location.
  7. Focus on the kitchen. The kitchen is the most important room in your home when it comes to selling. If you’re going to spend money on home improvements, the kitchen is the place to do it. And the good news is you can expect about an 85% return on your investment in this case. An outdated kitchen will make a home more difficult to sell and could mean potential buyers offer you as much as $10,000 less than your asking price. The cheap, easy fixes are paint and hardware. The more expensive (and more worthwhile) improvements are countertops, cabinets, and appliances. Even if you purchase just one quality stainless steel appliance, it will make the entire kitchen seem more expensive and sophisticated.
  8. Hire a home stager. There are home staging specialists who can help present your home. Arranging furniture, lighting and décor in the right manner will make your home look beautiful to potential buyers. Whether or not you have an eye for decorating, a home stager is an expert and knows what buyers are looking for when they walk into a home. You may use your breakfast nook as a kids’ playroom, but if a potential buyer sees a table and chairs with flowers and place settings, they envision a lifestyle they want. You want to remove all personal items so potential buyers can see themselves living there. Your home stager will take care of all these details to make each room in your home inviting.

kitchen photo

Improvements that may not be worth it:

  1. Complete home makeover. Now is not the time to renovate your entire home. If you fully remodel each room in your home from top to bottom, you will likely not get back even half of what you spend. And you won’t even get to enjoy the improvements you poured so much time and money into. Address the areas needing the most work and tackle those as frugally as possible.
  2. Expensive flooring. Do not install high dollar hardwood floors or expensive marble flooring. If the original hardwood floors have been covered up with carpet, do consider removing it and refinishing the floors. Do polish marble or stone flooring to give it a fresh shine. But don’t pour all of your fix-up budget into flooring that won’t add much to the price of your home.

Some of the Best Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Home for Sale Cost Nothing at All

If the costs of selling a home are overwhelming, you can do many things to improve its appearance that won’t cost you anything. Even if you have made other more significant improvements, these small items still appeal to potential buyers touring your home.

  1. Clean your home. Give your home a thorough spring cleaning. Vacuum the areas you often forget about, like behind and under furniture. Dust the top of the fridge. Get cobwebs out of the corners. Remove bugs and dirt from inside the windows. Give special attention to bathrooms and the kitchen, as these are often the most important areas to potential buyers. Now that you’ve cleaned up, keep it that way everyday so your house is ready to show anytime.
  2. Declutter your home. The less furniture you have in each room, the bigger it will look. Remove extra chairs and tables and bookshelves that make rooms look full. Minimize the number of appliances and kitchen gadgets sitting on surfaces in the kitchen. Keep toiletries off the counters, tub or shower, and put them in drawers or cabinets.
  3. Remove personal items. You may have a wonderful collection of knickknacks, like, for example, your salt and pepper shakers from all over the world. They mean a lot to you, but potential buyers may be turned off. Go ahead and pack your personal items (including family photos) to get ready for the move to your new home. It is important for potential buyers to imagine themselves living in the home, which will be easier if it looks more generic and less like you.
  4. Stage rooms. You don’t have to hire a professional stager to make your rooms look presentable. You can use furniture and other items you have to make rooms look inviting. Get out the good China and set the dining room table with place settings, and flowers or fruit as a centerpiece. In the bathroom, make that garden tub you never use look like its begging to be relaxed in by laying out candles and a pretty towel draped over the side. These are just a few examples of room staging that can have amazing results.
  5. Empty half of your closets. Clean out your closets so they look only half full. Get rid of clothes you don’t wear anymore, and pack away the clothes you won’t need in the immediate future. Storage is a big priority for potential buyers, and your closets will look much bigger if they are not full. Show off your closet organizer by using it properly with shoes and accessories displayed in the way they were intended.
  6. Remove pets. Definitely take pets out of the home before a showing, and consider moving pets out of the home for the duration of the time your home is on the market. For potential buyers, whether they are animal lovers or not, seeing (or smelling) evidence of pets in the home could be a deal breaker. Litter boxes, food bowls, hair and other telltale signs of pets can be a real turn off. And it’s extremely difficult to keep your home spotless with pets around. Consider having pets stay with nearby relatives or friends during the selling process.
  7. Stage the backyard. Often overlooked, the backyard is just as important as the rest of your home to potential buyers. If you have a back deck, porch or patio, you should also stage it to be inviting. Arrange tables and chairs, open the umbrella, even set the table with picnic place settings. Hang up that hammock, clean up the kids’ outdoor toys and play area, keep the grass mowed and the weeds at bay.

greensboro home for sale

Curb Appeal: You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

What potential buyers see when they first pull up to your home is most important. If a potential buyer doesn’t like what they see at first glance, they may not even want to set foot in your home. Keep the front yard immaculate. Stage the front porch to be inviting. Plant flowers and keep shrubs trimmed. Clean out bird nests, spider webs and any evidence of bugs. Keep the front porch swept and power wash the front walk and driveway. Have all flower beds newly mulched. Power wash siding and even paint the outside of your home if needed. Consider adding outdoor lighting as well. Even if you have a limited budget, consider using at least some of it on the front of your home.

Tax Implications of Selling a Home: What You Need to Know

Now that your home is ready to sell, you may be wondering about the tax implications. The good news is taxes are relatively simple. If you have lived in your home for at least two of the past five years, you can exclude a house sale profit of up to $250,000. If filing jointly with a spouse, that amount goes up to $500,000. You can use this same tax exclusion as many times as necessary in your lifetime as long as at least two years pass between sales. Special circumstances may allow you to exclude higher amounts, the specifics of which can be discussed with your tax advisor.

Selling a Home Without a Realtor: Can it Be Done?

Yes. But is it easy? No. There are definite advantages to getting help from a realtor. A realtor is able to bring more potential buyers to your home, particularly ones who are looking for features your home offers. Realtors can advise you on how to prepare your home for sale, and are often staging experts themselves through years of experience. Your home will sell faster and most likely for a higher price when you work with a realtor.

Ready to start the process of selling your home? Contact Smith Marketing of Allen Tate Realtors® at (336) 451-4921 or (336) 215-7880.

5 Ways a Great Real Estate Agent Can Make the Home Buying Process Easier

Posted on by Megan Boyd

Duck Club Court Home for Sale in Greensboro NCWhile it might be tempting to buy a luxury home in Greensboro without the aid of an experienced real estate agent, this may not be your best option. If your only reason for trying to go it alone is you don’t want to pay the various fees and costs, you should be aware that the seller often pays many of them. Others have to be paid no matter what. However, there are a number of ways a truly great real estate agent can make the home buying process easier. Here are the top five:

1. Real Estate Agents are the Experts

When it comes to luxury homes in Greensboro, the best real estate agents are truly the experts. A real estate agent is well-versed not only in which homes are for sale, but also in the language of buying a home, the art of the deal, and how to handle the massive amount of paperwork involved in buying a home. Their expertise can ensure you, the amateur, don’t make costly mistakes.

2. Maximum Search Capabilities

Sure, you have the internet to help you find the right home, but what you have access to is only the tip of the iceberg. A good agent has access to far more listings than you are likely to find online, many of which are restricted to those in the industry.

3 Real Estate Agents are the Masters of the Deal

Do you truly know how to negotiate for the best deal on your new house? Unless you haggle for a living, probably not. Realtors spend years honing their skills and are all too happy to show them off. A good realtor can shave thousands off the asking price, negotiate things like having the seller pay all costs and more. All things the average buyer has no idea how to do.

4. It’s All about Who You Know

Networking is one of the most important skills a real estate agent can have. This includes keeping lists of banks and mortgage companies they have worked with for years, as well as other realtors who can help them in your search for the perfect home. When you hire the best realtors, you gain access to this side of the industry, giving you a major advantage.

5. The Best Realtors Have Ethics

Although not all real estate agents have the best ethics, you can count on the best to have very high ethical standards. Hiring the best agents ensures that every phase in your search of luxury homes in Greensboro will go smoothly. You can try to do everything yourself, but why would you want to, when the right agent can almost guarantee success for you?

Buyers conducting a property search in Greensboro look for particular qualities in a home

Posted on by Megan Boyd

What keeps a home from selling?

If you’re conducting a property search in Greensboro for a new home, but your current home has been on the market a while and isn’t selling fast enough, you may be asking yourself why isn’t my home selling? Besides from uncontrollable market conditions, there are some things that you can control which impact your home sale. Continue reading →

7 Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Build Your Home

Posted on by Megan Boyd

New home construction photoIf you have been looking at Greensboro real estate with an eye to building your next home, you are not alone. Empty land in our area is becoming scarce as the region continues to grow. Before you choose a property and start building, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Here are seven things you need to keep in mind as you look at land:

1. The Right Location

Realtors have always said building a home is all about “location, location, location.” Consider issues such as whether you have a good view, will you get enough sunlight, are you close to schools, shopping, hospitals and other amenities? Will your daily commute be manageable? If you have reached retirement age, will your new location be close to community centers, medical centers, gyms, recreational facilities? Make sure that your property qualifies to build the size of home you want to build.

2. Plan for the Future

Just because the property you are interested in looks wonderful right now, it may not always be this way. This is especially true if you are buying property in a subdivision. Try to picture the area as it will look in 5 to 10 years as the other lots begin to fill up. Will you lose that amazing view? Are your neighbors going to be closer than you might like? What will you do if businesses start moving in and you have 24-hour traffic?

3. What about Setbacks

Do you know what the property’s setbacks are or what a setback is? A setback covers how close to the property line you will be allowed to build. You can get this information from your local building department. This is especially important on smaller lots as setbacks can have a significant impact on the size of home you can build.

4. Where Will You Get Your Utilities

There is no point in buying a beautiful piece of property for a bargain price, only to find it will cost thousands more to drill a well or connect to city water, have power lines put in and have a propane tank installed. It can cost $100 per foot or more to have power lines run to your property. If the land is in the city, then you need to find out how much it will cost to connect to the various utilities.

5. Who Owns the Natural Resources

Just because you have the deed to your property, that does not mean you own what is under your land. It might be better to say you can own the land but not access to the natural resources under it. These can include mineral rights, timber rights, water rights, gas rights and oil rights. If you want these rights, you need to make sure you are buying them with the property, or someone may have the right to mine, drill or cross your property without your permission.

6. What about Maintenance?

Do you know who is responsible for maintaining community property around the land you plan to buy? This includes who will plow the roads when it snows in the winter, who mows the berms, who picks up litter, etc. It could be your job, the homeowner’s association’s, the city’s or the county’s. Be sure you know this before buying. You could find out that hard way that it is your responsibility.

7. What about Zoning?

Lastly, as you look at Greensboro real estate for sale, you need to learn everything you can about any restrictions. Is the property covered by a range of covenants created by an HOA (home owner’s association)? Does an architectural committee have to approve the design of your home before you can build?

When it comes to zoning, are you buying property for your home next to land that is zoned commercial? What if you want to add a garage or barn? The more you know before you buy, the lower the risk of ending up with property you will not be happy with in 5 or 10 years. Hopefully, this information will help you find the perfect piece of real estate for your new home.

6 Tips for Financing Your New Home

Posted on by Megan Boyd

Happy family buying a home First-time buyers and even those buying their second or third house face a tougher challenge than their parents or grandparents ever dreamed of. First-time buyers looking at homes for sale in Greensboro, NC are often already burdened with student loan debts, a high cost of living, and low wages, not to mention housing prices that are higher than ever. The hardest part of buying a home is trying to secure the necessary financing. Here are six tips to make the process a little smoother and get you into your dream home.

1. Know Your Budget

Buying a new home represents a significant financial investment. Not only will you have a mortgage payment, you will have insurance premiums, yearly taxes and repairs. If you are not sure how to set a budget that takes all this into account, you can always talk to a credit counselor. They can create a working budget based on your income that will show you just how much of a payment you can comfortably afford. You should never buy a house with a payment outside of their recommendations, as this is a sure way to set yourself up for failure.

2. Have Your Documents Ready

Buying any one of the homes for sale in Greensboro, NC is all about the paperwork. When you meet with a credit counselor or a loan officer from the bank or financing company, you must have proof of employment and proof of income. This can come from paystubs, annual W-2 tax documents or bank statements. If you have other debts such as car loans and credit cards, you should be prepared to include them in your loan application.

3. Know Your Credit Score

Nothing can be more embarrassing than sitting in front of the loan officer only to find your application declined because you have a low credit score. There are a number of ways you can find your credit score (FICO) for free. Bear in mind anything under 580 is considered to be poor and can make it difficult to secure a mortgage. Anything over 720 is considered excellent and will get you the best rates available.

4. Your Down Payment

Although there are a number of government-sponsored home loan services that do not require a down payment, most traditional lenders require 10%. If you are planning to secure a traditional loan from a bank or mortgage company, be sure you have at least this much in the bank. Not only does this show good faith on your part, it puts you in a good position to make an on the spot offer if one of the homes for sale in Greensboro, NC catches your eye.

5. Know Your Lender

Take the time to carefully research the lenders in your area. Talk to banks and mortgage companies. The idea is to see who has the better offer. This means in terms of interest rates, down payments and closing costs.

6. Patience Is a Virtue

Of all these, perhaps patience is the most important tip for the first-time home buyer. Financing a home is not something you can hurry. While you can walk into a car dealership and drive out with a loan in a couple of hours, getting everything in place to finance a home can take weeks.

Smith Marketing’s preferred lender is Atlantic Bay. You can contact them at 336-314-1300.