Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Homeownership

August 21st, 2016
  1. hiomeownershipStart saving. Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.
  2. Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments. 
  3. Determine your mortgage qualifications. How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.
  4. Get preapproved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements. 
  5. Mortgage Calculator

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  6. Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.
  7. Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list. Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.
  8. Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.
  9. Calculate the costs of homeownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.
  10.  Contact a REALTOR®. Find an experienced REALTOR® who can help guide you through the process. Or contact the Walski Team, we can help!

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School Basics – Hudson Valley Real Estate

August 14th, 2016

With the start of school, families face new organization challenges. Move over, summer–a new school year is coming!

SchoolBusSchool bells ring–and so do early-morning alarm clocks. Paper piles swell as hand-outs and homework stream into the house. Shorter autumn days bring a hectic round of sports, activities and events, and calendars fill with cryptic notes. Can the holidays be far behind? Get organized now for the best school year ever! Use these ideas to prepare your home and family for the busy days ahead:

Ease the family into a school year schedule.

The first day of school is no time for a drastic adjustment of household sleep schedules. Instead, ease children back into a school year routine gradually. During the last two weeks of summer, re-introduce a school year bedtime. Begin waking late sleepers earlier and earlier, closer to the hour they’ll need to rise when school begins.

Don’t neglect mealtimes! Younger children, in particular, need to adapt to new meal routines before the school day demands it of them. Plan meals and snacks to accustom little ones to rituals of the school day before the school year begins.

Create Calendar Central

Each school year floats on a sea of schedules. School functions. Lunch menus. Scout meetings and music lessons. What do you do when you’re drowning in paper?

Nothing calms school year chaos like Calendar Central: a centralized site for all family calendars and schedules. You’ll need a family event calendar to track after-school activities, school programs and volunteer work. Add specialized calendars and schedules, and you have it: a one-stop shop for family time management.

Form is less important than function. A paper calendar with large squares lets you enter information easily. Pre-printed white board calendars are easy to revise when necessary. Color-coding entries by family member helps keep busy lives straight.

Paper planner fans dedicate a planner section to serve as Calendar Central, while tech-savvy cybergrrrlz store the info in a smart phone or tablet and sync with multiple computers. Choose a calendar format that works for your family.

Post the family event calendar in a public place near the telephone. Use magnets to attach the calendar to the refrigerator, or tack it to a bulletin board.

Add other calendars to Calendar Central: school lunch menus, class assignment sheets, sports practice schedules. When the room mother calls for field trip volunteers, you’ll know at a glance whether you’re free to join the group on the bus that day.

Plan before you shop

August is the second-biggest sales month for clothing retailers. Back to school clothing sales begin as early as July! Are you prepared to run the school clothes gauntlet? More details HERE

Must Do List for August Home Maintenance – Hudson Valley Real Estate

August 7th, 2016

This month is the ideal time to tackle some upgrades on your home’s exterior; simple, inexpensive things that you can accomplish on your own to boost the curb appeal of your home—its resale value.

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It’s August, the summer is in full swing, and the living is easy. Well, sort of. As every homeowner will agree, there’s always something to do around the house or the yard to keep things looking good and performing well.

And with the days growing continually shorter, the time to start is now. Here are a few must-do” projects for August:

1. UPDATE YOUR FRONT ENTRY
Improving the entrance to your home is a relatively easy thing to do. Add some color by painting the front door in a fresh coat of gloss paint or strip it down to the natural wood. Consider container gardens or shutters to provide additional interest. And replace outdated exterior wall sconces with more stylish models.

2. CONSIDER A GARDEN SHED
If you are looking for a way to free your garage of unnecessary seasonal storage, consider the benefits of a ready-made shed. Not only are sheds a practical choice for outdoor equipment storage, many are appealing as an architectural element in the yard. But today’s sheds aren’t just for the garden. Coming in all shapes and sizes, some are perfectly suited as a standalone workshop, artist studio, or home-away-from-home office. See what we mean with these 10 “Style-Setting” Garden Sheds.

3. MAKE A WINDOW BOX
A simple window box can add enormous curb appeal to a house or an apartment while providing an attractive garden view from indoors. There are a multitude of products on the market today—wood, plastic, resin and metal—that embrace a broad range of designs and price points. Feeling crafty? Make one yourself. It’s an easy woodworking project that requires minimal tools and materials. You can tackle it as a family, imparting how-to skills and an appreciation for small-scale gardening to your kids. Click for our simple How-To: Make a Window Box. See more home tips HERE

Summer is Here…Make Your Home Feel Brighter! – Hudson Valley Real Estate

July 31st, 2016

Not every room can have floor-to-ceiling windows, so a few design tricks can give a space that light-flooded feeling. Not only will they help you create a brighter space (even in a dark room!), but that-bright-summer-looking-home-decor-L-Adj71Dthey’ll add to your decor to make it fresh, inspiring. Want to brighten up your home? Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

KEEP TALL ITEMS AWAY FROM WINDOWS

Is there a large plant, bookshelf, or other piece of furniture blocking the light in your house? Move it! I recommend putting large pieces of furniture on opposite ends of a room from where your windows are. That way, your room will receive the most natural light possible.

USE SHEER, WHITE CURTAINS

When I moved into my apartment, it came with thick, ivory curtains that made the room look a little dark and yellow-hued. Bleh. Instead, I traded them in for sheer, white curtains. Wow, what a difference that simple change made!

CLEAN!

What your house might actually need more than anything is…a good cleaning! Wipe down all of your surfaces, clean scuff marks off the walls, and dust wherever possible. Imagine how dingy a room would look if it was covered in a thin layer of dirt? Yeah, that.

BRIGHT, WHITE BULBS

Are your lamps giving off a yellow tint? It might be time to switch them out for something new. Try Bright White LED bulbs to maximize the brightness coming from your lamps. You also need more light sources in general! Try adding a table lamp to your decor to add a bit more brightness. More home Tips can be found HERE

3 Steps to Being a Confident Buyer – Hudson Valley Real Estate

July 24th, 2016

While you’re shopping, be on the lookout for things about the home that you can’t change (or that would require major time and effort to alter). These factors will impact the home’s value for the FirstTimeBuyerlong haul. Today’s home shoppers see dozens of homes before making an offer, and probably a few dozen more before they find the one that sticks. Here are three serious considerations to evaluate before you determine whether to pursue a home purchase:

1. Location

The old real estate cliche doesn’t name this quality as tops for nothing. Unless you plan to take a unique or historic home off its foundation, you can’t change location.

If a home is on a busy intersection, across from a shopping plaza, or within earshot of the freeway, take major note. That home will always be valued at significantly less than a similar home nearby.

Unless you’re willing to sacrifice to get into the school district or neighborhood of your dreams, keep looking. Once you snag a good location, nobody can ever take that away from you.

2. Floor plan

A home with a tiny kitchen closed off from the rest of the house is much less desirable today than a large one that opens up to the family room or great room.

Think you can just transition that closed-off kitchen into an open plan that allows people to spill over into the adjacent room while still being connected to the “action” at entertainment central? Think again.

Making this change, while not impossible, would likely require lots of resources and a major construction budget. Modifying the layout of a home requires architectural drawings, knocking down walls, and installing beams to carry wider loads.

This type of major renovation isn’t for the faint of heart, and an undesirable layout will always reduce the value of the home.

If you’ve fallen in love with certain aspects of the home, but a particular part of the floor plan is flawed, you’d better move on.

3. Seeking the right fit with Help

Most real estate agents look at 10 to 20 houses per week, and after working with many buyers and sellers, they get schooled on things like floor plans, locations, layouts, and neighborhoods. Over time, we can spot and flag potential trouble spots instantly.

Home buyers who are just starting their search can’t possibly know what to look for or even what to expect. Ask your agent to be on the lookout for things you shouldn’t ignore.

Keep or Toss? – How to Declutter Space: Hudson Valley Real Estate

July 17th, 2016

Whether you’re moving into a smaller space or just want to reclaim your space, decluttering your home is a great way to find your Zen. But it isn’t always easy. Rather than tackling the task blindly, it’s important to make a plan and execute it with intention. Use the following expert tips to learn how to downsize your belongings and declutter your home this summer. See the “basics” listed below:

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Let go of guilt

If you’ve inherited items you’re keeping out of guilt, now is the time to divest yourself of the burden. “Make a list of the things you’ve inherited. Consider each one and ask if you’re enjoying this thing in your life, or if it is best to let it go,” says Brooks Palmer, a decluttering expert and author of Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back. “For most people, if they knew that you don’t care for the inherited item, they would want you to let it go.” Define clear priorities for your new space and sell or donate items that no longer fit your narrative. You will have more breathing room, and hopefully make some decent cash to offset your moving costs.

Get help

When your car is sick, you take it to the mechanic; if your leg is broken, you see a doctor. If your home is overflowing with items and you’re apprehensively staring at a move-day calendar, it might be time to call in the professionals. The National Organization of Professional Organizers (NAPO) offers a set of questions to ask potential organizers. NAPO also suggests choosing a professional organizer based on personality and skill set rather than price. An organizer with a skill set that best matches your needs is most likely to deliver the greatest value by helping you achieve the results you desire in the shortest amount of time.

Start early

Downsizing is not an overnight event. Getting rid of “stuff” is often an emotionally charged process and, if rushed, stress levels can rise like the mercury in July. Instead of trying to attack all your clutter in one weekend, plan your stuff-shedding process over the course of a few weeks. Tackle big projects room by room. As you get closer to your moving date, treat yourself to a tasty dinner out or listen to an entertaining podcast while you’re decluttering to keep up momentum. Factor in time to list and sell items of value that need a new home. But remember: Moving unwanted items to your new home is a no-no. Even if those items were expensive to acquire, holding on to them will cost you more in the long run. See more helpful helpful tips to keep in mind HERE

 

Best Summer Housing Market Forecast in a Decade – Hudson Valley Real Estate

July 10th, 2016

The residential real estate market should continue to see growth throughout the summer despite some growing economic headwinds. Following the strongest spring in 10 years, this is projected to be the best summer for thehiomeownership housing market in a decade!

According to realtor.com calculations using National Association of Realtors and Commerce Department data, May, year-to-date home sales (that’s non-adjusted existing- and new-home sales combined) are up 6 percent over last year, which was the best year since 2007.

Meanwhile, home prices are again up 5 percent to 6 percent, according to Case-Shiller and other sources.While some would-be buyers are being hindered by low inventory and tight lending, this is the strongest performance we’ve seen since the housing boom. During the boom, loose credit enabled unsustainable increases in home ownership as well as speculative over-building. We all know what happened next.

For at least the next 15 years, the two largest generations in history, millennials and baby boomers, will be making critical decisions about where and how they want to live.

Millennials are entering their prime household formation and buying years. They already dominate the home buyer pool, and the ranks of millennial home buyers will only grow from here.

Meanwhile more than 3.5 million baby boomers turn 65 this year. Those numbers grow as well, reaching 4.5 million a year in a decade. We are seeing that “65 is the new 55,” when it comes to boomers taking action on their retirement housing plans. The economic backdrop may be softening, but it is still positive. Unemployment continues to decline and is approaching full employment. Consumer confidence is managing to stay relatively strong despite election year jitters about the future.

And now Brexit has pushed interest rates even lower, likely keeping 30-year mortgage rates solidly under four percent for the rest of this year. Lower rates expand buying power and create a sense of urgency especially as would-be buyers get the message that rates will never be lower. For more details visit HERE or contact me, I’m here to help!

 

 

Home Maintenance for July – Hudson Valley Real Estate

July 3rd, 2016

Before you pack up and head out for your summer vacation, take the time to tackle these home maintenance chores. July means summer has arrived in full force.  from water heater and driveway maintenance to cleaning drains andJULY-TODO inspecting your crawlspace, see the list of basic “to-do’s”:

To-Do #1: Inspect and Drain Water Heater

It’s easy to neglect your hot water heater, since it’s often hidden away in a closet or garage. Inspecting and draining your water heater annually is important to catch small problems before they become big ones and make the unit work more efficiently and last longer.

Start by checking the water lines and fittings on the water heater for leaks. Next, check the pressure relief valve for leaks and test to make sure it works properly.

NOTE: Opening the relief valve will allow hot water to come out, so make sure a pipe is attached to the relief valve that directs the water either into the pan under the water heater or outside.

Next, drain the water heater to remove any sediment that has accumulated in the tank. Since sediment forms at the bottom of the tank, this can be done by placing a bucket under the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater, then open the spigot and drain out a gallon or two of water.

CAUTION: The water coming out of the drain valve will be hot, so be careful to avoid scalding.

For a more thoroughly cleaning, drain the water heater completely.

To-Do #2: Inspect and Repair Driveway

It’s important to repair any cracks or holes in your driveway to keep rainwater from filtering through and undermining the concrete or asphalt.

Start by inspecting your driveway and repair any cracks using the proper sealant or caulk.

Holes in a concrete driveway should be cleaned out and filled with new concrete. Smooth the concrete flush with the surface of the driveway, and allow it to harden completely before using.

You can also give new life to a concrete driveway by applying a thin layer of concrete on top of the existing driveway. Watch our video on resurfacing a concrete driveway to find out more.

To-Do #3: Inspect Crawlspace Under House

If you have a crawlspace under your house, it’s important to make sure the ground is covered by a layer of thick (6 mil) plastic sheeting to prevent excess moisture which can cause mold and rot to form on floor joists and flooring to warp and buckle.

Watch our video on reducing crawlspace moisture to find out more.

You should also avoid storing any paper, cardboard, or wood under your house; and inspect the crawlspace periodically for termites and plumbing leaks. More tips can be found HERE

Best Ways to Determine Architectural Style – Hudson Valley Real Estate

June 26th, 2016

You may begin to notice architectural details of the homes around you: round columns versus square on a front Styleporch, stucco versus brick, and a gabled roof versus a saltbox roof. Whether you’re headed to open houses or just cruising around town, it opens up a slew of questions about architectural styles. Do those windows belong to a Colonial or a traditional home? How can you tell if the expansive front porch addition on your home matches the original architectural style of the rest of the house?

Knowing the basics of the most popular home styles — and being able to explain exactly what you like to your real estate agent — can be a big help when you’re starting a house hunt. “When looking for a home, knowing the architectural style you prefer will help your agent choose the right houses to show you.

Here’s a quick guide to identifying some of the most popular residential architectural styles across the country:

Victorian: Large wraparound porches, bay windows, and scalloped wood siding

Who hasn’t dreamed of owning a fine architectural gem. “There are several telltale features that Victorian houses share, usually starting with a front porch with a pretty wood railing traditionally painted in vivid contrasting colors,” says Holly Mack-Ward, real estate agent with Holly Mack-Ward & Co. Coldwell Banker in Philadelphia, PA. “A large double-door entry into a vestibule, bay windows, turrets, and scalloped wood siding are all common exterior features,” she adds.

The interiors tend to match the facade in these detailed houses, where intricate millwork, plaster molding, and decorative fireplaces with elaborate mantels are common. “There’s something about an old house with fun shapes and pointy towers that make people feel like they own their own castle.

Cape Cod: Steep roofs, prominent central chimneys, and dormer windows

Cape Cod houses are just plain cute: They’re often decorated with flower boxes and neat shutters and give you a feeling of being close to the beach. This style of architecture was first used in the U.S. in the 1600s, because it reminded early Americans of the cozy English cottages they had left behind — and was sturdy enough to stand up to the area’s harsh winters. Its smallish rooms with a central chimney also served a practical purpose: they were easier to heat and stayed warm longer. While most of today’s Cape Cod-style homes were built to house the influx of veterans after World War II, they shared architectural similarities with those first built in New England: dormer windows, which are windows sticking out from a roof, smaller rooms, and shingled front facades.

Colonial: Columns, wood siding, and symmetrical design

You might have missed this type of architecture if you snoozed through history class. The style, a mix of different styles including Georgian, Dutch, and Federal, was first popularized by America’s early settlers. Today’s Colonial-style architecture is marked by grand exterior columns and symmetrical windows. “If you’re looking for a true Colonial, look for a big box with formal and informal spaces,” says Amy Mizner. “You can’t go wrong with high ceilings; if it’s too conventional, bring in an architect and take down a few walls. It’s less expensive to remodel an older Colonial than to build from scratch.” See more descriptions and home samples HERE

 

 

Home Not Selling?…A Few Reasons Why – Hudson Valley Real Estate

June 19th, 2016

Knowing there’s a problem is the first step toward resolving it. However, there could be many reasons your house isn’t selling. We’ve asked real estate professionals and agents from all over the wpid-disappointmentcountry what those top reasons might be — and they’ve provided some sound advice on how to remedy common situations:

The house is priced too high

Classic supply and demand conditions come into play in a seller’s market: There’s high demand, yet low supply. Therefore, you can usually expect to get more money for your home. But that doesn’t mean the sky’s the limit when it comes to your listing price. “In a seller’s market, a seller may feel comfortable pushing the asking price a bit higher, and this can be a huge mistake,” says Chase Michels of Brush Hill Realtors in Downers Grove, IL. “Determining the best asking price for a home is one of the most important aspects of selling a home. If your home is listed at a price that is above market value, you will miss out on prospective buyers.” 

Solution: Make sure that you and your agent are certain of the value of your home in your market and price it right. “Get an analysis of the local market with a professional agent, solid comparables, and specific market trend data,” says Jill Olivarez, a Miramar Beach, FL, real estate agent.

The home needs some TLC

It can be a bitter pill to swallow to pay for home improvements that you may not enjoy for long. But if you want to sell for full asking price, you might need to get your house in a condition that warrants it — and not base this number only on price per square foot. “Retail buyers understandably still want the most house for their money,” says Barbara Grassey, author of How to Sell Your House Fast in a Slow Market and founder of the West Florida Real Estate Investors Association.

Solution: “The seller should have amenities comparable to other properties for sale in that price range and should really upgrade certain amenities,” says Grassey. Some upgrade examples, she says, include a pull-down gooseneck faucet, an upgraded ceiling fan, a double-bar towel rack, or upgraded door handles. They sound simple, but a few small changes can make a big impact.

Your agent doesn’t seem to care

Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with your house at all: It’s priced right and is well-maintained. But your agent could be turning people off. “The agent is your front-line representative,” says David Kean, a Beverly Hills, CA, agent with Douglas Elliman. He notes, however: “Some agents have little to no personality, some are burnt-out, some don’t care, and others have no social skills.”

Solution: “Hire an agent you would invite to a dinner party. If you don’t find [an agent who’s] interesting and pleasurable to deal with, who will?” You may need to break up with your current agent before moving on to greener pastures. More information can be found HERE