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3 things you need to know about homeowners’ associations

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When you buy a condo or single-family home that’s part of a planned development, you’re often required to join a homeowners’ association (HOA). An HOA is an organization that’s in charge of the regulation and upkeep of private properties in a residential community. Here are three things you need to know before joining one.

1. Fees. HOA fees range anywhere from $100 and up per month. It’s important to consider these fees when deciding whether you can afford to buy a home.

2. Rules. Some HOAs have strict rules dictating how you maintain your property. Find out what types of changes you’re allowed to make to the appearance of your home and yard and whether you’re allowed to have pets or rent out your property.

3. Services. You also need to know exactly what you’re paying for in terms of amenities. Depending on the community, the HOA may perform only basic maintenance tasks or provide bigger-ticket services such as free access to a pool or community clubhouse.

It’s also a good idea to talk to members of the HOA to find out how the organization is run. Even better, attend an HOA meeting to learn more about the community you’re thinking of joining.

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3 pieces of real estate advice you should ignore

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Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll likely receive a fair amount of advice. Though all of it is likely to be well-intentioned, not all of it will be valuable. Here are three common recommendations that you should ignore.

1. Spend only as much as you can
This sounds reasonable on the surface but figuring out the minimum amount you can spend on a home and still be happy is a much better idea. Spending less on your mortgage each month will allow you to put the money elsewhere and lead a more relaxed lifestyle.

2. List your home above market value

Repeatedly lowering the listing price on a home may suggest to potential buyers that something’s wrong with it. Instead, you should price it as close to market value as possible. If you happen to undervalue it, it’s likely that the market will correct you. In this type of scenario, the seller will receive a lot of competing offers, some higher than the asking price.

3. New homes don’t need inspections
Inspections are essential, even in a case where the home’s just been built and is still insured against defects. It takes time to make repairs, and it’s far better to root out issues before moving in.

Remember, it’s a good idea to always run any advice you get by your realtor. This way, you can be certain that it applies to you and that it’s truly useful.

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Ask the Expert: I built equity in my house. Now how do I get rid of the PMI?

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Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, is required when you buy a house using a conventional loan and make a downpayment that’s less than 20 percent of the home’s price.

Naturally, most homebuyers want to get rid of that extra amount on their monthly mortgage payments.

You have the right to remove PMI in two ways: you can get ‘automatic’ or ‘final’ PMI termination at certain home equity milestones, or you can request the removal when you reach 80 percent home equity.

* Automatic trigger: This occurs when your mortgage balance reaches 78 percent of the purchase price or at a set time period of halfway through your amortization schedule. Payments must be up to date.

* You can request removal of PMI when the loan balance reaches 80 percent of the original value. Some homeowners hasten the process by making extra payments toward their principal. You make the PMI cancellation request in writing to the lender.

* You might be able to refinance out of PMI, which tends to apply when mortgage rates are low and values are on the rise. It usually takes two years before you can refinance.

* Get the home reappraised. Calculate the cost of an appraisal against your savings, but if your home’s value has risen appreciably, this could be a good strategy.

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Buying and selling in the temporary normal

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With all of this extended time spent homebound recently, many of us have discovered a new truism: if you have to be quarantined, you might as well do it in your dream home.

No matter what — the season, the economy, even a virus — people will continue to buy and sell houses. It’s only the process that changes. And buyers and sellers who can adapt and pivot are the ones who come out ahead.

Fortunately, real estate professionals are already adept at strategies that could prove especially helpful this year, as COVID-19 dominates the news.

Think: technology. Virtual tours will likely increase in popularity. Buyers were already screening houses online before seeing them in person, and a thorough virtual tour could dramatically increase the number of eyes on your property.

A 2018 report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that 46 percent of buyers found a virtual tour very useful, while 74 percent used the internet to search for homes. Among millennials, that figure leaped to 92 percent.

Some other accommodations this year could include:

* Sellers may request more hand-washing. Another NAR survey, this one in March, found that more sellers were requesting that visitors wash their hands or use sanitizer. (Some may also request the use of booties, a commonplace request already.)

* Open houses may limit the number of people inside a home at one time – which probably makes for a more pleasant walk-through anyway.

* Technology can also aid in brokering a deal. Already, contracts are regularly sent via email, and signatures can be gathered online. Expect more of this.

* Those who attend open houses in the coming months are more serious buyers, as the tire-kickers have opted to stay at home.

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Your home has secrets known to few

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From tiny holes in the siding to wainscoting or the drawer under the oven, your house may include a number of features that serve a purpose even the most attentive of homeowners wasn’t aware of.

No, a woodpecker didn’t figure out how to hammer into your siding. If you spot some tiny holes, they’re most likely “weep holes” that allow water to escape rather than make its way inside; vinyl siding is designed to allow for ventilation and for condensation to drain out.

Think a chimney cap is meant just to keep debris from falling in? Think again. It also helps wayward embers from escaping up and then damaging your roof or starting a chimney fire, says Best Life Online, which offered some other fun “secret” house features:

* Wainscoting, that charming decorative wall paneling that typically reaches chair rail height, was originally intended to provide more insulation.

* A toe kick, the indented strip of wood between the bottom of your cabinets and the floor, actually serves an anti-toe kick purpose: they make it possible for you to open the cabinet doors without hitting your feet and to work closer to the counter.

* Ever notice that the backs of your oven knobs have screws? Once they’re loosened, you can calibrate the knob with a thermometer to get a more accurate temperature reading. A how-to from GE Appliances says each notch on the back of the knob changes the temperature by 10 degrees.

* That junk drawer at the bottom of your oven? Go figure – it’s not a junk drawer. That space can serve as a warming drawer or a broiler, depending on your appliance, and can help you keep a dish hot while waiting for the rest of your food to cook. Remember this come Thanksgiving.

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Warren County Market Report – April 2020

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Numbers are in and they do reflect our restrictions at this current time with demands for social distancing and stay at home order. However, I certainly think when you consider these numbers are compared to a healthy spring market in 2019, we have a lot to stay positive about!

A shift is happening. As we start to very slowly open up again, could the real estate market come to life with a late spring market pop? We are learning how to manage the once very scary surprise of a global pandemic with more ease and common sense. I predict our numbers are going to climb back to the green.

Could we start to see more Northern Virginia buyers move out this way for space away from congested city life? Will more and more people look for home office arrangements to save overhead costs? Will larger higher end homes start to be in greater demand? Time will tell!

Watch this video for a quick summary of Warren County real estate for April 2020. Charts demonstrate the changes in the market, so be sure to click play!

In general summary:

  1. New Listings are DOWN -8.2%.  April  2019 = 110 vs April 2020 = 101
  2. New Pending DOWN -17.6%.  April  2019 = 85 vs April 2020 = 70
  3. Closed sales are DOWN -5.1%. April  2019 = 59 vs April 2020 = 56
  4. Average Median Sold $243,000
  5. Average Days on Market 38

*If you would like a copy of this report emailed to you, please send request to jenaveryrealtor@gmail.com.

Resource: 2020 Market Stats by ShowingTime
MRIS: Statistics calculated April 2020

Jennifer Avery, Realtor
“Your Happy Home Expert”

BPOR, SRS, CNE, E-Pro Certified | Licensed in VA
jenaveryrealtor@gmail.com | 540-683-0790
CRUM REALTY, INC | 318 S Loudoun St., Winchester, VA 22601 | 540-662-0400

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Understanding property stigma

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Property stigma is a challenging factor to account for when selling or buying a home. Here’s some information to help you understand it better.

What is property stigma?
Any feature of a home that makes it less attractive but is unrelated to its physical or functional properties is usually considered a type of property stigma. Common examples include:

• A suicide or death occurred

• A major crime took place

• A grow-op or meth lab was removed

• There are reports of unexplained phenomena

Whether or not a property is stigmatized is entirely subjective. What one person finds acceptable may be a deal-breaker for another.

What does it mean for buyers?
In most cases, sellers aren’t required to disclose property stigmas. The best thing to do is tell your real estate agent what you want to avoid, and they can ask the seller or their agent. If they refuse to answer, you can either conduct your own research or find another property. Your realtor will be able to assist you in making a decision.

What does it mean for sellers?
In most cases, you’re not legally required to disclose property stigmas. If something about the property could be considered one and you’re asked about it directly, you can either answer the question, answer with a qualification that the buyer does their own research or refuse to answer at all. If you choose to answer, you have to be honest.

Keep in mind that, in the end, whether or not a property is stigmatized is entirely subjective.

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