If you want to learn more about a home, here are some things you should definitely ask about during a virtual tour of the property.
Can street noise and other sounds be heard from inside the home? What about when you’re sitting outside? If any of the floors are carpeted, ask whether they creak, as this can indicate structural issues with the subflooring.
Request that curtains and blinds be opened in every room. If there’s something unsightly nearby or a neighboring house is too close, you’ll want to know about it.
Wear and tear
It may not be easy to tell over video if surfaces are damaged, so ask whether countertops, cabinets, and floors look worn or scratched.
Ask your realtor if they notice any unusual or unpleasant odors inside and outside the home. Industrial smells from a nearby plant can affect your enjoyment of a property, and a whiff of mold or sewage can indicate a bigger issue.
For most buyers, the look and feel of the neighborhood is important. If you can’t tour the area yourself, ask your realtor to take you on a virtual walk around the block.
More than ever, agents are relying on virtual tours to give buyers a closer look at homes. Speak with your realtor to find out more about virtually touring a property you’re interested in.
Before the tour begins, print out a floor plan of the home, so you can easily follow along.
Virginia’s commercial real estate market resilient amid COVID-19
According to the Q1 2021 Commercial Market Report released by Virginia REALTORS®, the commercial real estate market in Virginia has been surprisingly resilient, despite concerns about a serious downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virginia’s office market has seen a modest rise in vacancy rates. Office rents have risen or remained stable in most markets across the state, and mid-sized and suburban markets have been performing best. In the 1st quarter, the fastest rent growth occurred in Charlottesville and Roanoke.
One key reason behind the resiliency of Virginia’s office market is growth in several key office-supporting sectors. Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturevant, PhD, says, “In the commonwealth, the economy has gained back all of the jobs that were lost in the important Professional & Technical Services sector. In addition, the Finance & Insurance sector has remained steady throughout the past year.”
The impact of COVID-19 on Virginia’s retail market has not been as severe as expected. Despite early predictions, there has been no major fleeing from retail spaces in many Virginia markets. While retail vacancy rates have increased over the past year in Virginia, vacancy has remained fairly low—under 6%—in all markets across the state. Retail rents have declined modestly in Northern Virginia and Richmond, though there has been rent growth in some smaller markets, including Hampton Roads and Roanoke.
Industrial real estate has outperformed all other property sectors, benefiting from the pandemic’s fallout, rather than being set back by it. Growth in e-commerce sales has been a key driver of the strong demand for industrial space, particularly warehousing and fulfillment centers.
Virginia REALTORS® publishes quarterly reports on the commercial real estate market. These reports summarize trends in the office, retail, and industrial markets in nine regions across the state, and provide an outlook for future commercial market conditions. Click here to view the full Q1 2021 Commercial Market Report.
What to investigate if you want to buy a condo
If you want to buy a condominium, you may not know where to start. Here are several things to consider if you intend to purchase this type of property.
Find out what’s included with your unit. Does it come with appliances, a parking space, or a storage locker? If you buy a brand-new unit, you’ll likely be able to choose some materials and features such as the countertops, flooring, and electrical components.
You should also ask whether there are regulations regarding how the unit can be decorated, renovated, or used.
In addition to finding out what type of security features and amenities are included (gym, entertainment room, etc.), you should inquire about the building’s overall condition. If it’s an older property, make sure there aren’t any leaks.
Also, consider the demographic of the other residents. You’ll most likely want to live among people whose lifestyle is similar to your own.
For many people, the best part about living in a condo is having access to an urban community with a variety of conveniences and sources of entertainment. Make sure everything you’re looking for is available nearby.
Familiarize yourself with how the condo operates and read through minutes from past board meetings if you want to learn more. In particular, check to see if the condo corporation has a history of demanding one-time assessments to cover large repairs. If so, this suggests the board doesn’t properly manage the funds they receive on a monthly basis to anticipate expenses.
Finally, determine all the costs associated with owning a condo to ensure you can afford it. In addition to your mortgage, you’ll need to pay for condo fees, property taxes, insurance, utilities (if they’re not included), and upkeep of the unit.
How to get the best interest rates
You’ve decided to buy a home and, in doing your due diligence, are researching how to get the best interest rate on a mortgage.
It seems fairly straightforward: A good debt-to-income ratio and good credit score should result in the lowest rates, right?
Maybe, maybe not. Although these are two significant items, other factors also come into play. Some of these include:
* Type of loan. Research whether you qualify for special programs, including those geared toward first-time homebuyers and those aimed at helping people in certain professions to buy homes (think teachers, first responders, and veterans).
* Down payment. The amount of your down payment is likely to affect your interest rate, but it takes some calculating to decide what’s best for you. Will you be better off using a chunk of money to lower your rate, or could you put those funds to better use elsewhere, like in investments?
* Type of lender. Experts recommend shopping around among banks, credit unions, and online lenders to find the best product for you. A 2019 NerdWallet analysis found that a borrower who compares five lenders could save more than $400 in interest in the loan’s first 12 months.
* Property location. Certain loan types, like USDA mortgages, offer lower interest rates and down payment assistance for properties in specific locations. And rural may not be as far away from civilization as you think.
* Duration of the loan. Instead of the standard 30-year mortgage, consider a 15-year mortgage instead. Lenders like the shorter term and often offer lower interest rates to incentivize borrowers. You’ll pay more per month, but you could save thousands over the lifetime of the loan.
6 tips for setting up a small kitchen
Do you need more room in your cramped kitchen? Here are six smart ideas to make the most of a small space.
1. Mount a rail to the wall. Use a support bar and hooks to hang utensils, measuring cups, pots, pans, oven mitts, cutting boards, and anything else you want to keep handy.
2. Hang shelves. Install them above the stove, fridge, countertop, and doorway. Shelves provide an easy storage solution for spices, bins of pasta, candy containers, fresh herbs, and more.
3. Opt for integrated design features. Built-in appliances or a trash chute incorporated into the countertop can help you make the most of a small space. Similarly, a slide-out shelf can extend your countertop surface.
4. Get two-in-one appliances. A combination oven, which acts as both an oven and a microwave, allows you to have a single appliance that can bake, grill, and reheat food. A microwave with a built-in hood is also a great option.
5. Install cabinets close to the ceiling. Build them high to maximize storage space, and use the top shelves for items you rely on less frequently. Just be sure to keep a folding stepladder nearby, so you can easily reach any item.
6. Invest in a portable cooktop. Some electric cooktops are as powerful as a standard stove, which makes them the perfect solution to save on counter space.
Additionally, considering brightening up the room with targeted lighting. Install strip lights and other fixtures near the prep space, sink, and cooking area.
3 tips to help you get approved for a mortgage
If you want to buy a home, you’ll probably need to take out a mortgage. Here are some tips to help you get approved.
1. Improve your credit score
Before you apply for a mortgage, review your credit score. This is the number lenders use to evaluate your credit risk and determine if you’re a good loan candidate. The higher your credit score, the better your mortgage rate is likely to be.
To improve your score, pay your bills on time, keep your credit balances low and reduce the amount of debt you owe.
2. Pay off debts and avoid incurring new ones
Another important factor that mortgage lenders look at is your debt-to-income ratio. The lower your debt is when compared to your income, the more likely you are to be approved for a home loan. In addition to paying off existing debts, you should reduce the amount of new debt you incur. Take a careful look at how you spend your money and figure out where you can cut back on expenses.
3. Save for the biggest down payment possible
The minimum down payment you need to get a mortgage is 3.5 percent of the home’s total cost. However, if you can afford it, a 20 percent down payment will lower the balance of your mortgage and alleviate the need for private mortgage insurance, thereby reducing your monthly payments.
If you don’t currently meet the requirements for a home loan, don’t give up. Instead, take steps to improve your financial situation and, once you’re in a better position, try again.
A space dedicated to your well-being is a must in 2021
Calm and inspiring spaces are becoming increasingly popular. To design your own little wellness retreat, choose a spot in your home that’s as removed as possible from all noise and activity.
Once you’ve selected a location, surround yourself with colors that evoke nature such as sky blue, forest green, and stone gray. Be sure to have at least one live plant nearby.
Additionally, consider including a comfortable chair, a soft mat, and decorative or meditation cushions. A lamp emitting a soft glow or a light fixture with a dimmer switch can be useful for lighting the space according to your preferences.
Once space is set up, use it for meditating, daydreaming, reading, breathing deeply, writing in a diary, or listening to music. In 2021, a respite from the stresses of everyday life may be exactly what you need.