Front Porch Safety for Halloween

Before all the princesses, goblins, pirates, and lady bugs come trick-or-treating this Halloween here are some easy precautions you can to take to keep your costumed tricksters safe while they visit your Edmond or Greater Oklahoma City home for treats.

  1. Eliminate open flames.  Candles go hand-in-hand with jack-o’-lanterns on Halloween night, but when a mob of children crowd your front door all at once, busy feet can topple pumpkins amidst extravagant and lengthy costumes.  Why not try LED lights?
  2. If you decide to stick with candles inside your jack-o’-lanterns then minimize potential fuel surrounding those fires.  Halloween decorations like straw, crepe paper, etc. tend to be flammable.  Keep other decorations away from flames and hot decorative light bulbs.
  3. Make sure the path to your front door is clear of tripping and slipping hazards.  Trick or treating in the dark is part of the holiday, and many love to decorate the exterior of their homes to add to the evening’s mood.  Keep decorations out of the path of little feet, sweep away fallen leaves, and put away yard tools and anything else that might tempt little hands.
  4. Make sure your front porch light is functioning properly, and leave it on as long as there are ghosts and ghouls running about.

Leverage in Negotiating Your Purchase

When you’re selling a home the best leverage you have to get the highest price for your Edmond or greater Oklahoma City home is to make sure your home is in tip-top condition and to know the market.

To a degree, the same goes for home buyers.  First, you absolutely need to know what local market conditions are.  Are you currently in a buyer’s market like many areas of the country; are homes selling for 97%, 95%, or even 91% of asking price?  What are you looking for in a home?  How many of your ideal four bedroom, three bath, finished basement homes in (fill in the blank) neighborhood are currently for sale?  Etc., etc.  And once you find your dream home find out how long it’s been for sale.  What’s the home’s listing history?  Have there been others deals that for one reason or another have not gotten to the closing table?  Have there been multiple price reductions?  How many, and for how much?  What other information is out there to help you glean how motivated the seller is to close on the sale?

Consult with your Realtor.  They’ll share with you everything from what’s for sale currently, and what sales have been closing on homes just like the dream home you’re looking at to the listing and pricing history of the home you’re preparing to write an offer on.

Back to the sellers for a second.  Besides arming themselves with market statistics they have gone to work repairing, replacing, cleaning, staging, paining, shampooing – you get the idea – doing whatever it takes to be the most attractive home on the market in their price range.  Buyers want to do the same in that they should make themselves become the most attractive buyers in the market.  How do you do that?  Make sure you’re pre-qualified for your mortgage loan.  Don’t complicate your offer by asking for allowances that may be unacceptable to the seller.  Anything you can do to show the sellers you’re serious buyers, easy to work with, and willing to meet them on secondary items like time of possession, shorter inspection periods, etc. will ultimately increase your leverage at getting your offer price accepted.

Leverage in Negotiating Your Sale

Isn’t that how it always goes?  When your Realtor presents you with the buyers’ offer to purchase your home the first thing you want to know is “How much?”  The reason?  You won’t bother going back and forth with counteroffers on time of possession or leaving the custom doghouse in the backyard for the new owners if you can’t settle first on price.  It’s what most feel is most important, and if the price is right suddenly everything else becomes negotiable.  So what then is your leverage for negotiating that one thing that’s significant above all else, price?

First you need to know the market value of your home.  One way to approach this is by hiring an appraiser, but this will cost you, and as a side note, the buyers will have the home appraised for their mortgage lender as a part of the loan approval process.  What you can do is speak with an experience Realtor in your town well before you decide to put your home up for sale and have them do a comparative market analysis (CMA) to let you know what other similar homes in your area are currently selling for.  What you want to know is selling price, not asking price; which direction the market is headed – up, down or flat.  You want to get a realistic value starting point.

Then you need to get your Edmond or greater Oklahoma City home in tip top shape.  That means clean, repair, replace, pick up, put away.  Making sure your home is the best available home in your price range gives you leverage when it comes to negotiating price.  This one is going to require some work though.  Most homes need a little money infused into them to make them show ready.  You may require new paint, professionally cleaned carpets if not brand new carpet, repairs to damaged fences, replacing missing or damaged roof shingles, etc.  How do you know for sure what needs to be repaired or replaced?  Take a look around and ask yourself if you were buying your home all over again, what would you want taken care of by the previous owners before move in day?  Ask yourself, what issues would keep you from writing an offer altogether?  You should also consult with your Realtor on what they see needs to be addressed.  They’re tuned into what condition buyers expect homes on the market to be in, and their invaluable experience and guidance can mean the difference between selling your home and simply listing it for sale.

The best leverage you can have when negotiating price with buyers is to know the market and make sure your home is in the best condition of all homes in its price range.

The Top 5 “Need To” List for Buyers #1 – Do Your Homework

Here we go.  If you’ve been reading along this one needs no introduction.  Without further ado, the #1 “Need To” tip for Edmond and Greater Oklahoma City home buyers:

#1 – Do Your Homework

            Before you start viewing homes and getting caught up in all the excitement, like our first tip on this list, talk to a mortgage lender.  Find out where you stand financially with this important family purchase.  Review your family budget.  Know how a home payment of $100, $200, $300 or more higher than your current payment will affect your monthly bottom line.  Prepare yourself to make educated decisions.

Then speak to a reputable Realtor in your market.  They can teach you everything you’ll need to know about the buying process and what today’s local market conditions are like.  By consulting with your Realtor you will learn which direction home prices in your area are trending – information that can be invaluable.  Knowing if home prices are on the decline can help you save thousands on your final purchase price.  Conversely, if prices are on the rise you don’t want to get outbid by a more knowledgeable buyer.  Your Realtor will have a strategy to compliment your situation and needs, and the local housing market.

Be sure to hire a reputable home inspector once your offer is accepted.  You should learn through the diligence of a professional inspector’s inspection the condition of the home you’re buying.  He will indicate in his report potential problem areas that can go undetected to the untrained eye like roof rot, evidence of water leaks in the foundation, or other items that you will want to resolve with the sellers prior to closing day.

So do yourself a favor and do your homework every step of the home buying process – that and hire a professional to do the pieces for you that require professionally trained attention.

The Top 5 “Need To” List for Buyers #2 – School District

You say your children are already grown up, moved out, and living elsewhere with their own families.  Maybe you’re even ready to down-size to a condo or townhome for your retirement years.  Either way whether you’re in the market for your first home, what you consider might be your last, or any transitional move in-between here’s one tip to keep in mind when you start your house hunt – move into a quality school district.  Appropriately, carrying on from our last blog, here’s the next installment on our top 5 “Need To” list for buyers:

#2 – School District

            Before you buy a house not only would you take the time to do a little research and speak with your Realtor to find out what you can get for your money in today’s market, but you’ve probably already gotten pre-qualified with a mortgage lender to start to dial in on the price range you should be shopping within.  At this point you might not be as concerned with your home as an investment as you are with getting each of the kids their own bed room, or at the other extreme, minimizing space and certain maintenance responsibilities (as with a condominium community, for example).  But even if you’re more concerned with what it’s going to cost to get into your new Edmond or Greater Oklahoma City dream home than what you’re going to get out of it down the road I would invite you to consider researching local school districts before making any offers.  If you have school age children you’ve probably already had this on your radar, but why would school districts be a concern for home buyers without kids?  Resale value.  The housing market has changed drastically over the last couple years, but there’s still one great indicator of a home’s potential for retaining and increasing in value, and that’s the quality of the local school district.  Traditionally homes in better school districts retain and appreciate in value better than homes in less highly touted districts.  The reason?  Great schools are always in demand, which means great houses in those districts are in demand, and if you know the laws of supply and demand you know greater demand increases sales prices.  In this case the old hackneyed expression still applies; the most important thing affecting home values is location, location, location, and in this case it applies to ALL homes in an area.  There are no guarantees in life, but buying a home in a great school district is one way to leverage yourself to have the best chance of increasing the value of your home over the long hall.

The Top 5 “Need To” List for Buyers #3 – Know Your Limits

Once the decision is finally made that it’s time to purchase a new Edmond or Greater Oklahoma City home, one mistake that we often make while getting caught up in the excitement of the house hunt is overstepping our financial reality.  You ask yourself, What if we went a little bigger?  What if we bumped our price range $20,000?  $40,000?  What if, what if, what if…

What if’s are good questions to ask yourself as long as the answers you arrive at are honest and you heed their wisdom.  What if’s unchecked can at best spell discomfort, at worst financial troubles.  Everyone has visions of their ideal dream home.  What we should focus on is a dream home that we can afford.  That brings us to today’s blog, #3 on our Top 5 List of “Need To’s” for buyers, Knowing your limits.

#3 – Know Your Limits

            You already painted a complete financial picture for your mortgage lender when you pursued pre-approval for your new home purchase.  Now it’s time to take that information and review a few key numbers for yourself.  In particular you want to look at how much you’re currently paying for housing.  In this case it doesn’t matter if you are renting or paying on an existing mortgage.  How much is your monthly payment right now, and how does that compare to the numbers your mortgage lender has shared with you on the new loan?  Will your new monthly housing payment exceed your current payment?  By how much?  Just because you’ve been approved for a $200,000 mortgage doesn’t mean the corresponding payments necessarily fit your budget.  If you’re looking at $300 more a month on a new mortgage do you know how you’re going to pay for it?

Also, if you’re a first time home buyer have you taken into account new purchases that until now you haven’t had to worry about?  Will you have Homeowner’s Association dues?  Will you need to purchase, for example, a lawn mower for the first time?  What about landscaping for a brand new home?  Take the time to investigate additional expenses you may have outside of the cost of the actual home.  Remember, every dream home comes with a measure of planning ahead.

The Top 5 “Need To” List for Buyers #4: Get Pre-Approved

Thinking of buying a new Edmond or Greater Oklahoma City home?  Often the largest obstacle between you and your new dream home is the financing.  Never fear.  Our second installment on the top 5 list of “Need To’s” for home buyers prior to the purchase focusses on just that, the mortgage.

Other items on the list might be need to know’s or need to do’s, but all of our suggestions are meant to help prepare buyers for the process and equip them to make good decisions along the way.  Here we go with number 4 on our list:

#4 Get Pre-Approved

Number 5 on our list was to check your credit report.  Once you’ve done that, addressed any discrepancies, and come out of the process with your credit report and score in the best shape possible then it’s time to speak to a mortgage lender.  First, talk with neighbors and coworkers about their experience with lenders in your area.  Ask for the name and company name of lenders your friends had particularly good experiences with.  Then set up an appointment to meet with one of the lenders to start the pre-approval process.  Remember, pre-approval is not the same as pre-qualification.  A pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender carries much more weight when submitted with your offer to purchase to a home seller.  Your lender will collect all the information he needs from you in order to let you know the maximum loan amount you will qualify for, what you can expect to get as an interest rate and required or optional points, and how much you will need to bring to the closing table as a down payment for that max loan.  Be sure to request your pre-approval letter so you have it in hand when you find that perfect home and are ready to write your offer.  And keep in mind, just because you’re pre-approved for a loan up to (for example) $500,000, that doesn’t mean you have to borrow all the way up to that ceiling.  You need to know how much you can realistically borrow and comfortably make payments on, but that’s for next time…

The Top 5 “Need To” List for Buyers #5: Check Your Credit

Thinking of buying a new Edmond or Greater Oklahoma City home?  Worried about making mistakes along the way?  Never fear.  Here’s the first installment of our top 5 list of “Need To’s” for home buyers prior to the purchase.  Some items on our list are need to know’s and some are need to do’s, and all of our suggestions will help prepare buyers for the process and equip them to make good decisions along the way.  Here we go with number 5:

#5 Check your credit

Get your credit report for starters.  You can obtain these online for free, and don’t fall for any of the credit monitoring programs that end up charging you a monthly fee for what amounts to a big ole’ NOTHING thinly veiled as a necessary service.  You don’t need it.  Get your free report, comb through it for errors, and address any discrepancies you may find with the companies who mistakenly dinged you.  The three major credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  You can get your report from any of them, but beware.  They have their own credit monitoring programs and are just as unnecessary as the rest.  Go with the free report by clicking the link above.  The process may not be the most pleasant but you will accomplish one vital step early on in your home buying process with its completion.  You will have shored up your credit rating so you know exactly where you stand in the eyes of mortgage creditors and will be more appealing to those lenders the higher your credit score and the cleaner your report.  That ultimately means better rates, and potentially higher loan amounts.  Keep in mind, you’ll want to begin this process months before you begin looking for that new home.  Clearing up errors on your credit reports can take some time and you’ll want your report in tip top shape when you approach your mortgage lender to get pre-approved – but that’s for next time…