6 Signs That You Found the Perfect Home

Many realtors will tell you that there is no such thing as the perfect home. The more realistic and savvy the buyers are, the easier it is to come to a compromise. However, you didn’t sell your old place to purchase a compromise. Emotions may be running high, especially if you are purchasing your first home, so it’s important not to be swayed by the small stuff and overlook the big things. Here’s a list of signs that you’ve come to the right address.

stocksnap_5f7649370bYou like the neighbourhood

While this is really a vast category, the location is one of the few things you cannot change. You can remodel and extend, but you cannot move the house. Some will appreciate great schools districts and shopping centres, while others will fall in love with a nearby recreation area and wooded walking trails. Whatever amenities and conveniences you are looking for in the new neighbourhood, keep in mind that this is a decision you make only once.

Looks great after dark, too

If you like the house and the neighbourhood, make sure you pay it a couple of night visits as well. This will tell you right away if the neighbours are getting noisy, or if that cosy pub on the corner becomes a rowdy mead hall after dark. Ask about the bin collection day and see if the locals leave out neatly tied-up recycling sacks or pile up black bags for possums to feast on. Again, you can do wonders to your home, but the neighbourhood you cannot change.

Leaves room to grow

Look for a home that can easily adapt to your needs as your family grows or your life changes. A new baby or a kid moving back in after college may call for extensions such as attic remodelling or building an adjacent structure at the expense of the plot. So, if you can’t afford a place large enough to cater to your future needs, at least choose one that allows building on later on. Now, before you fall in love with one of these extensions, ask about the local zoning laws concerning home extensions and modifications.

img_20160907_171801856The structure is sound

Aside from the ‘soft’ features, a home that is perfect for you needs to meet certain building standards and technical properties. If the water in a glass on the dining room table seems to be angling towards a ‘strange gravity field’ under the house, the house might have a slab issue. An experienced builder will easily tell if it rains both inside and outside, as well as recognize a roof that needs replacing. If your budget is already stretched to the limits, technical issues like these should be deal killers for you.

Not looking at other homes anymore

When all the other homes you’ve seen after it don’t appeal to you, when the ones you’ve seen so far move down to number 8 and below, you know that that’s the house you’ve been looking for. Sometimes it’s the inner gut instinct that tells you that’s the place. You can see yourself decorating it, rearranging it, living in it. However, even if you trust your gut 99.99%, ask the good people from White Square Properties to confirm that you are truly buying a dream.

It can sell one day

Although you shouldn’t think of your new home as an investment, purchasing a white elephant doesn’t make sense, either. While you may be enthralled by the 200-litre saltwater aquarium or a glass home elevator, the next potential buyer may not find use for such extravagancies, even less pay more for them. If a home is very much unlike other nearby homes in size, style, amenities, price, etc., you may end up with a burden that would be hard to sell.

You want the perfect home for you and your family. On the other hand, you need to realistically consider both positive and negative features, regardless of the price range. While the ideal home is hard to find, some aspects like location, adaptability, and structural condition are equally important as your gut feeling.

Posted on January 12, 2018 at 12:51 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Real Estate | Tagged

A Checklist for Maintaining Your Home

Living in a home requires not only that you’re able to buy it, but also that you have enough time and money to keep it in top shape and hopefully even improve. If you maintain your house regularly, you’ll be able to avoid many unexpected problems, which means you’ll have to spend less time and money dealing with them.

To help you with this, here is a maintenance checklist, containing some of the most important tasks you need to perform if you wish your home to be well looked after:

Girls_movingMonthly tasks

  • Clean the kitchen sink disposal and make sure the blades are sharp.
  • Check the fire extinguishers. This encompasses checking the pressure on the gauge and visual inspection for any wear and tear. Also, make sure the extinguishers are easily accessible.
  • Check your filters. This includes your HVAC and range hood filters, since they need to be cleaned or replaced regularly to remain fully functional.

Quarterly tasks

  • Inspect smoke detectors. If you have a “test” button, just press it and hope for the alarm to go off. If it doesn’t, first replace the batteries and then try again. If the problem persists, consult an expert.
  • Flush toilets and run water in unused spaces, because you don’t want grime to build up. All it takes is a bit of water every now and then.
  • Check water softener and make sure you add salt if necessary.

Seasonal tasks

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Spring is a season when a lot of maintenance work is done, especially on the exterior of your home.

  • Inspect the exterior drainage to make sure all water moves away from your home. This includes checking the gutters. They need to be cleaned, so remove any leaves and sediment from the winter snows and rains.
  • Check for any signs of chipped paint or holes. Also, you need to check the foundation for any cracks. This problem can sometimes be solved using a good silicone or caulk.
  • Prepare your air conditioning system for the summer, when it should function without any problems. Depending on the system and your home, you may require different types of service, but make sure you definitely have the whole system inspected by professionals, such as these experts in air conditioning from North Sydney.
  • Check whether your window screens need to be repaired or replaced.
  • Remove dead plants and shrubs from the house and trim your trees if you didn’t do so in the autumn. Also, make sure that tree branches don’t interfere with electric lines.

Summer

This is the time when you need to focus on your garden, but there are also some things you should do around the house.

  • Check plumbing for leaks. If your tap water pressure is weak, you might need to clean or replace the aerators.
  • Deal with insects, since this is the period when they come out to play.
  • Repair your deck or patio if necessary. You may need to tighten some loose boards or replace them.
  • Inspect the vents and make sure that they are not blocked.
  • Clean the garage. The days are longer, which means you’ll have more daylight to get rid of all the clutter that has accumulated in your garage.

Autumn

This is the time to get ready for the winter.

  • Winterize air conditioning systems and get the heating system ready for winter.
  • Switch off and flush outdoor water faucets.
  • Clean your chimneys. This could also be done in the spring.
  • Purchase winter gear, such as shovels and sidewalk salt.

GL000063Winter

Now you’re back inside the house.

  • Regularly check for icicles.
  • Tighten the handles, knobs and anything that might have a loose screw.
  • Inspect caulking around shower cabins and bathtubs.

Naturally, this list doesn’t include every single task you need to perform if you want your house to be well maintained, but it does contain some of the most important ones. So, follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy some trouble-free time at home, regardless of the season.

Posted on December 12, 2017 at 12:51 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: home improvement | Tagged , ,

The Ultimate Guide for First-Time Home Buyers

Buying your own home is probably one of the most exciting moments of your entire life and something you’ll remember forever. It’s a start of a new life and a way to leave all your troubles behind. However, not all homes are the same and you need to think long and hard before making the final decision. If you too are currently in the process of purchasing your first house or flat, here are a couple of things you need to know.

Location vs. price

This is one of the biggest decision all home buyers face, especially if this is their first time. Finding a perfect home is virtually impossible, so you’ll probably have to settle for something other than your ideal spot. Therefore, you’ll need to decide whether to stick to a certain location and pick just whatever property is available there, or make the most of your money and purchase a larger property in an area you haven’t initially considered.

The decision between the location and the price is quite hard and you need to think about lots of things – from the demographics of the neighborhood and transportation options, to the proximity of schools and available parking space.

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Envision the future

Where do you see yourself in ten years? With a family, two or three children, a dog and a car, maybe? Can you picture it all? Most importantly, can you picture all of you living in a property you’re getting ready to buy? If not, step back and think again.

Envisioning your future is quite important when purchasing a property and you need to be certain every member of your family is going to have enough living space. That’s precisely why you mustn’t buy a home that will turn out to be too small, unless you want to move somewhere else in a couple of years.

Consider the space

Talking to previous owners of your potential new home is a great way to get some inside scoop into the advantages and disadvantages of a particular place. And if you’re lucky enough to find a property that was designed by a competent architect, don’t hesitate to purchase it right away – since these homes were built by trustworthy professionals, they’re generally better and more durable than the most, and will certainly prove to be a great place to start your family.

Double check your credit

Most first-time home buyers don’t have all the money they need in advance, even though they’ve been saving for quite some time, which is why they have to visit a bank and consider taking a loan. However, lots of people simply aren’t familiar with all the technical terms that appear in the financial lingo and are hence confused when talking to their advisors.

If taking out a mortgage loan is your only option, you need to be absolutely sure everything’s all right with your credit score. This will ultimately determine the terms of your loan and control your interest rate, so check it two or three times before signing any documents.

Although these things sound serious and frightening, purchasing a home for the very first time still is an experience like no other. So, focus on every part of the process and find that perfect place!

Posted on December 11, 2017 at 1:27 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Finance, Real Estate | Tagged ,

4 Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector

When you purchase a home, you need to know exactly what you’re buying.  Imagine how frustrated you’d be to find out that the hot water heater wasn’t working mid-shower! This is why you should have a home inspection before you buy your home. In Oregon, the inspection period is 10 business days after the sales agreement is signed.  This time gives you, the buyer, a chance to have professionals take a look at the home and advise any repairs that it may need.  Most commonly, there is a home inspection (a top-to-bottom inspection of the home), sewer scope (a camera is sent through the main sewer line to inspect it for obstructions or degradation), and a radon test (the Pacific NW and Portland have higher than average radon levels, so it may not be necessary in your area).  However, not all inspectors are created equally.  Just as in every profession, you’ll find good and bad inspectors.  Usually your Realtor will have inspectors that they have worked with that they can recommend to you, but you should still do your homework.  Before you hire a home inspector, here are a few questions to ask to make sure you’ve got someone that you will be happy with.

  1. What does your inspection cover? Not all inspections are the same.  Different inspectors have different areas that they focus on, and a range of services.  More often, now, we are seeing inspectors that act as a “one stop shop” for home, sewer, and radon.  This is nice because you can set one appointment to get all your inspections done in a timely manner, especially if the home you’re buying is not vacant.  Many inspectors also offer levels of inspections.  A basic package is usually cost-effective and covers the State minimum requirements, and with increasing costs, you can add more detailed inspection.  Also, be sure to ask if the inspection covers the garage.  Many times if it a detached structure, the garage will cost extra.  If you are concerned about something specific, like a leaky faucet in the bathroom, mention that to the inspector so they can check it out.
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    An inspector’s checklist should be longer than this one!

     

  2. Are you licensed or certified? If you live in a state that licenses home inspectors, ask to see their license.  In Oregon, you’ll want someone who is licensed with the Construction Contract Board (CCB) and an Oregon Certified Home Inspector (OCHI). At the very least, choose a home inspector who belongs to American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This shows a level of professionalism and education that you can trust.

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    If they don’t have a CCB# in Oregon, keep looking.

  3. What kind of report will you give me? You should expect a written report detailing what the inspector found. Most inspectors will give you a typed report within a week of the inspection.  Great inspectors will give you your report at the site and go over it with you in person, which is why it’s important to be at your home inspection.  The report should contain plenty of pictures and a good amount of detail as to what the areas of concern are.  This will not only paint a picture of the overall condition of the home, but can help you and your Realtor decide which, if any, repairs you are going to ask for in the repair addendum.

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    Cover page of a recent home inspection

  4. Do you offer re-inspections?  In situations where you’ve requested major repairs, it’s a good idea to have the inspector come back out to reinspect the areas of concern.  Many home inspection companies provide a re-inspection at a discounted cost to just look at the repairs that have been made to see if they were properly completed.
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You don’t need an inspector to know this room needs work, but they can pinpoint any visible structural issues!

 

At the end of the day, the home inspection is a tool for the buyer to ensure that the home they are purchasing isn’t hiding unsafe and costly conditions.  In competitive markets like Portland, people will sometimes waive the inspection period to make their offer stronger, but I think that’s like buying a car without a test drive.  Taking the time and spending a little bit upfront can not only save you money later, but it can keep you from making a bad investment.

If you’re looking for a home inspector in the Portland Metro area, contact me and I can refer you to a few excellent local inspectors!

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 12:38 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Portland, Real Estate | Tagged , , , , ,

5 Factors that Can Influence Comps

View Of Houses

Ah, the Comp.  It’s a word you’ll hear over and over again in real estate.  Comp is short for comparable property, and it is how a real estate agent will arrive at a market value for your home.  If you are the seller, your agent will use comps to arrive at a recommended list price.  If you’re the buyer, your agent will use comps to help suggest a fair purchase price.  You may think that sale price is the only factor when you’re looking at comps and trying to set a price for your listing. But it’s actually a bit more complicated. Here are five things that affect comps that you might not be aware of:

  1. New construction nearby: Because of low prices for lots and varying prices in home building materials, new homes can actually be cheaper and cost less per square foot than existing homes. If there’s a lot of new construction nearby, that can affect the price for your own listing.  A seasoned agent can account for this by using comps that are closer in age to your property, and assessing the quality of the finishes in a new construction compared to the subject property.
  2. Renovations: Recently renovated homes typically sell for more than homes that haven’t been updated in a while. If you’ve recently upgraded your home–especially sought-after upgrades like the kitchen or master bath, your home should be priced appropriately.
  3. Developable lots: Not all lots are created equal. Even if the square acreage is the same, a lot that’s easily developable will get a better price than a hilly or rocky lot that needs a lot of preparation.  In this same vein is the zoning of the property.  If your lot is zoned for multiple dwellings, it can fetch a higher price than a single family dwelling.
  4. Listing price vs. sale price: Whether sellers actually get their asking price depends greatly on the market. When you’re pricing your home, it’s important to look at sales prices, not just listing prices. The listing price doesn’t always accurately reflect what a home will sell for.  Be sure to take note of average list price vs sold price as well.  If homes are consistently selling for over or under listing price, it can give you a good idea of what a fair market value would be.
  5. Location: Nearby amenities, safety, schools, and noise levels can vary greatly within a neighborhood. Homes in more desirable parts of the neighborhood will sell for a higher price, all else being equal.  Walkability is usually a very desirable trait, and so proximity to amenities can be a boost your home’s value.  Similarly, being on too-busy of a street can lower your home’s value compared to other homes.

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At the end of the day, fair market value is the price a buyer is willing to pay and a seller is willing to accept for a property.  The best way to get your home in front of the most qualified and serious buyers is to have a competitively and accurately priced home, something a seasoned real estate broker can help you with!

Posted on April 17, 2017 at 2:57 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Finance, Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , ,

What You Should Know About Home Energy Audits

I took a fantastic class this morning dealing with a new law that was recently passed: starting January 1, 2018, anyone wishing to sell their home within Portland city limits (with or without an agent) must get a home energy audit prior to listing, and must provide the report with the home energy score (HES) to any prospective buyers.  The HES is on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being least efficient and 10 being most efficient.  Scores are based on BTUs used, and the majority of your score comes from heating, water heating, and cooling.

There is a lot of talk about the impact that these scores are going to have on the real estate market, and a lot of confusion as to what this is going to mean for sellers.  I’ve taken some of the more important information that I learned and put it into an infographic for easy reading and sharing:

Untitled Design

It’s important to realize that the requirement to sell only applies to the City of Portland (so if you’re in the Metro area, but not Portland proper you don’t have to have one).  You’ll also want to note that you don’t need to make any upgrades or repairs based on the report.  All you have to do is get it done and provide copies.

This city ordinance is still in early stages: they haven’t yet worked out everything, and will have a rule-making session in July to nail down some of the finer details.  For instance, we don’t yet know how long an energy audit will be valid (but my guess is probably a year).  Also condos are an area of concern because there are too many variables when you have units on all sides.  Chances are that condos will be an exemption, but we won’t find out until July.

Even if you’re not thinking of selling next year, knowing your HES has great benefits.  For starters, you’ll get a really clear picture of the energy efficiency of your home.  The last page of the report shows upgrades that would increase the efficiency.  It is broken down into 2 categories: update now, and update later.  Alongside these repairs, your report will give you the estimated annual savings by making the change.

I’ll update once we know more about this new ordinance, but as always, feel free to reach out with any questions you have!

Posted on March 28, 2017 at 3:27 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Portland, Real Estate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

10 Tips to Keep Your Home Safe While it’s For Sale

Good News! You’ve finally put your home on the market.  Bad News, you’ll have to spend more time out of the house, leaving it more exposed to the threat of thieves. Even if you’re still living in it until it closes, a for sale sign and an empty driveway might lure criminals, thinking it will be an easy target.  Luckily, there are some precautions you can take to ensure that you and your home stay safe all through the selling process.

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  1. Maintain Your Property. Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. But if the home looks unkempt, thieves may think it’s abandoned. This is especially true for homes that are vacant; while you may not be as concerned with thieves in an empty house, squatters can be an issue as well.  Removing holiday decorations in a timely manner, clearing out debris, and keeping your lawn maintained will signal the home is occupied, and keep criminals from stopping in.
  2. Get Your Neighbors Involved. Many people don’t really know their neighbors; it’s more than just saying hi and being friendly. Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone.  It is important to let them know that there will be other agents showing your property, though.  Your agent should absolutely have a lock box that is provided by their local MLS to ensure that only bona fide agents can get in.  Tell your neighbors that anyone who isn’t using the lock box or seems to be having difficulty with it may be suspicious.
  3. Assess your home’s vulnerability. Walk to the curb and face your house. Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how a thief will get in. Think like a burglar, and then address the issues that come to mind. Also important to remember is that while a hide-a-key can be a great saver when you’re locked out, make sure it’s not in a place burglars would look.  I’ve seen tons of cool diy key storage, but if you’ve got a pill case glued to the bottom of the only pine cone in the yard, there’s a good chance criminals will be able to find it.

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  4. Respect the power of lighting. Criminals are cowards, and they don’t want to be seen. The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent because thieves don’t want the attention and the potential to be caught by witnesses. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.
  5. Use technology to make your home look occupied. In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music, and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, lamp timing devices available at hardware stores, or simply playing the radio while you’re away, are also good for this purpose.
  6. Yes, it has to be said: Lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people think they live in a safe-enough neighborhood not to have to lock their doors when they leave. Some facts sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent of burglars use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

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  7. Reinforce your locks. A good door lock is nothing without a solid frame. Invest in a solid door jam and strike plate first, and then invest in good locks. Know the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt. Double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended because they require a key to get in and out. For safety and emergency escape purposes, you must leave the key in when you are home. But double-cylinder locks are against regulations in some places, so check with your local police department’s crime prevention office. Another great idea is to replace the screws on your lock with thicker, longer screws.  Most locks come with short screws that are easy to kick out of place.  By using bigger screws, your lock is more secure and harder to kick or ram open.
  8. Blare the sirens. Burglars are usually in and out in less than five minutes, and they know police can’t respond to an alarm that quickly. Their bigger concern is witnesses to their crime. For that reason, an external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm. Even if you don’t have an alarm, it’s not a bad idea to invest in fake security signs and post them near doors.

    Security cameras

  9. Consider surveillance cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department started a program encouraging homeowners to install a device called Ring, a doorbell with video surveillance capability that allows homeowners to view what’s outside their door on their smartphone, in a neighborhood that was a target for burglaries. After Ring was installed in hundreds of homes, the burglary rate dropped by 55 percent, according to reports. Most state and local regulations require posting a warning that people are being recorded. (But again, this can be effective even if you don’t actually have the cameras installed!)
  10. Mark your valuables and record details. Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information (driver’s license or state ID numbers) on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning would-be thieves that your items are marked. These steps may prevent them from pawning or selling stolen items and can help you reclaim recovered belongings.

Oh, and these tricks can be used even if you’re not planning on selling anytime soon! Keeping your home and belongings safe is always a good idea. How do you keep your home safe from intruders? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted on February 7, 2017 at 10:27 AM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Real Estate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Save Money in Your New Home With These Tips

When you’ve just purchased a new home, there’s a ton on your mind. There’s moving, decorating, getting to know your new neighborhood, and more.  It is an exciting, if a little overwhelming time. In the rush to get settled, though, there are some important money-saving areas that tend to get overlooked.  Here are a few things that should be at the top of your to-do list; they don’t take long, and can save you a ton of money in the long run:

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Check on your water heater

Set your water heater for 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is plenty hot enough for bathing, washing dishes, and any other household use of hot water, so heating water above 120 degrees is a waste of energy and money. And if your water heater is an older model, it’s worthwhile to invest in a water heater blanket to keep it insulated.

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Replace air filters

Sellers often put in a lot of cosmetic work to get the home move-in ready, but they often skip or forget about air filters in the HVAC system. Filters can be found at your local hardware store (just make sure to get the right size) and are easy to replace. Doing so will improve air flow and quality, and save on energy costs.  Air filters need to be changed periodically (depending on the type of filter and frequency of use, anywhere from every 1-6 months), and this will get you in the habit right away.

Get a smart thermostat

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Seriously, a smart thermostat, is an incredible investment in your home. I know I’ve mentioned them before  because I can’t get over how cool they are! The thermostats themselves are a little expensive, but you’ll make that money back in energy savings.  Plus, in Portland, as well as many other cities, you can send in a mail-in rebate to your power company for switching over. It’s programmable so that your AC and furnace run at lower levels when you’re not home, so you’re not wasting money to cool or heat an empty house.

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Set up a space to air-dry clothes

Whether it’s a rack in your laundry room or a clothesline in the back yard, air-drying clothes is a big money saver over even the most energy-efficient dryers.  Even just getting a clothes drying rack to set up in one room when you need it is helpful. Air-drying your garments will also help them last much longer.  If you’re lucky enough to have space in your yard for a clothesline, nothing beats the fresh scent of clothes dried by Mother Nature!

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Check for leaks and running toilets

A leaky faucet or a constantly-running toilet will use up water unnecessarily, and that’ll show up on your utility bill. And in the worst case, they’ll cause expensive water damage and mold.  Leaky faucets are usually an easy, inexpensive fix that you can do yourself.  A lot of times, it’s as simple as replacing a cartridge.  Of course, if you’re unsure of your plumbing skills, it’s always best to call a professional.

Do you have any go-to money savers that you implement in your home?  Tell us about them in the comments?

Posted on February 1, 2017 at 1:53 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Real Estate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Buying Soon? Make Sure Your Credit is in Order

Here’s one that I know my friends in the mortgage industry can get behind. There’s no more important time to work on your credit score than when you’re about to apply for a mortgage. There was once a time when if you could fog a mirror, you could get a loan (hello 2006!) but those days are long behind us.  Now if you want to apply for a home loan, there are lots of qualifications.  Having good credit is right at the top of that list.  The higher your credit score, the lower the down payment you need to qualify, and likely the lower your interest rate.  Improving your credit can save you a ton of money—we’re talking about thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Here are the actions you can take that will have a notable impact on your score:

Pay down your credit card balances

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Credit utilization is one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score. Your credit utilization should at least be less than 30 percent of your limit, and it’s even better if you can get it below 15 percent. This rule applies to both individual cards and your overall credit limit.

It may even be worthwhile to use some of the cash funds you were planning to use for a down payment to pay off credit card balances.  Speak to your mortgage lender about the best avenues to take to ensure you’re getting the best loan possible!

Do no harm

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Current credit minimums for FHA loans

Possibly the most important item on this list! While you certainly want to improve your score if possible, at the very least you’ll want to keep it steady. Avoid opening new lines of credit if you’re applying for a mortgage in the very near future. This will cause a hard inquiry to show up on your credit report.  Whatever you do, don’t go car shopping or start furnishing your new home before the closing date! Otherwise your lender and Realtor® will be none too happy with you!

Take care of negative items

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It’s good practice to check your credit report for negative items a few times a year—you can get one free report from each of the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) per year.  Sites like Creditkarma.com are great for keeping track of your credit scores for free as well.

If you find any negative items (collections, late payments, etc.), write a letter to the original creditor. Explain the circumstances that led to the negative item, and request that it be removed from your report. It can be surprisingly effective, and removing a negative item will improve your credit score in a hurry. You can find some good templates for a request letter online.

Once your credit is in order, your lender will be able to get you pre-approved for a loan amount.  Make sure you get pre-approved before you start house hunting, or else you might fall in love with a home outside your budget!

Got any other credit tips?  Leave them in the comments!

 

Posted on January 18, 2017 at 3:46 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Finance, Real Estate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Moving to a New City? Answer These Questions Before You Start Packing

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Unless you’ve been living off the grid for a while, you’ve probably heard about this great influx of people moving to Oregon–Portland specifically.  For those of us that live here, it’s definitely been an adjustment to the increases in traffic, general cost of living, and the changes in housing availability and affordability.  And of course there’s the great debate that comes with these changes: whether Portland was better off before all these newcomers, or if the influx has forced improvements that make the city better.  Walk 5 feet down any street and you’ll hear 10 different opinions.  This migration has got me thinking about something a little different, though: how people decide to move to a new city in the first place.

Moving to a new city can be a fun, but scary experience.  I’ve done it a couple times now, and each time I feel the same way: excited but nervous, hopeful but hesitant, adventurous but like an outsider.  It’s a mixture of good and bad feelings that forces me to take a good look at the move I’m about to make and ensure I have made a good decision.  Now, I do have to say that there’s always unknowns, and no matter how much research you do, there are some things you can’t learn about a place until you move there.  You can minimize the uncertainty, however.  Answer these questions to figure out if this move is the right one for you.

1.  Can I afford to move?

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 This is the biggest question you need to ask, so might as well get it out of the way first!  Moving is expensive.  If you’re just moving a town or two over, it’s less so, but there are still a lot of costs to consider.  Are you driving to the new city?  How much will gas cost along the way?  Do you need a moving van?  Movers? Boxes and packing materials all cost money, too.  If you’re using a U-Haul or Penske truck, do you need a car carrier?  When you get there, are you moving straight into your new place?  Or are you doing your house hunting when you get there?  You’ll have to budget for hotels or rentals while you’re looking at homes if it’s the latter.

You’ll also need to find out what the costs are for transferring utilities and updating your information at the DMV (if you’re moving out of state, find out how long you have to get this done! In Oregon, it’s 30 days after you’ve moved).

So, now that you’ve deducted the costs of the move itself, ask yourself:

2. Can I afford to move there?

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 Not all cities are created equal, and that goes doubly for affordability.  Now, if you’re moving out of the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City, you can probably afford to live most places. But for the rest of us, checking out the cost of living in a new city is paramount. Even if you have a job lined up, you need to make sure it’ll pay the bills.  Portland was long heralded as a place “where young people go to retire” because it was feasible to work part time and still be able to pay their bills AND have spending money.  Those days are gone, but people still think of Portland in those terms, and then are surprised when they find that median rent alone is over $1600/month.
Plan a mock monthly budget and utilize median prices (Google is your friend!) for your needs before you start packing.  This will help minimize unexpected costs of living. Things like your car insurance may change depending on where you’re moving, so be sure to talk to insurance providers and the like to find out how your move will affect your payments.
If you’re dying to move to an area, but the city itself is out of reach, check out the suburbs. More cities are integrating public transit into their greater metropolitan area making living a little farther away more affordable and still accessible.

3. Do I know anyone in the area?

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Picking up and moving away from it all sounds great in theory, but the first few months after you’re in a new place can be very lonely.  You can absolutely make it out on your own in a new place and thrive; many people do it every day.  I will say, however, that having a point of contact somewhere in the vicinity is such a comforting feeling, even if you’re moving with another person.  I live 1000 miles away from my parents, but I’m only 50 miles away from my stepdad’s family. I don’t see them all that often, but when I make it down to visit, I feel welcomed, eat more food than I ever should (plus leftovers!), and get to have that sense of family that I don’t get every day.  It also eases my mind that if there is an emergency for whatever reason, family can get to me fairly easily.

Chances are, you know SOMEONE that lives near where you’re going.  Between high school and college, I think I have acquaintances in most major cities across the US.  Reach out to them before making your move, and you can at the very least pick their brain about the city.  If you’re comfortable, try to plan a meet up when you get to town.  It will help you feel like you’re not so alone.

 

4.  What is the Cultural Climate?

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Most people have a sense of this before they move, but it’s important to think about nonetheless.  Different regions have wildly different attitudes, and you don’t want to end up somewhere where your ideals and beliefs make you an outsider before you even get there.  Attitudes can change vastly in small areas as well; for instance, Portland is thought of as a very liberal city, but go just a few miles out of town and you’ll find rural, more conservative folk dominate the area.  You can even find big differences just within one city.  Now, I’ll be the first to say that political attitudes are not the end-all, be-all on what an area is like, but it is important to be aware of how people in general react, as you will be able to make an informed decision.

 

 5. What will I do when I get there?

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Obviously, if you’re working, you’ll need to find a job.  But it’s just as important to figure out what recreational activities your new home has to offer.  Many people move to Portland for the easy access to nature, but that’s far from all the city has to offer.  Again, Google will be your friend here, as you can search for any interests you have to find events and communities in the city.  If you’ve never heard of Meetup.com, it can be a life-saver for newbies in town to find new people and experiences.  There are so many groups to join, and most cities have at least one “New to ____” group specifically for people who have recently moved to the area.  I’ve met great people and tried all sorts of things I never thought I would through this website.  The human connection can’t be overstated, either.

 

I hope this has been helpful to you as you think of making your move to a new place.  And when you’re ready to buy a home in your new city, be sure to reach out to me!

Posted on November 15, 2016 at 12:26 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Real Estate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,