March 22, 2017

Home Improvements That Can Increase or Lower Your Home Value



Today’s real estate market is hot, which means that now might be the perfect time to get your home ready to sell. If you want to perform a large-scale home renovation, note that it could affect your property value. Below is a look at some of the best and worst renovations when it comes to their return on investment (ROI).

Renovations that can lower the value of your home.

Additional Bathrooms

The old real estate saying, “kitchens and bathrooms sell homes” does still apply in today’s market. While it may be true, adding an extra bathroom is not an investment that you are certain to recoup. Whether your new bathroom is midrange or upscale, you are only likely to get back about 56 percent of what you invested.

Swimming Pool

It is a well-known fact throughout the real estate industry that swimming pools are poor investments. The reality is that they are often more of a hassle than they are worth to homeowners. They are expensive with initial costs that can range from $30,000 to over $100,000. They are also costly to maintain and can present an enormous legal liability. It is highly unlikely that you will recoup the investment when you sell.

Too Much for the Neighborhood

Expensive remodels that place your home above neighborhood standards are unlikely to get as much in return as you would expect. For example, that second story is unlikely to make a prospective buyer willing to pay more if the home is among single-story homes. The home will seem overpriced even if it has more to offer than neighboring properties.

Backup Generators

While backup generators can be useful during blackouts, they are expensive to install. In all likelihood, you will only recover a fraction of that investment when you sell.

Renovations that can raise the value of your home.

Steel Front Door

Installing a new steel front door can transform your home’s look and feel, which means that it has a significant impact on curb appeal. Other benefits include improvements to both the energy efficiency and security of your home. With its low initial cost, a new steel front door is arguably the one renovation that can give you the most value for your money.

Siding

These days you can get vinyl siding with finishes that resist fading and with lifetime warranties that far surpass those on older siding. Keep in mind that siding plays a significant role in curb appeal as it is one of the first things that prospective buyers see when they pull up to your home.

Solar Panels

A homeowner receives returns on their solar panel investment with lowered electricity bills and tax credits. You can determine the kind of ROI that you will get by dividing the annual benefits by the initial cost.

Attic Insulation

New attic insulation is one of the most cost-effective investments that you can make in your home’s value. The extra insulation will also reduce the amount that you spend on energy.

As you can see, a renovation is not always the best option for improving value. Unless you need extensive work to get your home up to code, it makes sense to think carefully before investing in one.

Posted in DIY
March 21, 2017

5 Tips to Stage Your Home to Sell



Staging a home can be one of the most exciting times for a homeowner. In this crucial time, you don’t want to leave anything undone with your home. In this list, we will discuss five tips to stage your home to sell.

Removing Clutter

Over time, nearly every home will start to become cluttered. Before staging your home is the perfect to start removing clutter. If you need the incentive to get started on this project, think of the valuable items you have that might be lying around. Also, donating gently used items to charity is a big benefit of removing clutter. Having a clutter-free home will let guests have all the space they need to see their potential new living area.

Deep Cleaning Entire Home

After removing clutter from your home, you may notice that time has not been kind to the surfaces of your home. It is wise to deeply clean your entire house before it is staged. You want to present every potential home buyer with a fully cleaned home. There are many areas in a home that can gather dirt and dust. Ensure that you thoroughly clean all floors, as they will have likely amassed a lot of foot traffic.

Give Spare Rooms A Purpose

Each room in your staged home should have some sort of theme. Of course, there are the obvious bedrooms and bathrooms but what about those spare rooms? Many homeowners may feel that bare extra space is all that is needed to entice buyers. However, buyers go into homes thinking of the experiences that they will enjoy in your home. Having a home that is filled with empty rooms doesn’t bode well for creating any imagery for a buyer.

Accenting without Overdecorating

You will want to take the opportunity, when staging your home, to ensure that large surfaces are accented. Some can overdo it with their accents until they have created clutter. Place one to three decorative items on surfaces like tables to add a visual flair to any room. Wall art is another great accenting idea that can be used to add value to your staged home. It is a good idea to use the accenting time of your staging to check the attic for any old decorations that could help out.

Repaint Problem Areas

As you’ve likely seen with your floors, walls are another area that can accumulate dust and dirt. Use a staging as the time to either paint your walls a different color or repaint with the same color choice. Repainting your walls presents a sense of freshness to your home, no matter which color you choose. However, try to avoid any colors that could be off-putting, especially overly bright colors that could be distracting. In closing, there are many benefits associated with staging your home. If you need help in selling your home, please give us a call! Our professionals can help you sell your home as soon as possible.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Feb. 24, 2017

WHAT IS AN FHA 203K LOAN?

Buying a property in need of renovation can be a great way to build equity and get a fantastic deal in real estate. If you don't have the funds to renovate the property, coming up with them on the fly can be a challenge. In this situation, the FHA 203k loan might be the tool that you've been searching for.

What is an FHA 203k Loan?

The basic idea behind an FHA 203k loan is that it makes it possible to borrow the money that you need to buy a property and to rehab it with a single loan. You've got one closing for the project and everything is lumped together. This is often the ideal solution for entrepreneurs that are looking for a way to get the money they need to remodel a house and acquire it at the same time. 

Qualifying for the FHA 203k Loan

While the FHA 203k loan can be a powerful tool for the right person, not everyone will qualify. Basic credit and income requirements will apply for this type of loan. Most banks will require that you have at least a 640 FICO score. Since the loan is backed by the FHA, banks can be a little more lenient with their underwriting standards, but they are still on the hook for the majority of the funds. In addition to meeting underwriting requirements, you'll also have to put up some cash for a down payment. You'll need at least 3.5 percent of the purchase price of the property to get an FHA 203k loan. The value of the home also cannot exceed the maximum FHA lending limit in your area. 

Types of 203k Loans

The FHA 203k program presents you with two different options to pick from, depending on the type of house that you hope to buy and rehab. The streamlined version of the program is perfect for homes that don't need any structural repairs. The maximum amount for repairs on this type of home is $35,000. This is a perfect option if you just need to do cosmetic repairs to the property.

The standard 203k loan is for more intensive repairs. They require you to make at least $5000 of repairs and they allow you to borrow more money for repairs overall.

Considerations

While the FHA 203k loan can be a powerful tool in the right situation, it's not for everyone. One of the downsides of this type of loan is that it takes longer to close. When using an FHA loan, there are more requirements and hoops to jump through. You'll have more paperwork to complete and it takes the bank longer to process. If you're involved in a deal that needs to be closed quickly, the FHA 203k loan may not be ideal.

In addition to the extra time it takes to complete, you'll also have to pay a 1.5% fee for using this loan. Despite the extra time and fees, it is often the only option that makes sense for those hoping to buy a property that needs some work.
Posted in DIY
Feb. 24, 2017

Things to consider when buying a vacation home

The beautiful beaches of southeastern North Carolina are a popular tourist destination for the East Coast and the nation. By extension, it's also a popular place to buy a vacation home as many visitors want to return regularly. If you're considering buying your own coastal North Carolina vacation home, there are a few things to think about.

Affordability

The first thing to consider is affordability. Determining first whether you can afford to have a second home is important. Mortgage companies tend to want higher rates and/or more of a down payment on a second home. It's also important to consider what becomes of the home when you're not using it. Will you have a rental company manage it and rent it out during the times you're not using it? Renting the house out can be a great way to have it earn its keep. A good way to get on top of costs and future costs is to get in touch with local mortgage companies and real estate agents. Firsthand knowledge of the local market is invaluable for choosing the right house for your needs. They can also refer you to property management companies.

Long-Term Value

Another thing to consider before jumping into purchasing a vacation home is whether you will get long-term value from it. Even if your initial reaction to visiting the North Carolina beaches makes you want to buy a vacation home immediately, remember that it's a place you'll be returning to year after year. If you can imagine yourself doing this, then you're on the right track. The other consideration is how far away this location is from where you normally live. If it's within a reasonable distance and you visit it frequently, then the long-term value is there. However, if it's across the country and you can only see yourself reasonably visiting one a year, then that same value is greatly reduced. On the other hand, some of that lost value can be recovered if you intend to rent the house out the rest of the year. If this is your plan, then it's important to make sure the property is located in a high-demand area so it will be attractive to visitors. You should also realize that if the home is rented out for more than 15 days in a month, then the rent is considered income with regards to your taxes.

The main thing is to address all these considerations and concerns before you go to find a property and take out a mortgage so that they don't come up and surprise you later.

 

Posted in Buying a Home
Jan. 27, 2017

3 Month Plan To Sell Your Home In Spring



So you’ve decided to sell your home, and you want to have it ready by Spring time. You don’t have to wait until it warms up to get your home ready to list, but you’ll need to have a plan set in place beforehand. The tips provided below will help get your home ready to sell in three months.

Make A Plan

The first thing you should do is to make a plan of all the things you need to get done and when you want to have your home sold. Making a plan helps you organize and break down tasks making them easier to get done in the coming months.

During this time, you’ll also want to start talking with real estate agent. Finding an agent takes time, and you’ll be happy you took the time to find the correct agent. It’s best to find an agent with experience and knows how to sell a home effectively.

Three Months Before You Sell

Get an inspection to see what needs to be fixed inside your home. You may be surprised at the number of minor problems that your home has that will cause it to lose value. When your inspection is over, you can then prioritize what needs to be done first. Talk with your agent to help determine what’s crucial and what you can let slide for a while.

One Month Before Selling

The month before you list your home is the time to apply a fresh coat of paint, do your landscaping, and work on other aesthetic areas to increase the curb appeal. You’ll need to deep clean your home a week or two before listing your home as well. This means cleaning the carpets, removing stains, and maybe taking pets elsewhere until your home sells to avoid accidents.

The winter can be a tough time to start working on your home, but it’s necessary if you want to stay ahead of the competition and sell your home by the desired date. Just follow the steps above to ensure a smooth and painless experience.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Jan. 17, 2017

How to Save for a Down Payment While Renting



Are you tired of renting? Rental prices are rising and homeowners everywhere are enjoying a steady increase in property values. If you are thinking about buying your first home, the time is now. Building equity in a home that you will one day own makes much more sense than throwing your money into a rental property. However, renting can be a great way to start out in adult life as a transition into buying your own property. Learning to save while you are paying rent can be a difficult thing to do when you are paying the high amount of rent that is present int the market today. With some strategic financial planning, you will be able to save for a substantial down payment while renting your current home or apartment. 

Cut down on your expenses 

When you are trying to save, it is important that you make sure you are not overspending. There are so many things that we purchase each month that cut into our ability to save. In our digital world, it is easy to have subscriptions to many different streaming services without seeing the big picture. Pick one or two streaming services instead of having five or six. This could save you hundreds of dollars every year. When you are buying clothing, make sure you stay away from designer brands. There are stores that will provide you quality outfits at a fraction of the price of big designer stores. Try to cut down on eating out. This is one activity that is taking more money than you might know. It can be easy to spend $300 dollars a month just eating fast food for lunch each day. By packing a lunch instead of eating out, you can save nearly $5,000 a year. 

Find a way to earn additional income 

When you work a 9-5 job, there is a lot of time left in the day to earn a little extra income. There are many great ways to earn money today with the outlets that are available to us. Being an Uber driver is a great way to set your own hours and also make a lot of extra money on the weekends when party goers need a ride home from the bar. If you are good at writing, you can earn money on your own terms by writing articles online. If you like dogs, you could start a dog walking business. The possibilities are virtually endless. 

Sell items around the house that you don't use anymore

As we grow older, there are hobbies that we just aren't as interested in anymore.You may have spent a few thousand dollars on a beautiful camera back when you had a lot of extra time back in college but now you just don't have the time to take pictures with your busy work schedule. You can turn this dusty camera into savings for your down payment. You will be surprised at the amount of stuff laying around your house that can be turned into cash with a yard sale.

Deposit into your savings account ever paycheck

You will need to fine tune your budget when you are trying to constantly add money into your savings account. You need to make sure that you can still pay all of your bills after a substantial amount of your money is being deposited into your bank account. Once you have decided what amount of money you can deposit into your savings account, you can contact your bank to set up an automatic deposit into your savings account each time you have a direct deposit from your employer. This will automate your savings and help keep your savings on autopilot. 

Stay consistent 

When you are trying to save for a downpayment, you need to be in it for the long haul. You will want to save for at least a year. If possible, you should strive to save for even longer than that. The more money you are able to put down on a house, the better rates you will get. You will need to make sure that you can stay consistent over time in order to save up a substantial amount of money for your down payment. Saving a great deal of money over a short period of time will never add up to saving a moderate amount of money over a much longer period of time. 

Posted in Buying a Home
Dec. 27, 2016

5 Things to Know About VA Loans

When you’re a veteran, adjusting to civilian life can be difficult. One of the ways the government tries to support our veterans is through affordable VA loans. Although the Department of Veteran Affairs doesn’t lend money for VA loans, it does back loans made by banks and mortgage companies, which can be a huge help for veterans hoping to buy a home. And it’s not just houses—VA loans can be used to buy a home or a condo, to build a home, to make improvements on an exisiting home, or to buy a manufactured home or lot.

If you’re a veteran and are interested in applying for a VA loan, here five things you need to know before you begin the process:

1. Your Eligibility. Most veterans are eligible and can apply for a VA loan. Some surviving spouses of military members who died while on active duty may also apply. If you’re an active-duty member of the military, you can apply for a VA loan after six months of service. If you’re a reservist or member of the National Guard, you can apply after six years—during war periods, this requirement is shorter.

2. The Benefits. There are a number of benefits to getting a VA loan rather than a conventional mortgage. First of all, VA loans are made through private lenders and are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, so they don’t require mortgage insurance. There’s also no minimum credit score to apply for these loans, lower closing costs, and borrowers don’t need to have a down payment, which is a huge plus.

3. Other Fees. While getting a VA loan is generally cheaper than conventional loans, they do carry a one-time funding fee that will vary depending on the person and the situation. You can use a VA loan calculator to help you figure out how much you’ll have to pay upfront for your loan. In some cases, this fee can be financed or reduced with a down payment of at least 5%, or waived if you receive VA compensation for a disability.

4. Underwriting Requirements. While the VA doesn’t require a certain credit score for a VA loan, lenders usually have their own requirements—a credit score of 620 or higher is usually the minimum. Like conventional loans, borrowers must also show that they make enough to repay the loan, and that their DTI (debt to income) ratio is low.

5. More Protection. One of the greatest fears of any homeowner is foreclosure. VA loans offer assistance to borrows who are struggling to avoid this fate. If you find you can’t make your payments in full or on time, the VA can step in and work with the lender on your behalf by negotiating repayment plans, modifying your loan, and finding other ways to keep you in your home.

If you qualify for a VA loan and want to start the process of buying a home, contact Network Real Estate. Our talented and passionate agents will help you find a home that fits your budget, your lifestyle, and your dreams. It’s the least we can do.

In the meantime, we thank you for your service.

Posted in Buying a Home
Dec. 19, 2016

How to Leave Your Home When You’re Traveling During the Holidays

Your gifts are wrapped, bags are packed, car is gassed up, and you’re all set to hit the road for your annual holiday vacation. Not so fast! There are still a few steps that need to be checked off your to-do list in order to keep your home safe and sound while you’re away.

Lock Up

Maybe this task seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to lock everything up. Just like Santa makes his list and checks it twice, give the locks in your house a second look. Make sure all doors, window, and fences are properly shut and securely locked. Perhaps consider putting a deadbolt on your door while you are out of town to give you that extra peace of mind. This might seem like overkill, but unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for burglaries due to so many homes being vacant. It’s better to be safe to ensure you have a merry little Christmas!

Lay Low

Traveling is always a tempting time to overshare on social media. After all, you want your followers to see you basking in the Caribbean sun while they are stuck in the cold winter weather! However, by posting everything on Facebook or Instagram (even if it’s just a picture of your dessert) can be dangerous. You never know who might be looking at your page, and posting a photo of you out of town gives clarity that a stranger needs to break into your home. Lay low and share all of your amazing photos when you get home from vacation!

Stay Lit

A dark home screams, “I’m out of town! Come on in!” There are ways to keep your house lit up without your electricity bill sky rocketing while you’re out of town. If you have holiday lights up at your house, set them on an automatic timer that is scheduled to go on and off at specific times. You can also use this method for the lamps inside your home. When a stranger drives by and sees a house that seems like people are currently in, then they will most likely continue to drive away.

Keep it Normal

In order to further make it look like your home is currently being lived in, keep other aspects normal as well. For instance, if you typically leave your curtains slightly open, then leave them that way. If you usually leave a car in your driveway, maybe lock it up and keep it in the driveway. Pull your trashcans inside, so it doesn’t look as if they have been abandoned. Think about the normal routines of your everyday life and keep living them out, even when you’re not there!

Ask a Neighbor

Now is the time to ask that friendly neighbor of yours for a favor. Before heading out of town, leave a key with a trusted neighbor and instructions for things you’d like them to help you with while you’re gone. Before your mailbox overflows, have them check your mail every day. Maybe ask them to take the extra step of bringing your mail (and newspapers) inside your house and ensuring that everything still looks normal. Have them double check your light timers while they’re at it!

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, and we don’t want you stressing about the safety of your house while you’re gone. Follow these tips and you will be all set to have a merry little Christmas this year!

Posted in DIY
Dec. 12, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions For Your Home

2017 is around the corner, if you’re like most people, you're spending the end of the year taking stock of your life, identifying areas you’d like to improve, and setting goals you want to accomplish. While these resolutions are usually personal – “save money,” “travel” and “volunteer” are high on many lists – the New Year is also a great time to set some goals for your home.

Your home is the place where you spend the majority of your free time. It’s where you wake up and go to sleep, and it has the power to set the tone for your day and your life. If your home is clean, organized, efficient, comfortable and beautiful, it will be easier to focus on other areas of your life, such as your relationships or your finances. Think of your home as the foundation upon which all other goals are built. If your home is strong and solid, the chances of achieving your dreams are that much better.

Below are five resolutions you can make for your home. Don’t feel pressured to tackle them all at once! After all, a year is a long time and change doesn’t happen overnight. By making small, meaningful progress toward your goals, you’ll be able to look back on 2017 as a productive year in your life and at home.

  1. Clear Your Clutter. 2016 was the year everyone started obsessing over their stuff, namely how to have less of it. If you read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you know what I’m talking about. In this short manual, author Marie Kondo encourages readers to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” as a way to make room in their lives for the things that truly matter. While you don’t need to strip your home down to the bare essentials, the start of a New Year is a great time to go through the nooks and crannies of your home and donate any items that you haven’t used (or seen) in far too long. Others will benefit from your rarely used items, and you’ll benefit from more space and a clearer mind. Everybody wins.
  2. Protect What Matters. Make sure your home is safe and sound, and that your belongings, not to mention your loved ones, are protected. First, check that your fire and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition and that you’ve placed them on every floor of your house. Next, check your house for radon. This colorless, odorless gas contains radioactive particles that can cause lung cancer. Luckily, a test kit costs as little as $20 at any hardware store. You can also take this time to review your insurance policy, making sure your valuables are protected and that you have adequate coverage. If you rent, don’t assume you can skip this last step. Renters’ insurance is very important, and can protect you in case of fire, flooding or theft.
  3. Go Green! During the New Year, many people take stock of their health and the health of their environment. Perhaps you’ve already made a resolution to walk or ride your bike more often to cut down on your gasoline use, or to always bring bags to the grocery store to use less plastic. You can extend these good deeds to your home. Start cutting energy costs by turning off lights when you leave a room, turning off your air conditioner when you aren’t home, and starting a compost pile for your kitchen waste. If it’s in your budget, you can also invest in energy saving appliances, solar power or a wood-burning stove. As an added bonus, many of these “green” improvements are also linked to certain tax breaks, which can help with any financial goals you may be setting in 2017.
  4. Host More Parties. Who said all your goals have to be hard? You can make a few fun ones too, and resolving to host more parties is a great way to do just that. To help you achieve this goal, rearrange the furniture in your living room to make it more conducive to conversations, buy some fun serving ware (fondue pot, anyone?) and splurge on some great outdoor furniture for fun summer gatherings. After all, you take pride in your home, and the best way to show it off is by entertaining friends and family.
  5. Sell Your Home. Whether you want to downsize now that the kids are out of the house or buy a bigger home to accommodate a growing family, the first step is selling your current home. Selling your home can be a process, with many twists and turns. By setting this goal early in the year, you’ll be better equipped to prepare for a sale by making improvements, getting your yard in pristine shape, getting your financial documents in order, and hunting for a new home to call your own. If selling your current home or buying a new one in 2017 is one of your resolutions, the best thing you can do right now is get in touch with one of the realtors at Network Real Estate. We can help you through the process and give you the tools to turn this dream into a reality. For your best year yet, contact us today.

We hope this article has given you some great ideas for a happier, healthier home in 2017. Happy New Year!

Posted in DIY
Dec. 7, 2016

Fun Things to do in Wilmington During the Christmas Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Wilmington! Hot Cocoa fills your cups, bright lights flood the streets, and holiday cheer is everywhere for all to hear. Our city sure knows how to get into the holiday spirit. Not only do the beautiful Christmas decorations Downtown and at Mayfaire Town Center bring a little joy to your hearts, but there are also plenty of fun holiday events to dive into this year!

Enchanted Airlie

This is the 11th year for this incredible New Hanover tradition. Airlie Gardens is known year round for its breathtaking views and serene environment. Add sparkling sights and festive sounds to the mix and you are guaranteed to be swept off your feet! Cozy up with your loved ones, grab a warm cup of cocoa, take a bite of some local food vendors’ delicious cuisines, and even meet Santa Claus himself at Enchanted Airlie! And don’t to get your tickets in advance, because this stellar event sells out fast.

Holiday Train Expo

All aboard this Polar Express! The Cape Fear Model Railroad Society is showcasing its annual Holiday Train Expo from December 9th to December 11th at Independence Mall. Get lost in a winter wonderland as you watch trains travel through detailed villages, parks, and festive landscapes. Kids can even get their photo taken with the conductor of the Polar Express!

Christmas Train & Light Spectacular

In case you miss the Holiday Train Expo, there is still time to travel the tracks at this Downtown Wilmington event! Featuring model trains, twinkling lights, and trains trekking across snowy scenery, this exhibit is truly spectacular! Grab a Christmas cookie, pour a cup of cider, and revel in the magic of the holiday season.

It’s a Wonderful Life

One of the best parts of the holidays is the holiday films. And what’s better than a showing of the classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This annual tradition takes place at Thailan Hall in Downtown Wilmington. Get your popcorn ready and get excited to enjoy a James Stewart classic for 2 hours of this feel good throwback. Fun for the whole family!

Christmas Caroling

Warm up those vocal chords and spread holiday cheer for all to hear as you trot through the streets of Historic Downtown in your very own horse-drawn carriage! Sing Christmas carols with Santa, his reindeer, and your loved ones to serenade the streets of your city. Bring the kids and enjoy free candy canes as you hum about the most wonderful time of the year!

There is so much to love about the holidays, and our town surely does not disappoint. Create new traditions with your friends and family this year, and make Wilmington feel a little more like home!

Posted in Local Events