Blog Archive for March, 2017

What’s in your dream kitchen?

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 31, 2017

Kitchens have evolved from the functional space of earlier generations to more creative and aesthetic areas. Thanks to today’s technology, storage options, and design details, the kitchen is grown exponentially in its functionality. With so many choices for flooring, countertops, cabinetry styles and materials, sinks, plumbing and lighting fixtures, there’s no end to what you can do with your kitchen design.

So, what’s in your dream kitchen?

From the food preparation perspective, plenty of counter space is essential. Whether those counters are made of natural stone, stainless steel, wood, or a combination, today’s homeowners want elbow room.

Under the counter, the dream kitchen should have drawers—deep ones, partitioned ones, and heated ones. Pulling out a drawer is preferred over opening a cabinet door. In fact, many of those cabinet doors are hiding pull-out drawers. In this dream world, there would be double drawers and divided drawers, so everything from a wooden spoon to a pot lid would be easily within reach, without the hassle of shuffling things around.

A top-notch kitchen would feature cabinetry that provided storage for everything, and in the color and style that blends with the rest of your home. A pull-out pantry cabinet, for example, would store canned goods and spices. Glass doors on upper cabinets would allow lighted displays of your nicest pieces.

With more and more foodies, kitchens need all the culinary wizardry. Today’s dream kitchen would include a commercial gas stove—possibly in a retro color—or a steam-assist oven or double oven, a third-rack dishwasher, fully appointed coffee bar, and a four-door refrigerator. In addition to the pull-down faucet, there would be a pot filler faucet by the stove to make it easy to fill large pots with water without leaving your cooking area. The must-have center island would include a second sink for prep work.

The lighting would combine style with function, to provide both ambience and task lighting, like under-cabinet lights.

Finally, this wonderful kitchen must include a restful place to sit and enjoy the sound of silence when everyone in your household is somewhere other than your kitchen. Whether you have an island with a breakfast bar or a sun-filled nook with perhaps a window bench, you could sit and take in the pleasure of this dream kitchen.

Buy or rent? Save 37.7% with the right choice.

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 23, 2017

It’s the classic battle: Should I buy a home or keep renting?

If you’re leaning toward remaining a renter, consider this current statistic:

In the United States, buying a home averages 37.7% cheaper than renting.

Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Report analyzed 100 metropolitan housing markets and compared the cost of owning a home over a seven-year period (with 20 percent down payment) to the bottom line for renting over that same time frame. In late 2016, the margin between the two choices actually widened a bit over the previous year’s average of 37.2% and reflected the widest gap since 2012, when buying averaged 40.7% less expensive than renting.

The cost comparison takes into account median home value and rent, including mortgage payments, maintenance, insurance, and taxes, plus one-time costs such as closing costs, down payment, sale proceeds, and security deposits.

Housing markets like Miami and Fort Lauderdale proved to homebuying to be a staggering 50% cheaper than renting. In Miami, for example, the median home price in the fall of 2016 was $259,527. A house rental averaged $2,000 per month.

Even in the markets where the margin was slimmer, the report showed that buying still held a significant advantage. Honolulu showed the smallest variation with a 17.4% savings for homebuyers over renters, followed by San Jose, CA, with 18.6%.

Home prices are rising at an average of 5.9%, with rents increasing at about 3.5%%. Low mortgage rates have enticed many renters to become homebuyers. Even with rising home prices, the value of homeownership presents a strong investment. According to the report, mortgage rates would have to make major gains—as much as 5% higher—to offset the homebuying advantage.

According to the Trulia report, “The FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) has only raised rates once in the past 10 years, and prices would have to grow to their tipping [point] with little movement in rents—the latter of which hasn’t happened since the housing market recovery began in 2012.”

Need more convincing? Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy calculator to see a comparison with your specific parameters (e.g., housing market, rent, target home price, mortgage interest rate).

The path to new home ownership: Why appointments matter

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 16, 2017

Appointments have become the norm—and with mobile technology, scheduling an appointment or reservation from your phone is easy. We are so accustomed to planning our days in advance that those businesses that accept walk-ins feel compelled to advertise it.

New home builders establish a model home as a sales center. Whenever it’s staffed, potential homebuyers can walk in and talk to an available sales consultant. Maybe you’re casually stopping in because you’re in the area. The associates are busy with other buyers, so you grab a brochure, a site map, a business card, and leave.

If you’re seriously following the path to new home ownership, you could make far better use of your time. Here’s why appointments matter to you and us.

  1. The focus is on you. As the demand for new homes continues to grow, our model homes and sales teams get busy, particularly on weekends. When you schedule time with us, we can dedicate that time and our full attention to you. Otherwise, with an impromptu visit, you might find that the staff is pulled in multiple directions, because there was no specific time set aside to provide you with information and answer your questions. With advance notice, your sales consultant can be fully prepared to make the most of your time by gathering the right materials that meet your homebuying needs and interests.
  2. You choose the best time. A planned visit allows you to select the time that best works for you. We accommodate appointments that are outside our sales center’s normal hours, because we respect that these times may not fit your busy schedule.
  3. Take the time you need. There are a lot of questions and considerations that go along with buying a new home. We’ll make sure there’s plenty of time to go through your list—and more. With a decision as important as choosing your next home, no one should rush you.
  4. Save yourself a trip. When you stop by on the off-chance that the model is open and someone is available, you might be disappointed, which means you’ll have to return another time.
  5. It’s so easy, there’s no reason not to. Our new home specialist is dedicated to helping you find the right home on the right lot in the right community.

Mortgages 101: It’s not as scary as you think

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 9, 2017

Financing a home can seem intimidating to the first-time homebuyer. If you’ve never applied for a mortgage before, don’t be afraid of the process. When you break it down and understand what is involved, you will be prepared to sail through the process!

Check your credit report.

First and foremost, review your credit report. Your credit score is a major factor in qualifying you for a mortgage and the amount you can borrow. A score of 720, for example, is excellent, and you can take your pick of lenders to secure the mortgage and terms you want (e.g., interest rate, no points). But even a lower score can be acceptable, depending on the lender and the mortgage program.

In addition to your credit score, review the entries on your credit report. It’s not unusual to find mistakes, which can be corrected with a letter to the credit reporting company (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian are the top three) or the business that reported the debt.

Late payments can also cause a problem when you’re seeking a mortgage. Try contacting those businesses to see what can be done to remove those “black marks”.

Collect your financial information.

You’ll need to prove your income, which requires two recent paycheck stubs and the last two years of income tax returns. You’ll also be asked for the past two months’ bank statements, so the lender can see how much is in your account as well as how you manage your funds. When you’re preparing to apply for a mortgage, spend a few months in advance ensuring you have reasonable cash flow without overdrafts.

If you receive any other income (e.g., alimony, commissions, investments), have the paperwork that documents it.

Research your loan options.

Mortgages come in all shapes and sizes—adjustable or fixed rate, 15 or 30 years. There are programs to assist first-time homebuyers. Veterans may qualify for a VA mortgage, a low-interest mortgage that requires no down payment. An FHA mortgage is a government-insured loan that requires a smaller down payment and accepts people with a less-than-stellar credit score.

Pre-qualify before you start your new home search.

Armed with the financial documents, you can contact lenders to be pre-approved for a mortgage. Your pre-approval letter will be submitted with your purchase and sale offer, showing the seller that you can actually purchase the home.

Builders usually have a preferred lender. There are many advantages to working with this lender if you are buying a new home or building one. In order to earn the “preferred” status from the homebuilder, the lender has proven himself as a resourceful professional who is committed to helping the buyer.

Don’t fear the mortgage process. It’s the pathway to homeownership!

14 questions to ask your homebuilder

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 2, 2017

The process of progressing your custom home from vision to move-in should be an exciting experience. Choosing the right homebuilder is the first step toward ensuring your satisfaction. Here are 14 questions to ask your homebuilder before making this important choice.

  1. Will you build on my lot or do I need to purchase property from you? Some homebuilders focus on their own communities, while others will build elsewhere. Certainly, if you already have land in mind, you need a homebuilder who will build on your lot.
  2. Can I provide my own plans or do I need to choose one of yours? Some homebuilders stick with their own home designs because they’re “tried and true”. Others are comfortable working with quality home plans from another source (emphasis on “quality”).
  3. How many homes like the one I’m looking for have you built in this area? When a homebuilder is familiar with the geography, regulations, and challenges of building a home of a particular size and with certain features, you have the peace of mind that he is experienced with successfully navigating each one. That means timely construction without unanticipated overruns.
  4. Are you licensed and insured? Protect yourself by choosing a builder who can provide proof of insurance and a current builder’s license for the state where your home will be built.
  5. Do you offer a financing option? Is there a preferred lender you use? It can be convenient to use a homebuilder’s preferred lender, and they might offer better options than another lender. Before you decide on your homebuilder, determine your choices and whether or not you must use a preferred lender.
  6. What is standard in your homes and what is considered an upgrade? You need to determine what’s included in your price, so you’re comparing apples to apples with all of your homebuilders. Some standard features are options for other builders. Be clear about what you’re getting, particularly for those features that are important to you.
  7. Can I make changes after the construction has begun? It will cost more to make changes, and that price often goes up the farther along your home is in the building process. Discuss how your homebuilder handles changes so you know what to expect.
  8. What type of home warranty do you include? Appliances are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. The quality of the structure (workmanship, systems, materials) should be covered by the builder’s warranty. The builder will specify the time period, so ask how long they guarantee your home and how repairs are handled during this time.
  9. What energy-efficient features do you include? Today’s appliances, construction materials (windows, doors, insulation), and HVAC systems are geared toward energy efficiency. Ask each builder to explain the extent of their energy efficient commitment.
  10. Can you provide references from your homeowners, and can I tour a few of your homes? With any major purchase, you check reviews of past customers. Don’t be shy about asking for references. A reliable homebuilder will proudly share his successes.
  11. Who will be in charge of building my home? Can I meet this person? The contractor or project manager will become your close friend during the construction of your custom home. Learn that person’s experience and then talk to him before making your decision. Is he easy to work with and accessible? Does he understand and appreciate your concerns? How is communication handled?
  12. Is landscaping included in the price? If so, what exactly do you provide? Know whether you are getting a lawn, shrubs, and/or trees, and specifically which plants are included.
  13. How often can I tour the worksite? It’s your home, and you should be able to visit during construction, but showing up unannounced or too frequently can impede the progress. Determine the best process and schedule for arranging these tours.
  14. What is the estimated time to complete the homebuilding? When can you start? One builder might be able to complete your home in three months but has a backlog and can’t start soon enough to meet your deadline. Ask for realistic start and completion dates, and any factors that will impact them.
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