May 11, 2020

Where to Check for Unclaimed Money

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Where to Check for Unclaimed Money

Found money is a gift. And with the internet, it’s easier than ever to find it.

Unclaimed assets may be sitting somewhere in your name, waiting for you to find and claim them. With some simple online searches, you can look for unclaimed money in seconds and possibly find a windfall.

Unclaimed money can come from a family member who has died. They may have a life insurance policy, retirement benefit and other policies you may not know about that are legally yours as an heir. Here are some resources for finding missing, unclaimed money:

Two websites offer free, multi-state searches for unclaimed property:

  • National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or NAUPA.
  • Missing Money, a service endorsed by NAUPA.

Both are simple to use. You only enter your first and last name, and the state where you live—a free government search for missing money in your name is done in seconds.

Missing Money is a database of governmental unclaimed property records. They include bank accounts, safe-deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, unwashed checks and wages, insurance policies, CDs, utility deposits, and escrow accounts.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has a free database to search for bank accounts or safe deposit boxes in your name or the name of a loved one who has died.

Paper Statements
Those overstuffed filing cabinets and drawers that you or a relative have been meaning to organize for years may be full of old paper statements from banks, life insurance companies and other businesses that may be holding money owed to you.

Anything that was reported to the IRS on a tax form could be an area where unclaimed money could be hiding. Also, be on the lookout for pay stubs, pension deduction and 401(k) contributions. They may show if a former employee owes a benefit.

An Old Pension Plan
If your former employee offered a pension plan but the company has gone out of business, you may have unclaimed pension benefits waiting for you.

Contact your former employer if you can find it. The company should also be looking for you. If it can’t find you, the pension money goes to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a government agency that protects retirement income.

Go to the PBGC’s unclaimed pensions database to see if you’re on its list from your former employer or as a beneficiary.

Life Insurance Policy
There isn’t a national database of life insurance policies. The Insurance Information Institute has 12 ways to make finding life insurance documents for a deceased relative easier. They include searching for insurance-related documents, contacting financial advisors, contacting previous employers and contacting state insurance departments, such as through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Life Insurance Company Location System.

Posted in Financial Insight
March 27, 2020

Best Practices for Staying Healthy From the CDC

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Best Practices for Staying Healthy From the CDC

With the spread of COVID-19 in full swing, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has set some guidelines and tips for staying healthy during this pandemic. During this unpredictable outbreak, it is important that we follow these practices, not only to keep yourself healthy, but for the safety and health of others. 

Understand How COVID-19 Spreads

  • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. 
  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus. 
  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person either between close contact of less than six feet or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

Practice Social Distancing

  • All non-essential workers should stay home. Talk to your employer about working remotely. 
  • Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick, keeping a distance of about six feet.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. 

Keep Your Hands Clean

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. 
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. 

Clean and Disinfect 

  • Wipe down frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks, with EPA-registered household disinfectants.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. 

Cover Coughs and Sneezes

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. 
  • Remember to always throw used tissues in the trash. 
  • Immediately after coughing or sneezing, wash your hands with soap and water or clean your hands with a hand sanitizer. 

If You Feel Sick…

  • Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call ahead before you visit. They will advise you of whether or not to leave your home and get tested.
  • For those who feel sick or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, wear a facemask when and if you are around people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing and taxis.
  • If you live with family members or roommates, stay in a specific “sick room” and use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Avoid sharing household items with others, such as dishes, cups, utensils, towels and bedding. 

Understanding how to care for yourself, and others, through this pandemic is extremely important. By following these health practices, you will significantly lessen your chance of getting coronavirus or spreading it to others, especially those with preexisting conditions and the elderly. Refer to the CDC for further information on how to stay healthy. 

Source: CDC

Jan. 30, 2020

The Rise of 'Grandmillennial' Style

The Rise of 'Grandmillennial' Style

Devotees love wicker, chintz and needlepoint—but don't call them stuffy.

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Somewhere in the homogenized ether that is Millennial Instagram, lurking among the Monstera plants and pool floats, the #friyays and #OOTDs, the Kardashian-adjacent hairstylists and ads for detox tea, you may have noticed a markedly different kind of influencer popping up with increasing frequency. Maybe you’ve scrolled past an image she posted of her favorite Sister Parish room. Or you saw a photo of her dining table, expertly set with block-printed napkins and fluffy white hydrangeas. Maybe you’ve even caught a glimpse of her, sitting on a garden bench in Sag Harbor or Charleston, somehow fresh-faced despite the fact that it’s 89 degrees outside and she’s wearing a long-sleeved, floral maxi dress.

Let’s call her a grandmillennial.

Ranging in age from mid-20s to late-30s, grandmillennials have an affinity for design trends considered by mainstream culture to be “stuffy” or “outdated”—Laura Ashley prints, ruffles, embroidered linens. Unlike that of the late-aughts hipster, their taste for the antiquated isn’t ironic; it’s less twee than timeless. And although there’s a good bit of shared DNA with prep culture, the two terms aren’t entirely interchangeable; the grandmillennial is less Lilly Pulitzer, more faded D. Porthault.

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“I think a ‘grandmillennial’ is really a ‘New Traditionalist’—someone who has an appreciation for the past,” explains Manhattan-based interior designer Ariel Okin, 28. “It’s someone who references the work of legendary designers like Billy Baldwin and Nancy Lancaster and Albert Hadley, who realizes the staying power of good, well-edited design while putting their own fresh spin on it to make it feel updated and unique.”

ARE YOU A GRANDMILLENNIAL? TAKE OUR QUIZ TO FIND OUT.

“When you’re scrolling through Instagram, everything starts to look the same—there are so many bright, white-painted rooms,” says Nan Philip, a 25-year-old design publicist who pens the blog Simply Elegant. “What I love about an old-school, layered—some might say cluttered—aesthetic is that it actually lets you show your personality. When someone walks into my apartment, I want them to get a sense of who I am and what I collect and where I’ve traveled, not just that I’m on-trend.”

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Dallas-based designer Amy Berry says she's seeing more and more of her own young clientele returning to old-school design. “After watching everybody do neutral, transitional rooms for so long, we’ve had several younger clients come to us in the past year asking for things like chintz and treillage and bright colors, and I’m thrilled about it,” says Berry, who opened her own shop, Amy Berry Home, last December. “It’s been surprising to see the types of things our twenty- and thirty-something customers are going crazy for—Fermoie pleated lamp shades, botanical prints, framed Gracie wallcovering panels we can’t keep in stock.”

While grandmillennials point to social media as a cause of the design monotony they're seeking to upend, it's also true that those same platforms have played a crucial role in helping the movement grow and flourish. Consider the recent renaissance of needlepointing—one of the granniest of all hobbies—among the IG set.

“Growing up in Florida, I had a lot of friends who needlepointed, but it was hard to find things to needlepoint that weren’t florals or geometrics,” recalls Lycette Designs founder Jessica Chaney, 28. Shortly after graduating college, she started painting her own canvases with cheeky phrases (“I Am Not For Everyone,” “Ducking Autocorrect”) and reinterpretations of classic motifs (Staffordshire dogs and ginger jars), and posting them on Instagram. “Whenever I shared a project on Instagram, I’d get so many other young people reaching out and asking me where to buy my canvases or how to get started with needlepointing,” Chaney says.

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Within a few short months, Lycette Designs had exploded, and last year, Chaney opened a needlepoint shop in Palm Beach. “People love needlepoint because it lets you create something really one-of-a-kind and beautiful, but it’s also therapeutic,” she says. “A lot of customers come in because they want to get off their phones.” And, she laughs, “it’s not just millennials—I have grandmas who are totally addicted to technology and use needlepoint as a way to disconnect!”

“I remember when I first came across the Lycette Designs Instagram and I was like, 'oh my gosh, someone that’s young and cool who needlepoints!'” says Rudy Saunders, 26, a designer in New York who works for legendary decorator Carleton Varney at the equally legendary Dorothy Draper & Company. “I’ve always been happy to do my own thing, but it’s also fun to find and connect with people who have a similar love of eclecticism and antiques and colorful prints. It’s refreshing to know that it’s okay to like classic design.”

But maybe the ultimate appeal of the grandmillennial aesthetic lies in the fact that, for the stressed out twenty- and thirty-somethings of the world, that cozy chintz chair at your grandmother’s house represents a much-needed respite. “It's a look that really evokes ‘home’ for me, that’s not really a trend because it never goes out of style,” says Okin.

“This might sound like I’m wearing rose-colored glasses,” Saunders adds, “but there’s so much negativity in the world today—who doesn’t want to be surrounded by pretty, happy, comfortable things?”


Are you a grandmillennial? Take our quiz to find out.

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Granny chic is all the rage among a certain social media subset—but not everyone can call her- or himself a true grandmillennial. Not sure if you're a (hand-embossed) card-carrying member of the grandmillennial club or just a run-of-the-mill millennial with a thing for florals? Take this quiz!

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If you answered…

Mostly A’s: Sounds like you’re a classic millennial. Go enjoy a glass of frosé.

Mostly B’s: Pour yourself a cup of tea—you’re probably a grandmillennial.

Posted in Home Design
Jan. 23, 2020

The Homebuyer's Mortgage Dictionary

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

The Homebuyer's Mortgage Dictionary

Knowing that you’re ready to buy a home can be an exhilarating feeling, except it’s often followed by panic. While experience is the best teacher, there are some things you can do to regain control of the home-buying experience. One of them is getting accustomed to the terminology, especially when it comes to the various types of mortgages available.

LearnVest offers the following list of mortgage terms any first-time homebuyer should add to their dictionary:

  1. Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM). An adjustable-rate mortgage is a home loan with fluctuating interest rates. ARMs are very much a game of chance, starting off with a period of 3 – 10 years of low fixed rates, followed by an adjustable roller coaster-rate period. In short, your interest rate will reflect whatever is happening in the market. This might be highly anxiety-inducing if you’re not planning to sell by the time the rates adjust higher, but there’s a chance that you will end up paying less if market trends are in your favor.
  2. Fixed-Rate Mortgage. This is the total opposite of the ARM. Instead of offering a fluctuating rate, you sign on for the same rate throughout the course of your mortgage loan. There are no surprises here, but the downside is that you must pay the same fee even if the market rates drop. There is some wiggle room thanks to refinancing, but fees and potential hassles come with it.
  3. Assumable Mortgage. This is a wild card that only becomes possible once in a blue moon. For this kind of mortgage, you take on the seller’s mortgage loan instead of taking out a new one for yourself. This helps when the market rate is higher than what the seller had it fixed at, plus it cuts some fees in the process. Yet, be aware that the seller’s lender must give you the green light, as well. The other curve ball is that the home-selling price might surpass that of the mortgage balance.
  4. Balloon-Payment Mortgage. This mortgage option is like playing a game of “Super Smash Brothers” in which you’re given 5 to 7 years of low monthly payments followed by a sudden death knockout match where you must make a giant final payment. Homebuyers tend to pick this type of loan because they expect to sell their home before the final payment while enjoying low interest rates during their ownership years. Another solution is applying for a new loan, but, of course, who’s to say you’ll get it? And that’s where the sudden death part comes in: the balloon may just explode.
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Jan. 23, 2020

5 Tips for Selling Your Home

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

5 Tips for Selling Your Home

Throwing on a new coat of paint inside and out can be a good start to preparing a home for sale, but there are plenty of other things home sellers can do to get their home ready to go on the market and get the best price possible for it.

Here are five things to do to help sell your house:

1. De-clutter and de-personalize. Buyers want to imagine your home as their home. That’s hard to do when your photos, knicknacks and even kitchen appliances are taking up countertop space or any other flat surface. Put away everything you can, including family photos, vacation souvenirs, religious items, stacks of CDs and as many personal items as possible.

2. Stage it. If your home is empty or your furniture isn’t in excellent condition, then stage your home by hiring a professional. This helps showcase your home in its best possible light.

3. Landscaping: Staging a home’s exterior can also help. This can include planting flowers, and painting or renting outdoor furniture for an open house. Make your back yard look like an inviting place for a Sunday brunch, and you just might attract more buyers.

4. Invite the neighbors over. As most real estate agents will tell you, some of the first visitors at an open house are neighbors looking for design ideas for their own homes. Or maybe they’re just nosy. Either way, it’s worthwhile to hold an early open house for neighbors only and turn it into a party with drinks and appetizers so they can spread the word about what a great deal your house is to house hunters they know. If nothing else, the early event might keep them out of your real estate agent’s hair when real buyers come over.

5. Post a video tour. Use your phone’s video to record a short walk-through of your home and post it on your Facebook page. Show the inside and outside of the home, and tell a few tales of what you love about the house. Your real estate agent can also hire a professional to shoot a video to place on the listing’s website.

There are plenty of other tactics you can employ to sell your home fast. One of the best strategies, however, is to hire a great real estate agent who has a track record of successfully selling homes in your area. They’re likely to have some excellent advice on how to move your home quickly for the best possible price.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist who specializes in personal finance topic

Jan. 22, 2020

Buying a Home? Know your Musts

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Buying a Home? Know your Musts

A fenced-in yard. Double sinks. A wrap-around porch.  An open floor plan. Solar panels. There are just so many things we want our new home to have.

However, when shopping for our dream home, it’s essential to steer the dream a little bit more toward reality. No home will have every single feature you desire, so before you set out on the search, sit down, think hard and narrow down your list of must-haves.

Must-haves are usually rooted in practicality – a classic case of needs vs. wants. Some important musts, therefore, often involve:
  • The number of bedrooms and/or potential to turn a room into an additional bedroom – are you planning on children? Need space for an in-law to move in?
  • The master bedroom – is it big enough for your king bed and does it include a master bath?
  • The number and condition of other bathrooms
  • The yard - how much space and privacy do you need to be happy?
  • The kitchen – do you need a new kitchen with high-tech appliances or are you willing to update down the road?
  • Closet space – is there adequate storage for your current belongings with room to expand?
  • The school district – an obvious factor if you have or are planning to have children, but also important if you don’t as it will affect your home’s resale value
  • Proximity to work – are you willing to commute or is a walkable community a high priority?
  • New construction – are you looking for a maintenance-free environment or the charm of an older home with DIY options?
Of course, your musts are very unique to you and, therefore, may vary from the above. The key factor in determining a must-have from a nice-to-have is whether it is something that can be cost-effectively and efficiently accomplished down the road, such as crown molding or an outdoor kitchen. Musts should be those features that are difficult and costly, if not impossible, to handle on your own, such as a bigger garage or a new roof.

Remember that above all, your “dream” home will be the one that grabs you for some intangible reason or for a combination of unexpected features you never knew you wanted until you saw them. So try to keep your must-list to a minimum and your open mind to a maximum—and most of all, enjoy the process.
Jan. 3, 2020

Earnest Money

Who Keeps The Earnest Money Deposit in a Home Purchase?

When buying a home, many folks have no idea what role earnest money plays in a real estate transaction. The earnest money payment forms part of almost all real estate contracts and agreements. It is a payment that you make to the seller of the property in good faith, proving you can back up your offer with cold hard cash. The idea is to show you are serious about buying the property. The money will be held in an escrow account.

If this is the first time you are purchasing a home, it may seem like you are handing over money and getting nothing in return. That, however, is not the case. Once the earnest payment has been received, the seller will take the property off the market, and the earnest payment will go towards the cost of the home. It forms the financial cement indicating you’re a sincere home buyer.

Does it always work out that way? No, it doesn’t, and since the earnest payment can be rather large, it is a good idea to understand what can go wrong before you hand over the cash.

It is also vital not to confuse a down payment with an earnest money deposit. A house down payment and earnest money are not the same things. The resource at Maximum Real Estate Exposure does an excellent job explaining what earnest money is, how it works, and how it differs from down payment funds.

How Much Should I Put Down?
It is only serious buyers who should put down an earnest money deposit. Let’s be honest; we are talking about a substantial amount of money. An earnest money deposit can be anywhere between 1 – 5% of the purchase price of the home.

So, if you are buying a home for $500,000, the earnest money will range from $5,000 to $25,000 and potentially more. That is a lot of money to put down to ask someone to take a property off the market.

Before you hand it over, you need to make sure that you have a contract covering the payment. That purchase and sale should include all of the obligations of each of the parties. From a buying standpoint, you will want to make sure there are essential contingencies, such as a home inspection and procuring financing.
When making an earnest payment, you’ll want to consult with your real estate agent on what is a traditional amount in the local market.

The Earnest Payment Makes the Purchase Contract Official
Handing over the earnest money effectively seals the deal. Once all of the financial issues have been settled, the property is now yours. That is unless something goes wrong. This is where it is crucial to have a buying agent on your side. He or she will look after you and make sure that everything stays on track.

Your buying agent will explain to you that the earnest money deposit is one of the four components that form part of the sales agreement. Without earnest money, the contract is likely not considered legal in most American states and foreign countries for that matter. One of the many things a buyer’s agent does is protect a buyer’s earnest money deposit by keeping up with contract performance time frames.

The Earnest Money Deposit – When Will It Come Through?
The earnest payment is best described as partial payment for the home you are about to buy. On average, the earnest money is handed over soon after an offer has been accepted. That is generally between 24 – 48 hours.

Some buyers who invest in prominent expensive properties may be asked how they obtained the money to make the deposit. This is to make sure there is no fraud, and that the money has come from legit sources.

Most of the time, buyers are asked to provide bank statements, deposit slips, and proof that the money has been in your account for at least 60 days. In some countries, it is easy to make offshore transactions, but that does not go for the United States. This can make it hard for foreign investors who often rely on financial resources from abroad or offshore.

Once the earnest money deposit is submitted, it is held by a third party, such as a real estate company or lawyer, until the completion of the home has gone through.

Specialist escrow companies have sprung up around the real estate industry, and many buyers and sellers turn to them.

What Happens If the Deal Falls Through?
Should the seller presume the earnest money is theirs the moment it has been submitted? Absolutely not. The seller will never see the money unless there is a default on the buyer’s part. Most of the time, a buyer’s lawyer or buying agent, will make sure there are clauses in the contract that protects the buyer.

There are many things that can still happen. If the home inspection brings up certain red flags, the buyer may just say thanks, but no thanks. The appraisal process might also affect the earnest money deposit. If there is an appraisal contingency that states the home must appraise for the purchase price and it doesn’t, the buyer will not have to proceed.

Financial problems such as the mortgage falling through will also mean the buyer can have his money back. Too many issues discovered in the home inspection are perhaps the most common reason for the earnest money being returned to the buyer. Yes, you can try to negotiate a new deal, but it doesn’t always work out.

The buyer being unable to sell his own home is another reason a sale could fall through. In real estate circles, this is known as a home sale contingency. The seller failing to stick to a moving out schedule is yet another problem that creeps up from time to time.

Does the Seller Ever Keep the Earnest Money?
Yes, the seller has the right to keep the money under certain circumstances. If the buyer decides to cancel the sale without a valid reason or doesn’t stick to an agreed timeline, the seller gets to keep the money. These are the most common ways a buyer will lose their earnest money.

Adhering to an agreed schedule is very important when it comes to buying and selling a home. The real estate business is all about making commitments and following them through. You may be one in the chain of many, and making sure that everything works out for all of you, is a bit like walking a tightrope in a circus. It is not easy, and you should not underestimate the skill of your local real estate agent.

If you are the buyer, it is imperative to have a professional with experience on your side. A buyer’s agent will help you to negotiate the earnest money deposit, make sure the entire home buying process runs smoothly, and ensure that you get the best value for money as far as the total purchase price of the property is concerned.

Final Thoughts on Earnest Money Deposits
So when answering the question “who keeps the earnest money when a home sale falls through?” it boils down to who violated the terms of the contract. If a buyer defaults on one of their commitments or time frames, they will lose their money. If, however, the buyer backs out of the transaction do to one of their contingencies, the seller will not be able to keep the earnest money.
Both buyers and sellers need to know the ins and outs of earnest money.

Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader

Dec. 26, 2019

Is Building a Gazebo a Good Idea?

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Is Building a Gazebo a Good Idea?

Your backyard should be an oasis where you can relax and enjoy a meal and conversation with family and friends. A gazebo can add to the aesthetics of your yard and provide shelter from rain and shade on a hot day. If you’re thinking about building a gazebo, consider these important facts:

Reasons to Build a Gazebo
A gazebo is a stand-alone structure that often has an elaborate style. It can be round or octagonal and has a closed roof and floor to provide protection from the elements. A raised structure keeps the floor of the gazebo off the ground, and the roof is supported with beams or walls. The sides may be open or may have walls or screens to keep out insects. It is even possible to run electricity to a gazebo.

Many homeowners choose to add a gazebo to their yard because of its attractive appearance. A gazebo can lend an air of serenity to a property, inviting people to come in and relax. A large gazebo can be an ideal place for a band to perform at a backyard gathering.

A gazebo can provide privacy and security. If your yard isn’t fenced in, or if it has a fence but it isn’t tall enough to keep people from seeing into your yard, an enclosed gazebo can offer more privacy.

If you decide to sell your home in the future, prospective buyers will consider the design and appearance of your yard. A gazebo is an attractive feature that many homes don’t have, which could make your house stand out against the competition and help you get a better price.

How to Choose a Gazebo
Gazebos can be constructed from wood, vinyl, wrought iron or aluminum. Hardwood is the most commonly used material, but vinyl and aluminum last longer.

If you’re considering buying a gazebo, carefully consider the size of the structure and the amount of available space in your yard. You don’t want to choose a gazebo so large that it overwhelms the yard or doesn’t leave you with enough space for grilling and socializing or for your kids to play.

Gazebos are often sold in do-it-yourself kits. If you decide to buy one of those, ask some family members or friends for help assembling it. If you don’t purchase a DIY kit, you’ll need to hire a carpenter to build your gazebo. The overall cost will depend on the materials used, the size, the amount of labor required if you hire a carpenter, and whether you choose to include electricity.

Consider the Benefits of a Gazebo
A gazebo can be the perfect place to relax and entertain guests. It can enhance the appearance of your yard and increase your home’s resale value. If you’re thinking about buying a gazebo, explore a variety of materials, styles and options.

Dec. 18, 2019

5 Success Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

5 Success Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

Selling a home can be very lucrative, but you need to make sure you don’t make any major mistakes. Many first-time sellers hit roadblocks that end up costing them precious time and money. Here are five simple tips that’ll help you sell your home quickly and at the right price:

Focus on Minor Upgrades
Unless you have endless funds to spend on major renovation projects, you should stick to minor upgrades. A handful of inexpensive updates could potentially increase the value of your property by thousands of dollars. Some easy projects to consider include painting the walls, replacing old faucets and installing new light fixtures. You’ll also need to spend some time cleaning and decluttering your home before any potential homebuyers come inside.

Don’t Neglect Your Home’s Curb Appeal
Some buyers might not even ask to see your home if it looks dingy or outdated from the street. Luckily, improving your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming process. In addition to mowing the lawn, getting rid of weeds and trimming the bushes, you should also pick up any clutter in your front yard and consider planting some fresh flowers. Painting your front door is another simple way to improve the appearance of your home’s exterior and make it more appealing to buyers.

Be Ready to Make Sacrifices
You’ll probably need to make at least a few sacrifices if you want the offers to start coming in. A buyer might ask for small favors like leaving a few of the appliances behind; carefully consider these. Making a few small concessions could result in an immediate bid. You might also have to sacrifice your nights and weekends so that buyers who work during the day can see your home.

Work With a Real Estate Professional
Working with an experienced real estate agent is possibly the best step that you can take to make this process a little bit easier. An agent can help you stage your home and connect you directly to motivated buyers. These professionals almost always work on commission, and that means you won’t have to worry about any unmanageable upfront costs.

Set the Right Price
Before you put your home on the market, you also need to come up with a fair asking price. Overpricing your home could drive away interested parties and make the process much more stressful than it needs to be. Conversely, setting a price too low could mean you miss the opportunity to make more money off the sale. Again, this is where a real estate agent can add value; a professional has the expertise to gauge market conditions and other factors to come up with the best asking price for your property.

By following these five tips, you’ll be in a much better position to sell your home.

Source: Hannah Whittenly/RISMedia’s Housecall

Dec. 18, 2019

Mortgages Are Going to the Dogs

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Mortgages Are Going to the Dogs

A third of millennial-aged Americans (ages 18 to 36) who purchased their first home say the desire to have a better space or yard for a dog influenced their decision, according to a recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage, a division of SunTrust Banks, Inc. Dogs ranked among the top three motivators for first-time home purchasers and were cited by more millennials as reasons for buying a home than marriage/upcoming marriage (25 percent) or the birth/expected birth of a child (19 percent).

Only the desire for more living space (66 percent), and the opportunity to build equity (36 percent), were identified by more millennials as reasons they purchased their first home.

According to Dorinda Smith, SunTrust Mortgage president and CEO, renting can be expensive and stressful for dog owners, making homeownership a better living situation.

Among millennials who have never purchased a home, 42 percent say that their dog – or the desire to have one – is a key factor in their desire to buy a home in the future, suggesting dogs will also influence purchase decisions of potential first-time homebuyers.

SunTrust offers the following tips when considering a first-time home purchase:

Understand your initial expenses. The down payment and closing costs can really add up, but don't forget to budget for moving expenses. These include everything from truck rental to setting up water, power, cable, internet and more.

Organize your finances. While there are different types of loans for different needs, your finances will be thoroughly evaluated during the credit application. Make sure they are organized so you can better retrieve them throughout the application process.

Get pre-qualified. Lenders can use your income and credit history to give you an estimate of the home loan amount for which you qualify. The pre-qualification amount can be a helpful guideline when you are considering which properties to purchase.

Create a realistic timeline. Even with a pre-qualification, loans can take weeks to be finalized. Work with a loan officer to decide the best type of loan for your situation and make sure your loan will be ready in advance of your closing.

For more information about preparing to buy a home, please contact me.

Source: SunTrust Banks, Inc.