West Valley Real Estate and Community News

June 2, 2021

Smart Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Property

Daydreaming about owning your own home is one of the most intoxicating practices known to modern man, especially now that HGTV and all the house flipping shows make it look like a cakewalk. First-time home buyers will need to think carefully and weigh all their options. After considering all of these factors, you’ll be well-prepared to choose a house that feels like home today and for years to come.

Price

First and foremost, you need a home that you can afford. There’s no sense in deciding that you must have four bedrooms when the most you could afford in your market is two.

You don’t need to go through the entire pre-approval process for a mortgage. First, consider what type of home you want. Research what the housing market looks like, and then think about the down payment size and your budget.

There are mortgage calculators and other tools online, but it’s always helpful to talk to a mortgage officer or a real estate agent, so you can get an idea of what you might spend on your new home.

Beds, baths, and size

You know what size your household is and whether it’s likely to grow in the future. You also know how much space you’re likely to need based on your own current household’s configuration. If you work from home, then your desire for a little more space (and a room for a home office) might be non-negotiable, whereas if you’re used to commuting to an office every day, you may not need a home office at all.

So get a handle on the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need in any home you buy. If you can, try to develop some parameters for square footage, too. And you may want to think about your overall lot size if, for example, you’re an avid gardener or you have large dogs who’ll need some space to romp in the yard.

Special features

Once you understand your basic requirements for a home, you can start thinking about additional features that you’d like it to have. Perhaps you want a garage to store your tools, a fenced-in yard for your pets, or a deck where you can lay out and soak up some sun on weekends.

You should also think about the ideal heating and cooling setup in any home you buy, and it’s also wise to consider the school district (because even if you don’t have kids, it’s wise to keep in mind any buyers who could purchase your home from you in the future -- they might have kids).

Some of these special features might be “nice-to-haves,” and you might decide that some are absolute necessities. Spend some time talking to a general contractor or a real estate agent before you make any final decisions.

Location matters -- a lot

Savvy first-time buyers will want to think beyond a school district when choosing a home. How close is your home to major highways in the area (and is that a good thing or a bad thing)? How close are you to work, and are there other job opportunities or thriving industries nearby? What’s the shopping like in your area? Are there parks or recreation centers, and where are the best grocery stores?

You’re buying a neighborhood just as much as you’re buying a home, and unlike your home, there isn’t usually a lot you can do to change the community. Make sure you’re fully aware of what the area is like, both positive and negative, and understand how that will affect your life while you’re in the home and any buyers who may come after you.

Focus on what you can’t change

It’s really easy to fall in love with one part of a home and allow it to cloud the vision of your future. Maybe that kitchen is perfect for re-imagining yourself in a scene from Julia and Julia, but if there aren’t enough bedrooms or bathrooms in the home, then you’ll regret the purchase soon after you move in.


Focus on the aspects of the home that are unchangeable, like the lot size or the property’s location. If you’re touring a potential home with an agent, give your agent your list of must-haves and ask your agent if the house could fit that list with a little bit of work.

A real estate professional can help you figure out if a house that you think is just OK today might be your dream home in disguise. You can change carpeting for hardwood floors and redo a kitchen over time.

Is that a “bargain”?

If you’re faced with a choice between a home that seems like a bargain but requires some fixing-up and a home that’s more expensive but requires little or no work, which should you choose?

In general, you probably want to opt for paying more out-of-pocket for a home that’s still standing solidly. There might be a good reason why that home is listed at a “bargain” price -- it might be too expensive and time-consuming for anyone to fix.

Agents have seen homes of all ages and many different situations. They can let you know what issues typically arise in homes and whether the place you’re considering might be at risk for exhibiting one or more of those issues.

When you know how to choose the perfect property, you’re in an excellent place to start your home search -- even if you’ve never bought a home before. Once you’ve got your shortlist of what you’re seeking, talk to a real estate professional so you can take the next step toward your homeownership dream.

Posted in Buying a Home
May 5, 2021

9 Tips for Buying a Home with Good Resale Value

You are looking for a home that's likely to sell quickly when you someday put it on the market? Think carefully.

"The time to think about selling your home is the day you buy a home," advises Elizabeth Weintraub on Thebalance.com. While some factors affecting your home's future value are beyond your control, others are predictable. Consider the following suggestions: 

  • Find an in-demand location. Ask your Realtor about neighborhoods slated to retain their appeal.
  • Don't buy too big. Younger buyers want reasonably sized homes, and older buyers are downsizing. "The middle point between fantasy and reality is 1,500 to 2,000 square feet," advises Yuqing Pan on Realtor.com.
  • Seek more than two bedrooms and more than one bathroom. Those parameters define the difference between a family home and one built for a single occupant.
  • Buy a single-level home. With the aging of America comes a greater need for easy-to-access space.
  • Look for a gathering space. That could be a family room or basement, but it should be comfortable, informal, and somewhat spacious.
  • Prioritize storage space. Rooms with small, dated closets appeal less to buyers than those with walk-ins. Also favorable: two- or three-spot garages.
  • Seek an open floor plan. Most homeowners prefer light, open spaces to separate rooms.
  • Go for modern amenities. At a minimum, your home should have central air and heat and modern-day kitchen appliances and bath fixtures.
  • Choose a traditional design. It's likely to appeal to a broader range of buyers.
Posted in Selling Your Home
April 7, 2021

The Difference Between Home Warranty & Home Insurance

When purchasing a new home, it’s essential to do in-depth research on all the homebuying facets. You’d need to understand how to protect yourself and your investment if anything were to go wrong. Check out the information on home insurance versus home warranty below to educate yourself on your options.

HOME INSURANCE

Homeowners insurance pays for accidental damages and loss caused by fire, lightning strikes, windstorms, and hail. However, damage from earthquakes and floods is typically not covered. It also covers the replacement of personal property from theft or damage and liability if a person gets injured in your home or on your property. According to American Home Shield, the average annual cost of a homeowner’s insurance policy ranges between $300 and $1,000. The bank usually asks you to obtain a policy before the mortgage is issued. Make sure to keep in mind that each type of coverage in the policy is subject to a limit, and in most cases, you will have to pay a deductible.

HOME WARRANTY

A home warranty is designed to cover the cost of repairs and replacements of larger appliances and essential systems in your home that may fail or break due to age and wear and tear. The home warranty may include the HVAC, electrical, or plumbing components, kitchen appliances, and your washer and dryer. You must pay premiums year-round with a home warranty, even if you do not use it. Some home warranty policies won’t cover damages to appliances that were not appropriately maintained or damaged from a fire or other disaster.

Posted in Buying a Home
March 3, 2021

Steps to take for spring house shopping

If you’re planning a search for a new home this spring, now is a good time for some prep work. Taking care of these items now will let you hit the ground running once the weather warms. 

Avoid big financial moves

Switching jobs, buying new cars, or applying for new credit cards could negatively affect your credit score and, thus, the terms of your mortgage. 

Review your budget

Be clear on the down payment you can supply (most lenders require a minimum of 20%) and the monthly mortgage payments you can handle. This free calculator can help. 

Check your credit

Request free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Good credit history can get you better terms on your mortgage, and the information can offer valuable tips on improving your credit score. 

Shop for lenders

Look online and offline for favorable interest rates. Getting pre-approved for a loan lets you know the maximum amount you can spend, and it may give you an edge over other buyers in the event of a bidding war. 

Define your preferences

Narrow down your ideal neighborhoods and the style and size of the house you prefer, listing both must-haves and favorites. 

Attend seminars

Realtors and others may hold workshops with tips on home buying. 

Interview real estate agents 

Look for a professional who communicates effectively, engenders trust, takes time to listen to you, and is familiar with your chosen territory.

Posted in Buying a Home
Feb. 3, 2021

Guidelines: Buying or selling a home while 'socially distanced'

COVID-19 keeps sellers and buyers (and everyone else) in isolation, but it isn’t keeping them from showcasing their homes or shopping for them online. Today’s advanced video capabilities make many steps in home buying and selling virtually convenient. Furthermore, residential real estate is considered an “essential service” in many states, and exceptions for specific functions performed in-person. Consider these tips for moving forward as a buyer or seller.

Sellers

  • Buyers can get a comprehensive view of your home via clear, easy-to-access online photos or videos.
  • Follow guidelines from your local government and the National Association of Realtors about in-person showings and open houses. You may need to limit attendees and require shoe removal, hand washing or sanitizing, and the wearing of masks. Or you can ask your agent to host a virtual open house.
  • Stay responsive to questions from buyers who can’t evaluate your entire home in person.

Buyers

  • Gather information from Realtors and create saved property searches with alerts to help narrow down your home search.
  • Limit in-person viewings to your final candidates.
  • Confirm your mortgage pre-approval if your finances have changed.
Jan. 6, 2021

7 tips: How to find your best mortgage lender

Because most people shop for a mortgage lender so infrequently, many are unsure what to look for when the time comes. Consider these tips for finding the best possible lender for your needs. 

  • Ask for referrals from people you know, financial advisors, or your real estate agent, staying aware of potential conflicts of interest.
  • Do everything possible to correct errors or other issues that may be dragging down your credit score.
  • Look to local and national lenders for optimal interest rates. NerdWallet offers daily comparisons of rates from major companies.
  • Read the fine print; many contracts charge extra fees beyond regular principal and interest payments.
  • Check out online reviews on Google, Yelp, Zillow, and Facebook.
  • Consider filling out a few mortgage applications for comparison. Variables may include fixed or adjustable interest rates, amortization, mortgage insurance, balloon payments, and interest-only ARMs.
  • Watch closely for exceptional service or lack thereof. Must you jump through hoops just for essential quotes? Are your phone calls returned? How quickly can the firm process your loan?
Posted in Buying a Home
Dec. 2, 2020

4 Tips For Hiring a Dependable Moving Company

If you're buying, selling, or renting a home, chances are you may need to hire a moving company. Since many people conduct major moves only once or twice in their lifetimes, you may have no idea where to start.

Below are some tips for finding a great moving company to ease the process and avoid any potential conflicts. 

  • Ask for references from friends, family, and social media contacts. You can also find lists from industry groups, including the American Moving and Storage Association.
  • Seek professional references. Contact two or three customers who have worked with the companies in the past three months, asking probing questions about the quality of services, reliability, prices, etc.
  • Check for past issues. Be aware some moving companies dodge the Better Business Bureau by working under aliases, so check for DBAs (other names under which they've conducted business). The firm you choose should have a local address, insurance, and state and federal licensing. Conduct an online search for complaints and call the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hotline at 888.368.7238.
  • Pay afterward. Use a credit card, and don't pay until the contracted work is fulfilled.
Nov. 4, 2020

Make Your Home Cozy for Winter Showings

If you're trying to capture those elusive winter home shoppers, you'll want to do everything possible to make your place warm, cozy, and alluring during showings. Below are several options for creating warm atmospheres.

  • Add rugs to cold floors. Invest in new rugs to lay down just before guests arrive so they remain clean and fresh.
  • Create seating areas. Consider rearranging furniture to suggest a cozy conversation.
  • Try aromatherapy. Use diffusers, plug-in air fresheners, candles, or the tried-and-true baked goods in the oven to infuse your home with a comfy scent like apple pie, cinnamon, spice, or vanilla.
  • Create a fire. The effect will be charming, whether your fireplace is wood-burning or gas-lit.
  • Use soft lighting. Warm-light LED lights can go a long way toward making a space seem homier.
  • Decorate with pillows and throws. Place these on couches and chairs to give the impression of relaxation and warmth.
  • Cultivate plants. Greenery brightens spaces by suggesting life, sun, and the outdoors.
  • Choose drapes in a luxe fabric. Sheer, filmy curtains can make a room seem colder.
  • Introduce pops of color. If the lower light of winter makes your color scheme drab, brighten it with décor accents.
  • Invest in luxe bedding. Make your bedroom more appealing with heavy, quality fabrics like cotton flannel, velvet flannel, or heavyweight Egyptian.
Oct. 7, 2020

10 Recent Trends in Home Office Spaces

If you're able to work from home at least sometimes, you're part of a growing trend. Studies show the number of Americans able to work at home (but not self-employed) has grown 173% since 2005, with 4.7 million now spending at least half their working hours at home.

As people spend more time in home offices, different décor trends evolve.

What to expect?

  • Cool-toned or white-on-white color palettes aimed at helping the worker concentrate
  • A neutral palette that features wood accents or a focal point in the home office area
  • Province-style décor offers an aged look through plaster, bricks, distressed wood flooring, or rustic-looking décor items.
  • Floating desks and shelves that attach to walls for added spaciousness
  • Plenty of windows, preferably displaying views of nature
  • Strategic use of vertical space via built-in shelving and storage
  • Decorative use of personal items that generate good vibes and productivity
  • Ergonomic, smart chairs that support your entire body as you work
  • Clever storage that conceals gadgetry, wires, and plugs between uses
  • Comfortable but professional seating areas for clients
Posted in Trends
Sept. 2, 2020

5 Home Seller Strategies for Staging Your Home Perfectly

There’s a reason why people love looking at photos of homes for sale — we rarely get to see a place look it’s very best, and scrolling through gorgeous room after room helps serious buyers see themselves settling down in those very rooms.

But as any seller (or photographer) can attest, getting a home ready for its close-up (also known as “staging”) is not easy and is not always fun. It involves a ton of cleaning, some furniture removal (or placement), a plethora of attention to detail, and usually a lot of light. This is why professional stagers charge hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars for their services.

If hiring a stager isn’t in your budget, or you’re more of a do-it-yourself type, consider taking advantage of these relatively quick and easy methods for helping your soon-to-be-sold home appear shiny and new.

1. Clean, clean, clean, clean, clean

Even if you follow every other tip on the list to an exacting standard, if your home isn’t clean, you won’t be reaping all of the benefits that staging could generate for you. There are two significant steps to cleaning for staging:

  • Decluttering your home
  • Deep cleaning everything

First is the clutter. This might be an excellent time to join the neighborhood garage sale. It always makes sense to start with things you don’t want to pack up and move to a new location.

Don’t forget about the furniture — too much furniture in a room makes it look cramped and small, so remove what you don’t need.

Resist the temptation to box everything up and stash it in one room, the garage, a basement, or an attic — unless it’s not your room. Buyers will want to open doors, cabinets, and drawers and peer into closets and utility rooms, so if you want your home to look its best, you need to keep those areas neat, too.

Some sellers rent storage facilities during the process, which is always a possibility. If you have family or good friends in the area who can take some of the more oversized items for you, then you might be able to get a smaller storage unit. (Make sure to pay your loved ones back with a gift or thoughtful gesture when the home is sold!)

When the surfaces are transparent and your surroundings feel more vacation-home than lived-in, it’s time to deep clean those surfaces. Scrub the inside from ceiling to floors; wash your windows; consider power-washing the outside to brighten it up. Plant new flowers, keep your sidewalks and walkways clear and weed-free, and set some inviting chairs with fluffy cushions on your (freshly polished, cobweb-free) front porch.

Once the decluttering is done, it’ll be much easier to get everything looking shiny and new — and easier to hire help, too — so make sure to tackle this step first.

2. Light up

If you haven’t changed a light bulb in a while, then you might be surprised by how much brighter they’ve gotten — or what a difference a bright bulb can make in a room that you thought was naturally dreary and dim. Changing out your bulbs can be a quick way to give your entire home an instantaneous lift, brightening up every room and helping potential buyers see exactly how well-maintained those original wood floors are, and examine the crown molding close up.

Experts suggest that you obtain 100 watts of lighting for every 50 square feet in your home and consider using three different types of lighting (not just overhead lighting) to get there. Overhead or ambient lighting is important, of course, but accent lighting (on walls and tables) and task lighting (reading or under-cabinet lights) will help showcase your space in all its glory.

3. Rearrange with an eye for balance

Most of us don’t live in perfectly symmetrical surroundings, but if there’s a way to achieve it with your furniture, then it’s worth it to try — at least for the photos. Try to balance any shelves, counters, and mantelpieces in the same way, with an eye for highlighting the accessories that will help make your home look like a retreat from a messy world.

You can do the same thing with area rugs and artwork. Arrange your floor and wall coverings to draw the eye down the halls and through the house, which will give touring buyers a pleasant sense of welcome and discovery.

4. Organize and energize

There will always be parts of your house that are made to hold “stuff,” — but you can make that stuff look presentable with a little bit of organization.

Some decluttering and color-blocking on your bookshelves can make the display draw the eye instead of distracting from the rest of the room, for example. Kids’ and pets’ toys are another opportunity to organize and beautify with a decorative box or basket or a fun shelving unit that holds everything with style.
Straighten your shoes on the closet floors and neaten up the hanging areas, then open up the doors when you leave for a buyer’s tour. They’ll enjoy the welcoming feeling of the open doors (and you know they were going to open them up, anyway).

5. Polish up the appliances

If you can afford it, new appliances in the kitchen can go a long (long!) way toward helping a buyer fall in love with the heart of the house. New appliances tend to help generate high returns for sellers, so depending on the condition and upgrades in the rest of your home, you might want to consider it — you might be able to find some good deals on floor models or end-of-season sales, too.

If not, help your appliances look their best by using stainless steel polish, glass polish, or whatever else you might need to help regenerate the shine on your stove.

You don’t need to take all these tips when staging your home — but don’t ignore them all when you’re selling, either. Taking the time to pay a little bit of attention to staging before a buyer even sees the place can reap big rewards at the closing table.

Posted in Selling Your Home