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June Is National Homeownership Month. Here’s An Interesting Take On It

This piece is a self-explanator­y stand-alone piece. But I feel like I should mention this… Read it all the way through. At first it might sound negative. It isn’t. Trust me, there’s a lot of copywritin­g skills in this one. This one is meant to get into the minds of people who are not convinced buying a home is worthwhile­. Anyone else posting about June being Homeowners­hip Month is NOT going this route. This will set you apart.

 

Are you aware that June is National Homeownership month?

Probably not. Because you’re too busy working to afford the home you live in, whether you rent it or own it.

Why should you care?

If you poke around and read anything you can find about it, you’re being urged to recognize and celebrate the benefits of homeownership.

That seems kind of a weird thing to ask you to do. Do you really have the time or care? What’re you supposed to do, throw a party? Sit alone and contemplate it? Invite some friends out for coffee and chat about it?

You’ve got to figure that the people who actively promote it probably have their reasons and motives for pushing it. (You know, like real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and the government.)

It makes you wonder…

Why do they push it, other than to make money?

Is it really the “American Dream”? Or is it just a packaged ploy?

Is it all it’s cracked up to be? What about all the people who were recently hurt by the housing market and getting in over their heads?

What about the economy and jobs? What about making enough money to even afford a house?

And, what about all the headaches and worries that come with homeownership?

Are you being sold on something unachievable, or not even all that desirable?

Maybe you shouldn’t own a home

OK, first off…

Homeownership is not for everyone.

There always seems to be this push to increase the percentage of homeowners. It gets wrapped in reasons why it’s good for you, your community, the country as a whole…maybe even the whole universe.

Pushing to increase the percentage of homeownership for the sake of statistics and percentages is wrong.

Lots of people shouldn’t own a home. Maybe some people shouldn’t even be allowed to own a home even if they qualify financially. That’s what leads to problems, because it’s a responsibility not everyone can handle.

Besides, if everyone owned property it wouldn’t be as special. As coveted. As much of a dream.

So, if you do question whether homeownership is “worth it”, maybe it isn’t the worst thing. Maybe you shouldn’t own a home.

It’s easy enough to let the people who really want to own property, and believe in the value of it, own all of the real estate.

Just don’t buy any…

Let them enjoy the “pride”

One of the catch phrases you’ve probably heard is, “There’s pride in homeownership.”

That’s kind of the cover-all reason given as to why more and more people should own their own homes.

You can’t entirely diminish the fact that there is pride and value in owning real estate. There is.

Nor can you entirely diminish the actual benefits of ownership, like building wealth, tax incentives, and not throwing money out the window and building someone else’s wealth.

But there’s certainly an inability for some people to buy real estate. Some people will never achieve homeownership.

And there’s certainly risk and worry involved. Not everyone can handle that.

It’s certainly understandable that lots of people shy away from buying real estate so soon after the real estate bubble burst, and the slow recovery. Some people are still recovering financially. Some people watched their parents struggle and worry, only to lose their home.

But for those who can and do own real estate, there is pride. And there’s appreciation.

Because while not everyone should own real estate…at least now everyone can.

You get to choose, not be chosen to own land

It used to be only a select few who could own land.

Now almost everyone has the right to own property…if they want to and have the ability.

This isn’t the feudal system where there are only a handful of Lords who’ve been granted a piece of land to look after by a King. (Side note: Do you think any Lords ever questioned the value of owning land?)

You can choose to be the lord of some land. You just have to want to, and be financially qualified to.

While you don’t have to be “chosen”…nobody’s giving it to you either.

So, if you can financially afford to, there should be some pride and appreciation in owning a little (or large) piece of this planet, with a “castle” to call your own.

So, when you do decide to buy some real estate, you should enjoy the pride, appreciation, and respect for the right and privilege to do so. You are essentially choosing to be your own land Lord.

There are places in this world you still can’t. So, imagine that. Imagine not having the choice.

Is it worth you recognizing and celebrating?

With all that in mind, is National Homeownership Month more meaningful to you?

Does it put homeownership in an objective light? Is it appealing to you? Does it make you want to own real estate? Does it make you want to own more real estate if you already own some?

Don’t get swept up in the hype of homeownership month, or anyone just trying to persuade you of the benefits of homeownership, no matter what month it is.

The best way to figure out if you should be a homeowner is to speak with a serious, objective real estate agent. One who takes counseling clients more seriously than pushing the pride of homeownership, just so they can make a sale.

Give me a ring if you’re looking for some good, objective counsel. I’d love to be part of that round table.

Jane Loeber

Broker/Owner

Moberly, MO

660-651-9106

We laugh. We work hard. We make families happy. We sell homes!
Office phone number: 660-263-3393 Advantage Real Estate Moberly, MO

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5 Adjectives You Should Look For In Your Real Estate Agent

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Who you choose to represent you when you buy or sell your home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make during your move. Your real estate agent can make the process easy, quick, and painless – or long, expensive, and painful.

Here are 5 adjectives you should for in your real estate agent if you want to get the most out of your sale or purchase:

1. Tenacious

Real estate is a tough world. There are seemingly endless challenges to navigate: the house you love was snatched up by someone else, someone put a bid in on your home and then pulled out at the last minute, there’s issues with the neighbors or zoning or construction. That’s why you need a real estate agent who is tenacious, never gives up, and doesn’t stop until you have successfully bought or sold your home.

If you work with a real estate agent who gives up when things don’t go as planned, you’re never going to buy or sell your home. The best real estate agents are the ones who not only have plan B, but plan C, D, and E ready and waiting. When things fall through, they don’t let it get them down. They keep pushing and coming up with creative solutions to close your real estate transaction – no matter what.

2. Honest

Honesty is always the best policy, but it’s especially important when it comes to real estate. You need to be able to trust your agent: to negotiate the best deals, to tell you the truth about your properties, to give you the right advice when it comes to buying or selling. If you work with an agent who bends the truth, withholds information, or – worst case scenario – flat out lies, you’re going to end up losing time, money, and patience throughout the process.

3. Savvy

There’s a lot to know in the world of real estate, and as a buyer or seller, you probably aren’t aware of about 95% of it. Your real estate agent should be savvy, smart, and able to help you navigate everything you don’t know about real estate.

Look for an agent that can walk you through the entire process from A to Z. You want someone who is an expert in your area, who specializes in your type of transaction (buying or selling), and who can break down complex real estate jargon into easy-to-understand terms so you know exactly what’s happening at every stage of your purchase or sale.

4. Persuasive

Every great real estate agent has the heart of a salesperson – and the persuasive skills to match. There are tons of instances in which you’ll need your real estate agent to turn on their persuasive charm. Real estate agents have to use persuasion to negotiate the best offers, to convince sellers to accept your bid, to convince potential owners that your home is the right buy for them. If your real estate agent doesn’t have any sales skills, the buying or selling process is going to be long, drawn out, and never get to the close.

Look for a real estate agent that could sell ice to an eskimo; if they can do that, they can buy or sell your house.

5. Thorough

Buying and selling property is an involved business: there are papers to sign, inspections to schedule, documents to process. You want to work with a thorough, detail-oriented real estate agent who will ensure that every i is dotted and t is crossed.

In addition to managing the transactional portion of your real estate venture, you want a real estate agent who’s so thorough they ensure that YOU don’t forget anything on your end. A thorough real estate agent will come armed with a checklist of not only what they need to do to process the purchase or sale, but what you need to do on your end in order to tie up any loose ends.

It’s easy to spot a thorough real estate agent. Do they send you calendar reminders for home showings? Is their day planner meticulously organized? Do they jokingly refer to themselves as “type A?” If so, you’ve got a winner.

The right real estate agent is essential in making the process of buying or selling a home quick, easy, and a financial win. And when you lock in a real estate agent with all of these adjectives, you’re well on your way to real estate success.

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4 Staging Secrets To Get Your House SOLD

One of the quickest, easiest, and most cost effective ways to update your space and make it more appealing to potential buyers is with a coat of paint. Painting a room can completely change the feel and make the space feel more open and inviting.

If you haven’t painted your home in a while, you’ll definitely want to repaint before you start showing your home to potential buyers. You’ll also want to repaint if you have a number of colors on the walls of your home; the purpose of staging is to showcase your home in a way that allows potential buyers to picture themselves purchasing the home and living there. If they don’t agree with your color choices, it can create a roadblock to them being able to see themselves in the home.

When you paint, choose neutral colors, like an off-white or beige. These colors are universally appealing and will also make your rooms appear more open and spacious.

2. You only get to make a first impression once.

One of the biggest secrets of effectively staging your home is that you only get to make a first impression once. Your potential buyer is only going to see your home for the first time once, and during that initial viewing, they’re going to make snap judgements on whether or not your home is right for them. You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot and lose them before they’ve even had a chance to see the entire house.

When it comes to making a first impression, curb appeal is critical. If your potential buyer drives up to your home and is immediately turned off by an unkempt lawn, a cracked driveway, or peeling paint, it’s going to be hard for them to overcome that initial impression, even if they love the rest of the home.

Before you start showing your home, make sure you do some work on the exterior so that the first impression is a good one. Have your lawn manicured, fix any issues with the driveway, refresh the exterior paint, and add plants and flowers on the path leading up to your front door in order to make your property seem more inviting.

3. The less stuff, the better.

The last thing that potential buyers want to see when they’re viewing a home is a ton of clutter and personal items. Again, the point of staging is to create an environment in your home where potential buyers can picture themselves living there. But if you have your children’s sporting gear spilling out of the closets, your family portraits lining every available surface, and an entire room you’re using for storage, it’s going to be hard for your potential buyers to separate your stuff from the space.

When you’re showing your home, remove as many personal effects as possible. It’s ok to have a photo or two, but try to make the space feel as neutral as possible. You’ll also want to declutter; clean out closets, cabinets, and the garage to make everything feel more spacious.

You’ll also want to get rid of any unnecessary furniture or decor that makes your space feel cluttered. When you’re staging, taking a minimalist approach to furniture and decor will have the most positive impact on potential buyers.

4. Clean until it sparkles.

 

 

This should go without saying, but before you stage your home, you need to make sure every inch of your home is thoroughly and properly cleaned. This is not a time to cut corners; if a potential buyer comes into your home and sees dust bunnies under the bed or a ring of grime around your bathtub, it’s going to be a major turnoff and could potentially cost you the sale.

Spend an entire day cleaning your house from top to bottom. Or, if cleaning isn’t your expertise, hire an expert from your local cleaning business or a site like Handy.

With these 4 staging secrets, your house will be staged and ready to sell in no time.

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First Quarter Statistics

First Quarter statistics are out from the Randolph County Multiple Listing Service!  Sales remain steady during the first quarter with 54 sales this time last year.  The sales volume has improved, with $5.06 million in 2016.  The average residential sales price in 2016 was $98,754, which shows strong sales prices.  The median sales price in 2016 was $85,800.    Thank you to everyone who played a part in this.  Just love to see a “seller’s market” in the Randolph County area!Statistics Quarterly

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Why You Shouldn’t Let A Website Tell You Your Home’s Value

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture this…

There’s an inexperienced real estate agent in your town.

He hasn’t sold any homes yet.

He wants to drum up some business.

So, he climbs up onto your roof and paints what he estimates to be the value of your home.

He feels like this could be a win-win:

YOU get to know the value of your house, so he was helpful to you, without even having to meet with him…

… and HE gets to show you how that he knows his stuff. Hopefully you’ll turn to him for help once you want to sell your home.

But you’re kind of ticked off, aren’t you?

First off, this guy painted on your roof. That’s just vandalism.

Beyond that, he wasn’t even close to accurate! The value he painted up there is tens of thousands of dollars off.

He didn’t even see inside your home

You notice he did the same thing to all the other houses in the area.

He seems off on the value of all of them.

It’s still kind of intriguing, though, because you’re like, “Hmm, I always felt like Bill’s place was worth less than mine. Looks like I was right. But there’s no way Gary’s house is worth more than mine, that agent is craaaazy. Unless maybe Gary did some major remodeling inside…”

But how would the agent know? He never even went inside your neighbor’s house. Or your house. Or anyone else’s house.

He just eyeballed everyone’s house from outside, and took a quick peek at some data available to the public. Then slapped his estimate up on your roof for everyone to see.

His estimates are all over the place. Some high. Some low. Once in a while he seems to be somewhat in the ballpark.

His “value” affects your actual value

Beside the fact that this guy vandalized your roof, now you have people sizing up the value of your home based upon a number he came up with, without even seeing inside your home.

It was careless and thoughtless.

He lacked respect for your privacy, your equity, and ultimately your wealth. The value of your home can now be viewed by anyone, for whatever reason they feel.

It would be even worse if you were in the middle of trying to sell your home, and now you have buyers pulling up, seeing your painted roof, and considering his estimate when (and if) they make an offer.

Can you imagine if a real estate agent actually did this?!

You’d probably want to report him to the police, his real estate broker, the real estate commission… and all of your friends, family and neighbors.

You’d want everyone to know not to trust this guy, or give him any business.

Online valuation sites are basically doing this to you

You’ve probably seen or heard about websites where you can look up the value of your house (or anyone else’s house) for free.

It seems great because there’s no need to even talk to a real estate agent. Just pop in the address, and voila, you get to see the value of the home.

You might figure that it’s super accurate, since they use fancy algorithms and stuff.

However, these online real estate valuation sites are all basically painting a number on your roof, without ever having gone inside, and without ever having sold a house. And they’re definitely not experts in your local market.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it.

They’re using public data to come up with their estimates. They didn’t steal anything. They didn’t actually paint on your roof (they just hover a value over it digitally).

They post disclaimers about their accuracy (or lack thereof), at least if you really, really look for them.

Plus, who would you even report them to anyway?!

Start valuing real estate agents’ values

The thing is, these sites exist because people tend to like them, and look at them. They wouldn’t exist if people didn’t continue to click on them. But people do.

They certainly are convenient, and entertaining, even if they are not accurate.

Many people just don’t want to deal with real estate agents, until and unless they have to. But that’s actually what you should be doing if you want an accurate value of your home.

Great real estate agents take a lot of time and pride in estimating the value of a home. This is not something you can do remotely by simply reviewing public data and algorithms.

In order to be accurate, even a local real estate agent needs to see inside of your home.

So, instead of encouraging these online valuation sites to exist, by visiting their sites and clicking around…

…click on a local real estate agent’s site, and invite him or her in to take a look at your house, and come up with an accurate value.

Don’t rely on an online valuation.

And, whenever possible, spread the word about the inaccuracy of these online valuations because they can affect the perceived value of your home… and beyond. And they will exist as long as people continue to pay them any attention.

Pay attention to real estate agents instead.

How to get your House Ready to Sell

How to get your House Ready to Sell

Selling your house is super stressful and can be very difficult. There are so many things that need to get done! Painting, prepping, patching, perfecting… and that’s just before you list it. Then you have to get it spotless and take photographs for the listing. Who should you list it with, is there really a difference in agencies? What should you look for in a realtor? Having been in this business over 25 years, I have a few things I’d like to share with you…

 

Curb Appeal: You only get one chance to make a good first impression. So don’t neglect your yard and the exterior of your home. A good rule of thumb is to visit some newer neighborhood homes in your area. What is on the porch? What does the landscaping look like? If you find elements you like, feel free to copy them.   Add pretty, personalized touches that go above and beyond that a buyer is going to appreciate. For instance, a front porch could have an American flag and maybe some potted flowering plants.

 

 

Warm Welcome: My broker/mentor once told me that the first room in your house should make everyone who walks in want to see the rest of it. Make a statement in your entry. Your entry should give clues as to what to expect throughout the rest of your house. Make sure the paint is fresh. I would recommend going through and touching up the floor boards and trim, as well as the banister. No detail is too small!  Clean sells!

 

 

Declutter: Make sure your rooms appear open, fresh, and clutter free. I am all about accessories and decor, but not too much. I have also heard that you should remove family photographs. However, sometimes the photographs are so much a part of the decor and if they are used pretty minimally, you may decide to keep some of them displayed.  We want a buyer looking at the room and asking him or herself if their furniture will fit there…not “who are these people in the photographs?”

 

 

Add Appealing Elements: So you just got rid of your clutter, now it’s time to bring back a few elements that will look clean and appealing to potential buyers and while adding a “homey” feel. Think vases filled with fresh flowers, pretty soaps by the kitchen sink, a couple antique candle sticks. You get the picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hire a Photographer: I’m a Realtor.  I take photographs of homes a lot. But when it comes  to listing my own house,  I’d hire a professional real estate photographer. I have a great camera but I just can’t  capture the whole room. The professional photographer is worth every penny.  Photos really help sell a house.  Good ones, that is.  They can capture the essence of a room…

 

 

List It Baby: Let the beauty of the Multiple Listing Service work for you!  There’s so many steps a Realtor is trained to help you with, over 170 steps last time I counted…Advantage Real Estate is the ONLY agency in the Moberly market that belongs to TWO Multiple Listing Services.  This exposure to Randolph County real estate licensees as well as the Columbia, MO real estate agencies is a huge benefit to you when selling!  (Not all of our area competitors are even in an MLS. )

 

What to Look for in a Realtor: Here’s my thing… I think that if your house is listed and the photos look good and your pricing is within reason you are going to get showings regardless of who is listing your house. In all my years of experience, I’ve talked to hundreds of sellers, and the most important thing they want is frequent and honest communication.  Sure, sometimes I don’t have good news to tell them.  But feedback after showing is important, market changes are important, any pricing changes to your competition is important.  Just to hear from their agent is important.  Ask around for references for which agent to help you!

 

 

 

There you have it! I hope these tips make your life just a little easier as you prepare to sell your home. A call to Advantage Real Estate, or a referral to one of our agents is much appreciated! 660-263-3393

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I Can’t Believe It’s Been 20 Years Already!!!!

Just reminiscing a bit today…our office is finishing up 20 years in business in the Moberly area market and starting our 21st year in 2017. Many of you do not know that my parents started Advantage Real Estate and were experienced real estate agents moving here from the Houston Texas area. They had 3 successful real estate offices at one time. The oil recession changed a lot of lives back then. They started Advantage Real Estate with a guarantee for service that states if you are not happy with our service, you can withdraw at no obligation. When I joined their team after being at another major franchise in town, I kid you not: someone either called or came by every day of the week for a year and told us they were glad there was another choice in town! We’ve built our business by staying in touch with our clients, giving them feedback after showings, keeping them informed as much as possible every step of the way in their transaction. For that we say Thank You to all that we have touched through the years!  We’d be happy to help you or a friend you know in their next real estate transaction. Have them call one of our friendly agents at Advantage Real Estate.  660-263-3393 

Feel free to share if we’ve made a difference in your life! 

Why Do Real Estate Agents Ask If You’re Pre-approved?

Have you ever walked into an open house, or called a real estate agent about a listing, and within minutes, they’re asking you if you are “pre-approved” for a mortgage?

If you haven’t, then you have never walked into an open house or called an agent. Or at least enough of them…

Just wait. It’ll happen.

And you’re going to feel like it’s pretty pushy for them to ask that.

It’s like a joke.

It makes you feel like telling real estate agents this knock-knock joke…

You: Knock-knock.

Real estate agent: Who’s there?

You: Nunya.

Real Estate Agent: Nunya who!?

You: Nunya business if I’m pre-approved or not! Just show me the house, and I’ll get pre-approved if I even like the house. I can definitely get approved for a mortgage. Probably way more than this stupid house anyway. So, stop asking if I’m pre-approved.

Try it…maybe the agent will laugh! Or, maybe not. Depends…

But it’s no joking matter.

It depends on the agent. Agents have different personalities. They all come across different ways. They all handle how they meet, greet, and chat with consumers in different ways. There’s no one way to “be”, as a real estate agent.

But every single real estate agent should be asking you if you’re pre-approved. But many do not. Because they feel like it is a bit pushy and forward. Because he or she worries about offending you. But they should ask…

…because it’s entirely relevant for them to know.

…because it’s entirely important for you to be pre-approved.

It might come across as a pushy, or invasive question. Maybe that is because of how an agent asks the question. Or when the agent asks the question. Or, simply because you don’t know that it’s a question that should be asked.

But it is not a joking matter.

And you should expect the question, be prepared to say that you are pre-approved, and…you should actually want the agent to ask you that question.

It’s not like a first date.

If you were going on a first date with someone, and one of the first things the person asked about was how much money you make, and can you afford the date, you’d feel like that was pushy and weird.

Rightfully so. You don’t go in for a kiss the minute you meet each other, let alone ask for a hand in marriage. There’s some build-up.

Beyond that, there’s some time that needs to be spent together before probing questions about finances are asked. That kind of stuff comes way after even the first kiss, because finances are a pretty private, intimate subject. Even more intimate than a kiss…

Which is why it seems so invasive when an agent you’ve just met asks you if you’re pre-approved. It feels like they’re asking you some pretty private, intimate stuff that’s none of their business.

But asking for a pre-approval isn’t like going in for a kiss. It isn’t a marriage proposal. And it isn’t probing on the part of the agent.

It is a necessary question, and an important piece of information for the agent to know. And for you!

Why does an agent ask you if you’re pre-approved?

Agents aren’t asking you if you’re pre-approved because they’re looking to size up how much you can spend. (At least not most agents…)

They want and need to know that you are serious, and qualified to buy a house.

And they certainly have their reasons for wanting to know…

  • Real estate agents need to make sure they’re working with someone who can actually buy a house. They don’t get paid until and unless the person they’re working with buys a house. So, this is a matter of being careful about who they spend their time with. It might sound selfish…but you can’t fault them for that. They’re in business. Nobody cuts them a paycheck. And showing people houses is not a public service or charity work. Even working with someone who is pre-approved doesn’t guarantee them that they’re going to make any money. But at least it’s an indication that the person they are working with can do something.
  • Agents also need to know how much you’re pre-approved for in order to advise you as well as possible. Picture an agent showing you houses for weeks, and months. You finally find “the one”! You get all excited about the house, and you want to make an offer, only to find out then that there’s no way you could afford the house. This leads to heartbreak and aggravation…for both of you. It doesn’t do either of you any good to go through all of that only to find out you can’t afford the houses you were looking at…or even buy one at all.
  • And, to a degree, this is a safety precaution. You might not believe this, but agents are in a pretty risky position. If they just say OK to every person who calls and asks to go see a house, with absolutely no proof or verification of who the person is, that puts them at risk. Sure, a pre-approval won’t necessarily stop an evil person from doing something, but this is a pretty basic precautionary request.

Why you should want an agent to ask if you are pre-approved.

Even if you have just started browsing for a home just a little bit, and haven’t gotten pre-approved (yet)…at least expect the question. Don’t be offended when you’re asked if you are.

In fact, pay closer attention to the agents who do ask if you’re pre-approved! The ones who ask make it easy for you to find a great agent to work with.

Because if they’re asking that question, it’s a good sign that they are thorough and thoughtful about how they do their business. That’s the type of agent you want to have on your side when you’re buying a house — one who’s careful from the get-go. One who pays attention to the details. One who isn’t going to waste your time any more than their own. Or allow your heart to be broken when you fall in love with a house you can’t do anything about.

And if you want to get some really good attention and service from the best agents you come across, don’t even let them have to ask if you are pre-approved…

Get pre-approved before you even start looking. And let the agent know you’re pre-approved before they even ask. You’ll set yourself apart from almost every buyer the agent has ever met.

Why Your Home Isn’t Getting Shown As Much As You Think It Should

Why Your Home Isn’t Getting Shown As Much As You Think It Should

 

 

 

Picture having your house for sale, and you feel like it isn’t being shown enough. Or maybe it isn’t really being shown at all.

You expected lots of buyers coming through. Ideally, you even expected an offer (or multiple offers!) to come in pretty quickly.

But instead, not that many people seem to even know your house is for sale. Otherwise, they’d come out and see it. If people would come and see it, the house would practically sell itself, because it’s so nice.

You’re discouraged, frustrated, and angry…

You wonder if your real estate agent is doing his/her job.

Isn’t your agent supposed to be showing the house to their own buyers? That doesn’t seem to be happening.

Aren’t the other agents in your agent’s office supposed to be showing the house to their buyers?
Not one agent from his office has shown it yet.

Isn’t your agent supposed to be spreading the word to other real estate agents at other companies, and getting them to show the house to their buyers? Again…not happening. At least not as much as you anticipated.

And, isn’t your agent supposed to market your home, so that buyers that neither he, she, or any other agent even knows about, will come out and see your house?

Your agent probably isn’t doing anything wrong.

While it’s natural to be frustrated, it won’t do you much good. It will do you less good to be angry, or disappointed with your real estate agent.

You’ve probably expressed your frustration, and all your agent seems to be doing is making excuses. Or pushing you to do something you don’t want to do…like lower your price. Your frustration, and pushing to see more showing activity, may very well be forcing your agent to react that way, when in fact all you need is some perspective.

What may help you most in this situation is some third-party, objective thoughts. So, here goes.

First, here are some basic things many homeowners do not know.

  • There are only so many buyers in the market at any given time.
  • Not all of the buyers are even ready, willing, and able to even buy your house right away.
  • Some buyers are just getting started looking, and much of that begins online.
  • Most of the buyers who are truly ready, willing, and able to buy are the only ones you need to care about.
  • And most of them are represented by, and working with a real estate agent.
  • Maybe an appropriate, ready, willing, and able buyer is working with your listing agent…but, most likely not.
  • And, there’s a good chance that the most appropriate buyer isn’t even working with another agent within your listing agent’s office.

OK, with that under your belt, let’s get into a few more thoughts.

  • Not that many years ago, people had to call the listing agent or their office for even the most basic information about your house…like the price, or address. Or at least have a buyer’s agent who represented them to get them the information.
  • If they saw a picture of a home for sale, it was likely just that…a picture. Of the outside of the house.
  • Both of the above caused buyers who were at even the earliest stages of buying to come out and see a house for sale. It was the only way to rule out a house. It was the only way to get their feet wet and get a handle on what they could afford.
  • None of that is necessary anymore, now that the Internet has allowed so much information to be available to buyers at all stages of the process to see from the comfort of their own home.

The Internet has cut down on showings.

Buyers at all stages of the process (just beginning, all the way to needing to make a decision immediately) see a house that goes for sale immediately, in real time, as it pops up on the market. Pictures and all.

They can even see maps of the location, aerial views, street views, videos, etc. They can literally see inside the property, with all of the pictures made available nowadays!

There’s virtually no need to go out and physically see a property…unless it’s of actual interest to them. Before, they had to go out just to rule out houses. So, almost every house on the market would get more showings back in the day. Every buyer, at every stage of looking, would come out just to get a peek. Now they do it remotely.

This cuts down on how many buyers come out to see your home.

And only the most interested, most serious, ready, willing, and able buyers are coming out to see your home.

This is a good thing…it’s efficient.

So why isn’t your house being shown?

It’s natural for an owner to want more showings. But, be careful what you wish for.

Just creating traffic through your house isn’t entirely beneficial. You should only want serious, ready, willing and able buyers coming through. And remember, there aren’t endless amounts of them in the market.

What’s the use of harassing your agent to create traffic and showings if the buyers have no ability or intention of actually buying the house? You are tasking your agent with creating a bit of a dog and pony show for you.

Instead, sit down or hop on the phone with your agent and get down to what the real root of the problem is. The most sensible thing to do is for you and your agent to analyze what the cause is, and hopefully generate more showings.

Go over things like the following:

  • Is it the overall market? Are there not that many buyers actually buying in your area and price range? If so, maybe just be patient.
  • Are the buyers who have seen your house buying other homes? Then, maybe your house is overpriced, or not as appealing as other choices in the area and price range.
  • Is your house not being shown at all? Good chance that it’s either your price is too high, or there are no buyers in the market. Again, look to see if there are other houses comparable to yours selling.

More often than not, the reason a house isn’t getting shown is due to either the market being a bit slow, or the price being too high. It’s that simple.

Pricing appropriately within the market should get your house shown and sold quickly to the ready, willing, and able buyers in the market…as long as there is at least a buyer who is ready, willing and able in the market.

So, just take a moment to truly understand that creating more showings won’t solve the problem of getting your home sold. You can have showings every hour of every day, but there are only so many true buyers in the market, and they are aware of every house on the market the minute it comes on.

If nobody is coming, and / or nobody is buying it…it’s either price, or a lack of buyers altogether.

Do You Hate When Real Estate Agents Ask You This Question?

 

 

Have you ever gone to an open house? Or called a real estate agent about a listing you see? Maybe e-mail an agent about a property he/she has listed?

You just want to check out a house. Maybe you’re just curious. Or, maybe you’re even pretty serious about buying a house. Doesn’t matter. All you’re doing is wondering about a house. That’s it. That’s what you want to talk to the agent about…the house you came to see, or called about.

And it seems like one of the first questions an agent asks you is, “Do you have a house to sell?

It’s a seemingly odd question, right? It doesn’t make sense for them to ask that question…at least not at that moment.

It seems a bit “cart-before-the-horse”, doesn’t it?

It might even come across as kind of pushy and forward, and beside the point.

Whether you have a house to sell or not seems irrelevant at that point. You don’t even know if you like the house, or will buy the house you are looking at. And you aren’t even thinking about selling your house, until and unless you find the house you want and actually have an offer accepted.

So, why do agents bring this up all the time?

You probably figure it’s because they’re hoping you do have a house to sell, so they can list the home you own, sell you this one you are asking about, and get two sales off of you.

Or that they want you to list your home, and get it under contract, so that you have to move…(again, so they can get two sales off of you).

Which makes you feel like they’re just looking to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, off of you. And, all of your fears and perceptions about real estate agents seem justified…

Whether you have a home to sell or not matters.

It might seem kind of early on for the agent to ask you this. But it’s not.

In fact, this question should be asked, answered, and addressed, before you even look at a house to buy.

Agents need to know this.

You need to know this.

And it has nothing to do with an agent wanting to make more money, or any money at all, off of you.

Because, if you own a home, the chances are…you need to sell your house before you can buy another one.

That doesn’t apply to everyone, of course. But most people can’t buy another home, until and unless the house they currently own is sold…

…which doesn’t sound all that appealing to most people. It begs so many questions. Here’s a few of them…

  • Who wants to sell their home without having lined up the one they are buying first?
  • What if you can’t find a house you want to buy once your home is sold?!
  • Won’t that put you in a tough spot to negotiate the best price of a home you want to buy, since you will be under the pressure of time? Will you have to overpay just to make sure you have a house to move to?

Those are just a few of the most common, and valid concerns.

Maybe You Don’t Need To Sell Your Home First…

Almost everyone an agent meets wants to be able to buy a house, without having to sell the house they already own first.

So, agents are always asked if there are alternatives.

Basically, there’s one that solves this problem every single time.

Do you have enough cash to just buy a house outright!? If so, you are in luck!

Go ahead and look for a house, and buy one. Move out of your house and into the new one. Then sell the old one at your leisure. You have options most people do not.

There are some other options, of course. But they aren’t definitely options for everyone.

For instance:

  • A bank might loan you money to buy your next house without selling your other one first. There are certainly circumstance and products that will allow for this. But this depends heavily on you and your financial picture.
  • You might be able to negotiate a “home sale contingency”…meaning, the owner of the house you want to buy agrees to give you time to sell your home, and your purchase is actually contingent upon getting your house sold. (Tough thing to negotiate in a lot of markets, or with many sellers. It isn’t all that appealing to sellers. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute… Would you agree to that as a seller?)

While you might be able to find an alternate route, other than selling your house first, it’s unlikely. And in many cases, it makes you a less than desirable buyer…which limits your options, and ability to negotiate a good deal.

So many people lose out on the house of their dreams, because they search and find it before they are in position to do anything about it. It’s a recipe for wasted time, aggravation, disappointment, and heartache.

So, what should you do?

First, you should assess what your options are as early on as possible.

Speak to a real estate agent and a mortgage lender.

If you discover that you have options beyond having to sell your place first, awesome!

But if not, don’t feel like you are the only person on earth to ever be put in this position. You have a lot of company.

That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, of course.

What will make it easier for you, and set you apart from everyone else in the same position, is understanding how critical it is to sell your home first. And, having a solid plan and approach to time the sale of your home, and the purchase of the next. (Which a great real estate agent can help you come up with.)

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Hire The Agent With The Most For Sale Signs In Town

 

You want to hire the best agent when you sell your house.

You see real estate agent “John Listalots” all over town. His signs are everywhere. So, you figure he must be a great agent.

It seems like he sells almost everything in town, and you figure that he probably “has all the buyers”.

From an outsider’s point of view, this makes sense…

What better way to gauge and choose the best agent to list and sell your home?

You have the evidence in front of your eyes. So many other people have chosen him to sell their home, how could it not be true?

Something you should know…

Before we get into the three reasons why you shouldn’t just hire the agent with all the signs around town, there’s something you should know.

Very few real estate agents do tons of business. In any given area, there’s always an agent or two who seem to do all of the business.

But that doesn’t mean that the few agents who do most of the business, are the best agents.
Nor does it mean that the agents you don’t see doing much business are not the best agents.

There’s a difference between “top” agents, and “best” agents.

The “top” agents aren’t necessarily the “best” agents, who will do the best job for you, and get you the most money for your home. (But that isn’t to say they can’t, don’t, or won’t either.)

It’s just to say that you can’t judge an agent by the number of for sale signs they have up in town.

Don’t hire a real estate agent just because they have tons of for sale signs around town.

And, don’t not hire an agent who doesn’t have a lot of for sale signs around town.

The 3 reasons…

1. Appearances can be misleading.

Just because an agent has tons of for sale signs up around town all of the time doesn’t mean that the agent is selling them all. He might only sell half of the houses he lists.

And, the ones he does sell, he might not necessarily sell for the highest possible price.

Maybe he does. But maybe not. Just don’t base your decision off of appearances.

You might be better off hiring an agent who doesn’t sell lots of houses per year, but gets them all sold, and for the highest price possible.

2. Time and attention.

An agent who has lots of listings on the market could very well not have a whole lot of time and attention to devote specifically to you and your house.

Again, maybe he or she does manage to pay close and careful attention to every single one of their clients. But maybe not. In fact, there is a good chance an agent doing so much business cannot pay you lots of attention.

You might be better off hiring someone who has less listings, and can devote a lot of time and attention to you and the sale of your home.

3. They are too good at selling.

An agent who is good at finding and getting so much business is likely a very good salesperson.

But what are they good at selling? Maybe they do sell a lot of the houses they list, and quickly

Does that mean that agent did the best job and sold it for top dollar, or is it that the agent is good at selling their own client on agreeing to less than the best price and terms? Could they get more for their client? Is the agent pushing his or her own clients to do things, just to make a quicker sale, or a sale at all?

Almost impossible to prove. And not necessarily the case with a top producer. It’s just food for thought.

And it’s food worth chewing on…

Because so many great real estate agents, who take a tremendous amount of care in getting their clients the absolute best results, get overlooked simply because they aren’t the agent with the most for sale signs up around town.

Don’t overlook the best agent in your area, by just hiring the top agent in your area who has the most signs.

Dig a little. Ask around for that local agent who happens to be the best kept secret. And when you find one, don’t doubt your choice just because they aren’t the top producer. Trust him or her, and let your agent do the best job possible.

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A Simplified Guide to Your Home Inspection – Part II

A Simplified Guide to Your Home Inspection – Part II

 

 

 

If you have recently gone under contract to buy a home, you may be planning for your physical inspection. A lot of information will be thrown at you in a very short period of time, and a large amount of it is confusing. Hopefully, this will simplify your process. Part I of this article covered roofs, foundation, plumbing and electrical systems. Here, we will cover windows, landscaping, and termites.

Your inspector may recommend new windows. If you are happy with your old windows, they function well, and the casings are in good shape, that is great. But installing new windows is a great way to make your home more energy efficient. New windows are not inexpensive, though. Your window installer may need to repair the window casing (see the termite section, below). If you would like to maintain a vintage look, know that custom windows are really expensive. Also, you will likely have to paint inside or outside once installed. There is one more issue with windows – if the exterior is not sealed properly, they can leak during rains. This is more common than you think, even with condominiums. However, new windows can save you energy dollars and really freshen the look of your home.

Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may have visions of all new landscape including hardscape (created mounds, decorative or retaining walls, etc.). Nothing makes a house look more like eye-candy than refreshed landscape. Or, you may want a simple grassy yard, which might require sprinklers. Be warned – all of this is can be really pricey. Hopefully, you and your gang will want to plant, weed and replant yourselves, which is very time-consuming but can be a lot of fun. And once it stops being fun, you can always hire a gardener.

The other landscape item that your inspector may point out are your home’s trees and their roots. You will need to trim branches regularly to keep them off your roof. The big thing, however, are tree roots as they can lift or crack a foundation and invade sewer lines. If this occurs with a big tree that you wish to keep, you may want to hire a tree surgeon to cut the right roots and leave the other roots alone.

Finally, your inspector will check your outside drains and sump pumps, if you have them. These need to function perfectly so you do not have standing water close to (or in!) your house after heavy rains.

Depending on where you live, you may have a separate termite and wood-destroying organism inspection. Just about every house has termites. Termites are often even present in brand new lumber for brand new houses! In addition to eradicating the little pests, you may need some wood replaced. This is common with window sills and casings, wood overhangs and wood posts. The termites will come back, as well. It is a good idea to have your home inspected every two years or so, top to bottom, and eradication done then.

Hopefully, this has taken some of the mystery out of your inspection. Remember that everything can be repaired or replaced – at a price, of course.

A Simplified Guide to Your Home Inspection – Part 1

A Simplified Guide to Your Home Inspection – Part 1

 

 

 

If you are under contract to purchase a home, congratulations! Of course, you are excited and a little nervous, too. Your physical inspection can be especially nerve-wracking. In a short amount of time, you will receive more information than you can process, and it will all seem very serious. And confusing. And potentially expensive. In order to calm your nerves, here is a breakdown of the inspection’s most important home components and priorities. (Homes and condos are constructed differently across the U.S.; this will deal with structures that are mostly wood and not brick, and homes that are not new.)

Your home’s most important elements are its roof, foundation, plumbing, and electrical system.

First, here’s the story on your roof. Your inspector may say that the roof “is at the end of its useful life.” It is not unusual for a roof to need some repairs and maintenance, but it is unusual to need a whole new roof. With continuing maintenance and proper repairs, your dying roof can last several more years. Repairs are pretty easy and most roofers are cost-competitive. Condo purchasers will want to check with the condo board to see what repairs have been done or are anticipated.

Your foundation will either be raised above the ground on piers and posts, or it will be a slab. If you have a basement, it is raised; if you have a newer home, it is likely on a slab. If your raised foundation has some cracks, those can be easily repaired with special epoxy products. If it is completely cracked, and off its posts, run away.

Electrical problems that your inspector finds can be difficult to understand. Amps, breakers, sub panels, drops – what does that all mean? Older homes may not have enough power to run today’s modern appliances, toys, and systems. Wiring may be older, too. The good news here is that electrical work, even replacing wires and panels, is very routine for an electrician. It does not take very long to complete and is usually cheaper than you think it would be.

Your plumbing has many components and some are more serious/expensive to fix than others. Leaky faucet? No big deal to repair. Septic tank pumping? Routine. Roots in your sewer? Common. Unfortunately, many other problems can be progressively more serious and expensive to fix, especially if walls need to be opened. You will want to get estimates from at least two plumbers – hopefully only a portion of your plumbing needs repair. It is usually not necessary to re-pipe a whole house.

Hopefully, your inspection will make a little more sense to you now. The next post on this topic will go over other home components like heating and air-conditioning, fireplaces, windows, and outside spaces.

Kitchen Mini Makeover

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3 Reasons Your Real Estate Agent WANTS You To Bother Them

What Does MLK Have To Do With Real Estate?

What Does MLK Have To Do With Real Estate?

Fill in the blank…

“I have a _________…”

I’m about 100% sure I can guess what word you chose.

Was it “dream”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good chance it was. We all know this line from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech. So when we hear those first three words, it sort of naturally comes to mind.

But what many people aren’t aware of is how much he affected the lives of real estate agents, buyers, and sellers.

It was his death that gave Congress the last push needed to pass the Fair Housing Act, back in 1968. It’s pretty involved, so I won’t get into it all here, but to put it simply…

This was put in place to ban racial discrimination in housing. You can’t be refused the rental or purchase of a house, based upon your race.

Seems simple enough to most people now. A given, if you will. But it didn’t happen overnight. And believe it or not, it still can and does come up.

But guess who’s a big part of making sure this Act is followed…

On the front lines, it is people like me. Real estate agents. We’re tasked with making people aware that discrimination based upon race (and many other things) are not acceptable, and we must refuse to work with anyone who wants to do so.

And I am proud to be a part of this ongoing history.

Just figured I’d take this appropriate moment to pay him some respect, and give you some insight into how much more responsibility a real estate agent has than meets the eye.

That’s all for now…

…and may your dreams come true,

Your friends at Advantage Real Estate

P.S. While my dream of helping people find their dream home is certainly not comparable to Martin Luther King’s dream…

Owning a home has become a huge part of the American Dream.

Please know how seriously I take this career. And how much heart and soul I put into helping people find their dream home.

If you know anyone dreaming of finding a home, please have them give me a call… I’d love to be a part of helping make their dream come true.

(Or maybe you even have a dream we should talk about…)

Call us at 660-263-3393

Real Estate 2017: What to Expect

Home Equity_Social Media_Layout 1

 

Real Estate 2017: What to Expect

 

One of the most common questions we get at this time of year is, “What’s going on in the market?” It’s not just potential buyers and sellers who are curious; homeowners always want reassurance their home’s value is going up. The good news is the American real estate market is strong and healthy: home values are up, prices and sales are strong, and millennial first-time buyers are eager to become homeowners.

 

We often use national real estate numbers to give us a clearer view of our local market. However, real estate is local, and while statistics and predictions help us understand the overall real estate market, our local market may be different. If you’re thinking of buying or selling, or just want to know how much your home is worth, give us a call!

 

 

What to Expect in the Real Estate Market in 2017

 

The American housing market is stronger than ever! Home values, prices and sales had their strongest numbers in 2016, a sure sign the market is healthy and strong. According to the Home Price Index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), property values have increased in 58 of the last 62 months and have increased more than 35 percent nationally. Homeowners continue to build equity in their largest investment—their homes.

 

First-time buyers are back.

Housing forecasts from the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae all predict existing-home sales will surpass 6 million in 2017, higher than anticipated sales for 2016. Who’s driving the surge? According to NAR, millennials who have put off buying a home are ready to buy. While they may have avoided buying a home due to student debt and limited employment, many are entering their 30s, a time when their attention turns to marriage, family and setting roots with homeownership. They’re predicted to be the driving force behind home and condominium sales from now until into 2020. (Source: MarketWatch)

 

What does this mean to you? If you’re a millennial who’s been on the fence about buying, now is the time to act. Give us a call to answer your questions about the market and the buying process.

 

Renters are embracing homeownership

Additionally, many renters who’ve resisted buying are starting home searches due to the economic weight of rising rents. This year’s home buyers seek to take advantage of comparatively low interest rates and, in most cases, static payments each month—an advantage of home ownership. Rental costs will only continue to rise; if you’re thinking of buying, now is an ideal time to do so.

 

What does this mean to you? Every month you pay rent, you lose the opportunity to build equity in a home of your own. Break free from the limits of renting and invest in your financial future. Come in the office and we’ll discuss your options.

 

Home prices are on the rise.

According to NAR, the median existing-home price not only increased 6.0 percent year-over-year in October, it’s also the 56th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. Prices are approaching the pre-recession peak.

 

What does this mean to you? Home prices, and subsequently home values, are increasing. If you’ve been waiting to list your home until you know you can sell it for what you think it’s worth, now is a great time to do so. We’ll be happy to give you a comparative market assessment of your home and help you get your home in list-ready shape.

 

If you’re in the market to buy, be prepared to act.

Homes were on the market for the shortest amount of time recorded since 2009: 52 days. The increase of qualified buyers in the market along with the increasing efficiency of the real estate process means homes are selling faster than ever, and in many cases buyers are engaging in bidding wars and paying over the list price to get the home of their dreams.

 

What does this mean to you? The home you have your eye on one day may be gone the next. In competitive markets, be prepared to come to the table with a competitive bid.

 

Looking for a new home?

New-home construction will increase to an average of 1.5 million per year to 2024, according to a report from NAR. However, experts anticipate housing starts will only increase to 1.22 million in 2017, which is less than the 1.5 million new homes required to keep up with growing demand. This inventory shortage of new entry-level homes—typically purchased by first-time buyers—may drive up prices in some areas. Home builders have been focusing on multi-family construction for the last few years, but this type of construction has begun to level off providing hope that builders will once again focus on single-family home construction. However, stricter proposed immigration policies may impact new home construction and tighten inventory.

 

What does this mean to you? First-time and repeat home buyers agree—there are plenty of advantages of buying a new home. Whether you want a home customized to your family’s needs or you don’t want to bother with age-related maintenance, a new home has much to offer. Give us a call to discuss your options.

 

Affordability pressures are increasing in many markets

Housing affordability in many of the nation’s largest cities has declined over the past few years, a trend that is expected to continue in 2017. However, there is hope. NAR created the Affordability Index to measure the affordability of homes across the United States. The Affordability Index assesses whether the typical family earning the median family income can qualify for a mortgage on a typical home based on the prevailing mortgage interest rate on loans closed on existing homes from the Federal Housing Finance Board.

 

The NAR Affordability Index is 170.2 (composite) and 169.8 (fixed), meaning a family earning the median family income has 170.2 percent of the income necessary to buy a median-priced, single-family home. Nationally, the qualifying income is $41,616, but it varies by region. In the Northeast, the qualifying income is $45,024. In the Midwest, it’s $32,640. In the South, it’s $36,960. In the West, it’s $61,824.

 

What does this mean to you? If you’ve had your eye on a new home, but weren’t sure if you could afford it, you may be pleasantly surprised. We may have homes in our area that meet your needs and budget. Give us a call today to discuss your home search.

 

3 Things to Do Now if You Plan to Buy This Year

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you’re like most buyers who plan to finance part of the home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will allow you to put in an offer on a home and may give you an advantage over other buyers. The added bonus: you can see how much home you can afford and budget accordingly.
  2. Start looking. While most buyers start their searches online, be sure to look at homes in neighborhoods you’d like to live in as well. Keep a notebook to write down what you like and dislike about each home you view in person or online. This will help you narrow down where to look and what to look for in your next home.
  3. Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget. Give us a call to make an appointment today!

 

 

3 Things to Do Now if You Plan to Sell This Year

  1. Make repairs. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs. While the repairs may or may not add value, making them will give your home a competitive advantage over other similar homes on the market.
  2. Get a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it’ll also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us price your home to sell in our market. Call us for your free CMA!
  3. Start packing. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up items you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or a storage space. This will make your home easier to stage as well as make it easier to move later on.

 

Are you thinking of buying or selling?

Whether you’d like to buy or sell a home this year, want to know how much your home is worth, or have general questions about our local market, give us a call! We’d love to discuss the market with you.

Call Advantage Real Estate  660-263-3393

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2016 Year In Review

2016 Year In Review

 

Well folks, the stats are out!  2016 finished strong with steady growth in the residential market.  The image below shows statistics for 2016 compared to 2015.  It’s amazing to see how steady the numbers were!

2016 YEAR IN REVIEW

2017 is looking to be a banner year as well, now that we have a new President.  Interest rates continue to be low.  (I bought my first house in 1981 and the interest rate was 18%!)  The real estate market had to get creative to sell back then…and it did!

 

If you’re looking to sell in 2017, call the friendly folks at Advantage Real Estate.  Let us show you our marketing plan and what we do that’s different!  You may be surprised to see what the value of your home is in today’s market…

 

 

5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Homeowner Should Make for 2017

5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Homeowner Should Make for 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 is coming to a close, and with the new year just around the corner, people across the world are gearing up to set their intentions for the upcoming year in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. And while you’re bound to make at least one standard resolution (like “finally get in shape” or “eat more vegetables”), as a homeowner, there are some home-specific resolutions you’ll want to think about to get the most out of your property and the experience of owning a home this upcoming year.

Here are 5 New Year’s Resolutions every homeowner should make for 2017:

1. Bump Up Your Mortgage Payments

If you have any sort of expendable income in 2017, you might want to think about putting it towards your mortgage. Making extra payments on your mortgage can have a huge impact on the total you end up paying out over the course of the loan. It can also shorten the amount of time you’ll be saddled with payments and can have you owning your house free and clear sooner than you expected.

The more you can contribute, the better. But even if you can only make a few extra payments per year – do it. Those extra dollars will add up and end up saving you serious dollars in interest over the course of your mortgage.

Create a 2017 budget and look for any areas where you can shave a few dollars, like your daily trip to the coffeehouse or an expensive gym membership. Then, re-purpose that cash and put it towards paying down your mortgage faster.

2. Explore Refinancing

2016 saw near record low interest rates on mortgages, and while they’ve slowly crept up towards the end of the year (current rates are around 4%), they’re still HALF of the average interest rates over the past 40 years (which averaged at 8.45%).

If you haven’t refinanced your mortgage recently, now is the time to do it. With a new president taking office, the economy may shift, and interest rates may rise.

Talk to your loan officer about refinancing and getting a lower interest rate. And if you’re in a variable rate mortgage, shift over to a fixed rate mortgage and lock in the low interest rates while you can.

3. Review and Renew Your Homeowners Insurance

A lot of homeowners roll over their insurance year to year, but if you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, you might be missing out on some money-saving opportunities.

Shop around and get quotes to see what rates are competitive in the current market and if you’re paying more, see if your current company will match the lowest quote. If you have a stand-alone policy, think about bundling your auto and homeowners insurance with one company. Insurance companies will often offer discounts for customers who hold multiple policies. If you’ve made any major improvements to your home that could impact the insurability of your house (like clearing trees, installing a high tech security system or adding storm reinforcements), let your agent know. Improvements can often lower your premiums.

4. Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

While spring is traditionally the time for organizing (in the form of “spring cleaning”), there’s no better time for a fresh start – and a more organized home – than the New Year.

Cleaning out closets, getting rid of things you no longer want or need and taking a more minimalist approach to life can have huge benefits. Not only will your home look better, but you’ll also FEEL better as a result. Messy, cluttered homes can cause increased stress and anxiety, making it much harder to relax and enjoy your space. Clutter has also been shown to decrease creativity, productivity and focus, so if you want to have a happy and productive 2017, it’s time for the stuff to go.

Plan a day to go through all of your closets, cabinets and storage space. If you’re not actively using something, get rid of it. The benefits you’ll reap from decluttering will far outweigh the value of the things you get rid of.

5. Get Up To Speed On Safety

The new year is the perfect time to review the current state of your property and take any precautions necessary to ensure that you’re safe in the upcoming year.

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace them if necessary. Check your house for radon, a common, carcinogenic gas that can increase your chance of lung cancer (you can pick up a radon testing kit at a local hardware store for less than $10).  Meet with your family to review emergency evacuation plans in case of a fire, flood or other emergencies.

With these 5 resolutions, you’ll get the most out of your property – and of owning your home – in 2017 and beyond.

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