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3 Small Home Fixes To Make A Huge Impact

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Tools for home fixes

If you have just purchased your new home in the spring or summer, chances are good that you have bought at the top of your budget and that you are trying to find ways to settle in and make the best of finishings in need of an update. You are probably mostly happy you finally got a house, after months of searching and putting in offers.

As a brand-new homeowner, the world is your oyster. However, your budget may not be. Whether you are inwardly groaning at your 1950s kitchen with no $20,000 insight to gut the whole thing, or eyeing your peeling front porch and wishing for carpenter elves, there are solutions.

You may not realize it yet, but there are many small and affordable fixes out there. Your attitude about your house can do a 180 on a slim budget.

Paint, paint and more paint

Did you know that paint is for more than just walls? You can actually paint your tile. That ugly backsplash you just can't afford to replace? That 1990s bathroom renovation you absolutely can't stand?

You can purchase a DIY epoxy kit that can cover the whole thing with a shiny, white glaze. No one will ever know the difference. You can even cover those mustard-colored bathroom sinks and fiberglass shower insert.

Another area where paint can make a huge impact is on your trim. Do you have dated or cheap-looking trim? It might take a weekend's worth of your time, but fresh white trim can give your whole house a clean, updated look.

The same goes for doors and kitchen cabinets.  If you want to get really bold, there are even paint products out there made especially for floors. So if you have a tile floor that's eventually going the way of dinosaurs, why not stencil on a pattern you like?

Hardware

You might not realize what an impact the fixtures and hardware in your house are making on you. Take a moment to look at your faucets, light fixtures, electrical plates, doorknobs and cabinet hardware.

These things can each be replaced relatively inexpensively. Does one room stand out to you? Could you switch out that construction-grade flush-mount ceiling light in the dining room for a modern pendant light?

You might be surprised at how much it changes the atmosphere of the place all by itself. Maybe your electrical plates are grimy. Can you change them for fresh, white plates to match your new white trim? Or perhaps all your kitchen really needs is a few coats of paint on the cabinets and new hardware. That's an inexpensive fix that can really make all the difference.

Outside

Is your curb appeal a little lackluster? It's a good thing you don't really need a team of beefy landscapers to fix it since they come at a price. There are three things you can do right now to update the front of your house.

Weed and mulch.

Don't worry about adding any plants or making big plans. Just have a load of mulch delivered and tidy-up what's already there. Don't have much of a garden? Buy a few hanging baskets or big pots for the front porch and put in some colorful flowers.

Paint your front door.

This is something no one thinks about doing, but it can make the most dramatic impact of all. If you have one bright color you love, think about putting on the front door instead of the bedroom wall.

Update your house numbers.

You can't beat the power of typography on the eye, especially for modernizing the exterior of your house. What better way to say to friends and neighbors, "welcome to my new house!"

Takeaway

Don't let your fading home finishes get your down. Make a few of these small fixes that will fit in your budget and enjoy the significant impact they make on how much you love your house.


 

Top Things to Overlook When Buying a New House and What Not to Overlook

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Top Things to Overlook When Buying a New House

This year, housing shortages are worse than ever. Mortgage interest rates are rising a little bit, and home prices are raising a lot, due to the large demand. You might be sitting yourself down for a serious talk right about now if you’ve been on the housing search for a long time and haven’t gotten anything yet. First-time buyers are especially hurting in this extreme seller’s market.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Forget buying a house for now. I’ll just wait until market conditions clear up.” For some first-time buyers out there, the hassle and heartbreak might not be worth it.

But I bet you have that nagging voice in the back of your head asking, “what if it doesn’t get better? What if it only gets worse? If I gave up now, would I miss my chance?”

If you decide to take another stab at finding a house, you want to look at homes with a new perspective. I’m here to tell you there are things you can overlook when you decide to purchase a home. And there are things you shouldn’t. Not all potential home buyers know the difference. Maybe your willingness to accept a few things about a house that you don’t like will be the difference between buying a home and renting for a few more years.

What Should You Overlook?

Paint Colors

I can’t tell you how many times potential buyers have been deterred from looking at a home because the paint colors or the color of the trim isn’t to their liking. Paint colors are one of the easiest things to change about a house. Paint is cheap, relatively speaking, and it doesn’t take much skill or time to change.

Curb Appeal

If you are like most buyers now, you are cruising through the pictures on listing sites long before you make an appointment to see a house in person. In fact, many homes are weeded out of a prospective buyer’s list solely based on whether the pictures are nice or not. The curb appeal of your home is easily changed within a year or two, on a small budget. When deciding which houses to see, try basing your decision on the size and location of the house rather than how it looks on the outside.

Old appliances, Carpeting or Light Fixtures

It’s one thing if you’re looking at a home near the top of your price range that needs $100k worth of work before it’s livable. It’s another thing to strike it off the list for having old finishings like carpet, light fixtures or appliances. I understand that it all takes money to replace, but some of these things don’t require much money or skill to replace.

The bottom line is if your home needs cosmetic updates, but everything else is right, (location, size, and fundamental structure) you might be looking at the house of your dreams.

What Do Buyers Overlook (But You Shouldn’t)?

Budget Concerns

Sometimes buyers overlook how much closing costs are going to be when they calculate how much they can spend on a house. Make sure you get this nailed down before you make that offer. You should also take the time to calculate utility costs before you make your offer. Your offer is going to depend on how much you can pay each month. It’s best not to be surprised before getting into a new house, and you can’t assume your utilities will be the same in your new house as they are now.

Resale Value

While some things can be overlooked, what some buyers do is sacrifice what can't be changed in order to get into a house, like a backyard right next to a busy train track. You may tell yourself you don't mind, but you might be surprised what other buyers mind when it's time to sell.

Likewise, there are some things about your new neighborhood you might not know until you live there. Those can’t be changed either. What’s the new neighborhood like at night, for instance? Is there a dog that barks all night two doors down? Do the neighbors fight loudly on weekends or throw wild parties? And what will your commute be like from your new house? It’s a good idea to check these things out before committing.

Takeaway

House hunting season is bound to be tough right now for first-time buyers. Hang in there and try to hold your expectations loosely. If you can look past a few of the things that can be easily changed while being smart about the things you can’t change, you might find yourself with the advantage.

If you are interested in buying a house in Northville, Novi or South Lyon, Michigan, please give us a call. We would be honored to help!

248-348-7200

The Ugly Summer Housing Market Forecast

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Couple looking at house online - housing market

If you are a first-time home buyer this summer, you probably have already been feeling the burn, so to speak. If 2017’s housing market was difficult for those seeking starter homes, this year is looking to be even tighter. Spring has been very busy already, and it’s not likely to let up as summer progresses.

While searching for a new house, it’s best to be informed. According to Forbes, which has analyzed the data and research this spring, more buyers are as informed as they can be going into this season.

If you are one of them, it’s probably because of the disappointment you, or your friends, have experienced while looking for a home. Here are the facts:

  • Inventory has been declining steadily for 42 consecutive months. It’s down almost 9% from last year at this time.
  • Average days on the market have fallen by 5 days as well.
  • Starter home prices have risen 9.6% this year over last year.
  • Trade up and premium home prices have risen as well - 7.5% and 5.2%.
  • Mortgage rates are on the rise as well - 4.66% at the end of May, which is ¾ of a percent higher than this time last year.
  • 40% of buyers are planning to put more than 20% down.
  • 40% of buyers have been actively looking for a home for more than 7 months.
  • 60% of buyers are still hoping to close on their dream home within the next 6 months.
  • More than 25% of buyers plan to offer above asking price.
  • 31% of buyers are planning to put a larger earnest money deposit down.
  • Only 6% of buyers aren’t planning to use any of these tactics to cope with the increased difficulty of finding a new home.

Here’s an interesting one, not necessarily negative.

  • There are 8.3% more fixer-upper starter homes on the market than there were 6 years ago.

According to the list above, clearly many buyers are going into this season with action plans in hand - and you can too.

Get pre-approved before you shop.

You don’t want to fall for a home and then lose it in the rush to get approved for a mortgage. In addition, according to The Mortgage Reports.com, you can shop around for your mortgage the same way you shop for a home. Don’t be like other buyers and take the first offer you find.

Be prepared to act fast!

This means having all your ducks in a row and knowing exactly what you’re willing to settle for, and how much you have to spend. It is better to know when to walk away than get in over your head with a mortgage payment you can’t afford.

On the flip side, know what you can offer over and above what other buyers might be able to offer. If you have a bigger down payment or more earnest money, offer it up front.

You can also settle, up front, with your realtor what other terms you can add to your offer to make it more attractive. For example, offer a fast closing, a quick inspection or renting back to the seller are all things that don’t cost extra money but could make the difference to the seller.

Keep an open mind.

When looking at homes - especially the way we all window shop on our phones - it’s best to reserve judgment until you’ve seen a home in person. If there is a particular listing in your neighborhood and price range that you are tempted to pass by because the pictures don’t look great, think again.

Other buyers may be doing what you were tempted to do and miss out on a good opportunity. The same thing goes for viewing fixer-uppers. Not everyone can see past paint or finishings they don’t like. However, if you are willing to do that, you might just get in ahead of everyone else.

Takeaway

Yes, the market is crazy for buyers again this year. But take heart and keep informed. If you are interested in looking for a house, it is important to have an experienced real estate agent by your side. Call our office today!

248-348-7200

 

Home Improvement: Do It Yourself vs. Getting a Loan

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Home improvement project: removing old asphalt roof

Spring and summer are often the time to roll out those power tools and work on the home improvement projects you have been waiting to do. Some homeowners are just now realizing their house needs work either before the next time cold weather hits or before they can sell their house.

The trouble is, which projects are worth it to do yourself and what ones are absolutely best done by a professional? In addition, if you need professional help, how can you finance it?

Here are practical tips to help you decide if you should do that home improvement project or to hire a professional.

Doing It Yourself

There are a few big questions to answer before you know whether a certain project is worth doing yourself. Before you get into a big one, make sure you have really done your research. Otherwise, you may end up paying double for a contractor to get you out of your DIY predicament.

Do You Have the Time and Energy to Invest in This Project?

I’m not just talking about the energy required to do the work, but also the energy required to live with the constant state of a mess as you navigate through your job, your family life, and the unfinished work and state of mess that inevitably comes with a DIY job.

While things like finishing a basement, landscaping, or even painting your home’s exterior yourself might be worth the hassle of the workaround, replacing all your kitchen cabinets and countertops yourself might not be worth it in the loss of your kitchen for weeks or months.

Is it Safe for a Novice?

Even experienced DIYers know better than to take on something that could be dangerous or cause expensive problems if done incorrectly. Things like electrical, plumbing, and removing walls are best left to the experts.

Do You Truly Have the Skills to Do it Right?

Many of the projects on DIY shows aren’t as easy as the professionals make them look. Installing tile is often touted as a DIY project. However, it can be tricky and costly to get wrong. Do your research, take a class, and practice before you commit.

How to Finance a Home Remodel

There is good news if you need home improvement and know you can’t tackle it yourself. There are many ways to finance home improvements.

Personal Loans

According to an article in US News, there are some personal loans available for as low as $1,000. Although they do have the drawback of short repayment times, they do not affect your home equity.

Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan is basically a smaller second mortgage for a fixed amount of money that is secured by your home. They typically have fixed interest rates that never change, so the monthly payment will be the same.

These loans have higher interest rates than mortgage rates, but they are much lower than a typical credit card. They also come in larger amounts - usually about 85% of the value of your home minus what you still owe on your current mortgage. You can also get a tax deduction under certain conditions.

The disadvantages of a home equity loan are that you use your home’s equity, so it doesn’t exist anymore or isn’t as high. There is a risk of foreclosure if you fail to pay the loan since the collateral is your home’s equity. Also, this isn’t a good product to use for short-term expense since you could end up paying more than if you had used a different loan product.

Contractor Financing

If you need a new roof, for instance, most companies offer financing to get you into the new roof you need right now and offer 100% financing. In fact, most contractors offer project financing that doesn’t affect your home equity, is easy to sign up for on the spot, and doesn’t tie up your personal credit card balances in case of emergency.

This option can often give you the ability to have a nicer renovation than you had anticipated and cover the total cost. However, keep in mind that it is a loan and a contractor is interested in selling you a higher-priced product by showing you a low monthly price you feel you can afford. Make sure to do your homework beforehand.

Best Home Improvement Projects for Return on Investment

Lifehacker.com lists the top three money-saving home improvements you can do. These are worth checking out even if they aren’t cosmetic. Not only are they worth the money, but they are, in some cases, very inexpensive.

  • Seal up all drafty areas - windows, doors, etc.
  • Update your old energy-wasting appliances
  • Clean your gutters and check for structural problems.

Conclusion

The best thing you can do to make a decision about home improvements and how best to get them done is to do your research, both on how long it actually takes to DIY a project AND how much it actually costs to finance.

What Not To Do To Settle Into Your New Home

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Familysettiling into new home

As the weather warms up and sunny days abound, we know many of you are going to be moving into new homes this year. One of the best things about being a new homeowner is that feeling that it’s all yours. You get to do whatever you want with it, right?

Well, yes, but there are certainly ways that you might think you are doing the best for your house but you’re actually hurting it. Read on and avoid these little mistakes.

Cleaning 101

Has anyone ever told you not to use Windex on your mirrors? Well, you know what causes that black ring around old mirrors? Cleaning solution! It drips down the mirror and pools just on the underside of installed fixture mirrors - like the kind you see in bathrooms - and eats away at the backing, causing that unsightly black ring. Instead, use a microfiber cloth and dampen if necessary.

You might think bleach is the go-to cleaning solvent for every emergency. What about moldy grout? Not so much. Using bleach to whiten grout actually creates a breeding ground for more mold. This is because the bleach eats away at the grout. It also eats through a lot of other stuff, it turns out including:

  • Stone surfaces like granite
  • Laminate and colored grout
  • Enamel and acrylic tubs
  • Vinyl flooring like linoleum
  • Corrode your garbage disposal seals

Instead, use vinegar and water on most everything and ice cubes in the disposal.

Speaking of the disposal, those heavy duty drain cleaners you use when you get a clog? They can also dissolve your pipes. The solution? Vinegar and baking soda can make them explode. Either call a plumber or invest in a snake tool and some drain covers.

Gardening

Planting trees too close to your house or trying to train anything to grow up your walls is a homeowner no-no. A lot of times new homeowners don’t think through the ramifications of those plants growing a lot bigger.

A tree’s roots will grow as wide as the crown is, so unless it’s a dwarf variety, that tree needs to be far, far away from your house’s foundation, driveway or sidewalk. We know that ivy is really pretty, but it is best left in pots, or at least supported by trellises. Don’t let it get a vine-hold on your walls or they will eventually crumble.

Mulching too much and stacking firewood against your house are also big potential problems. There is such a thing as overdoing a good thing. Too much mulch can keep your plants from getting any water. In addition, as with firewood by your house, it can become a breeding ground for insects like termites to take up shop right by your walls.

Conclusion

It’s always a good idea to check out any changes you want to make to your new house before you make them and potentially end up paying. Likewise, looking at the manufacturer’s instructions for how to clean your home’s surfaces will help keep your new house looking and feeling new for years to come. 

Cheap Fixes To Sell Your House Quickly

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Cheap Fixes To Sell Your House Quickly

If you are going to try selling your home this summer, you don’t have to tell us that you want to move that house quickly and you want to get your asking price for it.

Homeowners sometimes get zealous about the kinds of improvements projects they do in order to sell quickly and for top dollar. However, they don’t always choose what buyers want to see.   

Don’t waste your money or time on things a buyer doesn’t want. In addition, definitely do look at the list below to find out which repairs or updates bring the biggest returns.

*Don’t get confused between maintenance and updates. Maintenance might be needed, but it doesn’t add value. If you just replaced your roof, it won’t get you a higher price for your home. However, it will increase your pool of potential buyers, so definitely do it if your house needs it.

Cheap Fixes to Add Value to Your Home

Paint

This is the number 1 most cost-effective and biggest return on investment when selling your house.

Update your paint colors to something neutral, not white. Paint your trim a nice, crisp white. If your house is already painted this way, just make sure all holes are patched and all scuffs and dings are either cleaned or touched up.

Don’t just stop at the walls either! You may not be thinking about your ceilings (unless you have had a leak), but buyers are going to look up there. Updating popcorn ceilings, cracks, grease spots or any other kind of stains will go a long way toward making a buyer want to pull the trigger right away.

*Quick tip: bold paint and wallpaper choices are almost always going to work against you. These are style choices a buyer doesn’t want to see. If you have decided to sell your house, investing in a steamer and letting your personal color preferences go could be the thing that gets you a higher offer.

Kitchens

You are not going to spend a bunch of cash on a new kitchen that you’re leaving. That said buyers don’t want to replace appliances or clean disgusting ones. They also don’t want to suffer from someone else’s design choices.

Painting dated cabinets and replacing hardware is a good option. So is deep cleaning your appliances or replacing broken ones. The good news is that remodeled kitchens are almost always a 100% return on investment.

Bathrooms

The other area that sells homes is the bathroom, and for the same reason as the kitchen. Buyers don’t want to fix that dated, gross bathroom. That’s your job. If you have dated tile, a scummy tub surround and a vanity that is eating up bathroom space, consider investing in a few things (besides elbow grease):

  • Pedestal sinks
  • Tile epoxy
  • A new toilet and/or shower door
  • If your tile is outdated and dirty, either scrub and whiten with a grout cleaning solution or refinish your tub surround with tile epoxy. It can be rolled on or sprayed and dries hard and shiny like tile. It does require a bit of work, but it is way cheaper than replacing the tile. Likewise, if your shower door is scummy, maybe you just need to clean it really well and leave as-is. But if it can’t get cleaned enough to look like new, you need a new door.

Exterior

This may be your most important fix of all. Most buyers are looking online at first impressions. They matter more than you think they do. Some buyers are going to just flip on by and never save your home for a second look if they don’t like the picture of the front of your house.

  • Trim the grass.
  • Weed the flower beds.
  • Plant blooming flowers.
  • Make sure the front of your house is clean and in working order.
  • Re-paint or stain the front porch if necessary.

These are all cheap fixes. Some of them are free. However, they go a long way toward getting you that quick sale.

Conclusion

If you want to sell your house quickly without spending a lot of money, consider doing these things. Don’t change the house according to your own taste, but definitely do make the fixes buyers want to see, and make sure there is no visible maintenance you haven’t done.

When you are ready to put your house on the market, please give us a call. We would be honored to help!

248-348-7200

The Pros and Cons of Buying for the School District

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Bus in neighborhood

People have many different priorities when considering buying a home. These include proximity to a job, amenities, location within a city, the number of bedrooms, and interior finishing. The list goes on and on.

When making a decision about this huge purchase, there are so many factors to weigh. Not the least of which is, where will your kids go to school?

Will you be able to sell the house when you move, and for how much? Will you get a good return on your investment?

The common wisdom for buying a home has been “buy in a good school district, even if you don’t have kids.” And there is good reasoning in this approach - especially if you have kids.

However, there are also some good reasons not to let the school district influence your decision.

Do You Have Kids?

The biggest factor for buying a home in a good school district is, of course, whether you have kids under the age of 18. The truth is, when you buy a sought-after home in a good school district, the value of that home is reflected in the price. You will be paying more up-front. But then, your children will benefit from the education a good school district provides.

The alternative is living in a bigger or better home in a less-desirable school district. At that point, you must factor in the cost of paying for a private school education or making a lifestyle-altering choice like homeschooling your children. Some families are able to do this. However, most families will want to benefit from a high-quality public education.

Private schools, as many people know, can run into the thousands per year for each child. The average tuition cost for a private school can run up to $10,000 per year. That is the same as paying around $900 per month in extra mortgage payments.

Tip: The age of the schools, the condition of the facilities, student to teacher ratios, and standardized test scores are all things you can find online about a public school district. These are the factors used in determining the value of the school district.

If you are childless and not planning to have children, or have children over 18, buying an expensive house in a good school district may not be for you.

As mentioned above, the value of the school district does tend to be reflected in the price of the home and the property taxes. If you are paying this without reaping the benefits, it’s no deal for you. You can always pass that inflated price on to the next buyer, which makes this option seem like the safe bet. However, your home isn’t going to appreciate in value as much as a home in an area with bad schools.

It’s true! You can look at the data provided by Zillow to see the home appreciation values for the last 20 years in any area. The reality is that home values have gone up faster and higher in gentrifying areas than in those with good school districts.

What does this mean?

In the economics blog “Up From Wage Slavery”, the author makes a good case for why this trend is changing. Here are some of his reasons:

  • Government policy can affect school district changes quickly.
  • The growth market is in gentrifying cities. Small towns with good school districts appreciate, but fewer people are choosing to move there.
  • People moving to cities are increasingly either childless or waiting until they are older to have children.

Conclusion

It’s not a bad investment to buy a house in a good school district. In fact, it can be one of the safest investments to make. If you are directly benefiting from the schools in your area, it’s a no-brainer.

But if you are looking at buying a home for its appreciation value, the truth is in the data: homes in gentrifying cities (many of which have less desirable school districts) are appreciating faster and higher.

If you are interested in looking for a house and live in Southeast Michigan, please give us a call. We would be honored to help!

248-348-7200

Real Estate News: Seller’s Market - Buyers Are Paying More

by The Jamey Kramer Group

House with sold sign

According to USA Today, 2018 is shaping up to be a seller’s market more than ever before. This is especially true for anyone selling a “starter” home.

The lowest point of the housing market was in 2012, and we’ve seen it steadily get better over the last six years. Now, many people have jobs but the inventory is still tight, so buyers are getting creative to afford homes.

One-third of buyers are spending more than the upper limit of what they thought they would spend to buy a home - an average of over $16,000 - according to an Owners.com survey. This is for two reasons:

  • Home prices went up 6.2% on average between January of 2017 and January of 2018.
  • Bidding wars are driving up prices because of the low inventory.

Guess who is paying the most over their set budget?

The answer is Millennials.

Put it another way: Millennials are the “most likely to splurge” to the tune of $25,000 on average. Not all of them, but around 40%.

Compare this to 34% of Gen Xers by $13,000 and only 19% of Baby Boomers by $8,000 on average.

The fact is that Millennials are still first-time home buyers. They are coming from a rental or living with relatives, compared to their older counterparts, who can stay in the home they are in until they find something in their price range. In addition, they are also unpracticed at buying a home, so less likely to know what constitutes a realistic budget.

Good News for Sellers

This could be great news for sellers, although it doesn’t mean your house will automatically attract a bidding war. A home priced too high for its area is still likely to sit on the market unless it has clear amenities and updates the other homes around it don’t have.

And there are concrete things buyers are looking for this year when they are looking for an updated home. The top answers might surprise you.

According to a Zillow survey of 4 million home sales in the last two years, here is a list of amenities that made homes top sellers (that is, the homes with these amenities sold for this percentage above asking price):

  • Steam shower (29%)
  • Professional-grade appliance (29%)
  • Pizza oven (26 %)
  • Pet shower (25%)
  • Outdoor kitchen (25%)
  • Entertainer or prep sink (25%)
  • Shed or garage studio (24%)
  • Heated floors (24%)
  • Meditation room (24%)
  • Wine fridge (22%)
  • Chef’s kitchen (21%)
  • Craftsman style (21%)
  • Herringbone or parquet floors (21%)
  • Free-standing tub (21%)
  • Solar panels (21%)
  • Coffered ceiling (20%)
  • Outdoor fireplace (20%)
  • Carrara marble (19%)
  • Home theater (19%)
  • Farmhouse sink (19%)

That’s right; buyers these days are looking for wellness-related features like heated floors and free-standing tubs, outdoor cooking spaces, and mudrooms with pet showers.

These things signal to potential buyers that your home is recently updated and will not need any changes or remodeling. It also helps buyers to be able to see themselves living and entertaining in the space.

This desire could translate into more money for you on the other end - and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Investing in some paint and simple staging could change a bedroom into a meditation room in a day.

Takeaway

With inventory low and more buyers willing to pay more, you could be looking at a nice profit on your home if you were thinking about selling this year. Some minor updates could be all you need!

If you are considering putting your house on the market, please give us a call. We would be honored to help!

248-348-7200

 

How to Use Your Tax Refund to Help Buy a Home

by The Jamey Kramer Group

New house concept

We are approaching what most people think of as the peak housing season - the season when most homes are listed and most people who are looking for a home start that process.

Interestingly enough, the peak season for Midwesterners starts in May - ahead of the rest of the country. All other regions start in June.

Getting a jump on this year’s busy season could be important - especially if you’ve been waiting extra long to find that perfect house.

So, how can tax season be helpful?

It’s not hard to figure out how having extra money could be helpful, and I’m sure there are a few different purchases you could make.

Don’t we all look forward to that tax return? Tax return season tends to be when prospective buyers get approved for a home loan more easily for this reason.

Tips on Using Your Tax Refund to Buy a Home

Down Payment

The down payment can be the biggest hurdle. First-time homebuyers are more than ever saddled with school debt. Did you know you can apply for a low down payment mortgage program if you’re a first-time buyer?

There are also down-payment assistance products to help you pay 3.5% all the way on down to nothing down for a first home. A tax refund could be used for a down payment or the return can be used before you’ve received the money to get pre-approved for a loan. Once the money is in your account, it can be used for closing.

If you get approved for a no down payment loan, a tax return can help with closing costs or help to pay the insurance.

Improve Your Credit Score

You may not be approved for a no down payment loan - or even a low down payment loan - because of too much debt. Your debt to income ratio may be too high - meaning the repayment of the mortgage would take too much of your monthly income and the bank thinks you wouldn’t be able to do it.

You can use that tax return to pay off debt in order to qualify. Paying off credit cards or other lines of credit with high-interest rates can dramatically increase your credit score as well, making you a better candidate for mortgage qualification.

It would be helpful to talk to a mortgage loan officer before deciding which debt to pay off if that’s what you’re hoping to do. You want to pay off the debt that makes the most impact and doesn’t jeopardize your loan approval.

Asset Reserves

An underwriter wants to see assets - money - in your bank account. If you have a lower credit score, a high debt ratio or some other problem standing in your way, you may still receive an approval if you have asset reserves like a big tax refund in the bank.

If it’s 2-6 months’ worth of monthly mortgage payments, that’s the most ideal. Talking to a loan officer should help sort out what is best to do with your tax refund if you think it may help you buy the home you’ve been waiting for.

Conclusion

Tax season is upon us. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you may be surprised at how much it could help you buy a first home this season. Make sure you talk to a financial advisor to work out how best to use this asset.

If you are ready to start looking for a house and live in Southeast Michigan, please give us a call. We’re here whenever you need us!

248-348-7200

Deep Cleaning Checklist to Sell Your Home Fast

by The Jamey Kramer Group

Deep cleaning checklist

There’s nothing like walking into a home you know has been taken care of. You may not realize it has been deep cleaned just by walking into it, but you know a clean house when you experience it. It smells nice, it feels nice.

In fact, this one single thing is more important than almost anything else you can do to get your house sold fast.

Not everyone deep cleans their house every spring and fall, so you may be playing catch up in this area when it comes time to sell your house. Trust me, though. You will be so glad you put in the work up front.

Taking the time to deep clean, purge and make your home inviting helps to keep it clean during the selling process and makes moving that much easier.

We realize not everyone has a good idea of how to deep clean a house. These days, with both parents working and families moving more frequently, you may not have been called-upon to deep clean a house.

Even if you elect not to deep clean your house yourself before selling, a checklist is a good idea to give a house cleaner to make sure you’re not paying for something you’re not getting.

Deep Cleaning Checklist

Basic Tips

  • Carry all supplies in a tote you can easily carry with you from room to room.
  • Make it green by carrying clean rags and a bucket for dirty rags.
  • Always clean left to right, back to front and top to bottom.
  • De-clutter every room before cleaning - throw out useless items and donate things you haven’t used in 6 months.
  • Create a filing system and small storage system for papers, keys, and things that would normally fill up a junk drawer.
  • Create a mail sorting system to avoid piling.

Deep Cleaning Room by Room

Every Room

  • Wash windows, sills, and screens. You’ll be amazed at how much cleaner this makes a room feel.
  • Clean all light fixtures and bulbs. Replace burnt out bulbs. Your home may be much brighter than you’re used to by now.
  • Light switches.
  • Ceiling fans: blades and lights.
  • Using a hose attachment, get all cobwebs from corners and the joints between walls and ceilings.
  • Dust the tops of everything: doors, cabinets, trim, appliances, etc.
  • Clean under and behind all furniture.
  • Remove all trinkets to clean and dust, around and underneath.
  • Polish the furniture.
  • Wash all rugs and mats.
  • Clean switch plate covers and door knobs.
  • To clean walls: Grease, smoke, and dust build up on your walls over time. Resist the urge to spot clean, as it can make the rest of your wall look dingy in comparison. Instead, wash walls using a general-purpose cleaner with hot water. Start at the top of the wall to avoid drips and in a corner so that you wash one wall at a time. Use a clean mop. Rinse the mop head frequently in clean water. Press lightly, as flat paint doesn’t absorb much water. If a wall needs serious scrubbing, you may want to consider re-painting. This may also be a necessity if there is smoke damage - or you have smoked inside your home for any length of time. If this is the case, all drapes and upholstery will need to be steam-cleaned as well.
  • Empty and clean all trash cans
  • Vacuum or lint roll lampshades
  • Vacuum upholstery

Entry

  • Hose down/scrub around front door and light fixture.
  • Polish exterior light fixtures and door hardware.
  • Clean up your yard and landscaping.

Kitchen

  • Clear off countertops, scrub.
  • Polish faucets and sink.
  • Deep clean inside of fridge and freezer - make sure to take out and clean the drip pan.
  • Take your stove apart, remove knobs, scrub thoroughly with degreasing cleaner.
  • Clean the inside of your stove and oven door along with the broiler drawer and ledges.
  • Inside/outside of the microwave.
  • Clean chairs/barstools
  • Wipe cabinets inside and out.
  • Wipe baseboards.
  • Vacuum and mop floors, paying special attention to corners and cracks along cabinet bases.

Bathrooms

  • Wash all walls and tile. You may need to use a grout cleaner for mildew or discolored spots in your tub or shower. Use an old toothbrush to get the corners and cracks. Hair products do tend to coat the walls and build up over time just as with grease in the kitchen.
  • Clean towel racks and toilet paper holders.
  • Use an old toothbrush and whitening cleaner on sinks, toilets, tubs, and showers.
  • Bleach shower pan if necessary and remove drain cover and scrub clean.
  • Clean glass shower doors.
  • Scrub and disinfect every surface of the toilet.
  • Wash and polish all mirrors.
  • Clean or put away all items on the countertop.
  • Wash and replace all linens in use - towels and area rugs.
  • Scrub floors and baseboards.

Laundry Room

  • Clean washer and dryer. Remove lint and knobs and wipe down inside and out. This is a good time to clean the lint from under your dryer drum.
  • De-clutter the top of your dryer and all surfaces, corralling all products into one cupboard or basket.
  • Scrub floors and baseboards.

Garage

  • Make sure everything is well lit, well organized, and clean.

Closets

  • Vacuum the floors.
  • Dust the walls and the shelves.
  • Consider not only categorizing, ironing, and straightening all hanging clothes but also investing in matching hangers for a uniform look. Make sure all storage items are stacked neatly and shoes are all clean and lined up nicely or on a rack.
  • Place cedar blocks in the closet to freshen the air and prevent moth

Extra tips

To eliminate smells:

  • Wash the inside of your fridge with baking soda and water.
  • Boil lemon juice in your microwave.
  • Add lemon juice to your dishwasher.
  • Put lemon rinds down your garbage disposal.
  • Put activated charcoal in the fridge to keep bad smells away.
  • The best smell for your home is clean - don’t attempt to cover up bad smells with heavy air fresheners
  • Have your carpets professionally cleaned before showing your home and put large rugs at the front door to control dirt tracked in. You can also ask those viewing your home to take their shoes off when they tour the house.
  • The best time to wash windows is on an overcast day. 1 part vinegar to 8 parts water and two drops of dishwashing liquid make a great window cleaner. Spray on and wipe with newspaper.

Takeaway

It's a common fact that clean homes net more money. If your home is squeaky clean, you will not only sell your home faster, you will make more money.

When you are ready to put your house on the market, please give us a call. We would be honored to help!

248-348-7200

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