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    Selling & Buying a Home

    Selling & Buying a Home

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    The stakes are high when selling or buying a home. Rely on these tips from the experts to guide you through some of the basic steps you need to take when selling, building, or buying your dream home.

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    Deciding to Build or Buy

    Deciding to build or buy your next house

    Before deciding to build or buy a home, know the advantages of both options. For today's house hunter, the decision to build or buy can be a difficult question. Although each homeownership option has pros and cons, one may offer a clear advantage for your family based on your priorities, such as personal finances and period of time.

    The advantages of building your next home

    When you build a new house, you don’t have to compromise on the wall color or the flooring choice—you get exactly what you want. Here are some of the additional benefits of building:

    • Tax benefits
      By building yourself, you may be able to deduct the interest and points on the land and construction loans as well as any property taxes paid along the way.
    • Flexible financing
      Some banks offer financing options that allow you to roll your construction loan into a traditional mortgage payment, potentially eliminating the need for a separate closing and its associated closing costs.
    • Energy efficiency
      One of the biggest advantages of building a home is that you have control over the use of practices and products that can save you hundreds of dollars each year in utility bills.
    • Choosing your neighbors
      A new neighborhood hasn’t had the time to become widely diverse. So, if you want a neighborhood with lots of kids, you can build in a child-centered neighborhood.
    • More living and closet space
      Building gives you the option of purchasing a smaller lot and constructing a zero-lot-line home. This way, you maximize your living space.
    • Safety
      New homes are generally safer, since they may have smoke alarms, residential fire sprinklers, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire escape windows.
    • Amenities
      New neighborhoods often offer amenities an older neighborhood may not have, such as swimming pools, bike trails, clubhouses and picnic areas.

    The advantages of home buying

    Purchasing a resale home means you’ll be able to check to see whether any construction defects have shown up over the years. Here are a few other reasons an existing home purchase may be for you:

    • Time to move in
      Since an existing home is already constructed, you generally won’t have to wait months or years before you can occupy it. This also means you won’t have to pay rent for a temporary place while waiting for your home to be built.
    • Location, location, location
      Many existing homes are in neighborhoods that have been developed relatively near to the city center. This can save you time if your job is in or near downtown.
    • Personality
      If you want a house where history happened, there’s no substitute for the real thing. Some older homes also have quirky details that add to its personality.
    • Pricing
      When buying an existing home, you’ll often pay less per square foot than you would for a new house because homes just weren’t as expensive to build in times past.
    • Mature landscaping
      Mature trees and shrubs can add a lot of value to a home and provide shelter from the heat and cold, thus increasing efficiency.
    • Homeowners associations
      Buying an existing home in an older neighborhood may mean you don’t have to pay expensive homeowners association fees.

    The deciding factor in whether to build new or buy existing is ultimately a personal preference. Do your homework before making a decision, evaluate your family’s needs and wants—and then prepare to enjoy your home for many years to come.

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    Selecting a Builder

    Selecting a builder

    Building a home is a completely involved experience. It requires extensive time, energy and dedication — not only on your part, but also on the part of your home builder. A builder who values the quality and reputation of its houses can make your home building experience enjoyable and efficient, and can help ensure you’ll end up with a place you love to call home. Keep these tips in mind when selecting a builder.

    • Focus on value
      What a home costs is important—but how it’s built is vital. Keep in mind that the cheapest home prices available may also be cheaply built, and may cost you more in repairs over the long haul.
    • Evaluate your needs
      Before you begin the process of selecting a home builder, determine whether you need a custom home builder or a production home builder.
    • Stay close to home
      When selecting a builder, choose a company that has plenty of experience building in the area in which you want to live. Factors such as building codes and weather patterns can vary from locale to locale, so save yourself time and headaches by selecting a builder who knows the region.
    • Ask around
      A builder’s reputation usually precedes them, so be sure to ask friends, family members and local realtors what they’ve heard about a particular company.
    • Narrow it down
      Experts recommend interviewing at least three builders before making a final decision. Drive through some neighborhoods constructed by the builder and if you happen to see any owners outside, strike up a conversation. Ask if they have had problems with their home’s construction and about the service they have received from the builder since the sale.
    • Check out the warranty
      A builder who trusts the quality of its product should have no qualms in offering a comprehensive home warranty, usually covering the home’s first 10 years. Read over the warranty thoroughly to know what potential problems the builder will be required to take care of, and what issues will be your responsibility.
    • Check credibility
      Before deciding on a builder, ask to review a copy of the company’s most recent annual report. Strong financials indicate that the company is probably providing a quality product and may be around over the next 10 years.

    How to pack for a move

    Knowing how to pack specific items can save you time — and help ensure each item arrives at the new house safe and sound.

    • Hang ironed or dry-cleaned clothes in wardrobe cartons to avoid the hassle of pressing them after the move.
    • Empty the drawers in a piece of furniture before moving the piece itself.
    • Place heavy objects toward the bottom of the box and more delicate articles near the top.
    • Stack and wrap cups or other kitchen breakables. Place small pieces of paper between each item for added protection or use boxes from a grocery or liquor store that include cardboard dividers.
    • Pack table lamps in sturdy dish pack cartons. Wrap the base of the lamp well and fill in the box with wadded-up packing paper. Pack the lampshade by itself, if possible.
    • Books and records should be stood on end and packed in small cartons since they will get heavy quickly.
    • Label your cords and cables with their corresponding device for easy set up after the move. It can also help to take a photo of how the electronics are connected so you can remember where the wires go, especially if you have a very complicated setup.

    Pack first-night essentials

    Avoid a frantic search after your move by packing all essential toiletries, a change of clothes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, clean sheets, medications, comfort items for children and a first-aid kit. Keep this box in your car, and make sure it's easy to get to once the move is complete.

    How to pack breakables

    Bubble wrap is great to use for wrapping breakable items, but you can also be creative and use clothing, socks, tissue paper and other packing material to ensure your breakable items stay intact. Pack your kitchen breakables in liquor cartons with cardboard dividers if possible, or place them near the top of boxes that hold your other dishes.

    How to pack bulky items

    If you still have the original packaging for your bulky items, it's a good idea to use it. However, you can also use trash bags, moving blankets or packing paper to transport and protect those hard-to-pack items. Don't be afraid to use extra boxes. It can be better to use more boxes without fear of damage rather than cramming items that could shift and break into a single box.

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    Selling your home

    Selling your home

    Selling a home in today’s housing market requires hard work, careful planning and plenty of savvy. Following these tips can help make the process as smooth and painless as possible.

    • Price your home fairly
      Research recent home sales in your neighborhood, talk to home sellers and buyers, and check out the real estate listings in your local newspaper or the seller's market. You can also get an estimate of your home's value and selling price by searching for a house value calculator.
    • Hire a real estate lawyer
      A real estate lawyer can guide you through the complexities of selling your home, from evaluating complicated offers and acting as an escrow agent to reviewing contracts and handling your home's closing process. He or she can also tell you what things, by law, you must disclose to buyers prior to a sale.
    • Market your home
      Professional-looking lawn signs are one of the most important marketing tools for home sellers. It can also be helpful to create a detailed information sheet about your home, have your home listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and hold open houses to bring buyers to your home
    • Negotiate offers
      Buyers and sellers have an Attorney Review Period of approximately three days to cancel or amend an offer once it has been made. Before you accept, consider the contract terms as well as the offer price, and assess your buyers’ financial viability. Finally, if you feel the offer is insufficient, don’t be afraid to make a counteroffer
    • Prepare for a home inspection
      The potential buyer will hire a real estate inspector to examine the condition of your home. If you are concerned about how your house will fare when inspected, you may want to hire your own inspector first so you can address any problems before a buyer identifies them
    • Expect a buyer appraisal
      The mortgage lender will order an appraisal of your home to make sure the offer is in line with what the house is worth during the buying process. The company may also order a surveyor to make sure that the property boundaries are properly laid out and order a title search to determine if there are any liens against your property
    • Close the deal
      On the closing date, the home's buyer will do a walk-through of the property to make sure all agreed-upon repairs have been completed.

    All monies will be collected, any existing loans or liens will be paid, the deed will be transferred and insurance will be issued to ensure a free and clear title.

    Note: Please refer to your state laws regarding the home-selling process as the customs and laws governing this process may vary.

    Getting ready to show your current home 

    Preparing to sell your home can be a daunting task. The best way to begin is to step back and view your home from a home buyer’s perspective. Then, follow these tips to give your house that model-home appeal.

    • Apply a fresh coat of paint inside and out.
    • Rent a short-term storage unit and free up space in your home and garage in order to convey the feeling of more square footage.
    • Get rid of unnecessary clutter. Remove stacks of mail, newspapers, knickknacks, personal medications, photographs, unnecessary appliances and other potentially distracting paraphernalia.
    • Fix any leaky faucets or running toilets.
    • Add visually appealing accents such as potted plants, bowls of fruit and fresh flowers.
    • Create a pleasant aroma in the home, especially if you have pets. Light a candle an hour before the buyer arrives or bake fresh cookies in your oven.
    • Make a good first impression by improving your entryway: Replace porch lights, polish brass handles and replace worn doormats.
    • Clear walkways and paths, and place some potted flowers by the front door.
    • Improve your home's "flow" by creating open walkways and exposing as much floor as possible.
    • Straighten sagging gutters and replace warped roofing shingles.

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    Painting

    Painting

    Painting can be a great way to add character to your home, if done right, it can be easy too. If you plan on doing some painting in your home, keep the following tips in mind.

    • Prepare walls prior to painting. Patch nail holes, repair dents and dings, and sand all surfaces lightly.
    • Wash walls with tri-sodium phosphate (TSP), which acts as a cleaning agent, stain remover and degreaser.
    • Use mid- to high-grade paints and high-grade brushes and rollers. This will help make the application easier and the finished job look professional

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