WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT USING HOME EQUITY

One of the huge benefits of owning property is the home equity you can build. But with equity comes the temptation to dip into it if a large expense or possible investment arises. There are many strategic ways to use your equity without ruining any personal financial advances you have made. The most crucial step you need to take is to fully understand your options for tapping into that money and the associated risks.

Simply put, your home equity is the market value of your home relative to any loan balances remaining. There are two main ways to utilize this value. Getting a home equity loan provides you with a lump sum of money that you pay off in monthly installments, generally over five to 15 years. As with any loan, you will be required to pay interest on the amount, but it is usually a fixed rate. Choosing to use a line of credit instead offers similar benefits, but instead of receiving the money up front, you are given a pool you can draw from as needed. With this option, the lender provides a maximum borrowing limit and you can choose to use it or not until it is reached. 

Before dipping into your home equity in, either way, it is important to understand the possible consequences. In both instances, your home is used as loan collateral. This means if you are unable to make payments on the loan for any reason, the lender can sell your property or take your home in foreclosure. Additionally, there will likely be closing costs and fees you have to pay in association with the loan.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

KICK MOLD TO THE CURB

Finding mold in your house is the last thing a homeowner wants to encounter. Not only is it unsightly and smells unpleasant, but it can pose a serious health threat to you and your family.

You should take steps up front to prevent molding in your home by checking gutters and downspouts to ensure water is draining away from your home’s foundation. Check under sinks and near dishwashers and clothing washers for any signs of leaking and repair immediately. Finally, don’t forget to use bathroom fans when showering to limit moisture.

After taking these steps, if you still encounter mold, don’t fear! Here are our top tips for dealing with it.

  • Take precautions. When cleaning mold found in your home, make sure to wear proper protection such as eye covers, face masks, and rubber gloves. Try to keep children and pets out of rooms where mold exists and run fans and dehumidifiers to expel moisture. 
  • Use proper cleaning solutions. The best way to remove mold really depends on the surface it has grown on. For interior walls and flooring, use a mixture of bleach, detergent, and water with a sponge or mop. For exterior walls or cement, use the mixture alongside a strong bristled brush to scrub the area.
  • Clean clothing immediately. To prevent the transfer of mold spores, place clothing worn while cleaning in a plastic bag and wash separately with hot water.
  • Consider hiring a professional. If the mold in your home is extensive, it may be beneficial to hire a professional. A good rule of thumb to follow is to call for help if affected surfaces surpass 10 square feet.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

CREATE THE HOME OFFICE OF YOUR DREAMS

Whether you work full-time at home or occasionally need to conduct business in the evenings or on the weekends, a home office a great way to utilize an extra room. A dedicated workspace in your home can be designed to increase productivity and comfort. Here are 5 ideas to get you started. 

  • Invest in a good office chair. Investing in an ergonomic office chair is essential. You may be spending anywhere from 30 to 50 hours a week sitting in it, so your back will thank you. Purchasing one with multiple adjustments is ideal so it fits you just right.
  • Switch up your lighting. Fluorescent lighting has been proven to be hard on the eyes. Make the switch to LED or halogen light bulbs in your home office and try to let in as much natural light as possible. Also, consider finding a desk lamp to reduce headaches and eye strain.
  • Keep essentials in reach and organized. Nothing says productivity like a clean, neat workspace. Select a desk with a lot of storage or install creative shelving to keep items like pens, pencils, extra batteries, calculator, notepads, and more stored within arm’s reach.
  • Decorate bright. Pick a color you love and use it to spice up the room. Use cheery yellow or red or relaxing tones like green and blue, instead of beiges and browns.
  • Aim for the view. If possible, place your desk so you are facing a window instead of a blank wall. Natural light can do wonders for staying alert and you can give yourself a short mental break when necessary by looking to the outdoors.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

STAGING STRATEGIES FOR YOUR HOME

Staging your home is all about putting the best foot forward for potential buyers. By highlighting its most desirable features, you can draw more interest for your home and leave a lasting impression that is sure to help you sell it more quickly. Here’s what you should keep in mind as you prepare for your next open house or viewing!

  • Help them visualize it as their own. Make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves making your house their home by removing personal memorabilia, knick-knacks, and photos. Instead replace them with simple décor, such as paintings, nature images, and plants. 
  • Think sleek instead of comfy. Modern-day buyers are leaning toward modern, crisp, clean interiors over comfy, homey looks. When staging your home, keep a minimalist mindset and incorporate bright colors and metal accents.
  • Deep clean the small spaces. It’s obvious to say you should clean your home before viewing, but don’t forget to cover your bases by deep cleaning the small spots. Take time to scrub porous areas like grout that may hold on to stains and baseboards where small pet hairs and dust love to cling.
  • Spruce up your landscaping. The first impression your home gives to potential buyers is its exterior. Ensure you have a freshly mowed lawn, neat hedges and shrubbery, bright flowers, and a clean driveway. 
  • Set the mood. A home is so much more than just the way it looks, so you need to appeal to the other senses. Prior to having potential buyers over, set the mood by burning delicious smelling candles and selecting an upbeat, happy soundtrack to play in the background.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

HIDDEN FEES TO BE AWARE OF WHEN PURCHASING A HOME

Purchasing a home is arguably one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. As you start your hunt, don’t forget there will be other costs associated with your purchase then the price of the home. Here are 5 fees to keep in mind as you begin to budget.

  1. Home inspection. This is a crucial step in the home buying process. The findings that come from the inspection can help you negotiate price and repairs. Generally, you can expect to pay between $300 to $500 depending on the home and the location.
  2. Title services. Title services encompass the transfer of the title from the seller and a thorough search of the property’s records to ensure to no one will pop up with a claim to the property. Additionally, you may need to buy title insurance which will protect the lender or your investment in the home.
  3. Appraisal fee. Before getting a loan, you will likely be required to get an appraisal of the home to determine its estimated value. This will be conducted by a third-party company and the cost can land anywhere between $300 and $1,000, depending on the size of the home.
  4. HOA fees. Many communities have a homeowners’ association that enforces monthly fees. This money is used for general maintenance and updates to areas like pools, parks, and more. Typical HOA fees are around $200 per month.
  5. Taxes. The taxes each buyer pays at the closing table differ, but it is not uncommon for it to be up to two months’ worth of county and city property taxes. Additionally, there may be taxes for the transfer of the home title.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

FIVE TIPS FOR A GREAT BACKYARD

Summer is here, so entertaining has made the move from the living room to the backyard. It’s the season for barbecues and campouts. Here are five ways to make sure your back yard is everyone’s favorite.

 1. Make sure there’s a place to cook! The way to your guests’ hearts is through their stomachs. You could have something as simple as a charcoal grill or as elaborate as a fully-featured kitchen, but it‘s essential that you can prepare some food outdoors. 

 2. Lighting matters. At the very least you need enough lighting to keep the party going when the sun goes down. But for a back yard that really pops, add some decorative lighting to walkways, landscaping, or anything else worth highlighting.

 3. Gather around the fire. This one’s a no brainer. Everyone loves a good place to make hot dogs and s’mores—just make sure you’re not violating any neighborhood ordinances.

 4. Bring the beach to your backyard. A little water will make everything look better. It could be something as simple as fountain or as elaborate as a waterfall or fish pond. 

 5. Don’t forget the foliage. Trees, shrubs and flowers are all important for adding the finishing touches to your outdoor entertainment space. The trees and shrubs can provide some much-needed shade when the sun is out, and flowers add just the right amount of color.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

STAY HEALTHY THIS SUMMER

A few simple tips for improving your personal health

Summer is the time for family vacations and road trips, backyard barbecues, and days at the beach. But as the pace of life slows down after the hustle and bustle of winter and spring, it’s also a great time to make some small health-conscious changes that can make a big difference at the end of the day. Here are a few simple-but-effective tips for improving your personal health this summer.

Eat more berries
Eating a cup of mixed berries each day can have tremendous health benefits. Berries are rich with antioxidants, which help prevent tissue damage and lower the risk of age-related illnesses. It’s just a small change to your diet, but a little goes a long way!

Have some fun while exercising
This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym. Make the most of the summer weather by doing activities that are both fun and keep you moving. Cycling, hiking, swimming, playing games with the kids—these are all great ways to get some exercise without making it feel like a chore that you have to squeeze into your schedule.

Wear your sunglasses
I know this seems like a no-brainer, but there’s a lot more to wearing sunglasses than just fashion. A good pair of sunglasses should block out at least 99 percent of harmful UV rays. 

Play in the dirt
Planting and maintaining a garden can be a great stress reliever. Even something as simple as a few flower boxes or potted plants is a good start.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

HOW AN AGENT CAN HELP ALLEVIATE STRESS

Purchasing a home can be a stressful experience, whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’ve been through the process before. But that’s one of the reasons that working with a real estate professional is so worthwhile. With your agent’s guidance, buying a home should be enjoyable, rather than stressful. Here are some of the more unique circumstances where your agent can make your life much easier.

Out-of-town buyers: If you’re looking for vacation homes or moving to a job in a new city, there’s a good chance that viewing homes will be difficult—you could be a long drive or even a plane ride away. With today’s video messaging apps like Skype or Facetime, your agent can walk you through a property virtually. It’s not the same as walking through in person, but it will at least give you an idea about whether a property is worth pursuing further.

When life is just too crazy: If you’re just getting too busy with everything else going on in your life, a good buyer’s agent should be able to recognize the situation and help you take a step back. They can suggest that you take a few weeks off from your home search to recharge, or only focus on properties that exactly fit your wants list.

Inspection issues: You’re dreaming about move-in day, and then some unforeseen issues turn up during inspection. A good agent can work out those issues by negotiating a lower offer—to cover costs of repairs—or by getting the seller to fix the problem.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

BEFORE YOU TAKE THE PLUNGE WITH A FIXER-UPPER, THINK ABOUT RESALE VALUE

We’ve all watched the HGTV programs that show a run-down old house transforming into a dream home. Tackling a big renovation project on an outdated property can indeed pay off big—both with the home of your dreams, and with a return on investment. If resale value is a primary concern, consider these factors as you’re making your fixer-upper plans.

Is the price right?
How much can you invest in a home beyond the sale price while staying in line with the value of homes in the neighborhood? You don’t want to improve a home to the point that it’s worth far more than the norm for the area. You’ll enjoy the property while you’re living there, but if you ever decide to sell, your ROI could be limited by the market value of nearby houses.

Low cost, instant equity
There are a lot of low cost and DIY improvements that will add equity almost immediately, such as rehabbing the landscaping and adding fresh coats of paint. These improvements add value to the property almost instantly. 

What’s worth spending on?
A little elbow grease goes a long way, but there will inevitably be projects that require some serious spending. If you’re concerned with getting a return on your investment, focus your dollars toward the roof, floors, and the home’s exterior. They’re not flashy upgrades, but they’re important for future buyers. On the other hand, luxuries like a swimming pool are unlikely to see any return on investment.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

HOW DOES HOME STAGING MAKE A DIFFERENCE

It seems to be universally accepted that home staging will help your home sell faster or for the best price—it’s been the common practice in the real estate business for a long time, and on the surface it seems like a no-brainer. Of course potential buyers will be more interested if a home is properly decorated, right?

That’s not necessarily true, according to a recent academic study. The study surveyed 820 homebuyers by showing them one of six virtual tours of the same property. In some instances the home was decorated with traditional furniture and color schemes, while in others more eccentric furniture and colors were used. In other tours there was no furniture at all, just empty rooms.

The overall results of the study were that staging is unlikely to increase a home’s sale price, and that staging isn’t quite as important as everyone believes.

Of course, real estate trends vary greatly from market to market. If you have questions about staging, talk to your trusted real estate professional.

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

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