A New Kind of Home Buyer: Tips for Marketing Your Home to Millennials

A young millennial couple standing in front of the home they've just purchased.

Millennials get a lot of flack, but they’re an important part of the real estate market. In fact, they make up the largest generational percentage of home buyers right now!

So, if you’re planning on selling your home soon, it’s important to keep the average millennial home buyer in mind. This generation is unlike any that’s come before it, and the way they buy everything (from laundry detergent to life insurance) is unique.

When it comes to catching the eye of the discerning millennial home buyer, here’s what you need to do:

Create a Strong Internet Presence

It goes without saying that millennials rely on the Internet for, well, everything. This isn’t unusual: the Internet makes every kind of shopping easier and more accessible.

As such, giving your home an effective online presence is key. It needs to be easy to find via the most popular home-buying networks, and it has to look great no matter the screen size. After all, more home buyers than ever before are using their smartphones to find their dream home.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Professional Listing Photos

A beautiful modern kitchen.

Because millennials rely on the Internet to search homes for sale, your home’s photos have to stand out in a big way. After all, with the right photographer even the smallest home can look like a palace.

So, don’t skimp on this expense! Great photos could be the difference between a home selling within hours, and a home languishing on the market for months.

Show How Your Home Will Improve their Lifestyle

Millennials are looking for homes that will improve their lifestyles and be close to wherever they need to be during the week. As you market your home online, be sure you’re highlighting both its features and location in your listing description.

Tell an exciting story of how much better their life will be once they buy your home! Craft your listing description to carefully touch on all the best parts of your home and its surroundings, and let buyers know exactly why they need to buy it.

Know What Millennials are Looking for in a Home

A pair of hands typing on a smart phone.

So, what are millennials looking for anyway? Market research finds that millennial buyers are attracted to affordable homes with eco-friendly and smart features. If your home has any green features or environmentally friendly add-ons, you’ll definitely want to highlight them.

In addition, if you’ve outfitted your home to accommodate any smart features that use technology—like a Nest thermostat or other Smart Home appliances—be sure to mention that in your listing description and social media promotion.

Use a Pro to Market Your Home

The easiest way to market your home to millennials? Work with a real estate specialist who understands this unique market—and how to best target real estate’s next generation of buyers.

Give us a call today for more information about selling your home to millennials!

The Pre-construction Meeting

What happens at a pre-construction meeting? What can I expect; and about how long will it take?

The builder superintendent will introduce himself to you and will sit down to go over every single plan and make sure everything you have selected is on there and it is correct.

First, you go over the floor plan of the house and where tile, wood and carpet will go.

You will review all the options you choose and make sure they are on the plans. Then you will go over the electrical, plumbing and data plans checking every single thing on them again to verify it is all there. The super will make notes on the plans if needed and will correct or add any items needed to be added or removed. You also see the location and design for cabinets. 

At the end you go over the exterior of the home.

You will be shown how the home will sit on the lot and you will have to sign all those things making sure you have reviewed and ok all of it.

This meeting should take 1-2 hours. You should expect your home to start construction within a week or two after this meeting. 

Our meeting took place on day 100 after we signed the earnest money contract. This usually takes place about 30-45 days after you sign but in our case we had a re-draw that put us on a different time line. Our meeting took about 1 hr and 45 minutes and we were told to expect the foundation to be poured in a few days.

The Best Smart Home Technology for Upping Your Home’s Value

Repainting the walls, updating the kitchen and bathroom, replacing the hot water heater—there are ways to increase your home’s value that stand the test of time. But as the market and the priorities of buyers change, there are newer, more popular ways to get a high return on your investment!

Smart home technology is becoming a bigger factor for buyers, and it’s not hard to see why. Things like smart appliances, high-efficiency lighting, and programmable thermostats aren’t only convenient, but they also save you money on utility bills! Lucky for sellers, smart home technology is pretty affordable compared to other value-boosting projects and can increase your home’s resale value by a few percentage points.

Whether you’re selling your home soon and looking to get top dollar or just curious about your options, take a look at our guide to the top smart home technology to install in 2019.

Smart Appliances

A new kitchen with new appliances.

Pretty much every appliance in your home has a “smart” option—refrigerators, washers and dryers, faucets, ovens, you name it. Smart fridges can self-adjust the temperature and create grocery lists, smart ovens allow you to check how much time is left from your phone and preprogam recipes, and smart washers will run during the most cost-effective time of day.

As far as what to install, you don’t have to replace every appliance with a smart version, but think of what’s most practical. Since kitchens and bathrooms are priorities for buyers, consider replacing the fridge, oven, or faucets.

Smart Security System & Locks

A smart lock on a door.

Installing a smart security system is one of the most popular smart improvements you can make. According to T3 Sixty’s recent survey of buyers interested in smart home technology, the largest amount of interest was shown for smart security systems.

The security includes anything from cameras that upload footage to a virtual database to locks enabled by wifi. Some companies, like Nest, Ring, and SimpliSafe, offer bundle packages with alarms, cameras, and smart doorbells. Since security is such a high priority for buyers, these systems will likely show one of the highest returns on your investment.

Smart Lighting

A lightbulb sitting in grass.

You know those lights that turn on when you clap? This is the next level. Not only can smart lighting be controlled via apps, but it can also be set to trigger under certain conditions, like when you walk by or when you leave for work. Forget to switch the lights off before leaving? No problem—you can just turn them off from your phone!

It’s recommended to buy a starter pack, since those come with light bulbs and other supplies you’ll need for setup. Once that’s all installed, most systems are compatible with smart speakers like the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Smart Thermostats

A smart thermostat.

Buying a home is a big investment, so if you can show potential buyers how your home can help save them money, it’s going to make your property that much more desirable. According to studies conducted by major smart thermostat providers like Ecobee and Nest, homeowners saved 23% in heating and cooling costs (Ecobee) and around $150 annually (Nest). You can even estimate what the savings in your home might look like with an energy calculator!

The most popular smart home thermostats are Ecobee and Nest, which will run you around $200 – $300. If you’re interested in a budget option that will still look flashy to buyers, check out Honeywell. Of course, each system offers different features, so be sure to do a little research beforehand.

Smart Blinds

Blinds.

Smart blinds are a little more of a cosmetic perk for buyers, but they do have their money-saving benefits. You can set the shades to open or close based on peak sunlight times or the temperature of your home, which saves a few extra dollars on heating and cooling here and there. They also add an extra layer of security and convenience to the home, both of which are big selling points for today’s buyers.

Depending on the model you get, you can control your smart shades through an app, a smart hub, or even just your voice. You can even coordinate them with other smart features in your home, like the lighting or smoke detectors!

Check out options like the Serena smart shade by Lutron, the Pella Insynctive line, or Ikea’s upcoming August line.

Getting Ready to List Your Home?

While smart home technology might be one of the most popular ways to up your home’s value right now, there are plenty of other options. Give us a call, and we’ll be more than happy to walk through your home and recommend a few value-boosting improvements!

Already ready to list? Let us know, and we’ll help you find the best listing price for your home—with all of your recent upgrades taken into account.

What is a seller’s net sheet

A seller’s net sheet is document used by title companies, Realtors, and other real estate professionals to give a home seller an accurate estimate of the net proceeds they will realize from the sale of their home. This is the actual amount of money the seller will take as a result of the transaction. Some of the charges listed on the seller’s net sheet can be; commissions paid to both buyer and selling agent, payoffs to any mortgages, property tax prorations, settlement fees, recording fees, document preparation fees, home warranties to be offered to the buyer, notary fees, etc; along with other possible concession the seller might give at the time of the sale. 

I consider the seller’s set sheet part of my listing presentation, and a very important tool for the seller to decide wether they should sell or not; it helps them price the home, plan for negotiations, and any possible repairs or additional concessions they might want to consider.

Make sure to ask your listing agent for one before you get under contract to avoid any surprises at closing.

The 5 Most Important Things to Do After Buying a Home

So, you bought a house. First of all, congratulations! The search is over, no more weekends filled with open houses and showings, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Phew.

But your work isn’t quite done yet. Once you buy a house, there are a few things that need to happen before and after move-in day. Check out our list of to-dos, and get prepared for what comes after closing—trust us, your future self will thank you.

Do a Deep Clean

A vacuum.

When you first buy your home, there won’t be any heavy dressers blocking off corners, couches and beds to clean under, or stacks of boxes covered in cobwebs in the attic. Your house will never be this empty again—well, until you sell it, that is—so take advantage of the wide-open space.

Whether you want to hire professional cleaners or DIY, you should pour some serious TLC into your new house. Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub, polish—look up a few cleaning checklists for inspiration—and put in some elbow grease.

Change Your Address

A painted mailbox.

This process will be a little tedious, but it has to be done. First, you should fill out a change of address form from your post office, so any mail sent to your old address will get forwarded to your new one—although these days you can even complete the process online!

Next, get in touch with credit card companies, your cell phone provider, and anyone else who will need to continue sending you bills. Big fan of online shopping? The last thing you want is for your package to get dropped off at your old house, so be sure to update your Amazon info, as well.

Set Up Utilities & Security

A door with various locks.

Running water, electricity, internet…all things you probably want working when you move in, right? If you already have a provider, you’ll need to communicate the change address to them, stop service to your old address, and set up a date for service to continue at your new address.

While you’re getting things installed, you should also consider setting up a security system. These days you’ll have plenty of affordable and high-tech options, so be sure to browse what’s available. At the very least, consider changing your locks, since old copies of the keys from the past owners could still be floating around.

Keep Your Documents Organized

Once you’ve closed on your home, you’re going to have a lot of important documents to keep track of, and moving is going throw everything into chaos (although hopefully organized chaos) for a bit. As soon as you’ve closed and before you move in, collect all of the documents you used for your mortgage loan, as well as any copies of closing papers.

You never know when you might need some of them again, so invest in a secure storage system to keep them organized and around at all times.

Say Hi to the Neighbors

People talking in a group outside of a home.

Even if you’re a little shy, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the neighbors once you move in. After all, close neighbors can help with anything from lending you an extra cup of sugar to watching your pets while you’re out of town.

You don’t have to organize a mixer or bake cookies for everyone, but just saying hello while you’re out and about can go a long way in establishing those important relationships.

Ready to Buy Your Dream Home?

Now that you know what to do after you’ve closed, let’s get started with your home search! From guiding you around the area to helping you navigate your mortgage options, our team is here to help you reach your real estate goals—and answer all of your questions along the way.

If you’re ready to get started or have a few questions, just give us a call today!

The Top Tax Deductions & Credits for Homeowners in 2019

Taxes are confusing, which is why many people in the U.S. choose to hire an expert to do their taxes for them. After all, there are so many numbers to know, forms to have ready, records of income and expenses, W-4s, 1099s, 380-Ts—we could’ve just made that last one up, and there’s no way of knowing!

Even though taxes might be complicated, they (sometimes) have a few perks. And if you own a home, those perks could mean a major bonus on your return. If you’re thinking of buying a home before next year’s taxes are due, here’s everything you need to know about how making a home purchase can affect your returns.

A calculator app on an iPhone.

Deductions vs. Credit

Before we kick off the fun stuff, it’s important to know a little jargon—namely, the difference between a deduction and a credit.

When it comes to credits, think of them like tax-related coupons that reduce your dollar-for-dollar total. A few major tax credits include child tax credits, adoption credits, education or retirement credits, or credits for energy efficient homes and cars. Depending on the credits you qualify for, you could get anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars taken off of your tax liability.

Deductions are a little different: they reduce your taxable income, which can then adjust the total that you owe. Claiming certain deductions means that that part of your income is exempt from being taxed. Knowing which deductions to claim is key when filing, especially for homeowners.

Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Buying a home is expensive, but when it comes to tax time, here are the ways you can make some of that money back.

Various tax documents.

Mortgage Interest

One of the reasons that taxes for homeowners are so confusing is because they tend to change based on federal standards. Over the past few years, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pretty drastically altered the tax benefits for home ownership.

The most important change to know this year has to do with mortgage-related deductions. Previously, the tax deduction for home mortgages was limited to interest paid on $1 million debt for jointly filing married couples and single filers and $500,000 for married couples filing separately. Now, the numbers look more like $750,000 for the former and $500,000 for the latter. Additionally, interest paid during closing can also be counted towards this number.

Property & State Taxes

Did you know that the amount you pay in property taxes, state income taxes, and local sales tax is also deductible? If you pay property taxes through escrow, your lender will need to get the amount for you on your 1098 form, otherwise you should be able to find it in your personal records. The latest tax laws have instituted a cap at $10,000, but every little bit counts!

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Believe it or not, tax deductions on PMI are a hotly contested subject. Until recently, buyers were able to deduct the payments they made on Private Mortgage Insurance, but as of 2017, that ability expired. If you did buy your home before 2017, then your yearly income will determine how much you can deduct.

There’s no timeline on when deductions for PMI could return, but, unfortunately, if you’re a more recent home-buyer with these payments, those perks aren’t currently available.

Credits

We talked a little bit earlier about the difference between deductions and credits, so what sort of credits can you get as a homeowner? One of the biggest tax credits that homeowners can cash in on is having energy-efficient homes. In fact, if you installed geothermal heat or solar energy, you could be entitled to credit for up to 30% of the installation fee.

Other energy-efficient features, like storm doors and added insulation, can net you a few hundred dollars in credit, as well.

A person holding several one hundred dollar bills.

Tax-Free Profits

While many parts of the tax law have changed in the past few years, one aspect has stayed the same: tax-free profits. Selling your home not only means a big profit after the sale, but a large portion of the money you make won’t even get taxed—meaning you get to pocket more.

Married homeowners who sell their homes won’t have to pay capital gain taxes on up to $500,000 from the sale, while single filers can keep half of that as non-taxable income.

While there are some guidelines—like the home must have been a primary residence for at least two of the past five years—it’s a big plus when it comes to selling.

Want to Explore More of the Benefits of Home-Owning?

Believe it or not, there are a lot more benefits to owning a home than tax deductions. If you need help navigating the ins and outs of the home-buying and home-owning process, our team is here to help. With years of local experience and real estate know-how, we have the skills and resources necessary for home-buying and selling success.

Ready to learn more? Just give us a call.

Protesting your Property Taxes in Texas

Protesting Your Real Estate Taxes

You should be getting your property tax assessment about now. 

Protesting is what keeps your taxes low.

You can protest yourself or you can hire a company to do it for you. 

If you do it yourself you will need to provide comparatives for your home and try and make a case of why your property value should be lower.  Pictures and any material evidence will help your case be stronger. 

Encourage your neighbors to do the same as it helps everyone. The tax entity will look into the values around your home, this is why we want more people doing it.

A few of the many companies you can hire to help with the process are:

You will need comparatives for your home in order to do it yourself. Feel free to ask me for those I will be happy to provide them.

The deadline to protest in May 15th.

These are a few of the companies that will do the protesting on your behalf.

https://www.poconnor.com/

https://texasprotax.com/

http://www.republicpropertytax.com/

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the process. 

Up Your Home’s Resale Value with These 5 Outdoor DIY Projects

Spring is here, and summer is closer than ever. That makes it a great time to get outside and spruce up your home’s exterior!

If you’re planning on selling your home soon, a little outdoor maintenance can go a long way. In fact, here are five outdoor projects you can do yourself that are sure to add resale value to your home.

Install a Fire Pit

Fire burning in a backyard fire pit.

Imagine spending a warm summer evening out back with your friends, sipping cool drinks and roasting marshmallows over an open fire. The truth is, installing a fire pit is easier than you might think!

A fire pit is made out of fireproof materials and should sit on a flat surface at least 15 feet away from your home and any trees. Here’s a how-to guide for building a backyard fire pit.

Remember, check your local building codes before beginning any type of construction!

Don’t have a yard for a fire pit? Turn your balcony into a cozy dining area instead!

Add Some Outdoor Lighting

Transform your backyard space for summer with lights that add both ambience and security. You can safely add low-voltage lighting to your front or backyard by yourself, even if you don’t have extensive electrical experience.

Whether you opt for motion-activated LED lights or hanging fairy lights, you have some great options to consider for your yard!

Have a nice back deck or balcony? Add some lights to make it a great place to gather any time, day or night.

Fix the Front Door

A front door with a key in the lock.

Your front door should be clean, bright, and welcoming! After all, it’s the first thing potential buyers will see when they enter your home.

There are a couple of different options to freshen up your front door. If it’s very old or damaged, you could replace it altogether. Other options for sprucing up your door include painting it a different color,touching up the paint job, or replacing the doorknob or knocker.

Live in a condo with an interior front door? You can still spruce up your entryway with a nice welcome mat and some potted flowers.

Power Wash the Exterior

Dirty siding on your home can make it look old and neglected, which can be a major turn-off for buyers! A simple solution to get your home’s exterior looking like new is to rent a power washer to take care of any dirt. We recommend renting a heavy-duty, gas-powered pressure washer, as these are the most efficient.

Depending on your home’s specific material (vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.), you will need to obtain a specific type of detergent to power wash your home. Be sure to opt for an environmentally friendly version!

Refresh Your Landscaping

The front exterior of a home that's been manicured with trimmed shrubs and flower beds.

Taking the time to properly maintain your landscaping—and adding a few new features here and there—can both increase your home’s resale value and attract more buyers. After all, real estate is all about the curb appeal!

Installing an attractive stone walkway, mulching your flowerbeds, planting new flowers or shrubbery, and planting trees are all great ways to improve your home’s landscaping.

Don’t have a yard? You can still spruce up your entryway and outdoor areas with potted flowers or hanging planters.

Looking for More Home-Selling Strategies?

We can help you increase your home’s value and get it sold fast. Contact our team today to learn more.

My #1 place in Sugar Land for Arts and Crafts.

Me with my mosaic I did that day.

A place to relax, create, and enjoy quality time with yourself and others.

Do you like arts and crafts? I LOVE them!

The Artsy Soul pottery and art studio was a major discovery for me. I have always loved crafts and I used to spend a lot of time doing them with my children when they were little. As they got older and our lives got busier, we have forgotten to make time for this. I also know people who hate to have a mess at home or simply don’t want to deal with having to clean up after your craft. 

Thanks to The Artsy Soul you don’t have to worry about anything! They have ceramic painting, mosaics of two different kinds, candle making and painted tiles among a few other things they have planed for the future. They have amazing staff who’s there to help you and guide you through the different projects you can do; and if you’re hosting apart they’re there to help you and your friends. 

We all have crazy lives and we make little to no time to enjoy and engage in an activity that gives you peace and allows you to create. It’s amazing what creativity can do for you.

“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity” Brene Brown

Last Sunday I took all my family, including my mom, to try The Artsy Soul. We spent about 2 hours there, this time we all did mosaic, but we already have plans to come back and do candles, tiles and whatever else we can get our hands on. The staff was super helpful and nice. the space is clean, inviting and big enough to not feel cramped. They do have a separate room for private parties and offer all kinds of different options if you would  like to host a party or just invite your friends over to have some calm quality time while maybe sipping some wine. 

I can’t wait to host my own party here with friends and clients. Be ready for the date as who knows, maybe you get invited. 

https://www.theartsysoul.com/

Saving up for a New Home? Here Are All the Costs You Need to Know

Once you’ve found the perfect home and secured the loan, all that’s left to do is start chipping away at those mortgage payments…right? In actuality, there are a handful of other, often-overlooked expenses that come with buying a home, but as long as you know what you’re getting into, they’re plenty manageable.

Take a look at our comprehensive list of all the costs of buying a home.

One-Time Payments & Closing Costs

A person holding up keys to a house.

Closing Costs

For buyers, closing costs are typically low and range from 2-5% of your purchase price. A lot of these costs are one-time expenses, and totals can vary from state-to-state.

If you want a better idea of what closing costs could be for you, check out this helpful guide on the average payments for each state.

Miscellaneous Fees

There are quite a bit of one-time fees bundled into your closing costs, but most of them are pretty inexpensive. Some of the most common expenses include the home inspection, appraisal, credit report, deed recording, land survey, notary fees, title insurance, and document prep fees.

Recurring Payments

A woman and a child counting coins.

Mortgage Payments

Mortgage payments are the most obvious cost when buying a home. These are your predictable, monthly payments decided by both the final price of your home and your down payment—in addition to a few other bundled costs. A larger down payment means a smaller mortgage payment, and it’s a good idea to pay this off quickly, since it will accumulate interest.

Property Taxes

Property tax payments don’t go towards just one thing—they actually cover quite a bit, like road construction, community maintenance, public works, and local government salaries. The exact amount you’ll pay in property tax is calculated by the county based on your home’s value, and the rates tend to rise and fall over time. Many buyers pay their property taxes through an escrow account set up by the lender.

Homeowner’s Insurance

It’s better to have insurance and not need it than need insurance and not have it, so homeowner’s insurance is pretty crucial to home owning. While it’s almost always required when you get a mortgage and then bundled into your monthly payments, be sure to double-check that you’re covered.

Private Mortgage Insurance

If you can’t afford a 20% down payment on your home, you’ll have to pay PMI as a way to ensure that the lender won’t go under if you default on your loan. You don’t have to pay PMI forever—it ends once you pay off 78% or more of the principal amount—but until then, expect to pay up to 2% of your loan amount annually.

HOA Fees

Moving to a neighborhood with an HOA? Your dues can range anywhere from under a hundred dollars to over a thousand, but they come with perks like landscaping and exterior maintenance, and some even include added benefits like swimming pools and fitness centers. Not all neighborhoods have an HOA, but your agent can tell you what your payments will be if yours does.

Utilities

Lastly, utility fees can come as a surprise to new homeowners who are used to renting. Depending on the size of your home, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars per month for water, electricity, heating and cooling, and trash services. If you’re curious what your utility bills might look like, just ask your agent, and they can likely secure a few statements from the past owners.

Ready to Make an Offer?

A man and a woman sitting on a couch with a dog and a cat.

When it comes to buying a home, the most important thing you can do is be prepared. While there are a handful of costs to keep in mind, the satisfaction of calling a place your own is well-worth it in the end.

Are you ready to get started on your home-buying journey? With years of professional and local experience, our team knows all about navigating the expenses that come with buying. Give us a call today to get a better idea of your costs, and let’s get started!