Find Your Dream Home: How to Plan for the Perfect Retirement in Raleigh

An older couple laughing.

As you get closer and closer to retirement, it’s time to start thinking about where you want to live. The big question on every almost-retirees mind is whether to stay in their home or buy a new one.

Take a long, hard look at your current home to assess whether or not you can renovate it to fit your retirement needs. If it has a long winding staircase, lots of empty rooms not being used, and hefty maintenance needs, it might be time to downsize.

As you begin searching for the perfect home for your retirement, here are some things to keep in mind.

Look Into Affordability

Although you’ve probably saved up a tremendous amount of money for your retirement, your monthly income is now one average sum. As such, it’s important to find a home that is affordable and convenient.

Be mindful of the additional costs associated with buying a home—especially if you’re purchasing one in an active adult community with higher HOA fees.

Check Your Equity in Your Current Home

Two adults sitting side by side on a couch, browsing their computers.

Depending on how long you’ve owned your current home, you may have built up a lot of equity.

As a result, you can use this money to help fund your next home purchase—therefore, lowering or even eliminating those monthly mortgage payments.

Consider a Maintenance-Free Community

Do you really want to spend your retirement years performing yard work or exterior maintenance?

A condominium or townhouse with low-maintenance options may be exactly what you’re looking for. Forget shoveling snow in the winter and cleaning gutters! Let someone else take care of that for you.

Don’t Forget About Security

A home with a metal security system.

Unfortunately, older residents are often the target of break-ins and scams. Look for a home in a community with an onsite security guard.

If you’ve fallen in love with a home that’s not included in an HOA, consider installing additional security features.

For Retirement, Convenience is Key

Lastly, make sure that your home is near all the retirement amenities you’re looking forward to! If you’re an avid golfer, it should be a quick drive away from your favorite course.

For outdoor enthusiasts, consider buying a home close to a big park like Umstead State Park. If you have grandchildren in the area, look into buying a home in their neighborhood or close by. The best part of retirement is getting to pick and choose how you spend your days, so you’ll want your home to be as close to your favorite activities as possible.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re choosing to stay in your current home for retirement or find a new one, it’s important to make sure it will be a good fit for your retirement lifestyle.

For help locating the perfect property in Raleigh, please don’t hesitate to give Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® a call. We can assist you with finding the home of your dreams.

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.

Here at Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we have an in-depth understanding of the Raleigh real estate market. Allow us to market your home and sell it for top dollar within your timeline.

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

The 3 Things You Need to Know About Today’s Real Estate Market

A woman gesturing to a graph to show rising home sales.

Depending on which news outlet you go to, you may hear some pretty contrasting takes on the current real estate market. Some say the market is going up, others say we’re headed towards a crash similar to the one in 2008.

Instead of relying on over-sensationalized media reports, we prefer to look at the data. Numbers don’t lie, and they’re a reliable way to see exactly how the market is behaving. We took a look at some reports from three top Chief Economists and want to share our findings with you.

Here are three things you should know about today’s real estate market, based on the data.

1. Low Interest Rates Make for Confident Buyers

The real estate market throughout the country is warming up as a result of low mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates are at an all-time low, and they haven’t risen significantly over the past few years. These low rates have caused consumer confidence to skyrocket, which has resulted in increased home purchases throughout the United States.

Both sales demand and inventory have steadily risen, which signals that the market is only going to get hotter!

2. Increasing Incomes = More Home Sales

Sold house sign in suburban setting. Focus on sign.

Early this year, existing homes sales increased by almost 12% between January and February.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors, said this in response to rising home sales, “A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound.”

In fact, since August of 2018, the average hourly wage has increased steadily—suggesting that the economy is in an upswing.

3. Home Price Appreciation Has Slowed

Many are worried over the real estate market because of one crucial trend: home value appreciation has begun to slow. This means that home values are not increasing as drastically as they have in years past. But believe us when we say: this is a good thing.

This signals that the real estate market is returning to normal. It is not heavily tilted towards either buyers or sellers, but exists somewhere in the middle.

This makes now a great time to buy and sell your home—especially in a community as robust as Raleigh and the NC Triangle.

Navigate the Real Estate Market Like a Pro

Interested in buying or selling a home in the greater Raleigh area? Here at Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we have the local resources and market expertise to help you make a successful transaction in Raleigh. Give us a call today to learn more.

Why Now is the Time to Upgrade Your Home—and Your Lifestyle!

A luxury living room with a fireplace.

While the rest of the real estate market is distinctly geared towards sellers—high demand and low inventory make for ever-increasing home prices—this section of the market doesn’t apply towards luxury or premium properties. In fact, the luxury home market (homes priced at $1 million and up) is a buyer’s market.

Over recent years, an influx of first-time home buyers and those seeking affordable properties has dominated the market. The demand for luxury properties is far lower.

What Does this Mean for Home Buyers?

If you’ve been wanting to upgrade your home—trade it in for something in the luxury market—now is the time to do so! In fact, if you negotiate correctly, you stand to make an amazing deal on a luxury home.

The truth is that demand for luxury homes has grown very slowly over the years. This isn’t to say that the market is taking a downturn—if anything, it is simply returning to normal.

What’s the Best Way to Upgrade My Home in the Triangle?

A huge white bathroom with a glass shower.

It all depends on what exactly you’re searching for! Raleigh, NC and the greater Triangle area are full of stunning luxury homes and premium properties. Whether you’re looking for a new construction paradise with acres of land to roam, or a unique estate-style home in a sought-after neighborhood like Five Points, Raleigh has something for you.

The real estate market here is as diverse as the population! Here at Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we have the resources you need to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Plus, at the end of the day, the best way to upgrade your home is to listen to your heart. What home features have you been dreaming of? What kind of home—location, amenities, design—will get you on the path to living your very best life?

These are the questions you need to answer, and our team would love to be there to help you along.

Let’s Work Together to Upgrade Your Lifestyle

Raleigh is full of opportunity. Let’s explore it together! Use our home-search tool and our free buyer resources to become better acquainted with the Raleigh real estate market–and discover your dream home today.

Have any questions? We’re just a phone call away.

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 a number of other options. If you’re curious, our team can even do a walkthrough of your house, suggest a few upgrades, and tell you the most competitive listing price!

Whether you’re getting ready to buy, sell, or just starting your home search in the Triangle area, the Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® will be around to answer all of your questions along the way—just give us a call!

How to Buy a Home: Your Step by Step Guide

A living room with dark hardwood floors and blue walls.

Homeownership is closer than you think!

If you’ve long been considering buying a home in the greater Raleigh area, now is the time to act. You might be worried about the financial side to buying a home: the hefty down payment and the mortgage approval process—but it’s really not that complicated.

In fact, there are ten simple steps to buying your first home in the Raleigh real estate market!

Save Your Down Payment

It’s a common misconception that you have to put down 20% of the home’s overall value. That’s simply not true!

There are a number of loans out there that require less than 20%, with some like the USDA Loan requiring only a 3% down payment and the VA loan requiring 0% down!

While it’s true that the more you save up for a down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage payments will be, 20% is not the end-all be-all.

Determine Your Credit Score

A man using a marker to circle different numbers on a graph.

Whenever you’re making any large purchase that requires a loan, it’s important to have a handle on your finances. Use a free service like CreditKarma or FICO to check your score. This will give you a good idea for what kind of interest rates the bank is willing to offer you.

Find an Agent

While it is possible to buy a home without an agent, it is twice as stressful. An agent handles a lot of the “invisible work” associated with buying a home.

In addition to handling negotiation and closing, your agent can make recommendations on local neighborhoods and homes for sale. Plus, they’ll likely be able to offer you support as you navigate a tricky real estate market.

Get Pre-Approved

Saleswoman presenting a new project property on digital tablet

Trust us, getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan will make the rest of your home-buying experience easier.

This process typically includes sitting down with a lender to review your finances. The lender will go over your credit score, savings, outstanding debt, annual income, and anything else relating to your money situation. Then, they’ll give you an offer for the amount of money (and the interest rate) the bank is willing to lend you. Boom: your budget is set.

Go Shopping

Now it’s time for the fun part! Think long and hard about what you want in a home, and get to searching. To make it a little easier on you, feel free to use our complimentary home-search tool.

You can easily filter results by price, location, neighborhood, size, special features, and more. Happy house hunting!

Make an Offer

A man pulling several hundred dollar bills out of his wallet.

Once you’ve found a home that you can’t live without, work with your agent to make an appropriate offer. It’s important to make an offer that is both competitive enough to sway the seller, while still staying within your budget.

Remember that pre-approval letter? This makes you a more competitive buyer as well!

Get an Inspection AND an Appraisal

This is crucial. Before you sign any closing documents, you HAVE to make sure the home is a worthwhile investment. The best way to do that is by hiring an inspector to come out and review the property. This way, if there are any hidden issues with it, you’ll be able to negotiate with the seller to have it fixed.

After the inspection, your lender will arrange for a home appraisal. This is to assure the bank that your new home is worth the price you’ve agreed to pay for it.

Close the Sale & Move In

Once your loan is approved, your bank will schedule a closing date. This is when you cross your T’s and dot your I’s.

Congratulations! After some heavy negotiating and serious home shopping, you’ve finally found your dream home and made it your own.

Ready to Become a Raleigh Homeowner?

We can help with that. At Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we have the experience necessary to help you find the home of your dreams at the right price tag. Give us a call today to get started.

Home Buying Round Up: Let’s Talk About Your Credit Score

If you’re thinking about buying a home in Raleigh, you’ve probably checked your credit score at least once, and maybe even been a bit dismayed at what you found.

The truth is, many would-be homeowners out there feel like their credit score has to be in the high-700s in order to buy a home. Luckily, we’re here to set the record straight.

You Don’t Need an “Exceptional” Credit Score to Buy a Home

Did you know that only 19% of Americans have a credit score between 740 and 799, according to Experian?

Having a low credit score doesn’t mean you can’t afford, or won’t be able, to buy a home. There are a number of unique loan programs out there that don’t have a credit score minimum, and may not even require a hefty down payment.

Here Are Some Loan Examples

A man writing on some papers with a pen.

The Fair Housing Administration offers a unique FHA loan that only requires a credit score minimum of 580, if you want to qualify for the low down payment advantage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not set a minimum, but lenders throughout the industry typically require around 640.

For active-duty or retired military members, the Veterans Affair loan does not set any credit score minimum requirement.

The bottom line? You can still be approved for a mortgage even if your credit score is below a 700.

Don’t Have a 700+ Score? You Can Still Buy a Home in Raleigh

Be honest: when is the last time you checked your credit score? Many Americans refrain from checking it because they fear it’s too low.

However, according to FICO, the average credit score has steadily risen year after year! In 2009, the average FICO credit score was around 680. In mid-2018, it had risen to around 704.

If you’re worried about your options as a homebuyer, we highly recommend checking your credit score. The result may surprise you!

Still Worried About Buying a Home?

Please give us a call. We would love to sit down with you to discuss your home-buying options in the greater Raleigh area. In addition to our extensive real estate network and resources, we are connected with a number of lenders in the area we’d love to recommend.

Homeownership is more attainable than you think! Please reach out to us at Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® to learn more about buying a home in Raleigh.

Applying for a Mortgage? DON’T Do These 7 Things!

Three adults meeting at a table to discuss their mortgage loan.

If you’re currently searching for a home to buy in Raleigh, chances are you’ve already thought about applying for a mortgage.

Obtaining a mortgage loan is a huge part of the buying process, as it has an enormous impact on how much you can afford and how much your monthly payments will be.

As such, it’s important to be extra cautious with your finances—and your credit—while you’re applying for a mortgage in Raleigh. Time and time again, we hear from clients about the mistakes they’ve made while waiting for their mortgage loan to finalize. We want you to make decisions that guarantee financial success—which is why we want to share with you the following list of things to avoid after you’ve applied for a mortgage:

Don’t Change Jobs or Get a Demotion at Work

While this may sometimes be out of your control, do everything in your power to maintain consistent employment during the approval process.

Changing from salary to commission, or deciding to go freelance, should really wait until after you’ve closed on your home.

Avoid Depositing Large Sums of Cash Into Your Account

Hand pulling several hundred dollar bills out of a wallet.

Cash is untraceable, and during the approval process your loan officer will be taking a close look at your checking account.

They want to make sure your cash flow is accounted for and traceable, so if you do need to deposit cash into your checking account make sure you talk it over with your bank first.

Do Not Make Any Huge Purchases

This includes buying a car, expensive furniture, or anything else that’s going to put you in any more debt! Hide your credit cards from yourself if you must.

If you go into too much debt during the approval process, you may no longer qualify for that loan amount. This happens if your ratio of debt to income becomes too debt-heavy.

Don’t Volunteer to be a Cosigner

A man about to sign a stack of paperwork.

When you cosign on someone’s loan, you’re then obligated for their loan if they default. This affects your debt-to-income ratio which may then disqualify you from the loan that you’ve applied for.

Don’t Change Bank Accounts

Remember, your loan officer needs to be able to track your sources of income and spending. Having a consistent bank account and transactions makes this ten times easier.

Don’t Apply for New Credit Cards or Loans

A pile of money next to a checkbook.

Don’t apply for any new credit accounts! Hard inquiries on your credit may negatively affect your FICO score.

If your score drops too much in a short amount of time, you may no longer qualify for your loan.

Don’t Close Any Accounts

Closing a credit account also negatively impacts your score! Your credit score is based upon both the length and depth of your credit history.

Closing an account affects that depth. Your credit score is essential to your mortgage loan interest rates, so it’s critical to keep them as high as possible when applying for a mortgage!

Still Shopping for a New Home? Our Team is Here to Help With That

From showing you “Coming Soon” listings that haven’t even hit the Raleigh market yet to offering guidance and advice on applying for your mortgage, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® are here to help.

Give us a call today to discover your home-buying options in the greater Raleigh area!

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, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® 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!

Greater Raleigh Real Estate: Homeownership is More Attainable than Ever

A happy couple excitedly touring their new home.

After the housing market crash of 2008, homeownership rates throughout the country have decreased dramatically. At one point prior to the crash, the homeownership rate was over 69%. In the years following, it dropped to its lowest point at 63.7%.

As homeownership in Raleigh continued to decrease throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, many began to wonder if it was no longer an essential part of the American dream.

Here’s our take on it:

Homeownership Will Always Be a Cornerstone of the American Dream

A row of suburban homes with American flags displayed outside.

Owning a home is as American as apple pie and baseball. According to a recent report by the Census Bureau, the home ownership rate has actually increased steadily over the last two years.

Today, it stands at about 64.8%. That’s a 1.1% increase from its lowest point in 2015. While it’s still not nearly as high as it was at its peak, this growth is a good thing! It shows that buying a home is still a huge financial goal to many.

The Desire for Homeownership is Strong Across All Generations

Modern kitchen.

With millennials poised to take over the real estate market, we’re expecting homeownership rates to continue rising steadily in the following years.

After all, there are so many benefits—both financially and emotionally—to buying a home. We’ve written about it extensively, but owning a home improves your life in more ways than one. It gives you financial security, allows you to grow your wealth by building equity over the longer term, and provides you a stronger emotional attachment and investment in your community.

If you’ve long been thinking about joining the ranks of homeownership, now is the time to act!

It’s a Great Time to Become a Raleigh Homeowner

With the summer real estate market gearing up in Raleigh, now is a great time to make your Raleigh homeownership dreams come true. The current inventory of homes for sale in Raleigh has never been better.

Here at Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we have a ton of resources to help you locate the home of your dreams. In addition, allow us to use our expertise to help you negotiate the best possible price, navigate your relocation with ease, and achieve all of your real estate goals.

Give us a call today to learn more!