2020 Vision: The Top Home Features You Can Expect to See Next Year

The year is winding down fast, and with the upcoming rush of the holidays, it’ll be 2020 before you know it. With a new year comes new trends, and you can expect a number of home design shake-ups both big and small.

Here are the top home features that are sure to be priorities for buyers in 2020!

Separate Laundry Rooms

A person carrying knitted blankets.

It might be a little unexpected, but laundry rooms were one of the most highly sought-after home features of the year, with a whopping 91% of buyers saying they’re essential. Many people also prefer the laundry room to be on the ground floor and sectioned off from the rest of the home.

In 2020, you can expect to see buyers continue to gravitate toward homes with designated laundry rooms—try brainstorming ways to bring more focus to yours!

Industrial Designs

An Edison bulb hanging in an industrial space.

The rustic farmhouse motif was certainly popular in 2019, but it doesn’t quite have the staying power of an industrial design. Next year, you’ll continue to see buyer’s seek out interior design elements like artisanal light fixtures, copper and metal hardware, concrete accents, and exposed brick.

Homes that already have these components incorporated will be a major plus—and while it’s a little tough to add brick walls and concrete accents if you don’t have them, there are other simple ways to industrialize your space!

Storage Space

A drawer filled with t-shirts.

As more and more buyers start moving towards smaller homes, efficient storage solutions become a high priority. In 2020, you can expect buyers to be on the hunt for homes that showcase their storage potential.

Built-in shelves along the wall, storage under the stairs, walk-in pantries—no matter your square footage, every inch counts. If you’re a seller, you can also use this to your advantage, staging your home in a way that emphasizes its efficient use of space. Think: a few extra storage cubes in your laundry room, a new shelving unit on an underused wall, or roll-out cubbies under your bed.

Green Features 

A light bulb sitting in green grass.

According to a survey from the National Association of Home Builders, green features have shot up to become one of the most sought-after features in a new home. In particular, over half of the survey respondents would invest nearly $10,000 for green features that would save them money, such as ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and windows, improved insulation, and efficient lighting. Other priorities included bettering the air quality in the home with things like dehumidification systems and electronic air cleaners.

If you’re planning to sell next year and have a little extra money to work with, consider making upgrades that’ll appeal to your buyers’ wallet.

Natural Finishes

A brick wall.

Next year, we’ll start seeing a move toward more unique homes, and nothing sets your space apart from the rest like natural features, including river rock, reclaimed wood, exposed brick, and steel accents. These elements don’t necessarily have to come with the home even—staging your space with a rustic wood bookcase or a contemporary geode end table will do the trick.

If you’re preparing your place for a showing or just need a few cohesive decorating tips, sprinkling plants and greenery can help balance out the heaviness of these natural elements.

Pastel Colors

A white chair in front of a Millenial Pink wall.

While 2019 may have been a year of bold colors, 2020 will usher in a muted era. Pastel shades like the popular Millennial Pink, Neo Mint, and Buxton Blue will be giving interiors a softer aura, reminiscent of 1970s-era home trends.

Additionally, accent walls have started slipping in favor, replaced instead by more strategic splashes of color, like painted doors and cabinets, two-tone walls, and accent furniture pieces.

Don’t Fall Behind in the Latest Real Estate Trends

Each year brings new fads to the real estate world, and keeping up with them plays a major role in impressing buyers. Need a little help staying in the know? We’ve got you covered! Follow along with our blog for the latest updates, and check out our specialized resources for all of your buying and selling needs.

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

The Top 5 Exterior Areas to Fix up Before Listing Your Home this Fall

You’ve probably heard that spring and summer are the best times to sell your home, and we’ll be honest: they do have their perks. But with mortgage rates remaining low and motivated buyers steadily flowing into the market, this fall is shaping up to be a pretty profitable selling season.

If you’re gearing up to list your home soon, then you’ll need to pay extra attention to your outdoor areas. Here are the top five spaces to give a little TLC to before you sell!

The Lawn

An old rake leaning against the wall of a home.

Once you’ve raked up the leaves, you might think your lawn is all taken care of. But there’s much more to fall lawn care than bagging up leaves! If temperatures haven’t majorly dropped by the time you list, you’ll need to keep mowing your lawn—it’ll continue growing until the first hard frost.

If you’ve got a few bare spots in your yard, fall is also the perfect time for over-seeding! Since the ground is relatively warm but the sun isn’t quite as powerful as in the summer, growing conditions are better than ever. Just be sure you’re providing your lawn with plenty of water, and those sparse spots should start to fill in.

The Garden

Pumpkins and gourds sitting on a table.

Since you’re planning a move, you probably don’t want to start planting new veggies, but there are other ways to give your garden a fresh look. First, you’ll want to make sure all of your leftover plants from spring and summer are cleared out, and your plot is weed-free. Once that’s taken care of, it’s time for the fun part!

Picked up a few pumpkins or gourds from the farmers’ market? Set them out near your doorstep. Need a home for a scarecrow or two? Give them a perch on either side of the garden. You can fill in any blank space with potted plants like mums or sunflowers or a decorative holiday banner!

The Roof 

Leaves in a gutter.

With trees shedding leaves and dead branches, you’ve probably got a decent amount of brush and foliage dotting your roof. Now’s the time to pull out the ladder and do a clean sweep. Plus, it’s the perfect chance to get a look at the condition of your shingles and see if any need replacing!

While you’re up there, be sure to sweep out your gutters, as well. There’s a good chance the extra debris has them more clogged up than usual, which could lead to flooding or exterior damage. Clearing them out will prevent any issues, and show buyers that you go the extra mile in maintaining your home.

The Porch

Fall decor including a wreath, potted plants, and gourds, all placed around a small bench.

The crowning glory of your home’s exterior, the porch should act as the first taste of what the inside of the home has to offer. You want to strike the perfect balance between warm and welcoming and clean and clutter-free!

First, take care of spiffing the space up by sweeping the floors, ringing out the welcome mat, and dusting off any outdoor furniture. If you have one too many chairs or a crowded collection of potted plants, you should remove some of the clutter.

Then, add a little character! Put a few pumpkins by door, set out a scented candle or two, swap out your porch light for a warmer wattage, and update your throw pillows—just be careful not to overdo it. Since your porch space is likely relatively small, a little goes a long way.

The Front Door

A welcome sign and a small wreath on a white front door.

It’s only a small portion of your exterior, but if you play your cards right, your front door can be one of the most eye-catching parts of your home. Nothing draws attention like a fresh coat of paint, so you should consider picking a shade that pops and matches your siding—like a warm red or a bold blue. At the very least, you should use furniture wax or dish soap to scrub out the dinginess.

Once you’ve revamped your door, it’s time to accessorize! Since it’s fall, you should be able to easily find a seasonal wreath to hang. If you really want to go the extra mile, think about replacing your house number or knocker with some shiny new hardware.

Need a Few More Tips?

If you want to make sure your home is staged to impress—in all areas—then we can help. In addition to our home-staging resources, we’d also be more than happy to do a walkthrough of your home and recommend a few personalized decor suggestions or DIY improvements.

From helping you stage to navigating closing, we’ll be there to help you through the selling process, every step of the way. Whenever you’re ready to get started, we’re just a phone call away!

Is a Home Inspection Really Necessary? Why You Shouldn’t Skip This Important Step

Picture this: you’ve finally found the home of your dreams. It’s got all the features you’ve been searching for, and it’s in the perfect neighborhood. There can’t possibly be anything wrong with it…right?

Though technically optional, a home inspection is highly recommended by most realtors, as it can save you thousands of dollars—or even prevent you from making a costly mistake all together. Here are some reasons why you need a home inspection before you move in—even if you don’t see anything wrong on the surface.

You Could Avoid Expensive Repairs

Person making repairs with an electric drill.

This is probably the biggest advantage of a home inspection. Certain problems can cost thousands to fix and may not be immediately visible. Wondering what kind of issues a home inspector can find and how much they’ll cost? Here are some of the biggest issues uncovered during home inspections (and typical costs to fix):

HVAC replacement: $4,000 – $12,000

Leaky roof: $300 – $2,000 for basic repair, $4,000 – $20,000+ for advanced repair

Foundation issues: $4,000 – $10,000

A great home inspector will fully sweep the home and point out any problems or potential issues. If there are any big-ticket expenses, you may want to reevaluate your purchase.

You’ll Protect Your Wallet

Person calculating expenses and creating a graph.

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you can make, and a good investment will generate more capital than what you initially paid. While a well-maintained home in a prime location can be a fantastic investment, expensive repairs can turn it into a financial disaster.

Once you have an inspection report detailing all of the issues with the home, you can evaluate the cost of repairs to determine if it’s a good deal. If you aren’t satisfied, you can walk away without losing much money.

You Gain a Negotiation Tool

People with laptop exchanging a folder.

While not all properties will require major repairs, even new construction homes may have issues you’ll want to take care of before moving in. You can use your inspection report as a negotiation tool to potentially lower the price of the home.

There are a few directions you can go from here. One option is to ask for money off of the price of the home so you can complete the repairs yourself. On the flip side, you can also ask the sellers to make the fixes as a condition of the sale. Either way, you’ll be saving yourself money in the long run.

You Get the Full Picture

Roof of red house with window.

While you may be in love with a home, it’s hard to know what potential issues to look for if you’re not a licensed professional. Think of a home inspection like a check-up, and the home inspector like a doctor—it’s the perfect opportunity to learn about the health of a home, from the roof down to the foundation.

The inspector can diagnose all kinds of problems and tell you what needs to be fixed (and for how much). After the inspection, you’ll be handed a comprehensive report that gives you a full picture of the home’s condition, allowing you a more realistic look at the details that you might not have noticed before.

Ready to Buy Your Next Home?

Buying a home can be a difficult decision, so make sure you have the tools you need to make a well-informed decision. For tips on smooth sailing during the buying process, give us a call so we can chat. Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® have got the resources you need to make the right choice.

Haven’t started the buying process yet? Check out our specialized search tool to find the home of your dreams, and let us know when you’re ready to get started.

Kicking Clutter to the Curb: Transform Your Home with These 4 Decluttering Tips

We’ve all been there. One day, you look around your house, and there’s just So. Much. Stuff. Stuff in boxes, stuff on the walls, stuff in the corners—just…stuff. If you’re gearing up to sell your home, you’re going to have to deal with all that accumulated clutter eventually. Luckily, there are plenty of simple strategies for getting the job done!

Arm yourself for the Crusade Against the Clutter, and use these top tips to transform your home before selling.

Start Early

A to-do list.

If you aren’t prepared, things can quickly get overwhelming. After all, you’re not only getting your home ready to sell, but you’re also packing things up, finding a new home, and dealing with your finances. It makes sense that decluttering your home isn’t first on your list, but it’s one of the most important steps!

Before you list your home, you want the space to be ready to wow buyers from the second they walk through the door. If you kick off your decluttering months in advance, you’ll be in much better shape come listing time.

Expand Your Storage

An organized silverware drawer.

For many people, clutter accumulates simply because they don’t know what they actually have. An easy way to fix this issue and make your home more organized is by coming up with an intentional storage solution.

Hit the store and pick up some sliding storage and plastic tubs, then label each unit and keep it stored anyway until needed. That way, you’ll know exactly what you have and where it is. Never worry about misplaced holiday decorations or a surplus of school supplies ever again! Plus, a lot of your stuff will already be neatly packed away come moving time.

Take It Little by Little

A man and woman carrying boxes.

Decluttering can be a long process, filling up nights and weekends and free time—especially if you put it off until the last minute. Luckily, if you start ahead of time, you’ll have the luxury of taking it little by little. And not just one room at a time—we mean really little, like an hour or two hours spent on just the kitchen cabinets or bedroom closets.

You can even make it fun! Get everybody in the house together and play a game of 12-12-12. The rules are simple: walk through the house and find 12 items you want to keep, 12 items you want to get rid of, and 12 items you want to sell/donate. You’d be surprised how quickly you can reduce your clutter after a few rounds, and it only takes a couple of minutes!

Make it FAST

Clutter.

For the last tip, we’ve gotten the inside scoop from professional organizer, Peter Walsh. Walsh says that decluttering is as simple as remembering this short acronym:

Fix a time. Plan ahead, and find a time that works for everyone in the house—and make attendance mandatory!

Anything not used in twelve months. If you haven’t used it in a year, then you probably don’t need it. Ask yourself a few questions: Do I need it? Is it valuable to me? Is it worth the space it’s taking up? If no, then kick it to the curb.

Someone else’s stuff. Still have that borrowed tupperware? Give it back. Holding onto things that family members have left behind? Send it their way. If it’s not yours, find a new home for it!

Trash. It’s easy to get sentimental and hold onto things that are well past their expiration date (metaphorically speaking). Don’t be afraid to take the plunge—and maybe even go overboard—and trash some of your older belongings. If you don’t want to go full in and trash it, then you can always donate it to a good cause.

Get Your Home Ready to Sell

Decluttering is just one small step in the selling journey—albeit a fairly time-consuming one. Luckily, we’re here to help you carry the load! Give us a call to learn a few more tips for getting rid of your clutter and staging your home for success.

In the meantime, feel free to explore our additional selling resources, like our neighborhood sold report and Comparative Market Analysis, and let us know when you’re ready to get started!

Mortgage 101: What To Know Before You Apply

Everybody loves talking about mortgages. They’re fun, easy to understand, and a great icebreaker, right?….Wrong. Thanks to their lengthy process, technical jargon, and confusing options, mortgages have a bit of an intimidating reputation—but it doesn’t have to be that way!

If you’re in the process of buying a new home and dreading the mortgage application process, here’s what you need to know to keep things running smoothly.

Know How Much You Can Spend

A person holding up money.

If you’re feeling antsy about getting started and want a general idea of how much loan you might qualify for, consider the 28/36 rule, or the Debt-to-Income ratio—AKA what most lenders use to help calculate your mortgage.

Essentially, the 28/36 rule means that your monthly mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your gross income. Additionally, your outstanding debts—like mortgage, car loans, student loans—shouldn’t account for more than 36% of your gross income.

Get Your Finances in Order

Statistics on a laptop.

Not seeing the numbers you were hoping for after calculating your Debt-to-Income ratio? Then, hopefully, you’ve given yourself a little time to shift things in your favor. Paying off loans, improving your credit score, avoiding big purchases—these will all help you change those numbers.

Of course, completing those tasks is a little harder to do in practice than in theory, so you may have to take a look at your budget and see where you can cut out some extras—at least temporarily!

What You’ll Need to Apply

Paperwork.

In the weeks before you plan on applying for a mortgage, you should start collecting all of the documents you need. Since a lender will be telling you exactly how much money they’re willing to loan, they’ll need a comprehensive understanding of your finances beforehand. Start gathering things like:

  • W2s/tax returns
  • Photo ID
  • Your two most recent pay stubs
  • Current and prior addresses
  • Asset information (retirement funds, 401(k), stocks and bonds, other investments)
  • Gift letters

Depending on the lender you choose, you may need additional documents, so consider calling in to double-check beforehand.

Find the Right Mortgage

Three women pointing at a laptop.

Once it’s time to start thinking more concretely about applying for a mortgage, you have several options to consider. While all the mortgage options out there could easily fill a whole blog post on their own, here’s a quick rundown to give you a general idea:

  • Conventional/Fixed-rate:  The interest rate of a fixed-rate loan won’t change over time, making it a popular choice for its predictability. Conventional loans typically require a 20% down payment or mortgage insurance for smaller down payments.
  • Adjustable-rate: The interest rate of adjustable-rate mortgage will fluctuate over time, sometimes lower than fixed-rate, sometimes higher. There is a cap in place so the rate doesn’t get too out of control, but ARMs are typically more popular with those who plan to refinance.
  • FHA: If you are struggling to come up with a down payment, you may have options with an FHA mortgage. Provided by the Federal Housing Administration, these loans come with a low down payment requirement and built-in mortgage insurance.
  • USDA: Live in a rural area? Then check out your USDA eligibility! A surprising amount of areas qualify for USDA loans, even if you aren’t living in the countryside. Plus, USDA loans don’t require a down payment and offer lower insurance premiums.

These aren’t the only options you’ll have, just the most common. If none of these sound right or you aren’t sure which to choose, just ask your lender!

Choose the Right Lender

When it comes time to decide who to work with, you’ll have to do your research. Each lender is different, meaning they’ll likely offer you different rates, charges, and loan options.

Luckily, we’ve been working in real estate around the area for years, so we know exactly which lenders are right for which buyers. If you need a few suggestions before you kick off your search, just let us know!

Still Have Questions?

That’s okay—we get it. Applying for mortgage is confusing and challenging, especially if it’s your first time. If you have any questions about the process, we’re here to help.

Ready to start looking at a few homes in your price range? We can help with that, too! Check out our specialized search tool to narrow down your options, and give us a call to start seeing a few in person!

The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

If you’re gearing up to sell your home, you’ve probably read tons of articles all about what you should be doing…but what about what you shouldn’t be doing? After all, selling your home is a huge financial decision, and a misstep could mean losing out on your hard-earned profit.

Don’t let something as easy to fix as not staging or pricing incorrectly throw off the success of your sale! Here are the top five mistakes to avoid when selling your home.

Setting an Unrealistic Price

A man looking at his laptop.

It might come as a surprise, but pricing a home is tricky. Not only do you have to take into account what homes around yours have recently sold for (or, in other words, what buyers are willing to pay), but you also need to know how to value any updates and improvements you’ve made. Plus, you want your home to be priced so that it pops up in as many online searches as possible. When it comes to finding that magic number, sellers’ emotions often cloud the ability to accurately price a home.

So you’ll just use an automatic estimator, and that’ll take care of things, right? Well, only if you’re okay with using outdated data and not taking into account any upgrades you’ve made. The best way to get a price that guarantees you’ll maximize your investment? Enlisting the help of an experienced local agent. 

Ignoring Major Repairs (or Making the Wrong Ones)

A man fixing a sink.

During the inspection process, your home will be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb. Any things you’ve been avoiding, like leaky faucets, outdated water heaters, or water damage in the ceilings, will be noted and shared with buyers. Additionally, if there are any major necessary repairs that you didn’t disclose ahead of time, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble—or with a cancelled sale on your hands.

Limiting Showings & Failing to Stage

An iPad sitting on a coffee table in a living room.

You’re selling your home, but you want to sell it on your terms. You don’t want to have showings every weekend or on short notice, and you don’t want to have to rearrange furniture or remove decor for staging. While changing your home or lifestyle to accommodate buyers might seem like a major hassle, being inflexible is only going to hurt you in the long run.

Buyers are going to want to see your home, sometimes more than once, and it needs to be looking its best if you want to get serious (and competitive) offers. In fact, staged homes have been shown to sell almost 90% faster and for a 20% higher profit than non-staged homes!

Letting Your Emotions Get in the Way

A woman and a child playing on a tablet.

You’ve made a lot of memories in your home, and the space likely holds indescribable value to you. So hearing people walk through the house and point out all of the flaws—then not make an offer—can be draining. A good rule of thumb for selling? Think of the process as a business transaction, and think of yourself as a salesperson, not a homeowner. Creating that divide will not only improve your emotional state, but it’ll also help you see exactly how your home can be better than it is.

Not Hiring an Agent

People meeting at a table.

Thinking of listing For Sale by Owner to avoid agent commission fees? In reality, selling FSBO can actually COST you money in the long run;. according to a 2016 study by the National Association of Realtors®, the average price for a FSBO home was around $185,000—which is $60,000 less than the average price of a home listed by an agent ($245,000).

Aside from pricing, there’s a lot more that an agent can help you with. They’ll come up with a marketing plan for your home, suggest personalized staging strategies, conduct open houses and showings for you, and guide you through any problems or roadblocks along the way, all of which will take a load of work and stress off of your shoulders.

Ready to List Your Home?

Feeling a little intimidated by the home-selling process? Don’t worry—we’re here to help! Not only can we give you a few more pointers on what you should and shouldn’t do, but we’ll also be around to guide you through every aspect of the sale, from listing to showings to closing.

Ready to learn a little more about what it takes to sell for top dollar? Just give our team a call to get started!

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!

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!

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.

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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.

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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, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® is here to help. With years of local experience and Raleigh real estate expertise, we have the skills and resources necessary for home-buying and selling success.

Ready to learn more? Just give us a call.

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

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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

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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?

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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, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® 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!