November 29, 2016

How Secure is Your Home?



Home security is more than leaving a light on while you're away. It's investing in the peace of mind in knowing that you have adequate fire and carbon monoxide detection, an exit plan in case of fire, and protection from intruders. Fire and carbon monoxide safety can be insured by having the proper number of detectors and by properly maintaining them, but what is the best way to protect your home from a burglar?

According to the FBI, one home is broken into every 14.6 seconds. To understand what motivates a burglar and what they look for when choosing a home to rob,
a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte examined 422 convicted offenders from North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio. According to the study, a majority of burglars considered the presence of alarms, outdoor cameras, and other surveillance equipment when choosing a potential. Approximately 83% of the offenders said they would attempt to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary, and 60% said they would seek an alternative target.

Among those who discovered an alarm while attempting a burglary, 50% said they would discontinue the attempt, while another 31% said they would sometimes leave. Only 13% said they would always continue the attempt even after an alarm had been discovered. Other findings included that the presence of video surveillance was an effective deterrent. Nationwide Insurance reported that homes without security systems are three times more likely to be broken into. Almost one in three burglars reported entering via open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors open.

To get another perspective from those who commit the crimes, the investigative team at KGWH in Houston, Texas sent a survey to 86 inmates who were serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections. Regarding lights on in a home, “I would drive through upper class neighborhoods looking for many things, like porch light on with all window blinds closed,” wrote one inmate. When asked if they knock before entering? Yes. All of the inmates who responded said they would knock on the front door before breaking in.

With this information, what does a homeowner do to protect themselves and their personal property?

  • Invest in a home security system. The latest trends involve the use of smart phone technology, although industry experts expect to see a rise in hacking of these systems. Research which system and provider is best for you.
  • Wait to post your vacation pics on social media until you get back home. Make sure the privacy settings on your accounts are strict.
  • Lock your doors and windows.
  • Install motion-detection lights around your home.
  • Stop mail and newspaper delivery while your gone for extended periods. 
  • Get to know your neighbors and the cars they drive. 

Some of these tips seem obvious, but according to Nationwide Insurance a high percentage of homeowners admit to at least one of these risky behaviors during the past year. We don't want you to be one of them.

November 8, 2016

Mortgage Minute: Do I Want to Buy a Home?

This is the first of a series of articles from our guest blogger, Cynthia Carr of Stearns Lending.

I am a big believer that people should be informed and educated on mortgage loans. This is the single largest purchase of your life and you only get one chance to do it right the first time. Home ownership is one of life’s major events, and it provides some unique personal and financial rewards. It can provide lasting stability and security and a great place to relax at the end of the day.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re still undecided about taking that leap:
  • Home ownership may offer you important tax benefits.
  • You’ll have the potential to build equity. This is the portion of your home that you’ve paid for, plus any rise in its value.
  • You can decorate and remodel your home to suit your personal tastes.
  • It’s a potential investment, since your home’s value may appreciate over the years.
  • You won’t have to worry about your rent going up when your lease expires, or having to move if your rental property is no longer available or affordable.
Now that we have giving you the reasons why you should consider purchasing your new home, let’s discuss the first steps. It can be overwhelming! What do I do first? Do I get a Realtor? How do I get a Realtor? Can I qualify for a mortgage? If so, what does that mean in terms of purchase price of a property? How much money do I need? If you haven’t considered these questions, you should now. This blog series is going to guide you and prepare you for home ownership and all that comes with that from those questions to the final signature on the loan documents and getting the keys to your new home.

This month we will discuss this very important step: Do I want to purchase a home?

Let’s think about that for just a second. The knee-jerk reaction is “of course I do," but in reality you have no idea how or where to start. The very first thing you should do is to find a mortgage lender. You can ask friends, family, or colleagues for the name of the lender they worked with when they purchased a home. Please know that it is important to feel informed and confident with your lender. Getting more than one option and talking to more than one lender is absolutely the right thing to do. I know, I know, I am a lender and other lenders will not be happy that I tell you to do that. The truth is that when you have your credit pulled for a mortgage within a 14-day period, it is very unlikely that your credit score will be impacted any more than if it were only one lender checking it. Do not have more than three lenders pull it because rates are rates and all lenders are very close in that area and when you have more than three options it becomes less helpful and more confusing.

Avoid online lenders. They are not familiar with all markets and central Ohio has its own quirks when it comes to who pays for what and what credits the buyer receives from the seller. You need to feel confident in your decision. You will feel like you are going to a financial therapist when you start talking to a lender. We ask questions that have always been “taboo” to talk about: How much money you make, the debts on your credit report, and how much money you have in the bank. These are all serious questions and are a requirement for your lender to know. This confidential information is not shared with anyone unless you as the borrower provide us with the permission to do so.

Let’s wrap this month’s discussion up with a final thought. Before you start house hunting, find a lender who cares about you, one you trust, and who has the knowledge to help you with purchasing the place you call home.

Cynthia is the Branch Manager at the Stearns Lending, 1900 Polaris Parkway in Columbus and can be reached at CCarr@Stearns.com.

October 24, 2016

Four Changes to Make Before You Sell Your Home

There is a shortage of homes on the market in Columbus, so properties are selling at record speed. Unfortunately though, there are still some houses that are not getting showings or selling because of their interior condition. Here are four changes to be sure to make before you list your home for sale.


1. Paint
 Dark colors and unusual designs (stencils, murals) will not work when selling your house--light and bright is better. With a neutral wall color, the buyer can move their furnishings into the home without the need to paint over your color choices. The updated chandelier and dining furniture help with staging here, as buyers will be able to envision themselves having family dinners in this sunny room.

2. Bedding
There is nothing wrong with quilts or traditional bedding while you live in the home, but a modern style is needed to sell it to someone else. The bedroom should look like a retreat where one can unwind after a busy day, so you may want to look through home decorating websites and magazines for ideas on how to make your bedrooms feel cozy, warm, and inviting. In this room, layers of fabric on the bed and side table add a luxurious feel to the space, while still making the room appear spacious and bright.
3. Light Fixtures
Shiny brass fixtures often found in older homes are out. This one has been replaced with a more modern fixture in a bronze tone, but other metallics also would have worked. Remember that lighting is the jewelry in a room, so it should sparkle and shine. Make sure your light bulbs are the brightest, highest wattage allowed in each fixture and turn all of them on during a showing. Dimmer switches are always a nice addition.
4. Window Treatments
Less is more when selling your home. The heavy window treatments of the past are not what a young buyer wants. Better to have blinds that can be opened to allow the natural light in and to see the view outside. In these pictures, the neutral paint color helps tremendously also--it barely looks like the same room!

This article and its photos were provided by accredited staging professional Stella Pseekos of Styled to Sell in Dublin, OH. Stella is a graduate of The Ohio State University and a long-time Columbus resident. She is affiliated with the Greater Dublin Realty Association, the Hilliard Area Realty Association, the Northwest Area Realty Association, the Southern Delaware Realty Association and served as the 2015 Secretary of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, Columbus Chapter.

September 22, 2016

Columbus-Area Home Sales Remain Strong Heading Into Fall

It was a busy summer for home sales! There were 3,116 central Ohio homes and condos sold during the month of August, a 4.8% increase over the previous year. This was the highest number of closed sales for the month of August ever recorded and the second highest month for 2016, according to the Columbus REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service.

“Central Ohio home buyers are still being very aggressive in their decisions to purchase homes" said 2016 Columbus REALTORS® President John Royer. “Since demand for homes continues to be so high, potential sellers are encouraged to get their home on the market – they don’t have anything to lose!"

The average sales price of a home in central Ohio during the month of August was $204,629, a 3.3% increase over August 2015.
During the month of August, central Ohio homes and condos spent an average of 34 days on the market, which is 29.2% (14 days) shorter than last year and just one day longer than July.

“Inventory and new listings are beginning to taper, but this is to be expected as we head into the fall selling season" Royer said. “However, it’s still a terrific time to list your home as buyers remain eager for inventory and home values remain high.”

According to the latest Housing Market Confidence Index by the Ohio Association of REALTORS®, 98% of central Ohio REALTORS® would describe the current housing market as moderate to strong. When asked what the single most important factor that they believed limited their buyers from purchasing a property so far this year, 92% said difficulty finding the right property because of low inventory.


“Homes are continuing to fly off the market, even as inventory begins to dwindle,” Royer said.”

September 7, 2016

Is Your Home Ready to Shoot?

We know how much is involved when getting your home ready to sell: the painting, cleaning, organizing, and maintenance tasks can seem endless. Once you're ready to put your home on the market, it will be professionally photographed for the MLS and social media. You'll be advised on how to stage each room and what changes should be made to make each room look its best.

When your photo shoot has been scheduled, walk through your home before the photographer arrives. You may even want to ask a friend to walk through it with you. Look at it with a fresh set of eyes and ask yourself, "Do I want potentially thousands of people to see my home looking like this?" These images will not only be on the MLS, but also on listing sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com--you want them to look as good as possible. You may want to look through home decorating magazines for ideas on how to make your bed look beautiful, your bathroom spa like, and your patio one to envy. 

The photo shoot will typically take an hour or two and will cover the entire interior and exterior of your property, except the inside of the garage (unless it has an amazing workbench or other upgrades) and the basement if it is unfinished. Do not be surprised if furniture and/or accessories have been moved for the sake of a better picture; that said, do not expect the photographer to do all of the heavy lifting and rearranging for you!

Here's a checklist to help you prepare:

Inside
  • Clean, vacuum, and dust every room. Remove soap scum, scuffs, scratches, and fingerprints from as many surfaces as possible. Clean air vents. Have carpets shampooed and wood floors buffed, if necessary.
  • We love pets, but not in the pictures! Keep them on a leash, in your arms, in the garage, or otherwise out of sight.
  • Clear off the counters in kitchen. Store sponges, dish towels, and soap under the sink. Minimize small appliances except for the coffee maker, where you may want to set out a pair of mugs. Fresh flowers always look pretty in photos, as does a nicely set table or a large bowl of fruit.
  • Remove photos, notes, drawings, sports schedules, calendars, magnets, menus, and papers from the refrigerator. When was the last time you saw it this empty?
  • Turn on all interior lights including under-cabinet lights, lamps, and recessed fixtures. Consider purchasing daylight bulbs if your light bulbs have a yellow cast to them.
  • Simplify rooms like the study or playroom that may be heavily furnished. Conversely, rearrange furniture to better fill sparse rooms. Make sure each room has a specific purpose so as not to confuse potential buyers.
  • Make all the beds and tidy bedrooms. Put clothes hampers in the closet and store toys in bins and baskets.
  • Add fluffy towels to the bathrooms and remove all tub toys, shampoo bottles, bathroom wipes, hair dryers, toothbrushes, and other personal items from the vanity and shower/tub. Put the toilet brush in the garage or under the sink. Close the toilet lid.
  • Open the curtains and blinds in all rooms.
  • Be selective with your accessories and knick knacks. Remove the wall of wedding and family photos and replace it with a gallery that combines art, maybe a decorative clock, and a few photos. 
  • Minimize religious art and political messages.
  • Put trash cans in a closet.
  • Turn off your computer.
  • Let us  know if your home contains valuable art or family heirlooms. We can make sure it is not included or is edited to be unrecognizable.
Outside
  • Put your garbage cans, recycling bins, and yard waste in the garage.
  • Store all gardening tools.
  • Mow and edge the yard. Remove all weeds, dead branches, and spent flowers. Add fresh mulch where necessary.
  • Add color to empty spaces with potted annuals or container gardens. Keep seasonal displays minimal and tasteful.
  • Sweep the walks, driveway, and front porch.
  • Turn on any outdoor features such as fountains or waterfalls. 
  • Remove all vehicles from the driveway and do not park directly in front of the house. Close the garage doors.
  • Wipe down the patio furniture and open the patio umbrella if you have one. 
  • View your home straight on from the street. Can you see the front door? Make sure hedges and tree branches are pruned to make the front door look inviting.
According to Realtor.org, nine out of 10 home buyers rely on the internet as one of their primary research sources, and 52% turn to the web as the first step in their home search.  The pictures of your home are important, and we want to make sure that your home shines in them.

September 6, 2016

What Do You Want in a Home?

Before your home search begins, we want to know as much as possible about the features and amenities you want so that we can select the right properties for you to see. Although it helps to be flexible in your search, we don't want to show you a shotgun home in German Village when what you really want is a Craftsman-style home in Clintonville. By narrowing down your "must haves" and the "would-be-nice-to-have" options, we can make the best use of your time and energy. 

 Here are some ideas to guide you in creating the wish list for your new home.


Features
  • Age: Do you prefer historic properties or newer ones?
  • Style: Do you have a special preference for ranches, bungalows, or another style of construction?
  • Bedrooms: How many?
  • Bathrooms: How many? Are they updated?
  • Living and dining areas: A traditional, formal layout, or a more open, contemporary plan?
  • Stories: How many?
  • Square feet: How much space?
  • Ceilings: How high?
  • Kitchen: How big? Recently updated? Open to other living areas?
  • Storage: Big closets, a shed, an extra-large garage?
  • Parking: A garage or carport? Room for how many cars?
  • Extras: Attic or basement?
Amenities
  • Office  
  • Play/exercise room 
  • Security system  
  • Sprinkler system  
  • Workshop/studio  
  • In-law suite 
  • Fireplace  
  • Pool/hot tub  
  • Sidewalk  
  • Wooded lot  
  • Patio, deck, or porch  
  • Laundry room

April 21, 2016

The Two Most Influential Rooms in Your Home

Which rooms in your home make the biggest difference to potential buyers? The KW Blog has the answers! According to buyers, the kitchen and the master bath are the most important rooms in your home. When deciding to undertake a remodeling project, the article advises to invest your money where it matters: by updating appliances and fixtures in these two rooms. For a kitchen, this may mean installing updated lighting, wooden cabinets, and stone or granite counter tops. To turn your master bath in to a spa, the article advises turning to decorative mirrors and updated faucets. For more information on how you can catch buyers' eyes with an updated kitchen and master bath, read the full article on the blog here.