What to Expect When Buying a Home: Please, please just give us the keys!

by seacoast_ashley 25. September 2015 07:41

 

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If you have been following along on our family adventure, you already know that moving and buying our new home has faced some unique circumstances. My family and I are located in the US, the seller of our soon-to-be home is based in the United Arab Emirates. This meant that throughout the buying process our agent had to be knowledgeable on the longer than usual buying process. It meant that my family had to practice patience, because any communication with the seller resulted in a longer than usual response time.


My family and I had succeeded. We had a closing date! We set up utilities, changed our mailing addresses, and contracted various businesses to begin renovations (all for a closing date start date).  We should have closed and been happily nestled into our new home within 3 weeks of close. There was a bubble of excitement bobbing over all of our heads.


The night before the closing date, I carefully coordinated outfits for our family of five to pop against the purple front door of our new home. We would head from the attorney’s office and head straight to the house for a quick sweet family pic. As soon as the last sock was placed on the last set of clothing my husband and I received a text....a very disappointing text. Our agent needed to speak with us asap.


BAM! The happy bubble had burst. Closing would be pushed back a week. The sellers had not properly signed the deed. We are a pretty "roll-with-it" family, so after a few muffled curse words (the kids were all in bed) we accepted that life would happen and we would go on.


Cue closing date Number Two. This time I decided to save myself some laundry time and just go with our regular everyday clothes. Cue call Number Two. Again, the closing would be delayed. The deed, which we were now assured had been re-signed, had not arrived as promised. There was talk of the sellers being on holiday, taking a special trip to London because the legal process is smoother there, and long courier times. I really am not sure what the details were. All I knew was that once again I was going to have to call all of the contractors and reschedule. The I was going to have to tell three children under the age of 7 years that our day was not going to include going to the new house. I was crushed.


My husband and I stayed up late that night. We went through every possible scenario, and decided that if the house did not close on the next scheduled date we would have to walk. We were both paranoid that there was something bad going wrong, despite the assurance from our agent that this was not terribly uncommon when dealing with overseas sellers.


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The Door looks red here, but I assure you it is a very interesting shade of purple...


Closing date Three...YES! WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!! And the kicker, our awesome agent was able to negotiate our first full month of bills paid by the seller due to the long delay! Our family skipped the matching outfits. We drove to the house and played in the yard. We walked around and guessed at where Santa might leave Christmas gifts. We introduced ourselves to neighbors through the fence posts. We were a family who was finally home. Memories multiplied, and all was right with the world.


Tell us about your home-buying experiences! Did all go smoothly, or were there hurdles to jump along the way? You can join the conversation on our Facebook page

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Ready to jump into the home-buying adventures? You’ll need a rockstar agent, like my own, and you can find one here

http://www.seacoastrealty.com/



What to Expect When Buying a Home : You Are Under Contract, Now What?

by seacoast_ashley 31. August 2015 07:50

 

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As you know from previous blog posts, my family is finally under contract. After some negotiating and lots of luck we are able to start the final jog to the closing table. There is so much that happens after your realtor exclaims,  “Congratulations! Your offer has been accepted!”

 

No two real estate transactions are ever the same, and our situation has to be one of the most unique I have ever been a part of. My family (“the buyers”) are located in a hot market in North Carolina. The Sellers are located overseas...with a 12-hour time difference. This resulted in every required document, every question, and every interaction taking a full day longer to complete. To say that this has been a bit nerve-wracking would be a gross understatement.


As soon as we were informed that we were under contract, we began the process to secure our mortgage. Since the decline (or bust, if you will) of the Housing Market (beginning in 2007 and hitting lows in 2012), getting a loan has required more documentation, qualifications and time. We spent no less than one week just searching files, requesting documentation, and combing through bank statements to determine where every dollar had come from, and where it had gone. For the most part, I would say kids. Kids are where all the dollars go!


Every time that we thought we had absolutely everything the Underwriter would come back to us, requesting yet another document. Around midnight on a random Wednesday night, we swore (for the 1,000th time) that we would never lose track of a penny again! My advice? Do a quick Google search or contact a mortgage broker before you even intend to apply for a loan, start a list of everything that you may potentially need, and start finding that stuff stat! It will save you so much time and frustration.

 

Our house was being sold “as is” but we still wanted to have a home inspection completed. I suggest that you ALWAYS have one. We needed to know that the bones of the house were good and that the house was safe for our family. We also didn’t want any $20,000 surprises after we move in.


If at all possible, go to the inspection with your Inspector! Our guy was great, and was one of about 4 recommended by our realtor, friends, and family. We spent almost 5 hours looking into every nook and cranny of the house. After finding all of the “issues” we walked away knowing exactly what kind of renovations and repairs we were facing.


This allowed for us to determine what we could afford to do before moving in. For us, new windows, kitchen floor, a small plumbing job, and a minor roof repair are the priorities. Not too bad for a home built in the 1960s. In addition to walking through explaining what the issues were, our inspector sent us an extremely detailed report (complete with pictures) of everything that he found and noted as an issue. This will come in handy as we check off the smaller issues over time. Our inspector charged us (The Buyer usually pays for the Inspection) around $1000. I think that this is the most important money that will be spent on our house.


As the mortgage documents rolled through the approval process, the Lender scheduled an appraisal. Most common loans will require an appraisal to determine that the house is, in fact, worth the loan amount. Our lender scheduled the appraisal and we were not present for it. An appraiser will pull comparable homes for sale (“comps”) or recently sold homes in the area. He/She will compare all aspects from the condition, square footage, number of rooms, use of space and will adjust the home value accordingly.

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We were cruising right on to the closing date...until we weren’t. Remember that fun little fact from the beginning of this post that the sellers lived overseas? With flexibility and patience it mattered very little...until now.


Find out how our closing has been effected by working with a seller so far away. And, find out if we even make it to the closing table. It will be a surprise for all of us, as we haven’t made it just yet!


What are some of the hurdles that you have jumped when closing on a home? Have you ever passed on an inspection? Join the conversation on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/seacoastrealty

Your Kitchen’s Role in Your Home

by seacoast_ashley 20. August 2015 16:13

Your Kitchen’s Role in Your  Home

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On most afternoons, usually around 4:30pm, you can find me frantically searching the Internet for recipes utilizing the few ingredients that I have in the pantry. I am in this dash because at some point I got too busy--and forgot that I need to stop at the grocery store. Around 5:30pm, I have usually given up on my Internet searches, and given into just cooking everything that I have.

By 6:30pm, the family is all sitting around the table--some content and some grumbling-- over the “rice bowls," “big salads," “homemade soup,” or “pasta thingy” that I have concocted.

By 7:00pm we are talking and usually laughing about something funny the 2-year-old did or some crazy thing that the 4-year-old has decided to invent. And in those moments all of the food stresses have vanished and we are fully and presently with each each other. The whole family knows that we will do it all again tomorrow.

No matter what food is eaten there is a special togetherness that eating with the family fosters.

I grew up with a grandfather who farmed almost everything that my grandmother made. A few times a week our family would casually stroll into their house and have dinner, watch PM Magazine, and talk. On the days that we didn’t eat from my grandfather’s garden, my father would cook elaborate versions of soul food that far outweighed even my mother’s most ambitious meals.

I can remember every detail of my grandparent’s kitchen. I know what the countertops were made of (a white formica with tiny gold flecks), what was in each of the cabinets, and most certainly where my grandmother hid sweets. My mother still owns the table that my grandmother so extravagantly set night after night (with only white plates, bowls, etc. and Smurf glasses from Hardee’s), and when I enter my mother’s kitchen I am immediately taken back to dinner as a child.

My parents grow a lot of the food that they cook, and I can trace some of those smells back to toddlerhood. I also know that a proper tomato sandwich is made of only whole bread, Duke’s Mayonnaise, home grown tomato slices (heirloom), and a sprinkle of black pepper. It is best served with a cold Coke.

As many of you who follow the blog know, my family is in the midst of moving. We are under-contract on a house that does not have the greatest kitchen: but I am determined that when we move in, that kitchen will house the memories that my kids will look back on. It is in that kitchen that I will try to replicate (and hopefully one day master) my father’s soul food and my grandmother’s cottage cheese pie. The point is THE KITCHEN IS IMPORTANT!

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For me to work my kitchen magic I need 3 things; sturdy counters, room for five, and a nice set of pans. The backsplash (I want subway tile), the appliances (stainless would be nice), and the cabinet color (these will one day be refaced) really are just minor details in the story of my kitchen. I am willing to give the minor details up for countertop cupcake making, loud excitement whether it be over a ball game or tears over a broken heart, and the ability to just whip up what I already have in the pantry (granted I made it to the grocery store anytime in near past).

Trends in kitchens change. Some are beautiful and some are questionable after a decade. Big is nice, but small can feel just as nice. Let your realtor show you some things that aren’t on your wish list. Let them guide you into a memory maker. Let go of perfect unless it's going to make your tomato sandwiches top notch!

What role does your kitchen play in your family? Join the conversation.

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To see some of the kitchens packed with loads of potential in our area

http://www.seacoastrealty.com/

What to Expect When Buying a Home: You’ve Found “The One”

by seacoast_ashley 14. August 2015 09:08

If you read last week's blog post, you already know that I have studied, gotten a pre-approval letter, and started the home search. Back in my youth (before time got scarce and kids got plentiful), I loved the search for the perfect house. In all honesty, I still do, but the lazy Saturday mornings of driving to open houses at a whim are gone. Our search has been warp speed. We pack snacks, drinks, coloring books, diapers and plan our route like a trip to Europe.


We had three areas that we wanted to zone in on. All of them offered up great schools, walkability to parks, and the most important factor were in our budget...not a penny over! In total we looked at about 10 houses before we found the one. We knew when we walked in that this house would need work, but we also knew that the location and the house layout were perfect for our young family.

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This is the kind of work I’m talking about here. Anybody know a good tree service?


Because the city that we moved to is experiencing  quite a rebound from the housing market crisis in previous years houses were selling fast. In many cases they are selling above the list prices with multiple offers. We had to make a move, and we had to do it fast. As soon as we viewed the house and buckled everyone into their seats, and passed out waters, and found pacifiers we talked. We drove the neighborhood again, we speculated on what kind of neighbors lived on the street, and then we called our real estate agent and told him that we wanted to make an offer to purchase.


Acting on our Realtor’s advice, we offered full asking price. We asked for closing costs, and the offer would be contingent on our financing and home inspection. Here is where things slowed down, and the dream felt like it was going to die.


As soon as we walked into our rental condo, we started “signing” all of the necessary paperwork. Our realtor was able to prepare and send all documents online. This was extremely helpful. He looked through the documents and informed us that he was submitting the offer. We waited...


At 10pm our realtor called. The seller actually lived overseas, so all offers (and there were a few others) would be held until the following morning and submitted to the seller at the same time. Yikes! 2 days passed and we were freaking out! How long was an offer good for? When would we hear back? Would we hear back? Could we make other offers? The number of questions that our Realtor had to answer was downright embarrassing!  By the end of the third day we were informed that the sellers chose another offer. The house was “under contract.”

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Dreams of the kids coming down these stairs on Christmas...dashed.

My family experienced a strange sort of heartbreak knowing that we were still house hunting. In the short time (not even a week) since seeing the house, we had started to picture our life there. We were so in love with the neighborhood that it seemed like every other neighborhood was not as good. We knew that we would continue looking in this neighborhood, but we also knew that most things that came on the market in this area went under contract super fast, and for more money than we had to spend. I actually cried.


Two weeks later, our luck changed! Our realtor called us one evening to inform us that the contract had fallen through, and that the seller would be putting “our house” back on the market! We immediately told our realtor to resubmit our offer, to take out the closing cost, and to add an extra $1000 to the offer. This would be the strongest offer that we could make, and we did not want to lose out again.


Two nail-biting days later, we were under contract. Our offer to purchase had been in competition with 3 other, but the tweaks to the offer were enough to sway the seller. The kids went to bed talking about their new rooms and my husband and I poured a glass of celebratory wine!


The next morning the drive to close on this house kicked into high gear. There were papers to be signed, inspections to be lined up, loans to qualify for. You can read all about those things on the blog next week!


How did you know that you found “the one”? Did you have to jump through many hoops to make it your own? Let us know on our Facebook page!

https://www.facebook.com/seacoastrealty


If you haven’t already found your dream home, we can help!

 

http://www.seacoastrealty.com/

What to Expect When Selling Your Home: Part Six - The Closing

by seacoast_ashley 13. July 2015 03:35

 

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I was not as smiley as this woman on the side of our UHaul


After packing every square inch of our home, minus the living room curtains (you can read more about this in last week’s blog) we were ready to scrub. My family and I had loved our home and we wanted the new buyers to walk in and love it too.

Luckily, I had the help of my super awesome parents. Everyday for the last week in my home, my mother and I would drop my kids off at a drop-in daycare. We would clean the inside of the house while my father worked on the outside. We had so much stuff crammed into every available space that no less than 10 trips were made to local charities to make donations.


The week was looooong. I had prepared myself to cry from sun up to sun down. I had previously imagined that each piece of artwork coming off the wall, and each memory inducing wall scrape touched up, and each totally empty room would result in an ocean of tears. This was not the case!  The massive amount of work that it took to get the house completely empty and clean made me ready to get out.


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Little things like this set the tears flowing!


The tear-free me lasted until the morning of closing. I woke up early and attempted to make a video of each room so that our kids would be able to remember what the house was like when they were small. This was when the floodgates opened. I could remember memories so clearly in that empty house. I remembered every holiday photo, every scraped knee, and every birthday party. I knew that the new owners would be walking into the house, their house, in just a few short hours. With a couple of deep breaths and spoken thank-yous to the house, I slipped a bottle of champagne into the fridge, and walked out for the last time.


Oftentimes (almost everytime) buyers have the chance to do one final walk-through of the home. This usually takes place on the morning of the closing. I was informed by my realtor that I could be there for the walk-through or not. I chose not to attend. I knew that I would be sad seeing someone critique or make plans of changing what had been mine for so many years. I also wanted the new buyers to be relaxed and excited. I wanted them to “bond” with their new home.


Driving out of our neighborhood was rough, but somewhere between the neighborhood and the lawyer’s office I had made peace with moving out. We did not see the buyers at the closing table. It is my understanding that in some cases the buyers and sellers are at the same table and literally hand over the keys after signing all of the legal paperwork. My appointment to sign was an hour before the buyers’ appointment. The actual closing was pretty anti-climatic.


My agent sat beside me and a lawyer sat in front of me. It was so nice to have the experienced eyes of my agent reviewing everything that the lawyer slid across the table. It was important too, because we found a $200 mistake! Papers were re-done, resigned, and before I knew it my house was no longer mine. The “buyers” were no longer the buyers, but were the “owners.”


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New beginnings, here we come!


Every hardship and minute of work seemed to vanish. The memories stayed. And, in the second that I signed my name on the last of what felt like 1000 pages, my family and I became homeless! The relief of selling our home has morphed into panic again as we search for a new house to make a home. We are in a constant state of looking, number-crunching, racing to open houses! Stay tuned for the upcoming series “What to Expect When Buying a Home”.


Did you feel relief, sadness, pure joy when officially selling your home? Do you have advice for me on buying? Please do-tell!

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If you are looking for guidance in the home buying/selling process:

http://www.seacoastrealty.com/

What to Expect When Listing Your House: Step Two: Preparing Your Home for Listing

by seacoast_ashley 4. June 2015 16:18

 

 

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If you read last week’s blog post then you already know the first step. If you missed it then you might want to back up and read Step One: Finding a Realtor. Ok, caught up? Perfect.


In an attempt to inform our clients, I am blogging my personal experience listing (selling) my home. As I mentioned in the last blog post, this is not my first experience. However,  it does carry much more weight. I now have 3 small children, a dog, and house bursting with a “lived- in” feel.


We are moving due to a job change. We knew that we had to list our home for sale just 4 weeks before my husband’s out-of-town job start date. This makes it important to try to sell the house as quickly as possible, because I will be staying in our current home with the aforementioned three kids and a dog until the house sells and we can find a home in our new location.

Before we signed with our Realtor we started the deep clean. We tried to fix any glaring problems with the house, but due to financial and time constraints there are a few things that could still use attention.


We explained to our realtor that we needed a quick sell and we couldn’t afford or have the time to do large amounts of work. His recommendation was to price aggressively.  By doing so, we are hoping that we will have more interest. We know that we will not end up walking away with a profit, but that is okay with us. We are simply looking to free up the money that we are paying towards our mortgage so that we can put that into a new home. For lots of people this strategy does not work. Often times, people are looking to make profit or at least make back some of the money that they have paid towards renovations, etc. This is something that you and your realtor will need to determine. Know your end goal.


After pricing our house our realtor made a few suggestions for inexpensive ways that we could prepare the house to go on the market. I had a $500 limit set on the work that we could/would do. His first suggestion was to enhance the curb appeal. We decided that almost all of the $500 would go to drawing buyers into our home from the outside. Step one was to paint the front porch. The porch was not in terrible shape, but fresh white paint had a huge impact. It makes the house look shiney and new. After paying for paint and supplies, we had about $400 left to spruce the place up.


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See how crisp that white looksjQuery15207700262633152306_1433533719477


I spent $100 on new planters in crisp white, 3 hanging baskets bursting with flowers, and lots of new plants for the area around our walkway. There is nothing that makes you want to take your home off the market more than driving up to your home a feeling like it is the best that it has ever looked! Be prepared to wish you could stay.


With the remaining $300 we plan on fixing a piece of cracked molding around our front door, replacing a rotted board on our back deck (and repainting it), changing out all of our light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs, and possibly repainting all of the interior trim work the same crisp white that made such a huge impact on the front porch. If there is money left over, I will be hiring a cleaning service to come in and scrub all of the nooks and crannies that I have neglected.


Once the house was clean and fresh and looking like the home of my dreams, our Realtor hired a house photographer. This is something that never happened with our previous listings, but it has already had a huge impact on the level of interest that we have had by buyers. The photos show the very best of our home. I would recommend that you have a professional photograph your home. It was fairly inexpensive (my realtor even provides the service free to his sellers) and really does make a world of difference. Today, most buyers start their search online. They want great visuals.

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These pics have driven tons of traffic to my home’s online profile!


One of my biggest obstacles has been decluttering this house. After many years and many children we look like an exploded toy shop. The method that worked (is working) for me, is to keep 2 baskets in my laundry room.


The first basket is for the things that may be scattered about, but that we can’t do without. I load this basket at the first request for a showing. It holds dog items (food, leash, bed), personal items we don’t want to leave laying about, and anything else that has found it’s way to the floor that I don’t have time to put in its specific place. The second basket holds things that need to leave the house for good. It is our “out” basket. The items that most often find their fate in this basket are toys that I noticed aren’t played with anymore, clothes that are too small, or items that we haven’t used in the past six months.


When we have a showing request the first thing I do is load those baskets into the car. I usually try to donate the “out” stuff while driving around killing time during the showing. The basket method has worked well so far. In the end, it will result in less packing for me!

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More decluttering to do, but with 3 kids this is pretty clean!


EVERYDAY (yes, all caps) we clean. Floors are vacuumed or swept (or mopped on a good day), all surfaces are wiped down, smudges are cleaned, dust is banished.The lawn is mowed on any pretty day. There are no toilets left opened, and no recycling items left on the counters.  It is an exhausting process, but at the end of the day we know that this will speed up the selling process. It will help us reach our end goal (and rest) so much faster!


What are the projects that you feel are most important to complete when listing your home? If you have sold a home before, did the cleaning and home improvements drive you batty? Share your methods!!


Watch out for Step Three of the home-selling process next week!


To share your ideas (and to help me sell!) join the conversation on our Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/seacoastrealty


To find an agent to guide you in the process visit

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States Where Americans Moved in 2013

by seacoast_ashley 10. January 2014 04:01

 

Where People Are Moving 2014On January 2nd, United Van Lines released its 37th Annual Migration Study, which tracks where their customers moved over the course of 1 year. The study revealed Oregon as the new number 1 state for inbound moves knocking Washington D.C. out of first place. After a 5 year reign, the capital fell to 4th place and tied with South Dakota.

Great news for North Carolina – our state came in at 3rd place for inbound moves. Home sellers should take note: for months, homes sold have outpaced homes listed and this is one reason why! If you’ve been thinking of selling, contact a Sea Coast agent to learn about your options.

As for the other side of the study, after over a decade of being on the outbound list, Michigan is no longer seeing a large movement of people leaving the state. It’s nowhere on the outbound list. 2013 saw New Jersey with the highest number of outbound moves. The Northeast, in general, saw the most outbound moves in the United States.

Graphic Courtesy of United Van Lines.

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