Real Estate Blog

It would be amazing…

It would be amazing if all you needed to prep your home for fall was to hang a wreath and light a bunch of pumpkin spice candles. While yes, those are a crucial part of getting ready for the change of seasons, but there are more important (and not exactly fun) preparations that come with being a homeowner. The fall season is upon us. How do you prepare your home before winter? Fortunately, in the Morgantown area, we are still experiencing some warm and sunny weather. Take advantage of this weather and do the following to get your home winter ready.

Clean your gutters. With the leaves falling, you need to make sure they are clear of debris so rain and snow can drain properly. Check your windows for drafts. Heat loss through windows is responsible for 25 percent of heating energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But it does not have to be that way, because weatherstripping is simple and probably the most cost-effective way to keep heating costs down. Drain your outdoor faucets. Drain and disconnect all garden hoses from outside spigots to prevent any water freezing. Not doing this can result in busted pipes.

 Bring in your outdoor furniture. You spent good money to set that outdoor space up, so if you want to get another summer season out of it you should store it in a garage or shed. If you do not have anywhere to store the items, you should cover them with a waterproof furniture cover. Fertilize your lawn. If you want to keep your lawn looking great in the spring and summer, you need to prep it for the fall and winter. Roots are still active when the grass is not growing, so applying fertilizer will prevent winter damage. Doing this will also help your lawn turn green faster in the spring, which is crucial, because who wants to look at a sad lawn come springtime?

There are things you can do on the inside of your home to prep for winter. Change your furnace filters. If your filters are clogged, it is harder to keep your home at the temperature you want it to be, which will increase your heating bills. Clean these filters monthly, not just before the fall. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Once a year you should be checking to make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide devices are working.

If you are thinking of listing your home in the Spring, use this cold weather time to make some interior home improvements. Spruce up the paint, redo the floors or replace that old carpet and change out old light fixtures. This is still a good time to list your property for sale. Rates are low, buyers are looking so take that leap and contact your local REALTOR®.

Add some pumpkins, mums and fall decorations to your front porch and get ready for those buyers!

Have a great week! Remember to do good things.

Everyone seems to have some form of a pet these days…

Everyone seems to have some form of a pet these days, whether it be a dog, cat, reptile or rodent. Pet owners love their fur babies, consider them members of the family and ferociously defend them. That is noble and honorable, but it can be expensive if you are trying to sell your house. The question is, what do you do with your pet during showings? This can be a difficult situation especially if you work full time. If you are fortunate enough to have a family member or neighbor available to take them during a showing, that helps. If not, you may need to run home and take them out or crate them during the showing.

According to a study conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 67 percent of REALTORS® said pet ownership has a “moderate to major” impact when selling a home. How do you keep beloved pets from costing you a small fortune when you sell your house? Do not panic; there are ways to remedy the problem.

Pet owners become “eye blind” and “nose blind” to the evidence their pets leave in and around the house. They don’t notice the scratched walls on the porch or the chewed stair railing. They don’t notice the holes dug in the yard or the bald patches in the flowerbeds. But potential buyers do notice; in fact, many are specifically looking for such things when touring a property. There are steps you can take to minimize the negative impression pets have on potential homebuyers. Most of the steps probably are not ways you want to spend your free time, and you may need to hire a professional for some of them, but they will help you in the selling process.

Clean out the litter boxes, hide the pet pads and scoop the yard. No one wants to see or smell any of that. Look at your floors, do they have pet stains or scratches? Have the carpets professionally cleaned or refinish the floors. Avoid air fresheners because some people are allergic to these. If you are going to deodorize the home on your own, try natural cleaners instead. Ask a friend to “preview” your home and give you an honest opinion of its condition.

Have your home professionally treated for fleas and ticks; if you have pets in the home, you may have these critters in the house. You will want to put this at the top of your list, not just for selling your home but for your pet’s safety, too.

As a REALTOR®, we want to know if there is a pet in the house, so we aren’t surprised during a showing. Even if we know they are there, it sometimes is a shock to open a door and find them in the cage in front of you. I am speaking from experience. You can ask your REALTOR® to give you advance notice before showings to allow time to make necessary arrangements.

The goal is to sell your home and if it has a pet smell, it won’t sell. Have a great week! Remember to do good things!

What is an appraisal and why do I need one?

What is an appraisal and why do I need one? An appraisal is an opinion of value used for real-estate related financial transactions. Appraisals are required by a state licensed or certified appraiser for most transactions that are being financed by a bank or mortgage company. An appraiser’s report will typically include the type of property inspection, approaches to value required, and any lender-specific requirements.

During the listing process, the REALTOR® uses comparable active and sold properties found in the MLS to figure pricing for your home. This is based on similar properties in proximity to yours. When you receive an offer with an appraisal contingency, the appraiser will do a more in-depth evaluation of your home and find comparable sales.

What if your house doesn’t appraise for the sales price? A low appraisal may seem like a major misfortune when you are selling your house both for you and for your buyer. But low real estate appraisals are more common than you think. A low appraisal does not always mean a canceled deal. It sometimes means you must pivot and renegotiate.

If the appraisal comes in lower than your offer price, it’s either an opportunity for you to renegotiate the sales price with the seller or it’s going to completely derail your home sale, and you’ll have to start over again. Either way, as the buyer, you have some work to do to figure out what this means for your purchase and which avenue to pursue.

What are your options? First consult with your REALTOR® or lender. As the seller, you can request a copy of the report and ask the buyer to challenge the appraisal. This can delay the process and the buyer may not want to proceed. The seller can negotiate the sale price with the buyer, offer seller financing, or cancel the transaction and relist. It is tough to decide between your many options. Lean on your agent’s expertise and advice when discussing each of the below paths you could take.

Make sure you do your research before you place your property on the market. Ask your REALTOR® to guide you through the process and show you the comparable properties they are using to price your home. Be realistic in your pricing. Currently in our Morgantown market, it’s a sellers’ market which means prices could be a bit higher than usual due to the lack of inventory. Fingers crossed that you priced yours right and are currently negotiating multiple offers!

Have a wonderful week! Remember to do good things!

September is back to school time…

September is back to school time, the start of football season and the transition into fall but in the real estate world, it’s safety month. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has declared that September is REALTOR® Safety month. Being a REALTOR® can be fun, but it also comes with risks. Over the last decade or so, there have been many instances of REALTORS® being hurt, kidnapped and even murdered.

This is a good time for my fellow REALTORS® to re-evaluate their safety practices and procedures. Be aware, be smart and be proactive. So how can we apply the same safety practices that we follow to our sellers?

First, let’s talk about listing your home. Once your home is active on the market, chances are that it’s all over social media and the internet. People in your town are viewing your home online, so you need to prepare for those potential, in person showings. Strangers will walk through your home. Do a tour of your home through the eyes of a buyer and see what personal items should be removed.

The obvious things like guns, jewelry, and cash should be locked up or stored off site from your home. But did you consider spare keys, prescription drugs, and your mail as things you should hide? How easy would it be for a “potential” buyer to swipe a key when their REALTOR® is distracted or to take a prescription bottle off the shelf and slip it into their pocket? What about your mail? This can contain some personal information that someone could use to steal your identity and hack your finances.

What about family photos? While it may seem nice to display the school pictures of your children, do you really want everyone seeing them? Remember if the photograph is in your home photos, the world can zoom in and see them. So maybe clear things out and make a blank slate for your showings. You are moving, aren’t you? Time to start packing.

Make sure all doors and windows are locked before any showings and confirm they remain that way when you return. Installing a home security system can ensure you have video footage if a crime does occur. Some models and programs will even allow you to view your home remotely. Use this added feature to watch over people during showings or simply check it at night to ensure your home remains safe from vandalism and theft. If you have indoor cameras, you can keep track of those buyers touring your home but remember to let your REALTOR® know that you may be watching.

You are responsible for your pets. If possible, animals should be removed during showings. If your dog would attack a potential buyer, you will be held liable. Do your best to keep everyone safe. Do not show your home by yourself. If someone knocks on your door, tell them to contact your agent to schedule a showing. Not all buyers are who they say they are. As exciting as it is to have people interested in your home, stop, think and practice your safety.

Happy Labor Day weekend to you! Have a relaxing time and remember to do good things!

As seen on TV!

As seen on TV! We have all experienced those products, but did you know that the “as seen on TV real estate programs” may not be real? Have you ever been flipping through the channels, only to find yourself glued to the couch in an HGTV binge session? We have all been there, watching entire seasons of shows like “Property Brothers,” “Fixer Upper,” and “Love It or List It,” all in one sitting. When you are in the middle of your real estate-themed TV show marathon, you might start to think everything you see on the screen must be how it works in real-life. However, you may need a reality check.

Buyers do not necessarily look at three homes and then buy one of them. Sometimes it takes much, much longer. There may be buyers who fall in love and buy the first home they see, but according to the National Association of REALTORS®, the average homebuyer tours 10 homes as a part of their search.

On reality TV shows, they are often staged and already sold. In a real-life search, we may be showing “staged” homes, but they are still active on the market. The real estate TV shows cannot show the entire purchase process in 30 minutes, so they tend to choose buyers that are further along in their buying decision. While in real life, the buyer is just pre-approved and ready to look at 10 homes as they start their search.

Some may think if they list their home for sale, it will always sell at the open house. Of course, this would be great! Open houses are important to guarantee the most exposure to buyers in your area, but they are only one piece of the overall marketing of your home. Keep in mind, many homes are sold during regular showing appointments as well. Marketing is important as buyers are looking online as they start their search.

If you think that homeowners decide to sell their homes after a 5-minute conversation, then you may be watching too much HGTV. When in reality, like the buyers portrayed on the shows, many of the sellers have already spent hours deliberating the decision to list their homes and move on with their lives and goals. While the property-themed real estate TV shows are entertaining to watch, it is vital to remember what you are seeing on TV is not an exact portrayal of real-life. It is hard to fit what truly happens into a 30- or 60-minute time slot.

With the introduction to online internet searches years ago, buyers are more educated when it comes to seeing the property. They have already viewed the interior pictures online and with virtual tours. Many times, the pictures may make the home seem larger or smaller than it is. It is important to view the property live with your REALTOR® and not “as seen on TV”.

Hope all the parents survived the first week of school! If you are ready for more space, it is a great time to list your property. Contact your local REALTOR® today!

Until next time, remember to do good things!

Have you ever been in a bidding war?

Have you ever been in a bidding war? No, I am not talking about an auction, just a regular home purchase. With so few houses for sale today and low mortgage rates driving buyer activity, bidding wars are becoming more common. Multiple-offer scenarios are heating up, so it is important to get pre-approved before you start your search. This way, you can put your best foot forward – quickly and efficiently – if you are planning to buy a home this season.

So, what should you do in a hot market to be prepared for a potential multiple offer situation? First, get pre-approved. Buyers who are pre-approved are a step ahead when it is time to make an offer. Having a pre-approval letter indicating you are a qualified buyer shows sellers you are serious. It is often a deciding factor that can tip the scale in your direction if there is more than one offer on a home. It is best to contact a mortgage professional to start your pre-approval process early, so you are in the best position right from the start of your home search.

Next, present your best offer. In a highly competitive market, it is common for sellers to pick a date and time to review all offers on a house at one time. If this is the case, you may not have an opportunity to negotiate back and forth with the sellers. As a matter of fact, the National Association of REALTORS® notes existing-home sales rose 1.4% on a seasonally adjusted annual rate from May to June, with no region showing a sales decline. Not only are properties selling quickly, but they are also getting more offers. On average, REALTORS® reported nearly three offers per sold property. Make sure the offer you are presenting is the best one the sellers receive. A real estate professional can help you make sure your offer is a fair and highly competitive one.

As you can see, the market is gaining steam. For several months houses have sold very quickly. Essentially, you may not have time to sleep on it or shop around when you find a home you love. Chances are, someone else loves it too. If you take your time, it may not be available when you are ready to commit.

The housing market is strong right now, and buyers are scooping up available homes faster than they are coming to market. If you are planning to purchase a home this year, talk to a local real estate professional to learn more about your current area, so you are ready to compete – and win.

Hope everyone has a great week! Remember to laugh and to do good things!

Why do people live where they do?

Why do people live where they do? Some people have more choice than others when determining where to live. According to a national poll, the cost of housing was the most selected reason for why residents chose to live in their neighborhood. Being close to friends and family was second and the size and type of housing available was third. Some people choose their home based on the proximity to their workplace. Whatever the reason, there is a place for everyone. Some of the negative aspects were living too far from family and friends and the availability of public transportation.

Studies also show that the geographic proximity between buyers with elderly parents is small. The trend will continue, social scientists say, as baby boomers need more care in old age, and the growing number of two-income families seek help with childcare. Relocating for a job can be tough on a young family especially if they rely on their parents to assist with childcare or help the parent with their needs.

Some buyers like to live in the mountains, near a water source or in a planned community. Do you want an HOA? Do you want neighbors nearby? Maybe you want a farm with lots of acreage. There is a home for you. These are all things to consider when you start your search. Drive the area if you are not familiar with it. Check school ratings. You want the best schools for your children, don’t you? Are you close to shopping, restaurants and other amenities? Ask your REALTOR® about resale values for that neighborhood. Are you in a flood zone? Near a power plant? If you live in a college town, is the neighborhood full of student rentals?

While most buyers start their search with number of bedrooms and baths, size of home and amount of land, there are many other aspects to consider. Educate yourself. Our REALTOR® website has links and information about the community, school ratings, tourism, public transportation and more. Check out www.morgantownrealtors.com.

If you are new to the area, use a REALTOR®. These men and women know the community. They can help you find that home on the lake or nestled in the mountains. They can tell you about the best shopping and dining or the closest park for your dog. We all have access to the internet. Use it to research the town you will be relocating to and ask your REALTOR® questions about why they live where they do! Rates are still at an all-time low, but inventory is scarce. If you are ready to buy or sell, contact your local REALTOR®.

WVU students are back, and local schools will be starting soon too. Be cautious and assume no one knows where they are going. Drive safely, watch for that bicyclist. Have a great week! Remember to do good things!

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks…

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks our kids will be heading back to school. Why do our summers go by so fast? This local college town, in which we live, will soon swarm with thousands of students moving into their dorms and apartments. Morgantown residency will almost double in size in just a short time. This is great for our economy supporting local businesses including retail stores, restaurants and hotels.

Parents will ascend into our town for a few days buying groceries and home goods for their kid’s apartments and dorms. We have several local landlords that have been prepping for weeks to get their apartments ready for these students. WVU is working hard to plan activities for the incoming freshman and upper class as well as keeping parents informed about move in and other events.

How does all of this affect our local real estate market? Being that this is a college town, many residents rely on rental income to support their livelihood. Competition is strong, but if you provide the renters with modern spaces that are clean and safe, you can be successful. If you are looking to invest, real estate can be very profitable.

Does it make sense to rent an apartment for four years or to buy an investment property? Some parents would rather spend their monies on a property they can own versus paying someone else’s mortgage. This type of ownership makes up a large portion of our market. What should you do if you decide to buy but live hundreds of miles away? Are you willing to drive into town for maintenance issues during all hours? Or should you hire a property management company to help you along the way? Ask your local REALTOR® for guidance. There are some good companies in town that have managed rentals for years.

What if you aren’t financially able to purchase currently? Is renting all that bad? Of course not. If you find a good landlord and a safe place for your child to live, then you should feel comfortable letting someone else handle maintenance issues. Ask your local REALTOR® for suggestions if you are in the market to rent, as they are familiar with the local landlords.

Whether you choose to rent an apartment or purchase an investment property, both options will require some financial planning. Many property management companies now require credit and background checks for potential renters. If the renter is a student, the parent or guardian may need to sign as a guarantor. If you choose to purchase an investment property, check with your mortgage lender as it may be wise to add your child to the loan to help them build credit.

If you are a townie, be patient over the next two weeks as people coming to our area don’t know our roads. Think of it as being on vacation in another town, it’s very similar to what we experience during move in week.

As I sit here on my vacation at the beach, I am reminded to be kind to others and to do good things!

Should you pay cash for your home or finance it with your local bank?

Should you pay cash for your home or finance it with your local bank? Before making this big decision, review the pros and cons of each type of purchase. Everywhere you turn, you hear how bad it is to carry debt. So naturally, it is logical to think that buying a home with cash or sinking as much cash as possible into your home to avoid the massive debt associated with a mortgage is the smartest choice for your financial health. But there is a lot to consider when contemplating purchasing a home outright versus financing it. We will discuss some of the major differences between using cash or taking out a mortgage to buy a home.

Paying cash for a home means you won’t have to pay interest on a loan. Cash sales are attractive to sellers because they can close quicker. In this competitive market, a seller is likely to take a cash offer over other offers because they don’t have to worry about a buyer backing out due to financing being denied.

On the other hand, obtaining financing also has significant benefits. Even if a buyer can pay cash for a home, it might not make sense to tie up a lot of cash to purchase real estate. Doing so could limit your options if other needs arise down the road. If the home turns out to need major repairs or renovations, it may be tough to obtain a home-equity loan or mortgage, as you don’t know what your credit score will look like in the future, how much the home will then be worth, or other factors that determine approval for financing.

Paying a mortgage can also provide tax benefits for homeowners who itemize deductions versus taking the standard deduction. And while you should not opt for a mortgage just to get a deduction, a reduced tax obligation never hurts.

The best advice when considering whether cash or mortgage makes the most sense is to opt for the choice that gives you the bigger bang for your buck. Also, ask yourself which will provide a greater return on your investment. If you decide to purchase a house with a loan, make sure you can easily afford the principal and interest payments each month. If you decide to go with cash, make sure you will still have enough to cover ongoing costs like property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and other fees each month.

Talk to your tax advisor, meet with your local mortgage lender and let them guide you to make the best decision for your needs.

Our market is crazy! Homes are going under contract in just hours, some with multiple offers. Inventory is still low. So, if you are considering selling your home, contact your local REALTOR® so they can get you the best price, whether it is a cash sale or a financed option.

Have a great week! Remember to do good things!

Why should you live in Morgantown?

Why should you live in Morgantown? I can only speak from experience as I have lived here my entire life. I am not saying other areas of the state are not beautiful but this town, I can attest to its character.

Morgantown is a great place to grow up and raise a family. We are surrounded by mountains, a river, a lake, wonderful parks and recreation. In addition to our local area, we are within an hour to Pittsburgh and a little over 3 hours to Washington, DC. We have sports including a minor league baseball team, arts and entertainment, and plenty of other activities. West Virginia is known for its mountains. Residents can snow ski, explore our many caves and caverns, go white water rafting, hunt and fish. We have fine dining, good shopping, history and heritage, and great people!

Let us talk sports. We are the home of the Mountaineers! Morgantown is host to WVU baseball, football, basketball, a National Rifle Team, swimming, rowing, track, golf, soccer, volleyball and tennis just to name a few. We have won tournaments and titles and many of our athletes have gone onto play Pro sports.  

WVU has produced a mountain of scholars from the University. Forbes ranked Morgantown as one of the Best Small Places for Business and Careers. (2019). We have a level one trauma center at WVU Hospital, a top ranked business and law school and graduate programs that rank within the top 100 in the nation. We are a diverse community with many of our students coming to study from other countries. Some of our Elementary, Middle and High Schools are top ranking in the state and in the nation.

Our arts and entertainment program stretches from local talent in our county schools to college level plays and performances. The Creative Arts Center or CAC as we locals call it, has hosted Broadway productions and many famous singers. We are fortunate to have some amazing talent in our community.

If you are one for adventure, Cheat Lake is a quick getaway for boating and recreation and the Mon River for kayaking and fishing. We have parks for the family to enjoy and a rail trail for biking, walking and running. Within a short drive, you can be rock climbing and exploring at Cooper’s Rock State Forest which features canyon overlooks, historical sites, picnic shelters, 50 miles of hiking and biking trails, cross-country ski terrain, a lake perfect for reeling in trout and a nearby river for rafting.    

The beauty of Morgantown is like no other. We have awesome sunrises and sunsets. Our seasons, albeit a little off over the last few years, are full of vibrant colors. We have good people here that are always willing to help others.

So, I as sit here on my front porch and write, I am thankful to watch a beautiful sunrise with a sky full of pinks and blues. I would not want to live anywhere else as Morgantown is home to me.

I hope you have a wonderful week and remember to do good things for yourself and others!