Catherine Cuddy's Blog
Buying your first home is a big decision; one that involves a lengthy process of saving money, building credit, and planning the next phase of your life. However, owning a home comes with one major payoff: home equity.
Simply put, home equity is the amount of your home that you’ve paid off. However, it does get more complicated when we bring in factors like the market value of your home and how it shifts over the years.
In this article, we’ll discuss home equity and what it means for you as a homeowner. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you finally make that last payment on your home or when you decide to sell.
Home equity and market value
As I mentioned earlier, home equity is more than just the amount you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Like most markets, the housing market shifts over time.
Most homes slowly increase in value over time. In the real estate world, this increase in value is called appreciation.
However, that doesn’t mean that your home is simply going to increase in value indefinitely until you decide to sell. As you will find out (if you haven’t yet already), owning a home can be expensive. Houses age and require upgrades. If you fail to keep up with the maintenance of your home, its value can diminish.
How to build equity
The most important thing you can do to build equity is to make on-time payments to your mortgage. Making extra mortgage payments will help you build equity even faster.
One method of paying extra on your mortgage that many people are adopting is to make bi-weekly payments. Twenty-six bi-weekly payments comes out to 13 full payments per year, the equivalent of making one full extra monthly payment.
The second method of building equity is something that you have less control over: appreciation. However, if you stick to a maintenance schedule for your home and keep it in good repair, you’ll most likely benefit from appreciation over the lifespan of your mortgage.
What can I use home equity for?
The most common way to use home equity is as a down payment or full payment on your next home. First-time buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment saved often buy a starter home and then later upgrade as their family grows and their needs change. In the years that they own their first home, they build enough equity to make a full down payment on their second home, avoiding fees like mortgage insurance.
Many homeowners planning on retiring in the near future use their equity toward their retirement home, often turning a profit in the process. If you plan on downgrading for retirement and have fully paid off your mortgage, you can often use your equity to pay for your next home in cash.
Persistence may prove to be exceedingly important to a home seller. In fact, a persistent home seller may be better equipped than others to reap the benefits of a fast, profitable property selling experience.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you become a persistent home seller.
1. Analyze the Real Estate Market
Persistence and confidence often go hand-in-hand. And if a seller allocates time and resources to learn about the housing sector, he or she can build the confidence needed to remain persistent throughout the home selling journey.
Take a look at the prices of available houses in your city or town that are similar to your own residence. By doing so, you can see how your house stacks up against the competition and identify innovative ways to differentiate your residence from the pack.
Furthermore, it may be beneficial to look at the prices of recently sold residences in your area. This housing market data can help you determine whether you're preparing to enter a seller's or buyer's market.
2. Set an Aggressive Initial Home Asking Price
A persistent home seller will take a data-driven approach to establish a competitive initial asking price for his or her residence. That way, this seller can set an aggressive home price that will help his or her residence stir up plenty of interest as soon as it becomes available.
Conducting a home appraisal offers a quick, easy way to receive an expert property valuation. It usually only takes a few days to receive a home appraisal report. Once a seller has this report, he or she can use it to set an aggressive initial home asking price.
3. Hire a Real Estate Agent
Even a persistent home seller realizes that he or she may struggle to navigate the home selling journey alone. Thankfully, if you hire a real estate agent, you can receive comprehensive support at each stage of the home selling cycle.
A real estate agent is committed to helping a home seller enjoy a seamless property selling experience. He or she will work directly with a seller and keep him or her up to date throughout the house selling process. As a result, a home seller and real estate agent together can maximize the value of any house, at any time.
In addition, a real estate agent is resourceful and will do whatever it takes to promote a residence to the right groups of buyers. He or she will host open house events and home showings and provide a property seller with plenty of feedback. Best of all, a real estate agent maintains constant communication with a house seller. And if a seller has questions, a real estate agent is ready to answer these queries.
For home sellers who want to achieve the best-possible results, persistence is paramount. With the aforementioned tips, anyone can become a persistent home seller and boost the likelihood of a successful house selling experience.
You may be thinking that your best investments are inside the home: a snazzy new kitchen, a spa-like bathroom or new wood floors, but you can actually get a high return on investment (ROI) if you focus on your home's curb appeal.
The first impression potential buyers have of your home is the outside. If you had to guess, what's the best purchase? If you guessed a garage door, you'd be right! Studies show that the recouped cost of a new garage door is usually around 97%, which means you basically get the whole amount back in home value.
Fixing Up the Outside
Before you go investing $4,000 in a new garage door, though, start by fixing up the existing features of your home. That means repairing or replacing vinyl siding, powering washing the outside and giving it a new paint job if necessary. Make sure windows and shutters are clean and without cracks or dings. Most importantly, if your roof is nearing the end of its warranty, or if you have known problems like leaks, now is the time to fix it. While the ROI on a new roof is only about 60%, roof problems can be a huge turn off for buyers, causing your home to sit on the market for longer and costing you more in the long run.
Start on your landscaping plan by cleaning up your yard. Get rid of the trash and yard debris so the yard stays presentable. If you have a green lawn, now is the time to review it. If your grass is growing well and covering the dirt, great! Keep it mowed and you are good to go. If your lawn is having problems, you may want to consider mixing it with other ground covering like gravel, recycled rubber or wood pellets. They are all much easier to maintain, especially in dryer climates not as well suited for grass. If you have empty or dying flower beds, now is the time to fill them up with seasonal flowers and bushes. These give you great color and make your home seem more welcoming to buyers.
Before you start shelling out big money for upgrades, have your real estate agent review your home. They can suggest the best options for your market and price range, as well as provide accurate feedback about your home’s curb appeal. They may even have ideas for professional help to get your home in perfect selling shape.
Although statistics may not be reflective of your individual real-estate buying habits, the "typical" homeowner tends to stay put in their home for around a decade -- give or take.
One of the few "drawbacks" of being a long-term homeowner is that, over time, you tend to forgot many of the details of the home-buying process.
However, an advantage of buying a home in the Internet Age is the availability of instant information on everything from interest rates and real estate agent reviews to house hunting tips and choosing a moving company.
Your Real Estate Journey
Buying a home can be an extremely satisfying experience... or it can be filled with frustration and disappointment. However, by having a basic understanding of how the house-buying process works, you'll be more effective at preparing yourself for what's to come, anticipating what you need to do, and creating a clear picture in your mind of your requirements and ideal living environment. As various thought leaders have said over the years: If you're not clear on what you want, you'll probably end up with something else!
The cornerstones of a successful real estate search are knowing your credit score, having enough money on hand for a sufficient down payment and closing costs, enlisting the help of an experienced real estate agent, and being proactive about meeting with mortgage bankers and shopping for a competitive interest rate (and terms).
Staying organized, creating priority lists, and continually educating yourself about the nuts and bolts of buying a home will help ensure that your real estate experience will be a positive one. Even though there may be a few bumps and detours along the way, taking the time to be organized and well informed will help you stay on track and produce the type of results you and your family are looking for.
Although it does pay to read articles from credible online sources, you don't have to achieve "expert status" as a house hunter and real estate buyer. If you choose your real estate agent with care, they should be able to provide you with the expertise, advice, and professional guidance you need to clear the hurdles and make it all the way to the finish line!
How does one choose a great real estate agent? The ideal way is to get a referral from a trusted family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor. If someone you trust can attest to the service level and results a particular real estate agent has produced, then chances are good that your experience would be comparable. If more than one person you know recommends a top-notch agent, then that creates a "multiplier effect." In other words, it increases the likelihood that you'll be satisfied with the service and results this agent provides. If you don't know anyone personally who has worked with a great agent, there are well-known websites that post reviews, years of experience, and relevant sales information on licensed real estate agents.
Shopping trips, holiday parties and family gatherings make the season one of the most anticipated and enjoyable times of year, but it is also a prime time for thieves and safety hazards. Learning more about the typical risks a homeowner faces in the holiday season allows you to prepare – and enjoy a safe and secure holiday season.
3 Ways to Keep your Home Secure this Holiday Season
You know the standard tricks – putting the lights on timers, letting neighbors know you’ll be gone and stopping your mail, but incorporate these tips the next time you leave home during the holiday season.
Don’t Share Your Plans
If you are one of the millions of Americans hitting the roads this holiday season, your home will sit empty for days at a time. Prevent tempting thieves by keeping your travel plans private. In today’s busy social media climate, it is natural to share travel plans and pictures while you are on the road. A thief seeing your picture of the family at the beach or on a cruise ship will know you are not at home in your snowbound state. That image may be all they need to add your home to their list of targets.
If you leave home after the holidays, don’t put the boxes from gifts out at the curb. The box for that flat screen television, gaming console or laptop will let thieves know exactly what they will be able to find in your home. Hide boxes or wait to recycle until you are home, just in case. If you are expecting packages, try to be home for the delivery and bring them in promptly, to avoid tempting thieves.
The month of December is the most dangerous of the entire year when it comes to electrical fires. Lights, dried out trees and new (but unsafe) decorations can contribute to risk. Don’t leave lights burning if they are damaged or if you will be out of town. Be sure to use a fake tree or keep your live one hydrated to ensure your risk is minimized, as well. Turn lights out at night to cut your risk and keep your home secure.
You’ll get more enjoyment from the holiday season when you know your home is safe and secure from harm. Taking these simple steps can prevent damages and loss and allow you to have an amazing holiday season.