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7 Common Home Buying Mistakes to Avoid

Buying a home is exciting but full of complexities. It can be easy to get lost and confused during the home buying process. Proper planning is paramount. It’s also helpful to learn from other people’s mistakes. Here are some of the most common errors people make when shopping for a new home.

  1. Not budgeting for everything. Yes, this sounds obvious, but many people forget or are unaware of some of the costs of buying a home. There are costs for inspections and appraisals, not to mention new furniture, appliances, moving fees, utility deposits, etc.
  2. Not getting preapproved. If you want a house, and you love it; you don’t have any time to waste in today’s market. You need to put in an offer quickly, before it’s snatched away from you by another buyer. Make an appointment with a lender. Find out if you qualify and for how much, before you start shopping. Then you will be ready to put an offer immediately when you find your dream home. Don’t lose your dream home by failing to get preapproved.
  3. Going Solo. The sellers have an agent protecting them, looking after their interests and advising them, but do you? You should be working with your own Realtor. You wouldn’t go to court without your own lawyer would you? Even if you have good knowledge of the home buying process, it’s hard to have perspective when you’re purchasing your own home. There are a lot of decisions that could have major consequences down the road, that’s why it’s important to have someone on your side. Best of all, you won’t even have to pay for their services. The seller will pay for your Realtor out of the proceeds of the home.
  4. Trusting verbal agreements. A home seller can verbally accept your bid and still turn around and give it to someone else if a higher bid comes along. So before you celebrate your new home, make sure you have all of the signed paperwork.
  5. Skipping the home inspection. You can’t expect the seller to tell you about all the potential problems you might face if you buy their home. There might even be issues with the house that the seller isn’t aware of, which is why it’s crucial to hire an inspector to take a look through the house. An inspector will examine the overall foundation and structural features of a house. It’s their job to find these areas of concern so that you don’t have to worry about them later on!
  6. Sweating the small things. Don’t like the color of house or the wallpaper inside? Don’t sweat the small thing! Focus instead on the location and the overall structure, layout and size of the house. Once you move in, you can change the small things you don’t like such as paint color, flooring, wall paper and more; and make your house a home!
  7. Making another large purchase before the deal is closed. Prior to closing, a home buyer should not celebrate the new house with another large purchase (example: an expensive sofa, car or anything that requires a loan). The reason? Lenders will be pulling and assessing your credit reports before closing. Even if you’ve been preapproved, a change in your recent credit history can make ineligible for your loan and you could lose the house!

If you avoid these mistakes and work closely with a good Realtor, you will find your dream home that you can enjoy for years to come!

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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How to Choose a Great Listing Agent

The world is full of people who sell real estate. Some of them are smart, efficient, focused, versatile and willing to go the extra mile. And some of them aren’t.

Finding an agent who will sell your home using a range of marketing tools to get you the best deal possible in a reasonable amount of time, all while charging a fair rate, takes some effort.

Two of the biggest mistakes home sellers make when choosing a listing agent are selecting an agent solely based on the highest list price for your home and the lowest commission.

At first glance, a seller might say, “What? Are you nuts?” because sellers want the highest possible price and to pay the least amount of commission. But those two criteria have very little to do with hiring a competent agent and, in many instances, can cost the seller time and money.

The agent doesn’t set the list price of home. As the seller, you have the final decision on the listing price. A listing agent should show you comparable sales, pending sales and active sales and suggest a list price. But YOU choose the sales price and buyers will tell you if the price is right.

To get the listing, some agents may suggest a high list price. If the suggested price is higher than the suggested price of other agents, ask for the proof. If the agent did not base their suggested list price on a comparable market analysis or the homes sales used are located in a different neighborhood that could be a red flag.

Pricing is an art. If the home is priced right, you will get showings and most likely an offer within the first 30 days. If it’s priced too high; you might not get any showings at all. Buyers will shun your home, and you’ll eventually end up reducing the price, leaving buyers wondering what’s wrong with your house. It may ultimately sell for a lower price than it would have if it had been priced right from the start.

Why would an agent willingly work for less than competitors? There is always a reason why a broker or real estate agent would discount a real estate fee. Sometimes it’s the only way the agent feels it’s possible to compete because the agent can’t otherwise stand apart from the competition on service, knowledge or negotiation skills.

If the sole benefit an agent brings to the table is a cheap fee, ask yourself why. Is the agent desperate for business or unqualified?

A good listing agent lives and dies by marketing. Because marketing sells homes. Ask the agent about their marketing plan. What will the agent do to sell your home?

Look at the agent’s current listings. Check out their listings online. Look at their agency’s website and sites such as Realtor.com. Also check the agent’s Facebook page to see how properties are being marketed by social media.

Most buyers start their search online, and you want an agent who uses that tool effectively.

Agents should take great pictures of the property. The photography on your home is absolutely one of the essential elements in selling homes today. If your home pictures are lousy, or there are none or very few, you will lose out on a significant amount of showings.

Find out what the agent will expect of you, the seller. A good agent will have expectations. The agent may want you to leave and take the dog when the house is shown, paint the garage, move some furniture around and scrub the tile in the bathroom. This shows the agent knows what buyers like to see.

Another important key in finding the right listing agent that many sellers forget about is choose the person, not the experience. Choose an agent who works for you and with you. You will be spending a lot of time with the agent and you need to mesh. Choose someone relatable and real. Choose someone good at talking and negotiating. Chemistry is key. Ask yourself, “Does my real estate agent have my best interests at heart?” Be honest with yourself, and if the relationship doesn’t feel right, move on to someone else.

When you take the time to look for these things in a Real Estate agent, the chances of selling your home quickly and for top dollar shy rocket!

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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10 Tips for a Fast Sale at Top Dollar

As we head into fall, the peak home buying season may be over, but homes are still in high demand. There are buyers that still haven’t found the right home. Maybe your home is just what they are looking to buy. If you’re considering selling your home, now may be the best time. Although there are few homes that have been sitting on the market for months or longer; the majority of homes in our area are under contract within a month of listing and may even have multiple offers. How can you be assured that if you list, your home will sell quickly and for top dollar? Here are a few tips.

Setting the right price and making an excellent first impression are both essential to attracting buyers, but what else can you do to get the offers rolling? Here are 10 tips to help you sell your home as quickly as possible – even in the off season.

  1. Price it right from the start. Sellers often think they should start the asking price high and then lower it later if the house fails to sell. But that can result in a slower sale – sometimes even at a lower price. The first 30 days’ activity of your house being on the market is always the most activity you’re going to see. Many sellers seem to value their property above market value. If you want a quick sale, you need to be realistic and listen to your agent who will look at current listings in the area and other properties that have recently sold.
  2. Enhance your home’s curb appeal. This could mean adding new sod, planting flowers, painting the front door or replacing the mailbox. Prospective buyers form an opinion the moment they spot the home. Driving into the driveway and walking into that front door sets the expectations.
  3. The fewer things there are in the home, the larger it will appear. Remove knickknacks and excess furniture. Take down religious items and political posters. Remember, they are buying the home, not the items inside. Make it easier for potential buyers to see the home and not get distracted by your personal items. Pay particular attention to common junk magnets like; kitchen and bathroom counters, fireplace mantels, laundry room shelves, tabletops and magazine racks. No decluttering advice would be complete without a call to streamline your closets. If your closet is crowded, buyers are going to think their stuff won’t fit. Wow buyers by showing them how much space there is for stuff; not how much stuff there is in the space.
  4. Cleaning your home for home showings might be common sense. But many folks underestimate just how clean it needs to be. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill weekend tidy-up. Think of it as spring cleaning on steroids. You’ve got to think about what buyers look for and get down to the nitty-gritty so that even the smallest details shine. From ceiling fans and window blinds to baseboards and tile grout, no surface goes unscrubbed! Don’t forget to get your windows squeaky-clean to make your home look bright and airy. You may want to consider hiring a cleaning service.
  5. Repair broken items. Even the small stuff matters. Tighten the loose knob on the drawer, change the burnt out light bulb, etc. If buyers notice items that need to be repaired, they may start to wonder how well you took care of the large maintenance items like the furnace and air conditioning unit.
  6. Stage the house to show how the rooms are supposed to be used. If you have an odd rooms with no obvious role, give them one. An odd alcove off the kitchen could be staged as an office or a pantry, for example.
  7. Make the property easy to show. The more flexible you are about visits, the more people will be able to see your home. Be ready for prospective visitors early in the morning, at night and on weekends, with little notice. Also, leave when the house is shown so would-be buyers can feel free to move about without feeling like intruders and discuss the home’s pros and cons honestly.
  8. Remove your pets. Also remove their paraphernalia, such as dog dishes and cat litter boxes (or at least hide them). A prospective buyer may be allergic to pets.
  9. Your listing should be on all the major online portals. This is part of an agent’s service, but some agents use more online marketing than others. Find out what type of online marketing your agent will use before you list. Your home should be on Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. It also helps if your agents showcases the home on social media.
  10. Ensure the listing has good photos, and lot of them. Once again, this is your agent’s job, but you want to make sure that your agent uses a good camera and gets plenty of good photos. Make sure your house is clean and organized before the photos are taken. Look at pictures of other listings from that agent before you list. Most homebuyers start their search online and decide which homes they want to see based on photos. You don’t want a potential buyer to pass on viewing your home based on poor or few photos.

Selling your home fast and for top dollar might require a little extra work, but it will be worth it in the end. Do everything you can to get the home in excellent shape and be prepared to make some small concessions at closing such as helping with closing costs. These tips will increase your odds of getting your home sold quickly and for top dollar.

By: Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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Dreaming of a Lake Home?

Buying a lake home can be an exciting process. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway, a retirement home, or a primary residence; lake related properties offer many attractive features. Waking up a seeing the sunrise over the lake is a dream for many people.

Lake homes provide great family memories. People who grew up with lake homes often reminisce about learning to fish, swimming with friends, exploring the water’s edge and being out on the boat. It’s a place to spend time with the kids. Enjoy holidays with family and friends and de-stress. A lake house can be a place for building memories with your kids or enjoying peace and quiet in your retirement.

If you’re dreaming about that lake house, we have a variety of lake houses available for sale in many different price points. We can also help guide you through the process of finding and buying that perfect lake home.

When looking at lake homes, consider the property and location as much as the structure. You might like the layout of the house, but is it down a long channel from the actual lake? How is the privacy or the view? Think about how you plan on using the house and what is important to you. Someone who plans on taking out a large pontoon frequently might have different wants than someone who plans on spending the majority of their time fishing from the sea wall. Focus on the activities you’re passionate about and choose a property accordingly.

If you’re buying your home as a primary residence, you may need to make sure it’s properly insulated and set up to handle year-round, winter living. Some homes may have been built strictly as a summer or weekend home and may not have sufficient insulation or storage space for full-time living. Although, it is possible to rectify these items, knowing what you are buying and what you may need to change is important since it may add to the cost of the home.

Clarify ahead of time whether or not flood insurance is needed for the home you may be considering. You should also find out if the home is located in an association; and if so, what the fees are, what those fees cover and if there are any rules or regulations you will need to abide by in your new home.

Lake related homes fit a particular lifestyle choice that is incredibly exciting for many people. Here are just a few of the many lake related homes currently on the market around Grand Lake St. Marys.

  • 6591 Klosterman Circle, Celina – 2 bed, 2 ½ bath, 2,151 sq. feet – $415,000 – Enjoy magnificent views from this lake front home surrounded by water on three sides with cement sea walls and a boat slip!

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  • 355 Pershing, St. Marys – 4 bed, 4 ½ bath, 4,705 sq. feet – $449,900 – This grand 2-story brick palatial home offers beautiful views of the lake.

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  • 5295 Karafit Rd, Celina – 2 bed, 1 bath, 892 sq. feet – $109,900 – Channel front year round home with many updates

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  • 148 Waterbury, St. Marys – 3 bed, 2 bath, 2,061 sq. ft. – $240,000 – Channel located on 2 sides of this amazing home. Plenty of room to park your lake toys along the cement sea wall.

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  • 42 Causeway, St. Marys – 3 bed, 2 bath, 1,585 sq. ft. – $199,000 – This channel front home features a large deck with hot tub along with a deeded dock.

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If you would like to see any of these homes or any other lake related homes for sale near Grand Lake St. Marys, give me a call. I can help make your lake home dreams come true!

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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Things No One Ever Told You About Buying a Home

Buying a home is such an exciting adventure. When your friends and family find out you’re thinking about buying a home, advice and stories abound. However, even with all of the stories, there are probably a few things you may not have heard.

I’m sharing this list to make sure you don’t end up saying things like:

  • No one told me that!
  • I sent everything on your list, why does this underwriter person want more?
  • Conditions?? All I want is a home loan, why are you picking on me?
  • This is a lot of work, I thought it was supposed to be fun!

First thing you need to know, is that it’s going to take time! Sometimes the home buying process can be over in a flash. Most times, however; it will take months. From credit improvement, to saving up money, to dealing with all of the moving parts, and finding that perfect home; buying a home is a big deal. Some days it may feel like things are moving so slowly you’ll never find the home you want to buy. Be patient. People buy homes and close deals every day. Your day will come, too.

When buying a home, you’re going to sign a lot of paperwork. You’ll feel like you’re signing thousands of pieces of paper before the closing table. Then you’ll sign another pile. It’s normal. Maybe start conditioning your hands now to get ready to wield that pen.

Your lender is going to look into all of your financial background. Having a lender look at what feels like every purchase decision you’ve ever made can be a little unnerving. It’s normal. Because a mortgage is such a huge commitment, your lender wants to make sure you’re ready and able. No one wants the situation to turn sideways later – that’s where late payments and foreclosure notices make things messy. Your lender doesn’t want that, any more than you do.

Make sure you document any major withdrawals or deposits in your bank account. A lender will investigate your financial story, your deposits and withdrawals. If a large deposit is a gift it can be used for your down payment, but a loan cannot.

Be careful about paying off all debt and closing accounts before making a mortgage application. Thin credit is sometimes more difficult to approve than bruised credit. A long and diverse credit history is typically better when applying for a mortgage.

Property taxes are likely to change at some point – affecting your monthly payment. Escrow payments are included in your monthly payment to pay your property taxes and home owners insurance. When these bills change, your house payment will change. It’s not a change in your interest or principal payment.

Do not give notice to your landlord until you have a firm closing date. Sometimes the home inspection turns up major repairs that will take time to be completed, or the appraisal comes in too low and the contract has to be renegotiated. Potential closing dates can be moved back for these and other reasons. You don’t want to end up homeless for a few weeks or having to move in with mom and dad!

Buying a home can be a lengthy process. It can be scary and seem overwhelming at times. It can also be exciting and fun. A good Realtor can help guide you through the process, making it less stressful and a lot less scary with few surprises. By working closely with your Realtor, you will be able to find the homes that fit your criteria as soon as they hit the market, and you’ll be ready and able to put in an offer right away.

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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Do You Want $5,000?

Welcome Home Money is back March 1st! Don’t miss out on your opportunity to receive $5,000 towards your home purchase.

Through the Welcome Home program, low and moderate income home buyers in Ohio can receive a $5,000 grant to be used for down payment assistance and/or closing cost assistance. But funds are limited and will be distributed on a first come/first served basis. If you’re looking to buy a house, now is the time to act! If you wait, the money will be gone! Homes that go under contract in February but don’t close until after March 1st are eligible for the program.

Only authorized lenders can offer the Welcome Home money. Make sure to ask about it when you go for your preapproval. If you’re already pre-approved, contact your lender to see if they offer this program. If you’re looking for an authorized lender, contact me and I can refer you.

Your lender will have more information on the income limits and other details of the program.

Home buyers must contribute at least $500 toward the down payment or closing costs. Up to $300 of that may be received as a gift. Buyers are required to stay in the home for 5 years, or they will be required to repay the grant on prorated basis.

This program is not limited to first time home buyers. However, the home buyer can not own a home at the time of closing. Buyers will need to close on the sale of their current home before they can close on the purchase of their new home in order to use this money.

Talk to an authorized lender for more details.

Call me today to find a home and claim your Welcome Home Money before it runs out!

By: Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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Find Your Summer Lake Home

Blustery cold winter days with wind chills in the negatives makes it seem like the long, warm, lazy days of summer are a long way off. We miss afternoons spent out in the sunshine, sans coat, scarf, hat, and gloves.

But, I promise, those beautiful summer days will be here quicker than you expect. Now is the time to plan on how you want to spend those warm sunny days. Would you love to live by the lake and enjoy the water? Or how about purchasing a weekend home with lake views?

Now is the time to start your lake home house hunt!

As everyone else hunkers inside next to their fireplace to stay warm, there will be less competition for you as you look for your lake home. Less competition means its less likely you will encounter a bidding war on your dream home and will be able to get it for a lower price.

Additionally, you need to consider the length of time it takes to purchase a home. If you want to watch the spring season bloom from the deck of your new home, you need to get moving! It typically takes approximately 75 days (that 2 ½ months!) to get possession of a house once an offer has been accepted. That doesn’t even take into account the amount of time you need to find your dream home and the negotiation process! To put it into perspective, if you have an accepted offer on a home at the end of January, it could be mid-April before you unpack your bags!

There are currently several homes near the lake or located on channels that are for sale. Here are a few listings, you won’t want to miss:

  • 3 Oakwood Lane, St. Marys – $99,900 – Channel front lot, 2 bed, 1 bath, 896 sq. ft.

 

  • 5392 Behm Rd., Celina – $145,000 – Overlooking the channel, 2 bed, 2 bath, 1,070 sq. ft.
  • 155 Notheana, St. Marys – $155,000 – Located on the channel, 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 1,624 sq. ft.
  • 138 Lago Vue, St. Marys – $196,000 – Located on the channel, 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 1,764 sq. ft.
  • 42 Causeway, St. Marys – $199,000 – located on the channel, 3 bed, 2 bath, 1,585 sq. ft.
  • 148 Waterbury, St. Marys – $240,000 – located on channel, 3 bed, 2 bath, 2,061 sq. ft.
  • 72 Southmoor Shores, St. Marys – $245,000 – located on channel, 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 1,798 sq. ft.
  • 110 Marbellow, St. Marys – $249,000 – located on channel, 4 bed, 2.5 bath, 2,435 sq. ft.
  • 80 Southoor Shores, St. Marys – $275,000 – located on channel, 3 bed, 2 bath, 2,184 sq. ft.

If you’re dreaming of a lake home, give me a call; I can help those dreams come true!

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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Finding Your Dream Home

Close your eyes and imagine for a moment: What does your dream home look like?

Perhaps it’s a charming country cottage surrounded by acres of wide-open space. Maybe its just a quick walk from downtown with shopping and eating options, a lake house, or a quaint suburb in good school district.

Many people fantasize about one day turning a key and walking through the doorway of their very own perfect home. That vision may change during the different stages of our lives; but with a little perseverance and some help from a good real estate agent, you can find your dream home.

A dream home can mean different things to different people. A dream home is something within price point but inspired by a wish list. No matter your current life state, there are still some aspects of a dream that you can reasonably obtain during your house hunt. However, you may need to make a few compromises; just don’t compromise on things that are most important to you and your family.

Once you’ve been preapproved for a mortgage and know what you can afford the first thing you need to do is make a list of your want and needs. And yes, there is a difference. You may want a pool, but is it really a need? Once you’ve written your list decide which items are most important and which you might be able to compromise on.

Also, your list and priorities may change as you go through the house hunting process. For example, you may want lake-front, but once you find out the cost of those homes, you may decide to settle for channel front or few blocks away from the lake to get a larger home for a smaller price tag.

Decide on your “most lived in” spaces: where do you spend most of your time in your current home? Are you an aspiring amateur chef? Then you’ll probably care about the kitchen set up a lot more than your friend who orders in most nights. Do you like to cuddle up in front of the TV or take long soaking baths? Then focus on those areas when looking for your dream home. There is a lot more to a home than the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. You need to look at your lifestyle and find a home that compliments it.

If you have a black thumb, avoid high maintenance gardens unless you have the funds to hire a gardener. If you work from home at least a few days a week, a separate office space may be a priority. Do you enjoy taking walks? Then you may want to look for a neighborhood with sidewalks or walking trails.

When looking for your dream home, stick to your budget and don’t torture yourself by looking at homes outside your price range.  You will also need to decide if you want a reno or a move-in ready home. Buying a home that needs a lot of work is very different from a buying home you can just move into. Only you can decide which type of home best suits you. Just be honest with yourself and your capabilities, if you’ve never laid tiles don’t convince yourself that your can do it yourself without help just because you watched a show on HGTV or a YouTube video!

Make sure to focus on the layout and flow of the house along with square footage and location. These are important aspects of a house that are hard to change. Whereas paint color and flooring can easily be changed. Moving a kitchen to the other end of the house is much harder and more expensive to do!

New furniture and a fresh coat of paint can really transform a space. But pretty finishes and a trendy design don’t make up for a poor layout. Also, make sure to look under the surface. Just because something looks pretty, doesn’t mean it was maintained correctly. Look deeply when viewing a property. Open doors and windows. Look in closets and cupboards. Check under sinks, in crawl spaces and attics. Feel the walls for dampness. And make sure to get a home inspection!

The most important tip to remember is, don’t give up! It may take awhile to find your dream home, but be patient. Your dream home is out there. Even if it takes months, it’s worth it when you finally find something you love.

And if you don’t get the house that you put an offer in on? That’s ok. It just means it wasn’t the right house for you.

Once you find your dream home, make sure to celebrate! Buying your dream home can be a long and sometimes stressful process, but it will be worth it in the end.  A good real estate agent can help make the process easier. Picture yourself in your dream home and call today to start the search.

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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Wanting a New Home in 2018? Start the Process Now!

In a few weeks, it will be 2018; and if you have dreams of a new home for the new year, you should start preparing now. Buying a house – whether it’s your first home, or an upgrade – requires preparation. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the more prepared you will be to move forward when you find the home of your dreams.

First, check your credit score. This step is important if you are planning to apply for a mortgage or home loan. To qualify for a mortgage and get the best possible terms, you need to have a good credit score. It will also give you a chance to make sure there aren’t any errors on your report. If you do find an error, you will have time to correct it before applying for your mortgage.

There are a lot of websites that can help you understand where your credit score is at. The scores aren’t always 100% accurate so take them with a grain of salt. While checking your credit history, resist the urge to close your older credit accounts; because these give you a good average length of credit history.

A credit score is a representation of your credit worthiness. Credit scores range from 300 to 850. A higher credit score is always better when taking out a mortgage. You are bound to get the best interest rate and best loan terms if your credit score is 740 or more. The interest you pay for your loan is important because it dictates the entire cost of your loan.

It’s possible for people with a credit score in the high 500s to turn it into a high 600s in just a few months. So if you need help improving your credit score, check out some online resources or talk to good mortgage lender for advice.

Second, no new credit cards. When preparing to buy a house, you should also stay away from new credit cards even if they come with irresistible benefits. I know it can be tempting this time of year as you complete your holiday shopping and the cashier informs you that you can save 20% on your purchase by opening a department store card. Tempting as saving at checkout can be, opening a new credit card may hurt your chances of getting a mortgage, or at least of getting the best rate. Just remember, even if you have already been pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan, that is no guarantee! Opening a new line of credit can possibly make you lose your pre-approval. Nothing is set in stone, until the closing papers have been signed and the house is yours!

Third, start saving. Even if you qualify for a 0% down payment loan, chances are you will need money to close. Closing fees and other up-front costs include inspections, lender fees, home owners insurance and more. Plus, there are the moving expenses, which can include deposits for utilities.

Fourth, find a mortgage lender and get pre-approved. Before you start looking for a home to buy, you need to get a mortgage lender first. This step is critical because it lets you know the kind of home you can afford to buy. It saves you time, money and headaches during the home buying process. Need recommendations for a mortgage lender? Call me, we work with lenders every day and can point you in the right direction.

Being preapproved shows that you are a qualified potential buyer. Neither Realtors nor sellers want to waste time showing a home to someone who ultimately is unable to buy the home due to inability to qualify for a loan. Being preapproved also makes any purchase offers stronger in the event of multiple offers.

To apply for preapproval, your mortgage lender is likely to ask for four pieces of critical information.

  1. W-2s for the past 2 years or complete tax returns if self-employed
  2. Paystubs for the last 30 days
  3. Last 2 months of bank statements for all checking, savings, and asset accounts
  4. Names, addresses, and account numbers of all creditors.

Fifth, find a great Realtor. Before you find the house of your dreams, you will need to find a great Realtor to help you navigate the home buying process. A great Realtor will not only help you find a great house, but will also help you negotiate the best terms and price.

Talk to your Realtor about your must-haves and wants for your new home. Your Realtor will be able to keep an eye on the market and let you know when new homes that meet your criteria hit the market.

By starting the preparation process now, you will be well on your way to a new home in the new year.

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty

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Tips For a Successful Holiday Move

The holidays are usually a pretty hectic time for most people. Between shopping for presents, attending school functions and work parties, and getting the decorations all untangled, it can feel like you are just constantly rushing from one event to the other. It’s a tough time to be uprooted and to feel like your life is in flux. But what if you happen to be moving during the holidays? How can you fit in such a huge endeavor and still enjoy your normal festivities? It’s not like you have loads of free time.

Don’t worry; moving during the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to turn into a Grinch this year – not if you’re well-prepared. To ensure that your upcoming relocation is as merry and bright as possible, I have a few tips for moving during “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Don’t forget to figure holiday traffic into your moving plans. The roads will be full of holiday shoppers and travelers. The busiest brick-and-mortar retail shopping day of the season is actually “Super Saturday,” aka the Saturday before Christmas Day. In fact, the entire week leading up to Christmas is jam-packed with last minute shoppers. The Holidays are also some of the busiest travel times of the year. It’s probably best to avoid moving on these days, if possible. At the very least plan your route to avoid malls, highly trafficked retail areas, and major thorough fairs. Stick to more local routes. Even if you have to drive a few miles further, it will be worth missing the traffic while driving a moving van!

The key to being successful at anything is to organize what must be done, and when it needs to be done. I suggest writing down ALL your holiday must dos (the office Christmas party, the kids’ school play) as well as holiday wants (like taking an evening to drive around and view light displays).

From there, pick designated days that will be devoted to packing your current home. On those days, turn on a Christmas show for the children, and start to tackle the packing.

First, start as early as possible preparing for the move. A few weeks before your closing date, go room by room finding all the things that won’t be moving with you – clutter or rocks the kids collected, or your broken vase you keep think you’re going to fix someday. Donate these items to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, post them on Facebook or garage sale websites. Moving is a perfect time to de-clutter!

Then choose a location to stage all your boxes. A garage, if you have one can be a perfect location. Once again, go room by room packing up all the non-essentials. Get all your books packed. Pack all your off-season clothing, pull down everything from the attic, extra bedding, etc.

But don’t pack all the Holiday decorations! The holidays are a time to celebrate and even though you are moving, that doesn’t mean you can’t decorate at all! There are lots of festive Holiday decorations you can do that don’t require tons of time or elaborate set-up. Depending on how close your moving day is to Christmas, you may want to wait to put up a tree until you are in your new home, or you can put it up but not put up all your ornaments. This is a great year for just lights on your tree, a wreath on your front door, and few of your favorite holiday items.

Make sure to pack your Holiday decorations that you will want to display immediately in your in new home in clearly marked boxes, so you can unpack those boxes first and make your new home festive.

Don’t skip family traditions when moving. Don’t let the stress of what you have to do ruin the fun you usually have – get out and enjoy the holidays! Stick to the list you made earlier of all your Holiday must do’s and wants. Carefully fitting in the fun family traditions doesn’t mean you can’t make a few changes. Instead of a big home-cooked meal; go out to eat with family and friends. After all it’s all about the people you’re with, not the food. Or move the dinner to another family member’s house this year. Bring a dessert from a nice bakery or a bottle of wine. Help with the dishes. You can cook the family meal next year in your new home.

Make sure to plan for intrepid weather. Unfortunately, you can’t control the weather on moving day. In this part of the country, holiday season can mean cold – sometimes frigid – temperatures. From icy roads to white-out blizzards, there could be dangerous winter weather conditions, posing serious challenges for moving. To ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible, make sure you have proper supplies and winter-ready garments to deal with treacherous conditions. Boots, hats, gloves, shovels and salt may be necessary. Pack your belongings in as many waterproof plastic bins as possible. Watch out for slippery sidewalks and stairs. And don’t forget to have your heat and electricity turned on in your new home before you arrive.

When you reach your new house, don’t stress to unpack everything – take time to enjoy the holidays! Kick back and sip some eggnog. You’ll have plenty of time to unpack in January.

By Bonnie Marlow, Realtor, Cisco Realty