Call Maria Today: 206-650-3015

unrivaled expertise

Equestrian Properties | Homes on Acreage | Country Estates

since 1990

maria’s blog

How to Cover Unexpected Costs with a Personal Loan

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses. If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost. What is a personal loan? A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.22% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years. A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information. How to find a personal loan If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps. 1. Assess your budget   The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.) Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily. 2. Know your credit score   Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results […]

Read More

Your Beginner’s Guide to Home Appraisals

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

  Appraisals are used as a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions, appraisals are an important part of the buying/selling process. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.   Appraisal value vs. market value The appraiser’s value is determined by using a combination of factors such as comparative market analyses and their inspection of the property to determine if the listing price is typical for the area. Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show them comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give them a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.   What information goes into an appraisal? Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals. They also conduct an inspection. Typically, an appraiser’s inspection focuses on: The condition of the property and home, inside and out. The home’s layout and features. Home updates. Overall quality of construction. Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately). Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools). After the inspection, the appraiser of a typical single-family home will create their report including their professional opinion on what the price of the home should be. You might hear the lender ask for two reports, the “Sales Comparison Approach” and the “Cost Approach.” These two approaches use different methodologies to find the appropriate value of the home, and help the lender confirm the home’s price.   Who pays and how long does it take? The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed […]

Read More

Benefits, Risks and Things to Consider Before Adding an ADU to Your Home

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

  Have you ever rented the unit in someone’s basement? Maybe your spouse’s mother moved into your “Mother-In-Law Unit” above your garage? Or have you ever travelled and stayed in a pool house for your stay? Commonly referred to as “Mother-In-Law” units, homeowners use these as a way to fill the space in their home and gain residual income, either from vacationers or long-term tenants. The official terms for these units are Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) or Detached Additional Dwelling Units (DADU’s), and are defined as extra spaces in homes and on properties where someone can live completely independent of the main house. These units can be almost anywhere on the property, but they are usually located in the basement, in the backyard, or above the garage. They have their own bathroom and kitchen facilities, and sometimes they share laundry with the main house. Thinking of adding a unit to your home? Here are some benefits and risks, as well as important aspects to consider before you build:   Benefits Homeowners can maximize their investment by renting out the extra space to long-term tenants for short-term vacationers. These tenants can help pay off debt or create an extra stream of income to pay for other needs or wants. Depending on several factors, including the size of the unit, the market in the area, and other factors, each homeowner should decide which option they are more comfortable with. These decisions should be made before they list the unit for rent to best market to the right audience.   Risks An obvious risk is that when you open your space to a stranger, there’s a possibility that things might end poorly. Either the tenants could turn out to be untrustworthy, or unreliable, leading to a financial burden. To minimize the risks, it’s a good idea to use an application process to check backgrounds and employment history as a tool to get to know the potential tenant. Make sure to adhere to the National Fair Housing Laws and your local regulations.   Things to Consider: What are the shared spaces? Would you be comfortable sharing those spaces, and potentially appliances, with a new person each weekend, or would you rather get to know the long-term tenant who would use those on a consistent basis? Rooms like the kitchen can be great for those who want to get more interaction from their vacation renters. However, sharing one bathroom […]

Read More

Mistakes to Avoid When Buyer or Selling A Home

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

    There’s nothing more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling than buying a home. However, it’s a complex transaction; there are a number of steps along the path that can confuse, betwixt, and befuddle even the most seasoned buyers and sellers. How can you avoid those potential pitfalls and common mistakes? Look to your real estate professional for advice and keep these guidelines in mind:   BUYERS:   #1 Review your credit reports ahead of time Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you’ll have time to ensure the facts are correct and be able to dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because, if the scores differ, the bank will typically use the lowest one. Alert the credit bureaus if you see any mistakes, fix any problems you discover, and don’t apply for any new credit until after your home loan closes.   #2 Get pre-approved Before getting serious about your hunt for a new house, you’ll want to choose a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified—which is a cursory review of your finances—but pre-approved for a loan of a specific amount). Pre-approval lets sellers know you’re serious. Most importantly, pre-approval will help you determine exactly how much you can comfortably afford to spend.   #3 Know what you want You and your real estate agent should both be clear about the house you want to buy. Put it in writing. First, make a list of all the features and amenities you really want. Then, number each item and prioritize them. Now, divide the list into must-haves and really-wants.   #4 Account for hidden costs In addition to the purchase price of the home, there are additional costs you need to take into consideration, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and escrow fees. Once you find a prospective home, you’ll want to: Get estimates for any repairs or remodeling it may need. Estimate how much it will cost to maintain (gas, electric, utilities, etc.). Determine how much you’ll pay in taxes monthly and/or annually. Learn whether there are any homeowner’s or development dues associated with the property.   #5 Get an inspection Buying a home is emotionally charged—which can make it difficult for buyers to see the house for what it truly […]

Read More

You’ve Moved Into Your New Home. Now What?

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

Congratulations on your new home! You made it through the arduous process that is buying a new home. Now it’s time to take on the task of moving in. You did your research about the neighborhood and you feel like you know the home like the back of your hand. However, there are some things to do as you move in to protect your newest investment, and yourself, from the unknown variables in and around your home.   Change the locks garage door codes Previous owners might have changed the locks, but they may not know who all has a key or a code to open your garage, especially neighbors who they trusted to watch their place while they were away. Changing the codes and locks on all the doors ensures that you have complete control over entry to your home   Check or Install Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors If the home already has fire and carbon monoxide devices, make sure they are in working order by testing each one with the tester button. Keep a note of when to replace them as well. If they don’t have them, install a device in each sleeping room, as well as common areas like the living room or kitchen. Hallways are a great place to cover multiple rooms with one detector as well.   Install a security system Enjoy total peace of mind with a new security system. Meet with a consultant on the best ways to protect your home for a system that works best for you and your lifestyle. There are also app-connected systems that you can set up yourself that notify you of movement on the cameras or doors and windows opening.   Meet the neighbors Build a sense of community and get to know the lay of the land by knocking on neighbors’ doors to get to know them. Bring a small gift as a “thank you” for dealing with the moving trucks. This is a great initial step for figuring out who you can trust to watch things while you’re away should you need a helping hand in the near future.   These are just a few ideas on what you should do as soon as you move in. What are some things you do, or suggest to friends and clients on move-in day?

Read More

ARE YOU BETTER OFF PAYING YOUR MORTGAGE EARLIER OR INVESTING YOUR MONEY?

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments. For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere. The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.   Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution. If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest. If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier. Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run. Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment. Enforced discipline: It takes […]

Read More

Refresh Your Home

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

  The craving to move happens to every homeowner as they start to feel bogged down, or like they need a restart. That sense of newness doesn’t have to be dramatic, however. The great part about having a home of your own is you can make improvements and give your home a chance to evolve over time. You just need to help your home live up to its potential!  These are seven of our favorite improvements to help you make the most of your home.   1. Find Your Home’s Purpose Each home is as unique as its owners, so in order to fully utilize your home, consider how you view your home’s purpose. Some people like to entertain, others find it a calm space in the frenzy of daily life; some nurture their families and others nurture their creativity. Your home’s purpose can be any combination of these and more, but it helps to consider the function of your space in order to ultimately find its purpose. Knowing your home’s purpose will help guide you as you move room to room while you refresh the space.   2. Assemble a List   Create a list of haves/needs/wants. Answer questions like: what is it about the space that isn’t working; how could it work better to fulfill the purpose; where could I move some of my items to make them feel new again?   3. Make an “Inspiration Board”   An “inspiration board” is a great way to visualize your home’s decor. You can create a board online with a tool like Pinterest to organize ideas you love, you can also use the ‘Save’ feature on Instagram, or the old-fashioned way with a cork board and magazines. Doing this will allow you to see all the elements you like in one place so that you can then tie it all together into a room you love.   Photo Credit: @Krista4Coral on Instagram 4. Choose a New Palate Renew the lighting and color by shaking up your color palate. It’s easy to fall into the white/beige standby to keep our rooms neutral, but sometimes a color that provides a contrast to your décor will make the room pop. Add a new color to the palate, refresh a wall with an accent color that you already feature in your decor, or overhaul your curtains and throws with a brand new hue. What about the Pantone color […]

Read More

Improve Your Curb Appeal with These Affordable Tips

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

  You’ll never have a second chance at a first impression, so let’s make it count! When it comes to upping your home’s curb appeal, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have a big impact. And best of all, you don’t need to call in the pros or spend a fortune to get beautiful results. Below are some helpful and affordable tips.   A Well-Maintained Yard Mowing: The first step to a well-manicured lawn is to mow it regularly. The experts recommending mowing high because mowing it too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root. Weeds: To prevent weeds like crabgrass use a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring. These herbicides manage the weeds by stopping the seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Broadleaf weeds like dandelions can be stopped by applying granular weed control products. Feeding: Lawns consume mostly nitrogen, so look for mixes of fast and slow release fertilizers; they will feed your lawn over time while keeping it lush and green. Watering: Nighttime watering can result in long spans of moisture on the blades, potentially exposing your grass to disease. Consider watering your lawn in the morning – the sun helps dry out the blades throughout the day. Flowers: You can quickly and affordably dress up your yard with colorful pre-made flower pots and containers. When placing your flower pots and containers remember that asymmetrical arrangements and staggering plants will provided the liveliest setting.   Dress up the Front Door and Porch Paint: A fresh coat of paint in a pop color can give your home a well-deserved facelift. Get some color inspiration from House Beautiful.  Replace Old Hardware: Clean off any dirty spots around the door knob, and use a metal polish on the fixtures. Change out house numbers for an updated feel, put up a wall-mounted mailbox, or add an overhead light fixture. Keep in mind that well thought through elements, instead of mix-and-match pieces, will add the most curb appeal. Create Perfect Symmetry: Symmetry is one of the simplest design techniques to master and is the most pleasing to the eye. Maintain symmetry by flanking your front door with two sidelights (just make sure that your hardware matches); find two urn planters or a unique visual detail to put on either side of your door.  

Read More

Designing the Perfect Office to Work From Home In Style

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

Photo by letsbemates.com.au Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes effort. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to get into work mode. Having a designated workspace helps you set the tone for your day. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to continue working late into the night. However, maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for your overall wellbeing. These five tips can help you create the perfect home office:   Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed. To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all. Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space. Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance. Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why […]

Read More

How Reliable Are Home Valuation Tools?

By in maria's blog with 0 Comments

  What’s your home worth?   It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.   There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $35,000 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.   Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services (MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.   Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time […]

Read More