When Buying a Home, Consider your Lifestyle

think twice screen shotWhen you decide to buy a house, it’s easy to keep your focus on the house itself. How many bedrooms? How big a garage? Open kitchen? Formal dining? Wood- burning fireplace? Trex deck?

Once you’ve decided on these aspects of your future home, you head to your favorite search engine and start typing in parameters. You fiddle with requirements, adjust your price. Eventually, you see the twenty or so homes that meet your requirements.

Time to start shopping? Not quite.

Your lifestyle will have a huge impact on how happy you’ll be in a particular home. In the long run, your lifestyle-not your house– may be the most important factor in everything ranging from convenience to community.

For example, do you love to run your dog after work and on weekends? Making sure the home you choose has a nearby dog park could save many hours in traffic.

Is it important to be able to walk to your favorite coffee shop or restaurant? If so, you’ll want to make sure that they are close to home.

What’s your favorite form of transportation? If you often use the light rail, choosing a home in walking distance might be an important part of your preferred lifestyle.

Are you the kind of cook who likes to decide what’s for dinner during your lunch break, and stop by the store on your way home? You’ll want to make sure the store you like to shop at is on the way home, and not fifteen minutes (more, in traffic) in the other direction.

Schools, parks, grocery stores, playgrounds, coffee shops, restaurants, movie theaters–depending on your lifestyle, convenient access to important places might affect your overall happiness more than whether the fireplace burns wood or pellets, and the size of your kitchen island.

As a Colorado resident for over 25 years, I’d love to help you find a home that matches your lifestyle! Please get in touch for a no-pressure talk and a coffee (my treat) to chat about your housing needs.

Hot Housing Market? Make YOUR offer Stand Out

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With inventory at an all-time low, Denver buyers are facing heavy competition. Here are some tips from an experienced realtor on how to make your offer stand out!

1)  Be as flexible as you can on closing time frames for closing. Call the listing agent to see if there are particular circumstances for the Seller that you can address by being flexible. This can be especially appealing to sellers who need to sell their home before they buy a new one, and are concerned about where they are going to live while they house-hunt.

2)  I have seen Buyers write personal letters that accompany their offer, which help sway a Seller towards that Buyer. If you can, do some research about the Seller and find out how to appeal to them.  The owner is listed in the public records as homeowner. Then crosscheck them on FB or LinkedIn.

An interesting  development nowadays is that large investor clients are buying up homes for cash. Some Sellers may want to sell to a family instead of an investor, so if all other things are equal a personal letter can sometimes help them choose you.

3)   Contingent offers don’t make it in this highly charged market.  Sellers will choose an offer that is not contingent on selling  your home.  Work out purchasing a home without needing a contingency.

4)   Don’t expect sellers to help with closing costs. In the “good old days” that was a regular practice. Not in this market, though.

5)  Many properties are receiving offers over the listed selling price.  If you make an offer for more than list price, do your due diligence and make sure that other homes have sold at the price level you are proposing. Be prepared if you have to offer more than list price. If a home does not appraise for the offered price, either the Seller has to lower the price or the Buyer has to come up with more money.

6)  Be prepared for disappointment, as many properties are experiencing multiple offers. Ask your realtor to take a proactive approach and contact the homeowners in the particular neighborhood that you wish to live and see if they can find a home BEFORE it is listed.

Questions? Please get in touch–we’d love to chat with you about your housing needs.


Make it Happen–Own Your Own Home in 2017!

 So one of your New Year’s resolutions is to cut out the landlord and pay yourself rent in 2017. That’s a bold move, and an admirable one. By joining the ranks of homeowners, you’re taking a vital step to secure your financial future. For example, did you know that the difference in net worth between renters and homeowners is staggering? According to a recent Forbes article, the National Association of Realtors'(NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts that in 2016, the net worth gap between homeowners and renters will widen to 45x. That’s because while renters simply write a (sizable) check to their landlord each month, homeowners are earning equity each year their house appreciates. If you’re going to take the homeowner plunge, here are some important tips about buying a house in Denver Metro’s sizzling hot seller’s market.

Not sure what your budget can buy? Drive around and look at homes under contract. That’s the reality of what you can buy for your price point.

Don’t wait for a dip in prices. The whole city is waiting for that. And if it comes, it doesn’t decrease competition, it increases it. Instead, focus on your finances and be realistic about what you can afford.

Prequalify. In this seller’s multiple-offers market, most sellers will consider offers that are accompanied by a pre-qualifying letter. Using a strong local lender can also improve your chances, advises local mortgage broker Matt Carrell of Cherry Creek Mortgage Company. “If the sellers are eager for a quick close, their broker knows that large, national chains are less likely to close within 30 days than a strong local lender,” says Carrell. Ask your realtor for a list of lenders with a good track record, and talk to several lenders so you get accurate information.

First time Buyer? Look into FHA financing. Take advantage of Federal mortgages policies, advises Carrell. “If you’re a first time buyer, this is a definite advantage. You can put down as little as 3.5%. This is a great advantage to buyers with lower credit scores, such as students who are paying off student loans, or millennials who are still building up a credit history.”

Consider a fixed-rate mortgage. “Mortgage rates are already rising, and market volatility could lead to larger highs and lows than we’ve seen lately,” says Carrell. “Even if you lock in at an 1/8 of a point higher, at least you’ll be set if rates continue to rise. The last twenty years, the average was 8.3, so at today’s rates you’re still doing very well.”

More questions? Contact Link Real Estate Group–we’re here to help you become a homeowner in 2017!


Think Twice, Buy Once

think twice screen shotIn this sudden housing frenzy we find ourselves in, it is tempting to offer on as many homes as possible, tantamount to throwing irons in the fire so you have more chances of at least one heating up.

As a seasoned realtor and property manager, who has lived in Colorado for more than twenty years, its good to be aware that while hot markets come and go, sound real estate practices remain the same. So, no matter how frantic you are feeling about ever owning a home in this over the top market, take a deep breath and consider the following points before making an offer.

Is this a home and neighborhood you can see yourself living in for the next five years?

 Markets can change as suddenly as a Colorado snowstorm. Today’s seller’s market could be a buyer’s market next summer, with a surplus of inventory languishing on the market and sellers doing anything they can to encourage an offer. Just look back to 2008, not so long ago. So, if you’re buying a home to live in, make sure you’re not banking on being able to trade up, or down, until the market is in your favor again.

Is your employment situation stable?

 Trying to sell a home quickly because you either lose your job or get transferred can be one of the most stressful situations you can face in real estate. While there are no guarantees in life (or jobs), make sure change isn’t in the wind when you write up an offer.

Are there issues with the home that would make resale a challenge?

A busy street, no bathroom on the main floor, a steep North-facing driveway, a one-car or tandem garage–while you may be willing to overlook these design issues just to get a house, any house, in a different market, these might make the property less desirable to future buyers.

Can you afford it?

If a home listed at 350k is currently actually selling for closer to 380k, but the appraisal will come in at about 360k, can you afford it? You’ll need to come up with an extra 20k cash at closing, to cover the appraisal, as well as extra cash each month for a larger mortgage than you had anticipated.

In this type of  market, you might do better setting your sights on a smaller, less expensive home, especially if you’re anticipating paying more than the asking price. Then, when the market settles down again, at least you’ve got a foot on the rung of the ‘property ladder’ and can upgrade to a larger home when the time is right.

Nancy Page Cooper owns and operates Link Real Estate Group in Castle Rock, Colorado. She works with buyers and sellers throughout the Denver Metro area and outlying cities.



Don’t Get Scorched in a Hot Real Estate Market–Find a Good Realtor!

With multiple on-line search engines at your fingertips, why work with a realtor when buying a home or investment property? Why not look at properties on your own and try to cut a deal with the selling broker? In fact, what does a buying broker do for you that you can’t do for yourself?

Excellent questions! If you are thinking this way, I applaud your acumen and independent spirit. I do believe that an experienced, conscientious realtor can indeed improve your home-buying experience, especially if you are a first time home-buyer or investor. Here’s how: 

 With multiple on line search engines at your fingertips, why work with a realtor when buying a home?

In a hot market, search engines are often several days behind. This can lead to frequent disappointments as you jump on a listing that just appeared, only to find out an offer was made–and accepted–two days ago.

A realtor can keep you up-to-the-minute so you don’t miss out when properties are going fast.

A dedicated realtor will do more than just drive you around to listings. They will actively canvas a neighborhood, looking for potential sellers. They can also network with selling realtors who might be able to find you a home in your desired area and price range, before it even goes on the market.

A seasoned realtor can take some of the competitive emotion out of fighting multiple offers. She can caution you about homes that don’t appraise for an unrealistic asking price. Do you really want to bring thousands of extra dollars to the closing table to make up the difference between the appraised price, and an inflated asking price?

Why not look at properties on your own and try to cut a deal with the selling broker?

If you are an experienced buyer, this can be a tempting idea. As a realtor of 11+ years who has ‘seen it all’, here are the caveats:

Because you are trying to take the commission that would normally go to the buying agent, your offer will probably be less than list price. Even if the selling broker explains to the seller that this won’t mean less money for them, many sellers still don’t like the thought of selling for a lower amount. Also, the seller may not look as favorably on your offer, as it will appear less secure than one represented buy a reputable buyer’s agent.

However, the real reason I caution against this route, especially if you are a new or newer buyer, is that no one is looking out for you. The seller’s agent is looking out for the seller’s interests, trying to negotiate the best terms and top dollar for their client. Who is looking out for you, to make sure you’re aware that there are railroad tracks three houses away with a train that goes 23 times a day, or that there’s been a class-action suit against the home builder, or that you’re in a flood plain?

In fact, what is a buying broker going to do for you that you can’t do for yourself?

When you buy a home, it’s natural to feel an emotional attachment. You might ‘fall in love’ with a property or a neighborhood, or see a property that meets your needs in all respects but multiple offers are coming in thick and fast, and you’re unsure whether to up your offer or let this one go. Or, perhaps the inspection uncovers some grim findings, and you’re unsure whether or not to proceed or back out.

A reputable broker isn’t looking for a quick commission, but a lifelong client who trusts them and is happy to refer them. Knowledge of the neighborhood, the current market, and professional resources can help ease the way of this huge decision.

A buying realtor, who has dealt with the above scenarios numerous times, and who has no emotional attachment to the property or neighborhood, can provide you with the information you need to make the decision that is in your best interests.

So, to answer your question, why do I need a realtor? Buying a home is often the biggest investment you’ll make. Use a professional to help make sure it’s a good one!

Link Real Estate Group has been helping homebuyers and home sellers for over a decade. If you’re looking for an experienced, dedicated realtor to help you navigate the challenging Denver real estate market, please get in touch!

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Before You Buy a Home

Fed up with skyrocketing rents, noisy neighbors, and no parking? Buying a home could be the best financial decision you make in this lifetime. Before you start house hunting, though, consider the following decisions. A well-thought-out approach can make the transition from renter to homeowner as seamless as possible.

Before Buying–

–Research, research, research. Remember, you can change (almost) anything about a house except location. So, narrow down your search to the neighborhoods that work for you. Consider schools, churches, commute time, nightlife, parking, and walkability.

–Sort out your finances. Figure out how much you can afford in monthly payments–and remember, unlike renting, you’ll need to factor in insurance, taxes, HOA fees if applicable, and maintenance. You’re the landlord now!

–Obtain a pre-approval letter from a lender (many times, you will be expected to have this in hand when you make an offer on a house.) If you’re not currently working with a lender, Link will be happy to recommend some for you to consider.


 While Buying–

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–In a Seller’s Market like we have now (low inventory, lots of buyers), when you see a property that works for you, offer sooner rather than later. In the current market, attractive homes often receive multiple offers within hours/days of listing.

–Decide your bottom line and stick to it. If the seller counters your offer with one that is not acceptable to you, don’t be afraid to walk away. There will always be another house.

–After the inspection, discuss any questions/concerns with your broker. S/he is on your side and will negotiate on your behalf. Make sure you meet all deadlines as specified in the contract. Again, your broker will help you with this. This may be your first time buying a home, but she’s a veteran.

After Buying–

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–Congratulations, you’re a homeowner now!

–If your mortgage doesn’t include property taxes and home insurance, set up a savings account so you’re not scrambling when these are due.

–Start a list of competent professionals who can help you with repairs and improvements. For the first year, consider signing up with a Home Warranty company. These companies usually charge an annual fee and a nominal co-pay for service calls, but can save big on costly repairs. Ask you broker to set you up with one of these at closing.

–Make a list of repairs/improvement, and tackle them one at a time. Based on your budget, decide which to do first. A leaky roof will usually take precedence over a Jacuzzi tub.

–If you can, make at least one extra mortgage payment a year. This will save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your mortgage. In fact, if you can take out a fifteen or twenty year mortgage instead of a traditional 30-year, you’ll save substantial amounts of money over the course of the mortgage. According to Senior Loan Office Terri Davis of Colorado State Bank, “If you put 10% down on a 300k home, you’ll save $120k over the course of the loan if you pay it off in 15 years instead of 30.” That’s a lot of vacations!

–Heat up the bbq, chill the beer, and celebrate! You now own your own piece of America!

Tired of losing out on properties you fall in love with? A good realtor can make all the difference!  Link has over twelve years experience navigating tricky Mile High markets. Let Link Real Estate Group  guide you through the challenges of Denver Real Estate!

See what other Link clients have to say about us!




Ask Nancy: How to Know You’ve Found the Right Home Inspector

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Any Realtor® worthy of the name will be able to recommend an eagle-eyed home inspector—it’s part of the full service a real estate professional brings to the process of buying a home.

The object of the inspection is, of course, to prevent the unexpected: repair bills that might otherwise go undetected. A good inspector finds problems before you close on a property. Although a home inspector’s fee may require an investment of a few hundred dollars, it’s certainly better than spending tens of thousands down the road.

A thorough inspection and the report that follows earn a buyer peace of mind. Choosing the right candidate isn’t difficult, as long as you are willing to follow a few common sense procedures. For instance, the written inspection report is an important part of the process, yet some inspectors wind up sending only a checklist. Before you commit, ask the candidate if you can see a sample of the kind of report that will be prepared.

It’s a very good idea for you to be present when the inspection is made—it’s a one-time chance to see for yourself some of the workings of the property from a professional’s point of view. A good inspector may suggest it…and certainly will not object when you invite yourself to the party.

As with any other expert, check the candidate’s reputation online. The Better Business Bureau website, Angie’s List, Yelp, and all the other websites that post continuing reviews of professional service providers can supply good feedback. But again, be thorough: watch out for ‘paid’ ratings; check more than one source; and if a complaint is registered, be sure to bring it up when interviewing an otherwise-qualified candidate.

Home inspectors who are strongly tied to the Denver metro business community, or who are involved in national-level home inspector organizations, have their reputations on the line with every inspection. These inspectors may provide higher quality service than others, and although choosing a leading home inspector may wind up costing a few dollars more, when you’re about to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a home, consider it money well spent.

Whenever my clients ask for advice in choosing a home inspector, I supply a choice of several. It’s part of the service I’m pleased to offer—and another good reason to give me a call!


Ask Nancy: Retiring in Denver? Consider these things….

One of the advantages of reaching retirement age is that it is easier to gauge future needs. When it comes to planning for buying a home in the Denver Metro area, for instance, you no longer have to worry about many of the contingencies that created vast unknowns earlier on.

When we were at the starting line in careers and family life, we couldn’t know exactly where our career would send us, so the level of certainty we had when we bought our first house was sketchy at best. Likewise, the shape of our family, needs of our children (and even those of our parents) loomed as giant question marks.

If those times are drawing to a close, I recommend taking some time to focus on future housing needs. As retirement nears, here are four areas where most of us can make much better informed decisions:

SMALL-HOME-facebookChoose an Appropriate Size

Many couples seek large houses early in life because they expect to have children. Once the next generation has vacated the premises, though, staying in a home that’s larger than necessary means blown money—not to mention wasted time spent cleaning unused rooms. Consider a condo or apartment if minimal upkeep will free up income to direct toward more enjoyable activities.

Consider a Single-Level Home

Many people experience mobility issues as they age. Some solve the problem by installing expensive devices in their homes, even though they could deal more directly with those problems by moving to a home configured to present fewer challenges. For some people, moving to a simplified home lets them live independently for many additional years–for example, a single-level home without a front porch eliminates stairs entirely, or a condo with an elevator means you can still enjoy a great view without sacrificing independence.

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Find a Convenient Location

At some point, retirees may reluctantly decide that they don’t feel safe driving their cars. If anyone experiences warning signs of unsafe driving, it’s prudent to give up the keys before an accident forces the issue. This causes fewer problems when a retiree has chosen a convenient location. Many retirees are choosing to move closer to where the action is–shows, restaurants, and museums–and are exploring lofts or condo-style living with easy access to the Light Rail and other public transport.

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Stay under Budget

Retirees need to set realistic budgets as often they’ll have less money coming in than heretofore. The possibility of tax increases can also affect projected retirement income. An inelastic income may take some getting used to—but knowing what’s coming will make intelligent planning possible.

When it comes to locating and buying a retirement home tailored to your needs, I hope you will give me a call so we can start shopping!


Ask Nancy: New Loan Wrinkles for Self-Employed

You don’t have to tell the self-employed that there are extra costs that go with the benefits. In addition to the long hours and extra responsibility, getting a home loan has always added special challenges. Now that we are into the new Dodd-Frank era of federal oversight, some of the changes warrant an early heads-up.

The 2010 legislation that went into effect on January 10 created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which tightened the rules lenders follow in order to discourage them issuing loans that buyers couldn’t repay. What does this mean? That lenders will require more paperwork to support the income claimed on loan applications.

If you are your own boss and getting a loan is on your horizon, take heart! Just because it may be more difficult to apply for home loan doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

The new lending rules describe eight specific factors that lenders should verify and document before advancing home loans. They include the borrower’s assets, credit history, employment status and other debt obligations. Lenders who fail to do so adequately may be legally liable if a borrower proves unable to repay.

The general rule is that borrowers must provide at least two years’ worth of personal tax returns. Since self-employed people getting a loan often have perfectly valid reasons for fluctuating annual incomes, it’s vital to talk with a broker and lender as early as possible to establish the taxable income level needed to qualify for a loan.

That talk should cover other areas. For instance, self-employed people have greater flexibility than most when it comes to reporting deductible expenses, which can result in lower net incomes. One way to counter that problem is to demonstrate that the expenses incurred will improve their business in the long term. Another approach is to show that similar expenses are not likely to re-occur.

If you are self-employed—and plan on getting a loan—planning is key. Get your ducks in a row now so the loan process doesn’t derail you later. It’s never too early to call me as an early resource before we get to move on to the fun stuff–finding your dream home!

What is a Lease Option, and is it Right for You?

What is a lease option?//www.nancyrealestateonline.com

What is a Lease Option, and is it right for you?

A lease option, also known as Lease with the Option to Purchase, is a type of contract between an owner and a tenant, in which the renter has the option of purchasing the property after a certain amount of time.

The Tenant and Landlord sign a lease for the home at a price they agree on, and simultaneously prepare the lease option. In Colorado, an attorney must draw up the lease option addendum, and Colorado-approved real estate forms must be used for the purchase.

Is this a beneficial way to buy or sell property? It certainly can be, as shown below.

Top Five Reasons to Think About Lease Options:

From the Buyer/Tenant’s Perspective:

  1. This may be an alternative to qualifying for a conventional mortgage – you can get into a house now, and not wait for 2-3 years or longer.
  2. A Percentage of your rental payment usually goes towards purchase – you don’t get that with a regular lease.
  3. You will know the house before you buy it – no surprises!
  4. You will need to offer a down payment that is not refundable – be aware that if you can’t buy, you forfeit your down payment.
  5. Seller/Landlord is responsible for all maintenance issues until you buy the home – you usually pay for the utilities.

From the Seller/Landlord’s Perspective:

Offering a lease option to a Buyer/Tenant may be a good move for you – you really can’t lose!

  1. If a Buyer/Tenant pays upfront earnest money and does not exercise the option to buy the house – you get to keep all the down payment.
  2. You keep all the tax benefits and write-offs until the home is sold.
  3. You agree on a selling price when you sign the lease option. If the market goes down, you win, but if the market goes up, you may lose that gain. You do receive rental money each month.  That amount should cover your mortgage costs.
  4. You have a Tenant/Buyer in your home that will take really good care of your home.

A lease option alternative will be more complex than a traditional purchase or property rental, but this may your best real estate alternative.  Let me know how I can help!

Nancy Page Cooper

Link Real Estate