New Leaf Team Blog

December
5

Winter weather can be hard on your home. Stay warm, save money, and protect your home from winter's worst with some of these reminders...

Check Your Trees

Before any rough winter storms hit, do an inspection of the trees around your property to make sure there are no dead trees in danger of falling or branches that are up against your house. Scan your property for branches that are growing over the house, garage, driveway, or power lines that could cause problems in winter storms.

Clean Your Gutters

Once the leaves are off the trees, give your gutter a good cleaning. When gutters back up, they overflow which can cause deterioration on the sides of your home and foundation, water leaks into the basement, and many other problems.

Have Your Chimney & Fireplace Cleaned

If you have a fireplace and chimney, make sure you get a thorough inspection before you start using it for the season. A good chimney sweep will make sure it is safe to use and identify any maintenance problems you may have. It's also a good idea to start ordering your firewood and store it in a safe place in the yard, away from your home.

Check Your HVAC System

Before the weather turns cold, have your system inspected by a reputable HVAC contractor. It's far better to find HVAC problems in the fall than on the first cold day of winter. And make sure you're replacing your filters regularly to keep the system functioning its best.

Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It's always good to test your systems twice a year to make sure they are working properly and communicating to each other. Most house fires happen in the wintertime, so make sure your safety devices are working properly before an issue occurs.

Take Care of Your Pipes

Once cold weather sets in, make sure all your outdoor hoses are disconnected and properly stored. You should also cover the outside faucets with insulated covers which can keep frozen water outside the house and not let it into your pipes. Any exposed pipes that run along a wall in an unheated area (common in basements and crawl spaces) can be a potential hazard. Invest in some pipe insulation and keep an eye on those pipes when the temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep the Cold Outside

Go through your home and check for any drafts that may be coming in. Common places to find issues are window frames, fireplaces, dryer vents, and any other spot where something inside your home passes to the outside. Caulk any cracks or crannies to keep the cold out and enjoy the benefit of energy savings too.

 

Preparing for the cold days of winter may not be one of the most fun aspects of home ownership, but it is one of the most important. Taking some time to prepare your home before the temperatures drop can make a big difference in staying warm and protecting your home this winter.

If you have questions about winterizing your home, finding the right contractors to help with projects, or other questions about real estate and home ownership, our team would be glad to help! Call us at (434) 214-6121 to speak with an agent about how we can help.

We hope you enjoy your winter!

November
7

Before you start your home search, it is beneficial to talk with a mortgage broker to learn about what kind of mortgage you would be approved for. They will look at your income, credit score, and outstanding debts (including any loans and credit cards) among other factors to determine how much you can comfortably spend on a mortgage and what price range you should be searching in. 

When applying for a mortgage, consistency is the name of the game. There are a few things that you should keep in mind to make sure you don't derail your home buying process along the way.

  • Don't apply for new credit cards or loans. Each time you apply for new credit, you are seen as a greater credit risk, at least temporarily. Applying for new credit cards and loans can ding your credit score enough to hurt your eligibility for a mortgage or bump up your interest rates. This also includes co-signing for a loan with someone else. 

  • Don't close any credit cards. Credit utilization is an important aspect of your credit score and looks at how close to your credit limit you are on all lines of credit.

    For example, if you have credit card A with a $10,000 limit and a $5,000 balance and credit card B with a $10,000 limit and $0 balance, your credit utilization is 25%. If you close credit card B, your credit utilization becomes 50%. This could significantly impact your mortgage rates. 

  • Don't deposit large amounts of cash into your bank accounts before speaking with your lender. Banks and lenders want to see that you have the money to pay your mortgage each month and where that money is coming from. Adding in a large transfer of cash from an unknown source will make the underwriters question your finances and could delay or derail your purchase.

  • Don't make any large purchases. While it may be tempting to buy new furniture or appliances before closing so you can have them delivered to your new home right when you move in, this could negatively impact your ability to close on time. Large purchases could impact your credit utilization and opening a new credit card to receive special financing offers, could ding your credit score. It's better to save your major purchases until the sale is officially closed.

  • Only change jobs strategically. Mortgage lenders will look at your employment history to see what kind of income you bring in monthly to make sure you can afford your mortgage. If you're applying for a new job in the same field or already have a job offer in hand, they may consider the move less risky. But waiting to change jobs until after your mortgage is closed may be the better option.

The most important thing to remember when applying for your mortgage is to keep in regular communication with your lender and ask them before making any decisions that may impact your credit. Their goal is to help you make it to closing with a mortgage that you can afford. 

If you're ready to start your home search, our team would be glad to help. We can recommend local lenders to work with based on your needs and help you start your search when you are ready. Call us at (434) 214-6121 to talk with Kelly, John, or Rives about your home ownership goals. 

October
3

For most home buyers, the search begins online before ever talking to an agent. In fact, in 2020, 97% of all homebuyers surveyed used the internet in their search for a home. That's why taking high quality photographs is one of the most important steps of selling a home. 

New Leaf Team is very lucky to have an agent who is also a professional photographer on our team. Kelly takes beautiful photos of our listings and will work with you to make sure we get top notch photos of your home. But before she walks through the door with her camera, there's a few things you should do to help prepare for your home's photo shoot.

  • Tidy the yard: make sure your yard is cleaned up with freshly mown grass, cleaned flowerbeds, and yard waste disposed of. Make sure all toys, bikes, and other items are stored away and make sure your patio set is clean and inviting.

  • Turn on the lights: while the photographer will use flash in photos, it always helps to have bright lighting in the room. Make sure there are no missing or burned-out bulbs and open your blinds and curtains to let natural light in.

  • Make sure there is open space: a home that feels cozy in person can look jumbled in photos. Make sure there is room to walk around furniture and consider putting larger items in storage while your home is on the market. Counters should be 75% empty and your fridge should have minimal paperwork and magnets on it.

  • Clean your home & make it shine: the camera will magnify grime in your home. Go through each room and take time to dust, clean floors, and make sure each room shines its brightest.

  • Snap pictures with your own camera: take a few photos with your camera or cell phone to see what they may look like before the photographer arrives. This will help you see what changes you can make.

  • Add color: if you think your rooms are looking dull, add a pop of color with a plant, bright vase, or colorful blanket on a couch.

  • Keep the home in shape: buyers who like the house online will expect to see it in similar condition when they come to visit. Do your best to keep it clean and tidy while on the market.

If you're ready to put your home on the market, our team would love to work with you! Call our agents at (434) 214-6121 to discuss your goals. 

 

August
12

Closing on your new home is an exciting and often hectic time. But you should always make time for a final walk-through to make sure your new home is in the condition that you expect it to be. Depending on what time you have your closing scheduled for, your agent may recommend that you do your final walk-through the evening before or morning of closing. 

Here is a list of things that you should look at when you walk-through the house: 

  • Make sure all of the Seller's personal property and debris has been removed. Check every room and spaces like the basement, attic, and crawl spaces to make sure nothing has been left behind. 
  • Check that all the repairs you've requested have been made. The Seller's Agent should be able to provide you with a list of receipts for work that was done by contractors or for new items that were purchased. 
  • Look over the property to make sure no major, unexpected changes have been made since you last visited the home. 
  • Check that all items of personal property included in your contract are still on site. This includes items you may have requested (such as refrigerators, washer, dryer) and items that are written into your standard contract. The standard contract in Virginia includes items like blinds, ceiling fans, curtain rods, audio-video mounting hardware, mailboxes, exterior plants, smoke detectors, and more.  
  • Make sure all appliances are operating correctly and are in the same condition as when you last visited the property. Don't forget to include your hot water heater and HVAC systems in these checks.
  • Walk through the yard to make sure no major changes have been made to plants or shrubs, unless you have been notified in advance. 
  • Look for the garage door opener and other remotes for appliances in the home.
  • See if they have left instruction books and warranty information on appliances and fixtures. Most agents will instruct sellers to leave them out on a table or kitchen counter where they can be easily found.
  • Make sure all window screens and storm windows are in place or stored somewhere in the house.
  • Check to see if your doorbell, alarms, and intercom systems are working properly. 

Of course, all of these items are dependent on the terms of your contract. If your contract says that an appliance conveys in an as-is condition or that a certain shrub in the backyard does not convey, your personal checklist should reflect that. 

Your agent who attends the walk-through with you will also help you go through the list and check on items to make sure everything is in the condition that you expected things to be in. If repairs are not made or things that were supposed to be left behind have been taken, your agent will want to get in touch with the Seller's agent quickly to rectify the situation. Sometimes this can be in the form of a credit at closing, an amount held in escrow until the situation is fixed, or even purchasing a new item to replace something that is missing or damaged. 

Your agent will be your guide through the walk-through, just as they have been throughout your real estate transaction. 

If you have more questions about what to expect during a real estate transaction, call New Leaf Team at (434) 214-6121. One of our licensed agents will be glad to answer your questions. 

    June
    30

    Decluttering, minor repairs, and simple staging can make a HUGE difference in how a buyer views your home both online and in person. And we want to make sure your house makes a great first impression to all potential buyers! When our team performs a pre-listing walkthrough to discuss your goals and home pricing, we'll also give you a list of personalized suggestions to make your home leave a good impression on buyers. 

    Here are a few general tips to help you showcase your home's value: 

    Remove Clutter & Let It Shine

    Give your home a deep cleaning. Remove clutter, clear off counters, and pack away unnecessary decorative items. Put extra furniture in storage & don't forget to clean up your storage areas. 

    Give your windows & screens a good clean to bring more natural light into your home. Replace any burnt out bulbs & consider adding brighter bulbs to darker rooms. Clean your walls or give them a new coat of bright, neutral paint. And replace heavy curtains with sheer ones to show off a view.

     

    Keep It Clean

    A deep clean before listing your home will make regular upkeep easier. Consider hiring a cleaning service to help keep things neat while on the market.

    Try to tidy your home each night and make beds each morning in case of last-minute showings during the day.

     

    Perform a Sniff Test

    Open your windows to air out the house and clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate odors. Consider using scented candles and diffusers to pump fresh scents into the house.

    For some quick fixes in the kitchen, place cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract to make the fridge smell nicer. You can boil lemon juice in your microwave and add it to your dishwasher to help eliminate odors. Then, run the lemon rinds through your garbage disposal for a similar effect.

     

    Maximize Comfort

    In summer, shut A/C vents on the first floor so more air will get upstairs. Reverse the process in winter.

     

    Take Care of Repairs

    Sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, or a dripping faucet may seem trivial, but they'll give buyers the impression that the house isn't well-maintained.

     

    Tidy Up Your Yard

    Your front yard is the first impression a buyer will have of your home, so make it a good one.

    Cut the grass, rake the leaves, add new mulch, trim the bushes, edge the walkways, and clean the gutters. A pot of bright flowers near the entryway adds great curb appeal.

     

    Set the Scene

    Stage your home to look welcoming.  

    Bright accent pillows can easily jazz up a dull room. And pretty dishes or simple centerpieces on a table can help buyers picture themselves living there.

    If you have a fireplace, clean up any ashes and lay fresh logs inside.

    In the bathrooms, make sure your personal toiletries are out of sight, along with old towels and toothbrushes. Add a new shower curtain and some fancy guest soaps.

     

    Lock Up Valuables & Medication

    While we like to believe the best in everyone, agents cannot watch everyone at all times. Make sure any valuables and medications are safely stowed away.

     

    Head Out

    It can be awkward for everyone if you're at home at the time of a showing. Make plans to be out of the house when showings occur.

    If you have pets that will be home during a showing, try to crate them or confine them to one room and let real estate agents know where they will be to eliminate surprises.

     

     

    These are just a few suggestions that we offer to make sure your home leaves a great impression on buyers. To learn more about how our team can help your home stand out from the rest, call our agents at 434-214-6121.

    May
    2

    Even if you aren't planning to buy a house soon, improving your credit score can have a positive effect on your financial health. Credit scores are used in evaluating a range of loans such as personal loans, car loans, and home mortgages. They determine the terms of your loans and whether you can afford these loans or not.

    Credit scores range between 200 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage.

    What determines your credit score?

    Your credit score is an evaluation based off the following factors:

    • Payment history
    • How much you owe & where
    • Length of your credit history
    • How much new credit you have
    • Type of credit you have

    Generally speaking, your payment history and amounts owed will have the biggest effect on your credit score.

    How to Improve Your Credit Score:

    1. Check for errors in your credit report. Thanks to an act of Congress, you can download one free credit report each year at annualcreditreport.com. If you find any errors, correct them immediately.

    2. Don't max out your credit cards. Pay down as much as you can on your credit cards every month and if possible, try to pay off the entire balance every month. Keep in mind that transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.

    3. Don't open new credit card accounts. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make while buying a new home is to open a new credit card to finance items for your new home. If you are in the process of applying for a mortgage or buying a home, run any large purchases or financial decisions past your lender to make sure they won't affect your ability to close on your new home.
    4. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Having too many credit applications can lower your score. However, multiple inquiries about your credit score from the same type of lender are counted as one if submitted over a short period of time

    5. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay off their loan on time, the interest is high and it may be considered a sign of poor credit management.

    6. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. After a year, you will be penalized less severely for any problems you had.

    April
    18

    If you're preparing for a move, you can find yourself with accumulated clutter that you don't want to bring to your new home. Garage sales can be a great way to downsize some items and help you earn a little extra cash before you move.
    But before you start setting up tables in the yard, there are a few things you should do to prepare. Here are some do's & don'ts to help you maximize your garage sale potential.

    DO Contact your HOA

    Some HOAs & municipalities require you to obtain permission to hold a garage sale or post signs promoting one. Make sure you know the rules of your area before you start making your plans.

    DON'T Wait until the last minute.

    Depending on how long you've lived in your home and how much stuff you want to sell, planning a garage sale can take a lot of time and energy. And that's on top of the effort of putting your home on the market!

    DO Schedule the sale.

    Sales on Saturdays and Sundays will generate the most traffic, especially if the weather cooperates. Start the sale early — 8 or 9 a.m. is best — and be ready for early birds.

    DON'T Forget to advertise. 

    Place an ad in the newspaper, free classified papers, and websites, including the date(s), time, and address of the garage sale. Add information about what will be available, such as kids' clothes, furniture, or special equipment. On the day of the sale, use balloons and signs with prominent arrows to grab attention.

    DO Price your goods.

    Clearly mark rounded prices (50 cents, 3 for $1, or $5, for example) with easily removable stickers.

    DON'T Forget to stock up on supplies.

    Before the sale begins you'll need stickers for pricing, signs to direct people to the sale, and a plan on how to display items. 

    On the day of the sale, having a stock of old shopping bags that can be reused will encourage people to buy more items. Newspapers are handy for wrapping fragile goods.

    DO Display items nicely.

    Organize items by category and don't make customers dig through boxes to find items they are looking for.

    DON'T Expect people to buy junk. 

    If it's truly garbage, throw it away or place it in a freebie bin. Don't try to sell broken appliances, and have an electrical outlet nearby in case a customer wants to try plugging something in.

    DO Manage your money.

    Obtain ample change for your cashbox, and have a calculator on hand. Assign one person to man the "register," keeping a tally of what was purchased and for how much.

    March
    23

    Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or an experienced investor, market dynamics are constantly changing and can be nearly impossible to keep up with. Having a real estate professional help guide you through the process can make your transaction go more smoothly. 

    With New Leaf Team, you'll benefit from having 3 REALTORS® on your side to preview new listings or come up with pricing and marketing strategies for your home. And you'll never have to worry about missing the chance to negotiate an offer because your agent isn't around. Each member of our team will be kept up-to-date on your search or sale and can easily step in to help where needed. This dynamic has allowed us to turn relationships with our clients into friendships that extend beyond the real estate transaction.

    Here are 8 reasons why you should use a REALTOR® for your real estate transaction. 

    1. The REALTOR® code of ethics.
      REALTORS® are not just agents. They are professional members of the National Association of REALTORS®. Every REALTOR® must adhere to a strict code of ethics, which is based on professionalism and protection of the public. As a REALTOR®'s client, you can expect honest and ethical treatment in all transaction-related matters. With New Leaf Team, you'll benefit from having three REALTORS® working to help you realize your real estate goals.

    2. Expert guidance through the process.
      Buying or selling a home typically requires many forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal and avoid delays or costly mistakes.

    3. Objective information and opinions.
      REALTORS® can provide local information on utilities, zoning, and more. They also have objective information about each property which helps them come up with pricing and marketing strategies for a property. By understanding a buyer's needs and search area, they can also point out neighborhoods that buyers may not know much about but that might suit their needs better than they thought.

    4. Up-to-date experience.
      Most people sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each sale. Even if you've done it before, laws and regulations change frequently. At New Leaf Team, we have three full-time agents who have worked on hundreds of transactions in their careers. When they aren't working with clients, they take classes and certifications to stay on top of the latest laws and regulations and gain knowledge to help our clients through any situation.

    5. Property marketing power.
      Marketing a home is about more than just writing a description and posting on a website. A REALTOR® can help you start impressing potential buyers from the moment they first learn about your home. From professional photographs to virtual staging and tours, there are many ways New Leaf Team can help you showcase the best features of your home to potential buyers. And when your home is listed by a REALTOR®, you will know that everyone who comes to view your home is accompanied by a licensed real estate agent.

    6. Expanded search power.
      In the Charlottesville area, a property that is listed as "Coming Soon" in MLS cannot be seen by the public. Working with a real estate agent means you can learn about these properties and be prepared for viewings before the listing goes live to the public. REALTORS® can also help you avoid out-of-date listings that might be showing up as available online but are no longer on the market.

    7. Negotiation knowledge.
      The negotiations don't end once a home is under contract. A REALTOR® will look at every angle from your perspective and will craft a purchase agreement that allows you the flexibility you need to take that next step.

    8. Your rock during emotional moments.
      A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. And for most people, property represents the biggest purchase they'll ever make. Whether you are buying a first home or downsizing your family home, you deserve to have someone on your side who can provide an objective opinion and help you stay focused on the issues that matter most to you.

    Ready to work with New Leaf Team? Give us a call at 434-214-6121 to speak with one of our agents. We look forward to working with you!

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