What You Should Know About Closing Costs (03/15/23)

Before you buy a home, it’s important to plan ahead. While most buyers consider how much they need to save for a down payment, many are surprised by the closing costs they have to pay. To ensure you aren’t caught off guard when it’s time to close on your home, you need to understand what closing costs are and how much you should budget for.

What Are Closing Costs?

People are sometimes surprised by closing costs because they don’t know what they are. According to Bankrate:

“Closing costs are the fees and expenses you must pay before becoming the legal owner of a house, condo or town home . . . Closing costs vary depending on the purchase price of the home and how it’s being financed . . .”

In other words, your closing costs are a collection of fees and payments involved with your transaction. According to Freddie Mac, while they can vary by location and situation, closing costs typically include:

How Much Will You Need To Budget for Closing Costs?

Understanding what closing costs include is important, but knowing what you’ll need to budget to cover them is critical, too. According to the Freddie Mac article mentioned above, the costs to close are typically between 2% and 5% of the total purchase price of your home. With that in mind, here’s how you can get an idea of what you’ll need to cover your closing costs.

Let’s say you find a home you want to purchase for the median price of $366,900. Based on the 2-5% Freddie Mac estimate, your closing fees could be between roughly $7,500 and $18,500.

Keep in mind, if you’re in the market for a home above or below this price range, your closing costs will be higher or lower.

What’s the Best Way To Make Sure You’re Prepared at Closing Time?

Freddie Mac provides great advice for home buyers, saying:

As you start your home buying journey, take the time to get a sense of all costs involved – from your down payment to closing costs.”

Work with a team of trusted real estate professionals to understand exactly how much you’ll need to budget for closing costs. An agent can help connect you with a lender, and together your expert team can answer any questions you might have.

It’s important to plan for the fees and payments you’ll be responsible for at closing. Let’s connect so I can help you feel confident throughout the process.

Characteristics of Home Buyers in 2022 (12/16/22)

• The median age jumped this year to 53 years old, from 45 last year. The largest share of home buyers this year were in the 55 to 64 age group (21 percent) and the 65 to 74 age group (21 percent), followed by the 35 to 44 years age group at 19 percent. In Georgia, the median age of recent home buyers was 60 years old. The largest share of home buyers in Georgia this year were in the 55 to 64 age group (27percent) and the 65 to 74 age group (25 percent).

• The median household income for 2021 slipped this year to $88,000 compared to $102,000 in last year’s report. In Georgia, buyers had a median income of $86,200.

• Sixty-one percent of recent buyers were married couples, 17 percent were single females, nine percent were single males, and 10 percent were unmarried couples. This is the highest share of unmarried couples recorded. In Georgia, 67 percent were married couples, 16 percent were single females, 10 percent were single males, and five percent were unmarried couples.

• First-time buyers made up 26 percent, down from last year’s 34 percent. In Georgia, 22 percent were first-time buyers.

• Thirty-one percent of all buyers had children under the age of 18 living at home, the lowest share since 1981 but holding steady from 31 percent last year. In Georgia, 28 percent buyers had children under the age of 18 living at home.

• Fourteen percent of home buyers purchased a multi-generational home, to take care of aging parents, because of children or relatives over the age of 18 moving back home, and for cost-savings. In Georgia, that share was 11 percent.

Information provided by the National Association of REALTORS.

6 Week Timeline for Packing (12/15/22)

The goal: Garage clean out! If you use the garage as make-shift storage shed, this will be the biggest and most overwhelming part of the entire moving process. Best to get it out of the way up front!

The goal: Sell a ton of stuff! Focus on selling some things around the house that won’t be coming with you. You don’t want to waste time moving anything that you already know you won’t be keeping. So spend this week listing things on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You’ll hopefully be offloading as much as possible to make the move even easier!

The goal: Do one final purge! Moving as a really great time to get rid of the extras or items you don’t use anymore. Get rid of as much as you can before you really dive into packing

The goal: Pack the non-essentials! This is where you start making some serious progress on packing up your home. It’s the time where the house starts to feel a little chaotic! Your official goal should be to pack up the non-essentials in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, and living room.

The goal: Clean, prep, and organize! At this point you’ll be down to the wire and should have a better idea of if you’ll actually be closing on time or not. Plan to take care of all the last minute organizational things like scheduling the utilities switch, scheduling the house cleaner, and making a final to-do list. You should also (hopefully) be starting to pack up the rest of the house!

The goal: Final touches! It’s moving week, you are at crunch time now. Finish packing up the remaining items and get them ready to bring to your new house. Take the beds apart, get the rest of the furniture in the moving truck, and start packing your essentials into suitcases. Keep a few changes of clothes, your chargers, laptops, toothbrushes, and toiletries in this suitcase. Moving day is stressful enough just getting the truck unloaded, you definitely don’t want to be digging around your 10,000 boxes to find your toothbrush and pajamas!

Mortgage Rates Drop by Largest Amount in 41 Years! (11/18/22)

Mortgage rates sank nearly half a percent this week, making the largest week-over-week decline since November 1981. The rate on an average 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 6.61% from 7.08% just one week prior according to Freddie Mac. The drop follows a sharp decline in the yield on the 10-year Treasury last week after the government showed inflation cooled a bit last month.

This drop in rates incentivized buyers to rush and try to lock rates this week. The difference in demand was significant. Until this week, buyer demand had weakened as borrowers have had a hard time keeping up with the higher rates and home prices. We don’t know how long this will last… so buyers are acting fast!

Getting Your Home Ready for the Holidays

Back in June, it seemed like a good idea to say you’d host Thanksgiving dinner, and Christmas day. Now the clock is ticking away and you need to get busy. Here’s how to get your home Holiday Ready in no time!

What the Fed's November Rate Hike Means (11/10/22)

New month, new meeting — but the same result: The Federal Reserve’s raised interest rates yet again, causing the 6th rate hike of the year. The last time rates went up this much in a year was in the 1980’s.

Higher rates are challenging for both home buyers, who have to handle steeper monthly payments, and home sellers who are experiencing less demand, and lower offers on their homes.

So what’s the next step for buyers? Here are some tips for dealing with the climate of rising interest rates:

REALTORS® Confidence Index (10/27/22)

The REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) survey gathers on-the-ground information from REALTORS® based on their real estate transactions in the month. This report presents key results about market transactions. Here are some highlights from September’s report:

5 Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

A lot of people question whether or not a certain “upgrade” or “project” will add value to their home when they decide to sell it down the road. Here are a few items that are proven to increase your home’s value:

4 Areas in Your Kitchen You Probably Forgot to Clean

Whether you’re a religious cleaner, or a once in a blue moon cleaner, there are probably a few areas you don’t think about often. Either way, now’s the perfect time to address those often-forgotten areas.

10 Tips to Getting Your Home Market Ready


Now that you’re equipped with these home selling tips, make sure to give me a call when you’re ready to get it on the market and get some offers! It’s a fantastic time to sell, and I would love to help you get top dollar for your property!

Steps to Selling Your Home

Time to sell your home? There’s a lot to do to get ready. You love and cherish your home. You want the next owner to fall in love with it, too — through photos, through words, and through the experience of walking through your front door. But, perhaps most, you want to net the most money possible. This isn’t a small task. Selling a home requires work. It requires time. The journey isn’t always easy. There will be frustrations. But when you seal the deal and move on to your next chapter — wow, what a blissful feeling, and sigh of relief.

Below, we’ll discuss how to know what you want (and what your partner wants, if you’re selling together). How to understand the market, and ways to make a plan. And most importantly? How to create relationships with experts and trust them to help you get the job done.

Now, let’s talk about selling your house.

First things first: You need to know what you want (and what your partner wants) from the very start of this process. You need to know the Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Who will be the decision makers, and who is on the title? What needs to be taken care of before listing your home on the market? When exactly do you want that For Sale sign in your yard? Where are you moving to? And finally, why are you moving?

Unless you bought your home last week, the housing market changed since you became a homeowner. Mortgage rates fluctuate, inventory shifts over time, and every market is unique. Your agent will bring you up to speed on what is going on in the market, so trust them and listen to them! No matter what is going on, the behavior of the market will affect your sale.

Choosing the right agent for YOU is the most important part of this process. The relationship you create with your agent should be specific to you and what you expect to get out of it. Different personalities need different types of agents. If you prefer an agent that will communicate with you multiple times a day and update you every single step of the way, you need a very hands on agent. If you prefer an agent that will handle everything on their own and only contact you with the important details then make sure you choose one that will respect your wishes and knows exactly how you expect things to be taken care of. There are agents that host multiple Open Houses, and agents that don’t do any. There are agents that price a home correctly based on their knowledge of the market, and agents that will list at whatever price the homeowner thinks they deserve. Whatever you do, and whatever you want out of your agent/client relationship, make sure it is said upfront before signing any paperwork!

Pricing your home correctly right when you put it on the market is only going to make your deal smoother and faster. There are many people who think they should list $20k-$30k above the true value just to test it out… this is going to harm you, and here’s why: Properties generate the most interest when they first hit the market, because the buying market has a short attention span. Once your home is emailed out to every buyer looking for a home with your criteria, chances are they won’t get that notification again. If they see your home is overpriced, they’ll overlook it and not give it a second thought. Proper pricing will attract buyers, and we want to generate offers before the market moves on to newer listings. The number of showings is always greatest the first week a home is on the market, so don’t miss out on all the activity “testing the waters”.

Your agent should be able to provide you will a very accurate market value, and show proof as to how they got that number. This number should be based on recent SALES in your area, not necessarily homes that are listed as active.

In today’s world, just about every buyer out there will see your home online before coming across it in person. Which means you have to make sure your house looks picture perfect (literally) when your agent sends a professional photographer out there. De-clutter your entire house from all the little knickknacks you have laying around, and make sure your countertops are mainly clear. Having boxes stored in your garage or basement will not kill a deal either! Buyers understand you are moving out, and are going to look past the boxes. However, it’s a lot harder for a buyer to see themselves living in a home that is filled top to bottom with your collectables and personal belongings.

That’s right, plural! Depending on what market you are in, and what price range your home is sitting at, you may very well be in a multiple offer situation. Historically speaking, your first offer is typically your best, however when multiple buyers are involved, they will fight to have the best offer. Your agent will be walking you through this as well.

Once you have an offer that you are willing to work with chances are you will want to negotiate a little bit more to your benefit. Your agent will walk you through this process to help you reach an agreement with the best outcome. Remember, money and sales price are not the only aspects to an offer. Make sure you are paying close attention to any special stipulations or contingencies that a buyer may have included in their offer.

A home inspection is just as stressful to the buyer as it is the seller. Either way, it’s most likely going to get done. Most purchase and sale agreements are contingent upon a home inspection and buyers will request certain repairs to be made during their due diligence period. This period is a time for them to decide whether or not they want to move forward with the purchase, knowing all of the flaws and repairs needed done to the home. You have some more room to negotiate here, including certain repairs they buyer may ask for. Once again, your agent will be there to help you effectively communicate with the buyer.

Once you get past the home inspection, the next major step is the appraisal. The appraisal is ordered by the buyer’s lender and chances are you won’t even see the report unless it comes in low. Some sellers get their own appraisal before listing their home, which is great! But keep in mind that not all appraisers are the same, and the only one that really matters is the one the lender sends out there. If priced correctly from the start, appraisals shouldn’t be an issue. However, there are times that they do come in low and your agent should prepare you for all the “what ifs” if it were to happen. Basically all the appraisal is, is a list of comparable properties proving what that appraiser thinks the value of your home is, and whatever number they come up with is all that buyer’s lender is going to lend them. For example, if you list your property at $300,000, and the buyer wants to buy it at that price, but the appraisal comes in at $275,000, the buyer will either have to come up with $25,000 out of pocket to cover the difference, or the seller has to drop the price. If you cannot come to an agreement with the buyer, they have the right to terminate the contract within their appraisal contingency and move on to a different home. Listing agents do have the right to fight the appraisal if necessary, but it’s up to the appraiser to adjust their market value if they want to.

Closing day is the day you’ve been waiting for. This is where you go into the attorney’s office, sign the final paperwork, and collect your money via check or wire transfer! Before you go in to close, you will have to prepare your home for the Buyer’s final walk-through. Be prepared to troubleshoot any last minute issues if they are to appear. Vacant listings that have been sitting empty for months at a time can definitely endure issues prior to the final walk-through. Make sure if able, that you check on the house every couple of days to verify there are no leaks, cracks, or any major issues that have come up since the inspection has taken place.

Home Buying and Selling During a Pandemic

Technology and good-old-fashioned creativity are helping agents, buyers, and sellers abide by COVID-19 health and safety practices while getting deals done.

Some buyers are touring houses virtually. Others visit in person while remaining at least six feet from their agent. Sellers are hosting open houses on Facebook Live. Appraisers are doing drive-by valuations. Buyers are watching inspections via video call. Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on doorsteps.

Here’s what home buying and selling during the pandemic looks like.

Showings Go Virtual

The rules around in-person showings vary by city, county, and state. Some allow them and some ban them. Check with your state, county, and local government to get the latest on business closures and shut-down rules.

Agents have conducted home tours via FaceTime and other similar tools for years. But these platforms have proven invaluable for home buying and selling during the pandemic. Real estate sites report a surge in the creation of 3D home tours. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, saw a 494% increase in requests for video home tours in March 2020.

In places where in-person showings are allowed, agents wipe down door handles, spray the lockbox with disinfectant, and open up the house, closets, everything for a client. We leave all the lights on so no one touches switches, and our clients don’t touch cabinets or doors during showings.

Safe-Showing Guidelines

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, which produces HouseLogic, recommends only one buyer enter a home at a time, with 6 feet between each guest. NAR also recommends agents have potential buyers wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer when they come in the door. They should also remove their shoes. No children should be present at showings, either.

Desktop, Drive-By Appraisals

Appraisers are essential workers in many areas, so home valuations are continuing. But often remotely. New temporary rules from the Federal Housing Finance Authority allow drive-by and desktop appraisals for loans backed by the federal government.

In a desktop appraisal, the appraiser comes up with a home estimate based on tax records and multiple listing service information, without an in-person visit. For a drive-by, the appraiser only looks at the home's exterior, in combination with a desktop appraisal. 

On the other hand, some private lenders still require in-person appraisals, which are allowed even in areas with shutdown orders. Private lenders hold about 35% of first-lien mortgages, according to the Urban Institute.

When appraisers come to your home, they should adhere to CDC guidelines, including wearing gloves and a face mask, keeping at least 6 feet apart from anyone in the home, and asking if the homeowners have been sick or traveled recently to a COVID-19 hot spot.

Inspections Via Live Video

Inspectors are now often working alone, no buyers in tow, and using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so clients can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video chat apps to take their clients along on the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they’re done.

The American Society of Home Inspectors has also issued guidelines for inspectors so they keep themselves and the homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home's condition.

Mortgage Rates and Locks

With mortgage rates fluctuating quickly and closing times taking longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock periods. You can grab a good rate and hang on to it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.

But the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders are offering this for all loans; others for refis. Check with your lender about its policy.

Remote Notarization Depends On Where You Live

About one-half of states have permanent remote online notarization (RON) policies. These allow a notary and signer in different locations to sign electronic document, usually by use of video apps like Zoom or FaceTime. Notaries will watch you sign either a paper document or do an electronic signature on an e-doc, via camera.

Some states have rolled out temporary rules allowing RON. Here’s a state-by-state list of notary law updates, and the type of remote notarization allowed. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as federal and state pandemic legislation expands.

So, Should You Buy or Sell?

The real estate industry is creatively and safely responding to the situation, and mortgage rates remain low. Your agent is a great source of information about home buying and selling during the pandemic to help you feel comfortable. But, ultimately, it's a question only you can answer.