Crystal's Blog Corner

9 Unexpected Items to Add to Your House's Pre-Sale Checklist


Fixing up your home is one of the ways to get it to sell quickest. We bet you haven't thought of all these house repair checklist items.

It's projected that over 6 million homes will sell in the year 2020. That number marks continued momentum that has built over the last 2 years.

There are several reasons why homeowners are looking to part ways with their investments in such large numbers in 2020 including the prospect of a looming recession.

If you're among the many that will be putting their houses on the market next year, no matter your reasoning, you'll likely need to make a house repair or two to ensure that you can get the best price for your property.

Not sure where to start with your house repair check-list? Keep reading!

Our team shares with you several tips on which areas of your house should get the most attention so you don't end up leaving things off of your itinerary.

1. Paint Touch-Ups

Your home's interior paint might not be something that you notice but you better believe that paint flaws will capture the buyer's attention.

Worn, nicked and chipped paint is a sign of absentee homeowners which may get buyers thinking about what other aspects of their home you've let go to waste over the years.

To leave a great impression, hit your home's interior with a fresh coat of paint or at least touch-up areas that need the most TLC.

2. Take Down Family Photos

We know that you love looking at your family's beautiful faces. Unfortunately, buyers that don't know you don't share in that adoration for your loved ones.

As a matter of fact, if buyers come into your house and see pictures of other people, it's going to be much harder for them to picture themselves making your house theirs. That could deter several good offers.

Taking down anything that over-personalizes your space will help your home sell much faster.

3. Exterior Work

The very first thing that buyers will see when they come to tour your home is your house's exterior. If that first impression is negative, it's going to be hard to win buyers over as they look over the rest of your home.

Doing simple tasks like painting your fence, touching up your yard and making sure that your home's exterior paint looks good can do wonders for stoking buyer's interest.

4. Optimize Your Lighting

Making tweaks to your home's lighting is a cheap and effective way to leave a positive impression on buyers. Tackling this job can be as easy as making sure that all of your curtains are open during open houses to show off how much natural light your house is capable of receiving.

For night showings or for houses that lack access to natural light, invest in light fixtures that add more life to your room. After all, nobody wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home that feels dark and dreary.

5. Look Over Your Kitchen

Let us be clear... You should not remodel your kitchen as part of your house repair to-do list in preparation for a sale. Very rarely will a kitchen remodel prove to be an investment that pays for itself.

With that said, if you have broken appliances or counters that are damaged, making small fixes will go over well with people that are considering your home.

Talk to your real estate agent for advice on which kitchen repairs are worth making and which are best left alone. That way, you don't end up losing money in making your house more desirable for buyers.

6. Tidy up Your Floors

Whether you have carpet or hardwood floors, it's worth doing some minor makeover work to make them look great.

Getting your carpet in shape for a sale is as easy as hiring a professional steam cleaner to give your floors a once over. Hardwood floors can present more of a challenge since refinishing floors is likely to be a lot more expensive than getting your carpet cleaned.

Again, talk to your real estate agent to see which house repair flooring fixes are worth making and which are best left alone.

7. Keep Your Animals on the Down Low

When a buyer walks into a house and sees a dog, the first thing that they're going to assume is carpet and wood floor damage. They might also suspect that certain rooms are going to smell due to pet-related activity.

Anything that you can do to make your house seem like it's a pet-free environment will do more to help your sale than hurt it. If a buyer asks if pets live in the house, you should, of course, be honest.

8. Get a Home Inspection

Your buyer will almost always be required by their lender to conduct a home inspection before purchasing a property. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be proactive and get one for yourself.

The last thing that you want is for your buyer to do a home inspection and to find out that your foundation is cracked which would prompt you to have to call a foundation repair company and take your home off of the market.

The better informed that you are before putting your house for sale, the fewer surprises you're going to run into.

With Key Investments in House Repair, Your Home Will Change Hands Fast

People underestimate the value that a house repair or two can bring to their home's value in the eyes of buyers. We recommend looking over our list of suggested tweaks and making the ones that you and your real estate agent think would be the most worth your time.

SOURCE: REALTY TIMES- by George Cunningham

How to Find a Real Estate Agent: A Few Things You Might Not Have Thought Of


When it comes time to find a real estate agent, there are all kinds of ways you can go about it: Ask a friend. Call a number on a “for sale” sign in your neighborhood. Do a Google search. But, no matter which route you choose, there are some things you’ll want to look for—some that seem obvious, and a few you may not have thought of.

Their reviews

We live in an era where you can find as much information as you want about just about anyone, with just a few clicks. It’s imperative these days to read reviews, whether you’re looking for a good air conditioning technician or someone to help you buy or sell what is likely your largest asset. But don’t just depend on the reviews on the realtor’s website. Google any agent you’re considering, and check out what’s being said about them on Yelp and on social media. Look to see if any complaints have been made about them. And keep in mind that every Realtor—even the best of the best—can have a negative review here and there from a disgruntled client. What you’re looking for is an overwhelmingly positive consensus.

Their listings

If you’re selling your home, you want your agent to be active, and that means having listings. But the number of listings can be telling. If they just go on and on and on, it could be an indication that the agent doesn't have the time to give you the level of service you’re looking for. 

Their affiliation

Is the Realtor you’re considering affiliated with a real estate company you’ve never heard of? This may or may not be of importance to you, depending on their qualifications. But you will want to make sure you do your due diligence to make sure the company is legit.

Their experience

Are you thinking of using a real estate agent who is newly licensed and has never helped anyone buy or sell a house before? Everyone has to start somewhere, but you might not want to be the guinea pig. You may have pressure from family or friends to use their daughter/cousin/uncle/next-door neighbor, but it’s OK to politely tell them that you’re going with someone else—someone with many years of experience. 

Their area of expertise

Just because a Realtor has tons of experience doesn’t mean they have an experience that’s relevant to your specific situation. Maybe they generally deal with multi-million-dollar properties and you are a first-time buyer, or their geographic area is outside your ZIP Code. Either way, it may behoove you to find an agent who is better equipped to work within your specifications.

Their attitude

Even if the real estate agent in question checks all the other boxes, there may still be something off. Maybe they come off as aloof. Maybe they’re so serious you’re afraid to ask questions. Maybe they’re not serious enough. You don’t have to gel with your Realtor. It’s perfectly fine—and perfectly normal—to get through your transaction and never do business with that agent again. But an agent you really mesh with could end up becoming your agent for life, and maybe also become a friend. 


Is It a Good Time to Buy a House?


Is it a good time to buy a house? The summer rush is over, mortgage rates are super low, and the job market is strong, leading the Federal Reserve to proclaim that the housing market is the economy’s “bright spot.” 

So, in a word, Yes!

“Housing activity indicators displayed further gradual improvement in August,” the report said. “Single-family housing starts and permits have rebounded over the past three months. New and existing home sales rose in August. A still-strong labor market and low mortgage rates could continue to provide support to housing.”

The report noted today’s low mortgage rates, which create greater affordability and buying power for those looking to purchase a home. It pointed to “August’s 7.1% gain in new-home sales to 713,000 at a seasonally adjusted and annualized pace, which was 18% above the year-earlier month,” said HousingWire. “And, the Fed cited the 1.2% gain in existing home sales in August that put the sales pace 2.9% above a year earlier.”

Homebuilding was also a focus of the report, thanks to housing starts that are up 12.3%, reaching their highest point in more than a dozen years.  

“Over the last three months, single-family housing starts and permits have rebounded,” said Realtor Magazine. “New home sales gained 7.1% in August month over month and are 18% higher than a year earlier. Homebuilding has also seen some increases, surging 12.3% in August to reach the highest level since June 2007, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. A good portion of that has been in the multifamily sector, which includes apartments.”

According to the report, the combination of a strong labor market and favorable mortgage rates should continue to keep the housing market in positive territory. However, “The report did note the shortage of homes for sale as one major hurdle facing the housing market that could limit its continued growth,” said Realtor. 

The report was partially based on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s U.S. Economy in a Snapshot, a monthly look at national economic factors. 


Now That It’s Fall, Did You Miss the Home Selling Boat?


Worried you missed your window when it comes to selling your home this year? It’s true that spring and summer are the hottest (literally) seasons of the year, with more buyers out there looking to purchase a home and get settled before school starts. Also, there is some recent data out there that says that October and December are two of the slowest months of the year for home sales. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t offload your home now, or that you won’t get a good price if you do. If you have to list now and you want to get your home in the best position to sell quickly and for a good number, heed these tips. 

Make sure your home is market-ready

Buyers at this time of year tend to be serious. They may not be any more excited about buying right now than you are about selling, but they’re in the market because of a relocation or a financial situation or some other circumstance, and they likely want to find something, get it under contract, and move in fairly quickly. 

A home that’s not in great shape is typically going to take longer to sell at any time of year—unless it’s a super bargain. When there are limited buyers out there and you’ve got competition from other area homes, your place has to show well. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean you need expensive or extensive renovations. But a relatively inexpensive yet incredibly important update like painting out kitchen cabinets can go a long way. Following the basic rules of home staging is also critical:

• Scour and tidy up
• Declutter
• Depersonalize

Your real estate agent may have some other suggestions to make your home more sellable.

Celebrate the season

A few pumpkins, a fall wreath, a couple of candles with an autumnal scent or a simmering pot of cinnamon sticks—they’re little touches that can help your home feel more inviting and more fall-like for showings, without going overboard. Your Halloween décor may be stellar, but real estate agents steer sellers away from over-decorating so buyers aren’t distracted or turned off. 

Put in a little extra effort for great photos

"According to one study done by a real estate photography company, top-notch photos can make your house sell 32% faster than a house with low quality or average pictures,” said Homelight. “That’s not just for million-dollar mansions, either. The study, conducted by VHT Studios, took houses of all values into account.”

It might be a little more challenging to get those photos in fall, however; Natural light is preferable for listing photos. “Fall and winter photos run the risk of looking drab, but well-timed summer photos are bright, clean, warm—really everything you need to stand out to serious buyers. So take advantage of the season’s best days and include those photos in the listing when you go to sell in the fall,” said

If good natural light is hard to come by at this time of year in your area, using a professional photographer is even more important. They will have tricks to help overcome the challenges.

Let There Be Light

Emphasizing the natural light in photos is one thing. You also want your home to look as light and bright as possible for showings and tours. “Retract blinds, and widen curtains, so there’s minimal window coverage,” said HGTV

“The windows will look bigger, and it’ll encourage daylight to flow into your space. Experiment with your lightbulbs to find the most flattering hues for your space. A bathroom looks great with daylight bulbs (5,000-6,500K) and living spaces, such as bedrooms and living rooms, look best with soft white bulbs (2,700K). In general, your home’s design and color palette will play a part in what looks most appealing. Go for cozy and bright. If you’re upgrading bulbs in hard-wired fixtures, consider going all LED. Let the buyers know you’re leaving the bulbs for them.”

Be mindful of your curb appeal

Falling leaves are inevitable in autumn. You may not be able to rake or remove every single one of them in time for a surprise or last-minute showing, but making sure you take a walk around your house every day to address any areas that need clean-up can help you from having to make a big effort when an agent calls with an interested client.

You know what they say: You only get one chance to make a first impression. “Rake dead leaves and debris in your lawn,” said The Balance. “Don't let overgrown vegetation block the windows or path to the entrance. Cutting bushes and tree limbs will let the sun inside and showcase the exterior of your home. Cutaway summer vines and cut down dead flowers. Make the most of the autumn weather in the fall real estate market.” 

Adding a few fall flowers is another good idea that will up your curb appeal. “The most popular autumn flowers are chrysanthemums (or mums), and they bloom for a long time. Marigolds are another idea for fall. Both mums and marigolds are available in yellow, which is my number one home selling color. Plant them in pots. Place pots on the steps and along the sidewalk.”

Key in on your target market

Your agent should be able to help you pinpoint who the most likely buyers are. Armed with that info, you can tailor your home to specific target markets. 

“If you have a hunch your house may appeal to empty-nesters, here’s how to play up that attraction: Emphasize multipurpose space—for instance, stage one bedroom as a home office-cum-hobby room—because empty-nesters crave flexibility for the future,” said Bob Vila. “Provide a map to points of interest within walking distance. To the extent possible, aging baby boomers wish to integrate exercise into their daily habits. Showcase quality. Without teenagers around, empty-nesters can enjoy more delicate finishes and fine details, so give them something to brag about. They want to upgrade as they downsize.”

 SOURCE: REALTY TIMES- by Jaymi Naciri

4 Ways to Save When Selling Your Home


Selling your home can be a thrilling and very lucrative experience. But for the first-time home seller, it can also be nerve-wracking and deflating. 

That’s because selling the largest investment of your life can be counterintuitively expensive. Getting your home ready to be scrutinized by strangers takes a lot of cash and elbow grease.

As the saying goes, it takes money to make money. However, there are some easy ways to cut down on your front-end expenses to make your home sell more profitable. Let’s look at five of the best.

Stage Your House Yourself

Professional home staging is expensive. The average cost of staging a home is just over $1,000, and renting furniture can add more. That’s the bad news. The good news is, you can do a lot of home staging yourself.

At base, the art of home staging is simply making a home as appealing as possible to prospective buyers; there’s a reason that real estate agents say that people “buy with their eyes.” You want to show your home in the best possible light, and help buyers envision the potential of your living space. That’s easier for a trained, objective expert to do, but you can get a great result if you follow a few general rules.

If you hired a professional stager, they’d likely deep clean your home before they staged it, so start with that. Clean the floors, walls, windows, appliances, and trim; if your home needs a lot of work, hiring a professional cleaning crew might be a good investment.

Next, consider that the key to a beautiful photo or film is the lighting. Remove all window coverings, like blinds or drapes, to admit natural light

Now consider your furniture. If it’s out-of-date or in poor condition, put it in storage or throw it out. Even if your furniture is up-to-date and in great condition, keep in mind that having too much furniture crammed into space is just as bad as not having any at all. You want to have enough furniture in your home to make it warm and inviting, but keep enough open space so that prospective buyers can project their own tastes onto the home.

The “less is more” rule definitely applies here; above all, make sure your home doesn’t look cluttered.

Pre-Sale Inspection

A pre-sale inspection can save you money and a lot of potential stress. If you wait until the buyer’s inspection to discover problems with the house, that could mean choosing between a price reduction or paying for a list of repairs on the buyer’s timeline. 

The average cost of a pre-sale inspection is just over $300 and covers everything from the roof, foundation, plumbing, HVAC systems, the chimney and fireplace, and exterior features of the home like sidewalks. 

Discovering problems with your home ahead of time allows you to perform repairs at your own pace, shopping around for the best contractor rates, instead of having them done in a panic. 

It’s also a great marketing advantage. Telling prospective buyers that your home has undergone a pre-sale inspection, followed by repairs and remediation, encourages them to bid with confidence.

Low-Cost Repairs

Even if your home doesn’t require any major repairs, freshening it up a little can pay huge benefits when it hits the market. And we’re not talking about a new roof or an in-ground pool; some of the most effective repairs are also some of the cheapest.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

A new paint job can make a home look warmer, cleaner, and brighter; it’s also a job that can be done in a weekend, for the cost of paint, some drop cloths, and a few rollers.

If you decide to paint the interior of your home before you put it on the market, choose your colors carefully. Though white may seem like the obvious choice, it can seem harsh and institutional and shows dirt easily. Opt for a softer, off-white tone for more aesthetically pleasing walls. 

White does work for ceilings, though. Painting the ceiling a lighter color than the walls makes the ceilings seem higher, which makes the entire room seem larger. Just remember to invest in high-quality paint; the smoother, more uniform texture makes a big difference.

Clean Carpets

Carpets can take a beating in a busy, family home, and worn or stained carpets can make a huge negative impression on prospective buyers. But a lot of staining, matting, and apparent wear can be cured by a thorough cleaning.

Even if your carpet still looks good, it might have a faint odor that you’ve become nose-blind to, so deep cleaning is always a good idea.

The easiest way to thoroughly clean your carpets is to rent a steam cleaner. Make sure you follow the directions and don’t use too much cleaning solution, which can leave an unsightly residue. Afterward, opening windows and using fans can speed up the drying process. 

Fixing the Roof

A new roof isn’t exactly “low cost,” considering it can be the single most expensive home repair of all, but if you do have roof problems, it’s better to deal with it before you put your home on the market, rather than let it become an issue down the road.

In 2017, the U.S. Census found that Americans spent an average of $6,800 to replace their roofs. Considering that 50% of that cost is labor, you could assume that the materials for replacing your roof cost about $3,400. 

If it’s a relatively simple matter of replacing shingles, you can cobble together the expertise from YouTube and some DIY books, you could probably repair your roof yourself. You could do the first part of the work and remove the old shingles yourself, before having pros install the new ones. Either way, you could get yourself a shiny new roof far below the average sticker price of $20,000.


USDA Loans: They’re Not Just for Homes in the Boonies

USDA Loans: They’re Not Just for Homes in the Boonies

Have you checked out USDA loans? If you’re a low- or moderate-income homebuyer who doesn’t have a lot of money for a down payment and who needs lenient credit requirements, you (or your lender) are probably focused on FHA loans. But if you haven’t taken a look at USDA loans, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity.

If you’re saying to yourself, “But USDA loans are only for homes out in the sticks,” we get it. It’s true that the loans were designed to help buyers in rural areas. But “rural” is a broader term than you may know. 

On the USDA website, you can enter an address in the search bar and check if it's eligible, or you can drop a pin in a location to find out whether USDA financing is available in the area. We tested a couple of locations with interesting results: Frisco, TX, currently the fastest-growing city in the nation, is not eligible for a USDA loan, but Prosper, just to the north and is called, “The next Frisco,” is. The popular Valencia, CA masterplan north of Los Angeles is not eligible, but areas of Santa Clarita, the city in which Valencia is located, are. 

For single-family homes, there are two main options for USDA loans: 


USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program

There is no down payment required for this type of loan and the low minimum credit score requirement—scores as low as 620 make the cut—make it even more attractive for buyers. 

Your income must fall within the “moderate” category, which is defined as an amount below 115% of the area’s median income. You can check by state and county here. Loans are for 15 or 30 years, and there is no limit to the amount of square footage on eligible properties. 


USDA Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans

This program is intended for low-income homebuyers. Down payment requirements are low, and subsidies can take the down payment to zero. “Payment assistance, also known as a subsidy, is granted to eligible very low- and low-income homeowners who obtain a Single Family Housing Section 502 Direct Loan from USDA Rural Development,” said the USDA

“The borrower signs RD Form 3550-12, Subsidy Repayment Agreement, at loan closing. The agreement outlines the subsidy repayment terms, the requirement to repay all or a portion of the subsidy received over the life of the loan (i.e., subsidy recapture), and how subsidy recapture is calculated.”

Loans are for 33 or 38 years, and income limits are strict; you can see individual county limits here. In addition, the USDA mandates that properties generally be 2,000 square feet or less. The direct loan typically requires a 640 minimum credit score.


New Savings Trick: Paying Your Rent With a Credit Card

New Savings Trick: Paying Your Rent With a Credit Card


Should you pay your rent with your credit card?

Nowadays, consumers can pay most of their bills with a credit card," said Experian. “Even stores that used to require cash or debit cards allow credit cards. But one hurdle remains - rent. Many tenants still have to use old-school checks to pay rent, even when credit cards are almost universally accepted elsewhere.”

It’s true, landlords are among the last to embrace credit cards. But that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. It might only take one conversation to get him or her to see the benefits of making the switch, like having a faster and easier way to collect rent instead of trekking to the mailbox or post office box every day, waiting for a check to arrive. 

If your landlord won’t budge, you can always use a service like Plastiq, which allows you to pay with a credit card, even in places where they’re not accepted. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind that there is a 2.5% fee for this service.

The key to making rent payments with a credit card is taking advantage of bonus offers and points. “Many cards offer sign-up bonuses if you spend a certain amount with 90 days and for some people, that minimum can only be reached if they pay rent with the credit card,” said Experian. “If you sign up for a credit card with a $200 bonus if you spend $5,000 in three months, putting your $900 rent payment can help you reach that minimum spend.”

The combination of bonuses and points help you earn rewards for things like travel and gifts, and may also be able to be redeemed for cash. “Credit card blogger Keith Rosso bought a $60,000 Tesla with a credit card last year using the Chase Ink Business Preferred,” said CNBC. “That earned him 3 points per dollar on the purchase, which outweighed Plastiq’s 2.5 percent fee. Depending on how he redeemed those rewards, he estimated that they could be worth as much as $5,000.”

Two of the top cards in terms of rewards are the Discover it® Cash Back, which offers up to 5% cashback “at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.” There is a 1% bonus on other purchases. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has a more tiered cash-back bonus structure, with as much as 6% back, up to $6,000 (then it drops to 1%) and a $250 bonus.

Managing your credit card

Once you have secured a credit card with a rewards structure, you’ll want to use it to its best advantage. Pay attention to the small print; American Express isn't the only card with tiered rewards. It may behoove you to use it everywhere you can if you’re at least getting a 1% cashback reward, but, if you’re planning to use it more sparingly, get the best bang for your literal buck. It may be that you get a higher percentage of cashback at restaurants, so perhaps you reserve the card for when you eat out. You’ll also want to check with your lender if you are thinking about buying a home so you don’t ding your credit by taking out a new credit card or running up your balance. 

Look for added extras and stacked bonuses, too. There are often special bonuses for using cards at gas stations, and if there is one connected to your supermarket, you may be able to save money on gas once you get to a certain threshold with your grocery spend. 

Once you do buy a home, you can pay your mortgage with your cash-back card and continue racking up those points. This couple “paid $100,000 of their mortgage with a credit card and earned $2,000 in rewards.” 

They also found a creative way to get around that 2.5% fee for using Plastiq; “Plastiq waives the fee on $1,000 in purchases for every person you refer to the service who makes a qualified payment over $500,” they said on CNBC. “This strategy worked so well for me because I have referred almost 300 people now with my website. At $1,000 in fee-free dollars per referral, that is $300,000 in fee-free payments I have earned.”


Can’t Afford to Buy a Home? Have You Looked Into Down Payment Assistance?


What’s the No. 1 reason renters fear taking the leap to homeownership or don't even think the leap is possible? That pesky down payment. Even with an FHA loan that requires a minimum of only 3.5% down, the idea of setting aside several thousand dollars is daunting at the least (and, in many cases, darn near impossible).


A survey from Apartment List shows that most millennial homebuyers can’t come up with the funds for a down payment. “Seventy-two percent of millennial renters who plan to purchase a home cite affordability as a reason that they are delaying homeownership, with 62 percent pinpointing a lack of down payment savings specifically,” they said. “Forty-eight percent of millennial renters have zero down payment savings, while just 11 percent have saved $10,000 or more.”

Down payment assistance programs can fill in the gap, but many buyers don’t even know they exist. “Down payment assistance can come from many different sources— including federal, state, county, city and nonprofit agencies—and aren't always well-publicized,” said U.S News & World Report. Anyone who is interested in down payment assistance is encouraged to check with their real estate agent or lender, but doing your own research is key. 

In Texas this week, Wells Fargo & Co., NeighborWorks America, and the Business & Community Lenders of Texas rolled out the NeighborhoodLIFT program, a new down payment assistance program promoting sustainable homeownership in the northern part of the state. This program is so new that some industry professionals might not even know it exists.

NeighborhoodLIFT offers up to $15,000 in down payment assistance plus homebuyer education to eligible families in Dallas as well as Tarrant County. Eligibility is based on income. In addition, “Military service members and veterans, teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians may reserve down payment assistance grants of $17,500 and earn up to 100% of the area median income,” said NBCDFW.

How to find down payment assistance:

1. Do a national search.

You’ll be surprised how many programs you can find. “Do you even know that down payment assistance (DPA) programs exist? You’re in good company if you don’t,” said The Mortgage Reports. “These programs help homebuyers with loans or grants that reduce the amount they need to save for a down payment. And there are more than 2,000 of them nationwide.”

2. Check out statewide programs. 

From the HUD site, you can search by every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to see which programs are available for you. 

3. Now take it local.

Don't forget to check for programs in your city. The City of Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) offers up to $90,000 in financial assistance for first-time, low-income homebuyers. In Memphis, there is a zero-interest deferred loan that provides funding for first-time homebuyers’ down payment and closing costs for eligible homebuyers through its Division of Housing and Community Development (HCD). In Miami, you may be able to get a forgivable zero-interest deferred MDEAT Homeownership Assistance Program (HAP) loan; the program was designed “to increase the number of first-time home purchases for low-to-moderate-income residents living in Miami-Dade County.”

4. Search by your profession. 

If you’re a current or former member of the military, you likely already know about VA loans. Did you know they require no down payment? 

The Neighbor Next Door Program is another good one. This program for law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and teachers requires only a $100 down payment for eligible homebuyers. Because the program is tied to the idea of revitalization, homes in these communities are offered to eligible buyers at a 50% discount. Buyers must commit to living in-home for at least three years. 


4 Top tips for selling your home


If you are looking to sell your house, and it has been on the market for a while? Are you asking “why isn’t my house selling”? Make sure you have taken the tips below into account:

Curb Appeal

Make sure you have hit these points:

  • Is your lawn mown?
  • Are your flower-beds tidy?
  • Are your fences painted?
  • Are your windows clean?
  • Are your gutters clean?

Remove personal items

When it comes to people viewing your house, buyers want to see a blank canvas and be able to see where they can make their personal touches.

That dog bed and dog toys should be put away or hidden out of view. The homework from the night before should be in the children's bedrooms.

Your collection of 2000AD comics should be in a cupboard.

Odors & Cleanliness at the property

Before you start offering viewings, make sure you have checked the list below and carried out a few of the tasks:

  • Drains
    Make sure you have cleaned all of the drains in the property, including flushing the sinks and toilets through with cleaner.
  • Windows
    Make sure you clean all the windows in the house, including conservatories and porches.
  • Vacuum
  • Vacuum the house all the way through, moving the sofa and the chairs for a thorough cleaning.
  • Dust
    Make sure you dust the doors, basically any and all surfaces should be cleaned and dusted


Make the property is inviting. Light some lightly scented candles or bake some cookies an hour before the viewing. This will allow buyers to get that homey feeling when they walk in.


If you make your house look as presentable and clean as possible, it will allow you to sell your home much quicker than if you were to present it in the day-to-day state that you usually live in it.
You could always hire a professional cleaning service, the most effective way of getting at those chores that you just don’t like to do or see.

SOURCE: REALTY TIMES by James Stevenson

Selling Your Home Soon? Get That Outdoor Kitchen in Order!


Getting ready to list your home and looking for some a smart update to make before it hits the MLS? If your indoor kitchen is already nicely updated and shows well, an outdoor kitchen might be the answer. 

According to REALTOR magazine, outdoor kitchens continue to be a “major draw. The appeal of outdoor living continues to be important to homeowners, and the outdoor kitchen is at the center of that,” they said. “The latest American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey shows that outdoor kitchens are among the most wanted kitchen features in new architectural projects.”

In fact, almost 50% of the architects who responded to the survey “reported the popularity of outdoor kitchens is still growing,” and not just in “warmer climates like Florida, Texas, and California—outdoor kitchens are also taking hold in colder areas like the Northeast.”

The problem with outdoor kitchens is they can get pricey. “Outdoor kitchens are known for being expensive,” said HGTV. “Factor in durable, weather-resistant materials, quality appliances and electrical and plumbing installation, and you may feel like you're tackling a full kitchen renovation.”

There are ways to keep costs down, though. Figuring out the secret sauce so you spend just the right amount to attract interest and get a good return on your investment instead of overspending is key. 

Watch for sales

You may think it’s a poor time to add an outdoor kitchen because we’re heading toward the end of the summer, but it’s actually a great time to buy a grill. “To get a deep discount on a gas grill or charcoal grill, the best time to buy is in September and the Fall,” said The Spruce Eats. “You have to wait until the summer grilling season is truly over and stores are eager to get all remaining grills out the door.”

While you’re at it, look for deals on patio furniture and things like fire pits, too. Staging your outdoor area is a good way to help buyers picture themselves living there, and the bonus is you get to take your new stuff with you!

Stay away from custom

Custom built-ins can make your costs skyrocket. “First, consider purchasing a pre-made outdoor grill island or bar-style structure,” said HGTV. “This can help to eliminate what can be costly custom improvements like concrete countertops and stone bases. It's also a great solution for homeowners who would like to take the grilling station with them for a future home.”

Search, search, search

Don’t limit yourself to big box stores when looking for materials. “Look to reuse-it centers and salvage yards for inexpensive outdoor kitchen cabinets, countertops, building supplies, apartment-size appliances, and other materials you can upcycle to flush out your budget-friendly outdoor kitchen,” said Better Homes and Gardens

DIY that sucker

If you’re a little bit handy, or just good at following directions, you can create an amazing grill island that looks like a custom job. “If you have a space for it, this DIY grill island is the perfect outdoor kitchen,” said DIY & Crafts. “You can have this one built in a weekend if you have a few friends that will help with the heavy work. It can be covered in stone when it’s finished, which gives it a wonderful appearance or you could cover it in brick or another material. This is a pretty simple one to build and is sure to save you a bundle over having one professionally built.”

Be smart about adding water and power to your island

"Running gas lines, electricity and water to an outdoor island is fairly expensive," said DIY Network. “If you're on a tight budget, you might want to consider using propane bottles to fuel your grill."


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