10 Ways to Prepare for Homeownership

It’s time to stop paying rent! So what is the next step?

1. Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.

2. Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list.

3. Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.

4. Start saving. Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment?  Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.

5. Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.
6. Determine your mortgage qualifications. How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.

7. Get preapproved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements.

8. Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.

9. Calculate the costs of homeownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.

10. Contact a REALTOR®. Find an experienced REALTOR® who can help guide you through the process.

I am here to help you through this process!

All my best, 
Myra Spano, REALTOR® 
 

About the Author:
 
Myra Spano is a service and results oriented real estate agent with her client’s goals as top priority.  Myra is recognized as a top producing agent in her office in Virginia Beach and enjoys working with both buyers and those selling their homes.
 

For information about purchasing a home in Virginia Beach, visit her website.  This site is focused on homes available for sale in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Email, call or text to make an appointment begin your home search.


If you are considering selling your home in Virginia Beach or one of the surrounding areas, visit the seller’s website to request a Free Market Analysis of your property.
 
Myra Spano & Prudential Towne Realty is awaiting to provide the real estate guidance you need.  Contact us now to make your home dreams come true!

First-Time Homebuyers Face the Opportunity of a Lifetime

Today’s first-time homebuyers are presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. Mortgage rates in early December stood near lows last seen during the Truman administration while home prices were well off their peaks of previous years. The combination made housing affordability, as measured by the National Association of REALTORS®, the highest since NAR® launched its Affordability Index in 1973.

Housing inventory is also abundant in many markets, enabling first-timers to secure good homes and pave the way to their financial futures. Indeed, homes and their long-term virtues of shelter, wealth-building and personal and civic pride are available at bargain-basement prices that won’t, or can’t, last.

Naturally, first-timers have many questions about home buying, starting with costs. With research and the services of a licensed real estate professional, these consumers can demystify the process and place themselves on the fast track to homeownership.

Knowledge is power – Nine out of every 10 home searches today begin on the Internet. With just a few mouse clicks, you can peruse neighborhoods, search countless online listings and take virtual tours packed with detailed photographs. The process gives you working knowledge of home availability and pricing in your local markets so by the time you sit down with your real estate sales professional you’re well on your way.

Affordability – Costs involved in the purchase of a home – mortgage, down payment and closing expenditures – can be overwhelming to first-time homebuyers. By looking at your income and debt ratio, your real estate professional can help you calculate how much you can afford each month in mortgage payments. But before determining your price range, you should also take into consideration other factors that will affect your monthly budget once you are a homeowner, such as property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance. And if your down payment is less than 20 percent of the cost of the home, you will be responsible for private mortgage insurance.

Mortgage payment – In today’s buyers market, you may face competition for your dream home. To establish your spending limit and gain the ability to move quickly on a home, get pre-approved for a loan before you start looking. The fact that your loan has already been approved is of great value to the seller because it shortens the purchase process, and there is less of a chance that the buyer will back out of the sale. This process will also help you identify any credit challenges you must address prior to your purchase.

If you don’t have a specific mortgage lender in mind, ask your sales professional for a recommendation.

Down payment – The down payment amount varies depending on the value of the home you choose and your mortgage lender. First-time homebuyers may also qualify for down-payment assistance programs and grants available through their states and municipalities. Contact your state housing finance authority, county housing and community development office for an application.

Closing costs must be factored in as well. These include origination fees charged by the lender, title and settlement fees, taxes and prepaid items such as homeowners insurance or homeowner association fees. All told, buyers should spend no more than 28% of their income on housing costs, according to Fannie Mae. Your real estate professional will be able to explain your options.

Making offers – Make sure you visit several different homes to get a feel for the marketplace. Visit the ones you like again to see things you might have missed. Work with your real estate professional to get all of your questions answered before making an offer. And remember there are no silly questions. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with every aspect of the transaction.

Indeed, home ownership remains a sound financial decision for most and a key component of long-term financial planning. First-time buyers who seek homes for all the right reasons – a place to raise a family, build for the future and face life’s opportunities and challenges – can secure their dreams and build for their futures at some of the most attractive values in years.

All my best, 
Myra Spano, REALTOR® 
 

About the Author:
 
Myra Spano is a service and results oriented real estate agent with her client’s goals as top priority.  Myra is recognized as a top producing agent in her office in Virginia Beach and enjoys working with both buyers and those selling their homes.
 

For information about purchasing a home in Virginia Beach, visit her website.  This site is focused on homes available for sale in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Email, call or text to make an appointment begin your home search.


If you are considering selling your home in Virginia Beach or one of the surrounding areas, visit the seller’s website to request a Free Market Analysis of your property.
 
Myra Spano & Prudential Towne Realty is awaiting to provide the real estate guidance you need.  Contact us now to make your home dreams come true!

What You Can Do to Improve Your Credit

Credit scores, along with your overall income and debt, are big factors in determining whether you’ll qualify for a loan and what your loan terms will be. So, keep your credit score high by doing the following:

1. Check for and correct any errors in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone else’s poor financial management.

2. Pay down credit card bills. If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. Transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.

3. Don’t charge your credit cards to the maximum limit.

4. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You’re penalized less for problems after a year.

5. Don’t order items for your new home on credit — such as appliances and furniture — until after the loan is approved. The amounts will add to your debt.

6. Don’t open new credit card accounts before applying for a mortgage. Too much available credit can lower your score.

7. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a short period of time.

8. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be considered a sign of poor credit management.

9. Check out these links: The Basics of Credit Scoring and Insider Secrets to an Optimal Credit Score. I highly recommend you checking out these links for additional information.

If you apply all these suggestions, taking them one at a time, your credit will be shining pretty! Call me if you want more help on this. I can get you set up on a personal program.

This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation.

All my best, 
Myra Spano, REALTOR® 
 

About the Author:
 
Myra Spano is a service and results oriented real estate agent with her client’s goals as top priority.  Myra is recognized as a top producing agent in her office in Virginia Beach and enjoys working with both buyers and those selling their homes.
 

For information about purchasing a home in Virginia Beach, visit her website.  This site is focused on homes available for sale in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Email, call or text to make an appointment begin your home search.


If you are considering selling your home in Virginia Beach or one of the surrounding areas, visit the seller’s website to request a Free Market Analysis of your property.
 
Myra Spano & Prudential Towne Realty is awaiting to provide the real estate guidance you need.  Contact us now to make your home dreams come true!

Pros and Cons of Going Condo

We’ve all asked the question… Condo or not? Condominiums and townhouses offer an affordable option to single-family homes in many markets, and they’re ideal for those who appreciate a maintenance-free lifestyle. But before you buy, make sure you do your legwork. These are some of the important elements to consider:

  • Storage. Some condos have storage lockers, but usually there are no attics or basements to hold extra belongings.
  • Outdoor space. Yards and outdoor areas are usually smaller in condos, so if you like to garden or entertain outdoors, this may not be a good fit. However, if you dread yard work, this may be the perfect option for you.
  • Amenities. Many condo properties have swimming pools, fitness centers, and other facilities that would be very expensive in a single-family home.
  • Maintenance. Many condos have onsite maintenance personnel to care for common areas, do repairs in your unit, and let in workers when you’re not home — good news if you like to travel.
  • Security. Keyed entries and even doormen are common in many condos. You’re also closer to other people in case of an emergency.
  • Reserve funds and association fees. Although fees generally help pay for amenities and provide savings for future repairs, you will have to pay the fees decided by the condo board, whether or not you’re interested in the amenity.
  • Resale. The ease of selling your unit may be dependent on what else is for sale in your building, since units are usually fairly similar.
  • Condo rules. Although you have a vote, the rules of the condo association can affect your ability to use your property. For example, some condos prohibit home-based businesses. Others prohibit pets, or don’t allow owners to rent out their units. Read the covenants, restrictions, and bylaws of the condo carefully before you make an offer.
  • Neighbors. You’re much closer to your neighbors in a condo or town home. If possible, try to meet your closest prospective neighbors.

These are just a few helpful guidelines to keep in mind when considering investing in living the condominium and/or townhouse lifestyle.

All my best, 
Myra Spano, REALTOR® 
 

About the Author:
 
Myra Spano is a service and results oriented real estate agent with her client’s goals as top priority.  Myra is recognized as a top producing agent in her office in Virginia Beach and enjoys working with both buyers and those selling their homes.
 

For information about purchasing a home in Virginia Beach, visit her website.  This site is focused on homes available for sale in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Email, call or text to make an appointment begin your home search.


If you are considering selling your home in Virginia Beach or one of the surrounding areas, visit the seller’s website to request a Free Market Analysis of your property.
 
Myra Spano & Prudential Towne Realty is awaiting to provide the real estate guidance you need.  Contact us now to make your home dreams come true!

Understand Agency Relationships

Have you wondered who is really on your side in a real estate deal?

Well, it is very important to understand what legal responsibilities your real estate salesperson has to you and to other parties in the transaction. Ask what type of agency relationship your agent has with you. If you are working with us, we go over this information during the contract review and explain in detail how we are helping you.

It’s a little confusing at first, but here’s a simple breakdown:

Seller’s representative (also known as a listing agent or seller’s agent)

A seller’s agent is hired by and represents the seller. All fiduciary duties are owed to the seller. The agency relationship usually is created by a listing contract.

Buyer’s representative (also known as a buyer’s agent)

A buyer’s agent is hired by prospective buyers to represent them in a real estate transaction. The buyer’s rep works in the buyer’s best interest throughout the transaction and owes fiduciary duties to the buyer. The buyer can pay the licensee directly through a negotiated fee, or the buyer’s rep may be paid by the seller or through a commission split with the seller’s agent.

Subagent

A subagent owes the same fiduciary duties to the agent’s customer as the agent does. Subagency usually arises when a cooperating sales associate from another brokerage, who is not the buyer’s agent, shows property to a buyer. In such a case, the subagent works with the buyer as a customer but owes fiduciary duties to the listing broker and the seller. Although a subagent cannot assist the buyer in any way that would be detrimental to the seller, a buyer-customer can expect to be treated honestly by the subagent. It is important that subagents fully explain their duties to buyers.

Disclosed dual agent

Dual agency is a relationship in which the brokerage firm represents both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. Dual agency relationships do not carry with them all of the traditional fiduciary duties to clients. Instead, dual agents owe limited fiduciary duties. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest in a dual-agency relationship, it’s vital that all parties give their informed consent. In many states, this consent must be in writing. Disclosed dual agency, in which both the buyer and the seller are told that the agent is representing both of them, is legal in most states.

Designated agent (also called appointed agent)

This is a brokerage practice that allows the managing broker to designate which licensees in the brokerage will act as an agent of the seller and which will act as an agent of the buyer. Designated agency avoids the problem of creating a dual-agency relationship for licensees at the brokerage. The designated agents give their clients full representation, with all of the attendant fiduciary duties. The broker still has the responsibility of supervising both groups of licensees.

Nonagency relationship (called, among other things, a transaction broker or facilitator)

Some states permit a real estate licensee to have a type of nonagency relationship with a consumer. These relationships vary considerably from state to state, both as to the duties owed to the consumer and the name used to describe them. Very generally, the duties owed to the consumer in a nonagency relationship are less than the complete, traditional fiduciary duties of an agency relationship.

It is very important that you have someone representing YOU in the transaction. Do you have personal representation? If you are not sure, please call me and I will help you find out.

All my best, 
Myra Spano, REALTOR® 
 

About the Author:
 
Myra Spano is a service and results oriented real estate agent with her client’s goals as top priority.  Myra is recognized as a top producing agent in her office in Virginia Beach and enjoys working with both buyers and those selling their homes.
 

For information about purchasing a home in Virginia Beach, visit her website.  This site is focused on homes available for sale in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Email, call or text to make an appointment begin your home search.


If you are considering selling your home in Virginia Beach or one of the surrounding areas, visit the seller’s website to request a Free Market Analysis of your property.
 
Myra Spano & Prudential Towne Realty is awaiting to provide the real estate guidance you need.  Contact us now to make your home dreams come true!

Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home’s Exterior

We get so comfortable living in our homes and often forget to keep the exterior in top notch shape.

Here are some helpful suggestions to make your home more appealing for yourself and potential buyers with these quick and easy tips.

1. Trim bushes so they don’t block windows or architectural details.

2. Mow your lawn, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before the showing to make the lawn sparkle.

3. Put a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch.

4. Install new doorknobs on your front door.

5. Repair any cracks in the driveway.

6. Edge the grass around walkways and trees.

7. Keep your garden tools and hoses out of sight.

8. Clear toys from the lawn.

9. Buy a new mailbox.

10. Upgrade your outside lighting.

11. Buy a new doormat for the outside of your front door.

12. Clean your windows, inside and outside.

13. Polish or replace your house numbers.

14. Place a seasonal wreath on your door.

This list is simple, easy to do!  I know you can do it…   Let me know what things you have done to spruce up the exterior of your home and if you have any more ideas to add to this list, by all means, please share.

All my best, 
Myra Spano, REALTOR® 
 

About the Author:
 
Myra Spano is a service and results oriented real estate agent with her client’s goals as top priority.  Myra is recognized as a top producing agent in her office in Virginia Beach and enjoys working with both buyers and those selling their homes.
 

For information about purchasing a home in Virginia Beach, visit her website.  This site is focused on homes available for sale in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Email, call or text to make an appointment begin your home search.


If you are considering selling your home in Virginia Beach or one of the surrounding areas, visit the seller’s website to request a Free Market Analysis of your property.
 
Myra Spano & Prudential Towne Realty is awaiting to provide the real estate guidance you need.  Contact us now to make your home dreams come true!

8 Reasons Why You Should Work With a REALTOR®

Did you know that there is a HUGE difference between a Real Estate Agent and a REALTOR®?

ABSOLUTELY! Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Here’s why it pays to work with a REALTOR®.

1. Navigate a complicated process. Buying or selling a home usually requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multipage settlement statements. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes.

2. Information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local community information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They’ll also be able to provide objective information about each property. A professional will be able to help you answer these two important questions: Will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell?

3. Help finding the best property out there. Sometimes the property you are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market, and it will take some investigation by your REALTOR® to find all available properties.

4. Negotiating skills. There are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession, and inclusion or exclusion of repairs, furnishings, or equipment. In addition, the purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

5.  Property marketing power. Real estate doesn’t sell due to advertising alone. In fact, a large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, and family. When a property is marketed with the help of a REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

6. Someone who speaks the language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with a professional who is immersed in the industry and knows the real estate language.

7. Experience. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. Even if you have done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS®, on the other hand, handle hundreds of real estate transactions over the course of their career. Having an expert on your side is critical.

8. Objective voice. A home often symbolizes family, rest, and security — it’s not just four walls and a roof. Because of this, homebuying and selling can be an emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll every make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on both the emotional and financial issues most important to you.

So just to sum it up, before you do anything that is real estate related, you may want to consult with a professional REALTOR®.

And as always, I am here to help!

All my best, 
Myra Spano, REALTOR® 
 

About the Author:
 
Myra Spano is a service and results oriented real estate agent with her client’s goals as top priority.  Myra is recognized as a top producing agent in her office in Virginia Beach and enjoys working with both buyers and those selling their homes.
 

For information about purchasing a home in Virginia Beach, visit her website.  This site is focused on homes available for sale in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Email, call or text to make an appointment begin your home search.


If you are considering selling your home in Virginia Beach or one of the surrounding areas, visit the seller’s website to request a Free Market Analysis of your property.
 
Myra Spano & Prudential Towne Realty is awaiting to provide the real estate guidance you need.  Contact us now to make your home dreams come true!

Tips, Hints and Insights for Savvy People

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