Buying a house starts with getting your ducks in a row.

Buying a house starts with getting your ducks in a row

Buying a house starts with getting your ducks in a row. If you do, you’ll have a much smoother transaction with much less stress. Where do you start? Not with a Realtor.

Duck Number 1

Buying a house starts with talking to a qualified and reputable lender. There is no sense Buying a house starts with getting your ducks in a rowin riding around looking at houses if you don’t have a really good idea of what you can spend. Start with a lender.

A lender will look at your assets, debts, income and other resources to see what you can actually afford. You want to know that up front. Having that number in your head will keep you from looking at homes you fall in love with, but you can’t buy.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your mortgage payment 40% or less of your monthly income. Some lenders will allow you to go to 50%, but at some point, you end up house poor and no longer loving your beautiful new home. Find that magic number and then decide what you feel comfortable with. Carry that visit with your lender through to the pre-approval process. It is more attractive to a buyer than a pre-qualification.

The pre-approval from a lender means the lender has looked at your bank statements, tax returns and other documents that confirm your income and expenses. A pre-qualification is based on your word about your ability to buy. The hard copies of your statements give the lender the confidence to put a number on your pre-approval that he/she knows you can pay. Go with the pre-approval. 

Duck Number 2

Once you’ve found your magic number, stop spending as much money as you can. Don’t use your credit cards any more than you can pay off each month. Keep your debt low and paid consistently and on time. Don’t go out and buy a new car, a house full of furniture or anything else that would create a revolving monthly payment.

Pay your cell phone, your electric bill, your cable bill, your water bill, your car payment, your student loans, your credit cards, and any other debt you now have – on-time every-time from the day you meet the lender until you close on your house.

Duck Number 3

When buying a house, hire a qualified, responsive, interested, engaged and professional real estate agent. I use this long list of adjectives because not everyone meets this bar (and they should). Interview different agents to see if you feel comfortable with the person. Make sure your personalities flow together smoothly.

Find someone who has experience, and make sure they know how to work all phases of the real estate business. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid of offending them.They understand.This will be one of the biggest events in your life, and you want your agent to be an asset to you and not anything else.

Do a social media search for the agent your contemplating. Look at their Facebook page, website, Linked In page, and any other social media site Realtors may frequent. Google their name and see if they show up in the Google listings. See if there are good and bad reviews online. Remember, some bad review may simply be someone trying to derail the agent’s business for their own personal reasons, and some good reviews may just be family. But, if the reviews are consistent across the board, you may have found a match.

Duck Number 4

When buying a house, do your first home showings in the agent’s office. Narrow down your criteria so that you can spend your time fastidiously. Remember, driving around with a great Realtor looking at 100 houses is creating a deficit for the Realtor. The wasted hours spend looking at houses that have not chance of becoming your home are wasted hours and no income for the agent.

Narrow down your search in their office and then head out. I had two clients look at 60 houses a piece. They were back to back clients and it took three months to look at 120 houses. During those three months, I let multiple ready-to-buy clients go because I had appointments with those two clients. They both bought, but it is hard to tell how many other sales I missed while driving around looking at everything that caught their eye. Today, we narrow the showings down to a much lower number in my office before hitting the road.

With the high volume of photos, videos, Google Earth and other resources available on the web, buyers don’t need to run around looking at a high volume of homes. Many websites give such high quality data that a buyer can feel like he’s done a walk-through before seeing the house.

These are just the beginning phases of buying a house. There will be many more things that come into play as you narrow down your search and write a contract, but start at the beginning and you’ll be much happier with the results.

When you’re ready to make that purchase, give your Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., agent a call. We are you local real estate sales pros, and we will help you find that right house at the right price.

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Buying a home in a competitive market? Do this . . .

Winchester-Frederick County, VA Home Sales for the First Third of 2017

Winchester-Frederick County, VA Home Sales for the First Third of 2017

The Winchester-Frederick County, VA home sales for the first third of 2017 have been Winchester-Frederick County, VA Home Sales for the First Third of 2017on a consistent growth trajectory. Sales have climbed 4% year to year, and there was a 2% drop in distressed property sales.  Currently, distressed property sales make up 9% of total sales,  and that has become an average based on total yearly sales for the past two years. The first third of 2016 included 11% distressed sales. It’s encouraging to see distressed property sales finding a floor after the high numbers during the recession.

Average Prices of Winchester-Frederick County, VA Home Sales

The average home price has also increased in the first third of 2017. Home prices have risen 4% over those of 2016. That brings the average home price to $256,607. The increase equates to $10,343 in 2017.  That is good news for sellers in both Winchester and Frederick County.

Home prices increase when inventory is low, and the current market has a “thinventory.” There are now 546 homes available on the Winchester-Frederick County, VA real estate market. The market operates best when the available homes average in the 500-600 range with the 500-550 range being the most aggressive and active.

In the summer of 2014, the market saw a large increase of available homes, and the market slowed considerably. The market today, is fast-moving and active with a high number of buyers and a low number of homes. It is becoming a seller’s market. That combination pushes the market up with multiple offers on many homes.

Where’s the highest level of activity

The Winchester-Frederick County, VA real estate market is made up of Winchester City and multiple communities which make up Frederick County. Frederick County surrounds Winchester City. On the southern side of Winchester is a small, but rapidly growing, community called Stephens City.

Stephens City is a perfect place for those who want quick access to just about anything and everything, but they don’t want the busyness of a bigger city. Multiple major highways pass through Stephens City, and some of those highways lead into the Washington, D. C. area. That has helped Stephens City, VA become a bustling bedroom community for the metro area, as well as, for Winchester-Frederick County.

Stephens City, VA made up 23% of the first third of 2017 real estate sales. That is down 2% from 2016, but that is negligible. A high volume of new homes are being built in the Stephens City area and more are projected throughout 2017. Of the 546 available homes in the Winchester-Frederick County, VA real estate market, 15% of those are available in the Stephens City area.

The Winchester-Frederick County, VA home sales are on track for another banner year.

For those watching the real estate market in Winchester-Frederick County, VA, you can breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like we’re back on track for another banner year. The dark days of the 2008 and beyond the recession genuinely seem to be behind us, and the future looks bright.

When you’re ready to buy or sell in the Winchester-Frederick County real estate market, be sure to give Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., a call. We are your local real estate sales pros.

Buying a home in a competitive market? Do this . . .

Buying a home in a competitive market

So, you’re buying a home? That is awesome! Unfortunately, you’ve heard that the market is really competitive now. What does that actually mean to you? A lot. When you’re buying a home in a competitive market, you will likely need to develop a strategy.

A competitive market isn’t like a buyer’s market where you can throw any offer at a Buying a home in a competitive market?seller and he accepts it. No, in a competitive market (also called a seller’s market), you are likely to get into a bidding war with multiple buyers. The mechanics change, the price isn’t as important and other factors come into play that influence the seller’s choice in offers.

When buying a home in a competitive market you’ve got to forget about the norms.

An average real estate sale starts with a seller and a buyer. The seller sets the price, and the buyer makes an offer. A few minor negotiations may go back and forth, but in the end, it’s just two parties working out the details.

When buying a home in a competitive market, you’ve got to forget about the norms. There may be many buyers vying for the same house. The list price may just be a starting point and the negotiations may become stressful and lengthy. Other buyers may bump their offer up $5000, $10,000, and I even had one where the winning bidder bumped his offer up $50,000. The list price means nothing at that point.

How can you win when buying a home in a competitive market?

There are no guarantees when you get into that kind of competitive market, but there are things you can do to up the odds in your favor. For instance, Keep the contract as clean as possible. What does that mean? Every contingency is a mark against you in a contract.

A home inspection, a financing contingency, a radon test, a home sale contingency, an appraisal contingency, the loan type, or a request for closing cost assistance are all issues that can sway a seller one way or the other.

In a competitive buying situation, cash is often King (though not always). If you’re bidding against a buyer with cash, you’re already at a disadvantage. That doesn’t mean she’ll get the property. You can offer more than the list price with an early close date, and the seller may be willing to wait a few weeks for the extra cash.

Home inspections are desirable, but they can be the difference between winning and losing.

A home inspection gives the seller a reason to worry if he hasn’t maintained his property. That item alone (and I recommend them) can bounce your contract to the trash pile. A seller who knows he is about to be hit with a laundry list of repairs is likely going to skip over that offer for the offer with no home inspection.

Financing and loan types can be a killer.

A financing contingency tells the seller that you may be pre-qualified, but you are not approved for a loan. While he waits for your lender to give you the thumbs up, he loses all the other bidders who were trying to get the house. Get your pre-approval early and then look for a home. You will cut weeks off of your closing time, and that is an advantage for you in a bidding war.

Loan type can also nix your chances in a multi-offer environment. A USDA loan, VA or FHA loan all have stricter guidelines on their appraisals. If seller hasn’t maintained his home, the appraisers will report that and the lender will need those items to be repaired before a loan will be given.

Some loans naturally take longer, such as a USDA loan. A seller in a hurry will not look as favorably on that type of loan because it’s a waiting game that could be avoided with a cash deal or a conventional loan.

Put your highest and best out early when buying a home in a competitive market.

I recently had a wonderful couple lose out on their dream home because they wanted to get it at a price that was more in line with their desired payment than in the home’s real value. They got into a bidding war and the other buyer made a full price off with fewer contingencies. Done. They were out of the running before the race started.

This is one of those times where you really need to trust your Realtor. If you can’t trust your Realtor, you have the wrong Realtor. In the case just mentioned, I told the couple there was no way the seller was going to accept their first offer. He was already selling a wonderful home below the local government assessed value.

The seller had to move, and he had to move quickly. The buyers hesitated just long enough (a week) to allow another buyer to surface who recognized the value of the discounted property. They had a less desirable loan, they had a financing contingency (the other bidder did too), they had a home inspection and they had an appraisal contingency. The other bidder had 50% of those contract contingencies on his offer.

My buyers looked at the list price and then did the math. They wanted to come up with what the house should sell for based on a payment they wanted. It doesn’t work that way. The price is typically set by market data and a seller’s need or wish to sell and then it is negotiated with a contract. The winning bidder offered 5% more with fewer contingencies and won hands down.

If my buyers had listened to their experienced Realtor/Investor, they would have had a better chance. When buyers violate the rules of negotiating, they lose. I believe if they had acted when they first saw the home, they would be living there today. They would have been able to offer less, have their contingencies in the contract and still get a ratified contract.

The second mouse gets the cheese.

They hesitated too long. Remember, the second mouse gets the cheese. They ignored their Realtor’s advice. They loaded their offer with contingencies and then tried to low-ball the seller when they were competing against a highly motivated buyer. Put your best offer forward in the beginning. If you lose out, move on. You should never fall in love with anything that can’t love you back. Buyers need to realize that not all sellers are desperate to sell. In this case, the seller was desperate, but my buyers waited to long to get into the game.

Call a pro when you’re buying a home in a competitive market

When you’re ready to buy a home in a competitive market, like the Winchester-Frederick County, VA market, give Mike Cooper a call. Mike is your local real estate sales pro. 



Wakeland Manor, Stephens City, VA – 2016 Real Estate Market Review

Wakeland Manor, Stephens City, VA – 2016 Real Estate Market Review

Wakeland Manor in Stephens City, VA, is one of the oldest and newest subdivisions in Wakeland Manor, Stephens City, VA - 2016 Real Estate Market Reviewthe Frederick County. Some homes date back to the 1970s and there is new construction going on today.

The community is made up of older ranch style houses, split foyers and newer two-story colonials and contemporary homes. There is also wonderful townhouse complex in the neighborhood. Wakeland Manor has a community center with a pool for residents. It is on the east side of Stephens City, which is a great place for commuters. Residents who live in Wakeland Manor have quick access to multiple highways leading in the DC Metro area and north and south into West Virginia and Maryland and the southern Shenandoah Valley.

Wakeland Manor by the numbers 2016

Wakeland Manor had a small pullback on home sales in 2016 as compared to 2015. There were 40 homes sold compared to 50 in 2015. Of those homes sold, the townhouse complex made up 13 of those homes. Those townhouses are large homes with spacious rooms and a contemporary style. The townhouse complex also has tennis courts and a basketball court for residents.

The average days on the market was up slightly from 2015. The average days on the market was 53 in 2016 and 43 in 2015. That’s not a major change. There is new construction at all corners of Stephens City, VA. That may have contributed to the days on the market. More options give buyers more time to make a decision.

The best numbers

The best numbers came in the average sale price of homes sold. In 2015, the average sale price was $269,692 and it was $272,037 in 2016. That’s not a huge number, but it is a number that is moving in the right direction. Wakeland Manor has something for every housing taste.

If you’re in the market to buy or sell in the Wakeland Manor area, give Mike Cooper a call. Mike is your local real estate sales pro.