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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Winchester – Frederick County, VA Real Estate Market Report – 11/2016

Winchester – Frederick County, VA Real Estate Market Report – November 2016

Well, there are 11 down and 1 to go. Months, that is. The Winchester – Frederick County, VA real estate market is back in stride after the election slowdown. November still had signs of an election hangover, but like an Alka Seltzer and a good nights sleep, time will cause that hangover  to fad away over the next weeks.

Winchester – Frederick County, VA Real Estate Market: By the numbers

The overall sales for November 2016 (this would be homes contracted in late September, October and early November) were 140. That’s a 10% increase from the same period in 2015. Of that number, Stephens City carried 20% of those sales. Frederick County had 114 sales, and the city of Winchester had 26.

The only lagging number in local real estate sales was the total days on the market. November 2016 showed 109 Winchester - Frederick County, VA Real Estate Market Report - 11/2016average days on the market compared to 64 in 2015. Here again, an election year affects how the market responds to the uncertainty of an election cycle. Mid-term elections have a very small impact on the Winchester – Frederick County, VA real estate market, but presidential elections can have a large impact on the market.

Winchester – Frederick County, VA Real Estate Market: What’s in the numbers?

There were a number of very positive changes in the numbers this November. The average sale price is up $23,008 from 2015. The November average sales price was $268,024, compared to $245,016. Home prices have been steadily climbing in 2016. A recent Real Estate News article on revealed that home prices have surpassed 2006 numbers.

One of the most encouraging numbers is the distressed properties. Distressed properties are short sales and foreclosures (or REOs). The distressed properties in the 2015 November market were 19% of total sales. In the November 2016 market, that number fell to 8%. Eight to nine percent have been an average for most of 2016. The large decline year to year is another great sign that the market is back on track. Mortgage Daily News reports that negative equity is down 24% year to year.

That is a good sign for home sellers. Buyers will pay a little more for homes in 2017, but home sellers who have been treading water for the past 6-8 years are finally going to get a little relief in their ability to sell at a profit.

As noted above, the only negative numbers for November relate to the days on the market, and it is reasonable based on historical facts to pin that increase in days on the market to the election uncertainty. Peering into 2017, the Winchester – Frederick County, VA real estate market looks poised to have a great year.

Winchester – Frederick County, VA Real Estate Market: Get a home-buying-selling advantage in 2017

If you’re a buyer or seller in the in the Winchester – Frederick County, VA real estate market, make sure to call Cornerstone Business Group, Inc. We are your local real estate sales pros.


Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., Your Home Buying / Selling Advantage

Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., Your Home Buying / Selling Advantage

Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., is a unique real estate brokerage in the north-western top of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It’s a unique company in many ways. Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., Your Home Buying / Selling Advantage

The company began in 1992 as an investment company with a property management division. The only properties in the company portfolio were placed there through the creative investment efforts of Mike and Elizabeth Cooper, the company president and vice-president. At that time, the company did not manage properties for owners outside of the company.

In 2004, Mike became a licensed real estate salesperson for United Country Golden Rule Realty in Winchester, VA. The years that followed brought buyers who were also investors asking Cornerstone to manage their properties. That was the beginning of a widening of the Cornerstone management division. 

In 2011, Mike Cooper became a Virginia real estate broker, and Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., became a real estate brokerage with a property management division. In the years since, Cornerstone has added staff and more real estate agents. Another uniqueness of the company is that some of those agents are also real estate investors. 

The Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., differences beneficial both buyers and sellers.

The investment background of Cornerstone gives its clients an advantage in the hotly contested real estate market. As investors, we have grappled with many competitive real estate deals with a great deal of success. A buyer who is willing to enter into a multiple contract situation wants skilled negotiation advisers on his/her side. It may be the difference between success and failure.

Another major aspect of Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., is that the leaders of the company are also Virginia state contractors. Every home we view is looked at through a contractor’s eyes.

If there are issues a buyer needs to know about, they will be pointed out immediately during a showing. If there are things that are not that relevant to a buyer, but they catch the buyer’s attention, they will also be discussed from a contractor point of view. 

Our goal at Cornerstone, is to make sure every buyer gets the best deal, on the best home he/she can afford. We want to make sure the home is well-built, safe and solid before a buyer writes a contract.

As investors, we look at homes differently. We’re looking for value and return on investment. As contractors, we’re looking for value based upon construction quality and future sell-ability. 

At Cornerstone, we’re salespeople, we’re investors and we’re contractors. We know real estate from the foundation up and we know property values in today’s market with an eye on future value. When you’re ready to buy your next home, or you’re ready to sell your current home, give Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., a call. We are your local real estate sales pros.

Cornerstone Business Group, Inc., Your Home Buying / Selling Advantage

This post was originally posted in Cornerstone Business Group, Inc.; Your Home Buying / Selling Advantage.

5 Seller Tips to Sell Your Real Estate Fast

5 Seller Tips to Sell Your Real Estate Fast

Seller tips can be goldmine if sellers listen, learn and use them. No one wants to have his home sit on the market for six months, or more, but it happens too often. There are simple things that sellers can do to maximize their ability to sell in any market.

Seller Tips – 1

5 Seller Tips to Sell Your Real Estate FastLook at your house like a buyer. It’s too easy to overlook little issues in a home you live in everyday. For instance, that beautiful light fixture in your 20′ tall foyer was stunning when you moved in. Its brass frame sparkled with its 32 light bulbs showering light on the area below. Today, it’s dusty, it has 18 light bulbs burning, and it is dated. You loved it when you moved in, but today, brass is out, bulbs are out and buyers are out.

Simple things like that light fixture can turn buyers off quick enough that they don’t make it to the second floor. I had multiple buyers skip the second floor of a home because of the things they saw on the first floor. Look at your home through a buyer’s eyes. What needs to be updated, repaired or replaced to make your home relevant in today’s market?

Seller Tips – 2

Choose your flooring carefully. I admit it, I’m not a laminate fan, but I’ve seen a few floors in the past year that have encouraged me to re-think my position. Avoid cheap laminates that you can buy at discount stores. Look for ones that are thicker single board laminates. Gauge the price of a laminate floor against a pre-finished hardwood. Hardwood floors will always give you more return on your investment, but they can be expensive. Have estimates done on both and you might be surprised at how much more affordable hardwood floors can be with competitive bids.

Take an honest assessment of your carpet. If your carpet can be professionally cleaned to bring back its luster, do it. Remember to include the stairs and edges. Some carpet cleaning companies charge a little extra to do edges, but it’s money well spent. If you don’t, dark lines will appear against the base trim, and that turn buyers off. If your carpet needs to be replaced, do it.

Seller Tips – 3

Make sure you paint inside your closets. As an investor, one of the first things I always do when viewing a house is to look in the closets. You can tell where the house paint colors have been in the past by looking at the closet walls. A high percentage of buyers do not paint the closets when they paint their bedrooms.

I look at the closet ceiling as soon as I open the closet door. It can be a great place to see if the house has had a roof leak in the past. Because people tend to leave their closets alone during a paint job, wet stains will stay on the ceiling. Paint the closets!

Seller Tips – 4

Landscape to improve curb appeal. A beautifully manicured and landscaped yard gives a buyer a sense of pride of ownership. A homeowner who takes the time to make her lawn appealing probably has done the same with other aspects of the home. It is a first impression benefit, and with the advent of YouTube, you can learn how to do just about anything. Watch a few videos to see what is most appealing to home-buyers, and then get to work.

Seller Tips – 5

Live in a museum. I’ve had friends whose homes looked like they were museums. Everything was in place all the time. The shelves and ledges were always dusted and spotless. The floors were always clean and shiny. The counter-tops looked like no one lived in the house. Bathrooms were fresh and staged with the proper towels, wash cloths and hand towels. Their beds were always made, and the air was fresh but not perfumed.

When your home is on the market, you want it to have a wow affect. When a buyer walks into a well staged, clean and flawless home, his/her juices begin to flow. Suddenly, he/she can imagine living there. You always want to make sure you don’t do anything that will detract from your home’s value and amenities.

When you’re ready to sell your Winchester – Frederick County, VA home, be sure to give Mike Cooper a call. Mike is your local real estate sales pro.

5 Seller Tips to Sell Your Real Estate Fast

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