Why It's Important to Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan

Before you make an offer on a home…

Before you begin shopping for a home…

Before you even think about making a list of homes you like…
It’s important to get pre-approved for a home loan.
The real estate market moves quickly these days, and the inventory of Charleston homes for sale is low. The rule of supply and demand is very much applicable in the real estate industry, so sellers have the upper hand right now. This means that when you find a home you love, you need to make an offer ASAP. Because inventory is low, it’s entirely possible that you might end up in a multiple-offer situation. If you want to show the seller how serious you are about buying their home, you must include a pre-approval letter with your offer. Most sellers won’t even consider your proposal until they see proof that you are financially able to buy their home. They don’t want to waste their time, and a pre-approval letter will put their minds at ease and show them that there is a much smaller chance of the deal falling through due to your inability to obtain financing.
Getting pre-approved is beneficial for you as the buyer, too. Meeting with a loan officer opens up more options. You might think you know your top purchase price, but you could be surprised. In most cases, you won’t own the home for the full 30 years of the loan, so instead of looking at the "sticker price," consider what you can afford to pay each month for your home. A loan officer can tell you what type of loan you qualify for and what percentage rate you can expect. When you look at what you can afford to pay per month instead of fixating on total purchase price, you may find that you can afford more house than you originally thought.
Basically, getting pre-approved isn’t an option anymore. It's a must. As long as all your ducks are in a row, pre-approval should be easily obtained and is an extremely useful tool that can make the home buying process smoother for both parties. 

Most Active Charleston MLS Areas // January 2015

According to data released by ShowingTime and the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, showings of listings in the Charleston area in January 2015 were up 6% from one year ago. ShowingTime's data shows that the company managed 30,407 showings for 8,010 listings in the Charleston area. That's an average of 3.8 showings for each listing. Our chart below shows the five most active Charleston MLS areas for showings this January.

5 Most Active MLS Jan. 2015

8 Expenditures New Homeowners Might Not Be Prepared For

Buying a home can be a costly process. During all the excitement of searching for and finding the perfect house, negotiating a price and terms, and getting ready for settlement, it’s easy to lose sight of what happens after closing. Sometimes buyers aren’t prepared for the expenditures that might be required after closing. Here are 8 of the top things new homeowners spend money on.

  1. Appliances:  This doesn’t apply to all homeowners, but if you’re buying a brand new or outdated home, you might need to work new appliances into your budget. If you’re updating a kitchen completely, be prepared to spend up to $10,000 on appliances, depending on your taste level and how technical you want to get. If you’re on a budget, Craigslist is a great source for finding inexpensive appliances.
  2. Window Coverings:  Again, the total cost here depends almost entirely on your tastes and budget. If you’re the DIY type, you’ll be able to save a lot in this area. If you prefer to buy window treatments, be prepared to spend up to $2,000, especially if you go custom.
  3. Furniture:  If your new home is bigger than your previous one, will your current belongings be enough to fill it? If you’re downsizing, you’ll need to determine whether your current furniture will fit in the new house. Taste dictates how much you spend on furnishings. (We’re sensing a pattern here!) Options range from big box stores like Target and IKEA, to specialty stores like Rooms To Go and Ashley Furniture, to high-end boutiques and custom-built furniture.
  4. Homeowners Association or Regime Fees:  Most HOAs and property regimes can run on about $100 a month, but some charge more and some charge less. Make sure you look into a neighborhood’s HOA fees and what amenities are included before you decide to buy. Some higher end neighborhoods have charged up to $1,000 per month. Others offer fewer amenities and are able to charge just a couple hundred per year. Fees can go up annually, and some HOAs and regimes might charge additional assessments for unexpected repairs or other issues.
  5. Insurance:  The cost of homeowners insurance varies by state, but a good nationwide average is about $700 per year. Insurance payments may be tied into escrow or included HOA dues, or they might be due annually or monthly. Some areas also require flood insurance, which is an additional policy that can get pretty expensive. Check whether your policy covers things like hurricanes, earthquakes, and personal property loss or damage. You might need to purchase these separately.
  6. Property Taxes:  Buyers who purchase new construction could be surprised when their property tax bill goes up. Tax assessments for new construction are usually based on the empty lots on which the homes are built. Upon reassessment, that amount could double or triple. Taxes also vary by state and school district.
  7. Utilities:  Utility bills can be a rude awakening for some homeowners! Older homes tend not to be energy efficient, which makes for higher heating and air costs. The size of the home and number of residents come into play here as well. Before you buy, call the local utility company and get a free estimate based on the history of how much has been charged in the past. Don't forget to budget  utilities for both summer and winter.
  8. Repairs and Maintenance:  It’s always a good idea to keep a few thousand dollars in an emergency fund. Maintenance and repair issues can crop up out of nowhere (an HVAC system on the fritz or a backed-up sewer system, for example). Charges can include standard fees, labor, and parts, so there’s really no telling how much you can expect to pay in any given situation.
What other expenditures do you think new homeowners might not expect? Let us know us in the comments section!

Market Report // January Sales Highest in 8 Years!

January 2015 was a phenomenal month for real estate in the Charleston region. Charleston home sales were the highest they've been in 8 years, with a total of 890 homes sold at a median price of $209,603. The last time sales surpassed the 800 mark was January 2007.

That year's statistics were almost identical to this year's. 890 homes sold in January 2007 at a median price of $209,945. The inventory, however, was 37% higher than in 2015. In 2007, the inventory was at almost 9,000, whereas the current inventory is at just over 5,500.

Here's the breakdown by county:




To Stage or Not To Stage...

…it shouldn’t even be a question anymore. We’ve talked a bit in previous posts about how to stage a home to sell and why it’s important to do so, but today, we’d like to talk numbers.

Recently, the National Association of Realtors released their 2015 Profile of Home Staging. The profile includes statistics on staging and how it does or does not help a home sell.
According to NAR’s research, the majority of buyers’ agents believe that staging has a positive effect on their buyers’ views of the homes they view. 49% of buyers' agents surveyed say that staging affects most homebuyers; 47% say it affects some buyers; and a mere 4% say staging has no impact on buyers at all.
buyers affected by staging
Though the research shows that nearly half of all buyers’ agents believe that staging is beneficial, a surprising number of sellers’ agents do not stage their listings. 44% of sellers’ agents only suggest that their sellers declutter and fix any property faults that may exist. 34% stage all homes they list; 13% only stage homes that are difficult to sell; 5% do not stage any homes at all; and 4% only stage homes in high price brackets.
sellers staging
While buyers' and sellers' agents seem to disagree somewhat on the importance of home staging, there is one area they agree on. Buyers and sellers were asked to rank the importance of rooms to be staged, and interestingly enough, their lists were identical. According to both sides, the most important rooms to stage, in order of importance, are:
1. Living Room
2. Kitchen
3. Master Bedroom
4. Dining Room
5. Bathroom
6. Children's Bedroom
7. Guest Bedroom
What do you think of these statistics? Do you agree that home staging is important when it comes to attracting buyers? What impact has staging had on you as a buyer or a seller? Tell us in the comments section below!
*Statistics taken from the National Association of Realtor's 2015 Profile of Home Staging
**Graphics by Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company




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