Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mortgage Do's and Don'ts

Here is a statistic that may shock you: almost 30% of homes purchased are cash deals. Higher than you thought, right?

However, for the rest of the buyers, securing a mortgage is the most popular way to achieve home ownership. Here are some do's and don'ts when it comes to a mortgage.

Pay your bills on time and cut down on any debt. Credit scores are crucial. Your credit score will determine if you are able to get a loan and your interest rate. Many loan officers now have the tools to evaluate exactly what you can do to improve your credit score in real time!

Save now for a down payment. It's no secret that the more you are able to put down, the less you have to borrow. However, it is important to note that it may make more sense to pay off high interest debt first. In other words, pay off your credit card debt and settle for less of a down payment because your mortgage interest rate should be less on the property loan.

Shop lenders. Compare interest rates and closing costs, such as application fees and appraisals. Learn about the different types of mortgages before meeting with lenders. You would always get a second opinion when shopping for a car, right? Do the same with your mortgage!

Don't make any large purchases or career changes right before the closing.
Your lender will recheck your employment status and credit profile again shortly before the closing. If they are not satisfied, they can pull the plug just when you are about to close on the house of your dreams.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage, not just pre-qualified. This will expedite the home buying process and give you negotiating strength and credibility. Sellers will sometimes accept lower offers from qualified buyers, who can show they can close the deal.

Don't get in over your head. Borrow what you can afford, not what the lender is willing to lend. Scrutinize your budget and factor in property taxes, utilities and maintenance. For condominiums and planned unit developments (PUDs), do not forget to factor in the monthly association fees!

It seems daunting at first to find out exactly how much you can afford. What if it isn't as much as you thought? I believe that the sooner you know, the better. If your credit score isn't where it should be, you are now in a position to do something about it. Take charge of your finances!

Please contact me if you would like more details on mortgages or on any other real estate related subject! If I don't know the answer, I will strive to find someone who can!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Negotiating Your Way Into Your Dream Home

You could be looking to buy your first home, or maybe downsizing after retirement. Regardless of the circumstances, you of course want to be able to negotiate the best possible price for your new home.

The first crucial step of negotiating for homebuyers is getting pre-approved. Not only does it make sense to sit with your lender in order to have an idea of what you can afford, it also turns you into a cash buyer in the seller's eyes. It doesn't feel like you are negotiating, but you really are in a passive way. For example, if you are putting in an offer on a property in a multiple offer situation, even if your offer is slightly less than the competitors, you can see how a solid pre-approval can sway the sellers into accepting your offer instead of a competitor's offer which does not include a pre-approval.

Getting a pre-approval also saves time and can speed up the financing, which can bring forward the closing date and that is usually very appealing to a seller.

Before making an offer, do your homework! Work with a Realtor, who will be able to establish how much a property is worth. Your Realtor will be able to research comparables, the neighborhood and the market, all of which will help you make a realistic offer. If you come to negotiations with facts to back up your offer, the seller may be more willing to meet your price.

A listing agent will not be able to disclose the motivation or bottom line of the sellers. However, do your due diligence to find out as much as you can. Speak to neighbors. Is the property vacant? It might be that the owners are anxious to sell in order to make their next move.

The attitude you bring at the beginning of the process makes a lasting impression. If you go into it with a positive and win-win attitude, then if required, any negotiations needed further down the line will be much easier with both parties being receptive. Using facts instead of feelings also helps defuse a difficult negotiation. Sellers are emotionally invested into their house. Backing up your offer with facts (for instance, a general quote for repairing broken tiles, or a leaky chimney) shows that you are a serious buyer and will help avoid hurt feelings and resentment, which can lead to deals turning sour. And ultimately getting you in your dream home!

Do you have any negotiation tricks? Do you enjoy negotiating?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to make a great first impression inside and out

No, I am not talking about a first date! But, just like in dating, the first impression of your home is a lasting one. Stats show that it takes less than eight seconds for buyers to make up their mind if they are interested in a house or not when perusing the listings online. Eight short little seconds to make a great first impression! We'll all seen some horrendous examples of photos that are posted online. Not to hurt anyone's feelings, here is a typical mistake of a poor photo. I have used my kitchen as an example:

Lighting is key. A darkened room will look even darker in a photo. Especially if the paint is a dark color. Turn on all the lights! Use flashes!

So what are your eyes drawn to first in this photo? The clutter! Even something as small as refrigerator magnets will draw your eyes to the clutter instead of the vastness of the kitchen space. In the photo above, all you see is the cards on the fridge door and the cereal boxes on top of it!

On the flip side, here are some great examples of photos that make you want to visit a house:
Clean lines with very little personal items. Correct use of a wide angle lens, and using flashes! And, in my case, having professionals do the work for me to get amazing results.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the impression they make better be a good one, or else it will be very hard to change that impression later on. Although most people concentrate on cleaning up and de-cluttering the living space inside, many do not pay enough attention to their house's "curb appeal". You need to make sure that when potential buyers drive by your house, that it is as inviting as possible. What are some easy ways to improve curb appeal without spending a lot of money? Try these ideas:
1) Trim all bushes and shrubbery in the yard. make sure they aren't blocking any windows.
2) Clear any debris/weeds from the driveway and walkways.
3) Keep grass trimmed.
4) Make sure front porch and/or stairs are in good repair. Sometimes, just a coat of stain on a weathered wood porch can make a world of difference.
5) Update porch and front door lighting. Is your light fixture outside dating from the 50s? It might be time to change it to something more modern. Don't want to spend a lot of money? The Re-Store is a great place to find bargains.

As a real estate agent, it is my job to present your house to all potential buyers on its "best behavior". Even when it means delaying putting the house on the market by one or two weeks, that time is definitely not lost. It will bring in more buyers and ultimately will result in a quicker sale for a better price.

Have any ideas on how to improve your home's curb appeal? Leave a comment! I love to have feedback and share ideas.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Condo sold in Winooski!

I just sold this lovely condo today. This is an old converted school building - it has retained a lot of the school feel to it, including original classroom doors, and one of the highlights is the great gym!

The sale price was $150,500. A quick calculation with an interest rate of 4.3% over 30 years with a conventional loan (20% at closing), monthly payments would be approximately $600.
If an FHA loan was used instead, with as little as 3% down, payments could be as low as 750$.

Can you afford not to buy?

Contact me, and we can discuss home ownership options for you and your family. It might be time for you to own your own home and build equity instead of rent!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Beautiful 3 Bedroom Colonial in the New North End

Looking for a great 3 bedroom colonial in Burlington? This home in the New North End might be just perfect for you! Priced at 359,900$ and move-in ready, you could be spending your next Holiday season in your new home!

An exceptionally maintained one owner home in a wonderful New North End neighborhood. New roof installed in 2012 (30 year architectural shingles) and all exterior trim freshly painted. Bright and functional kitchen opens up onto dining area, overlooking the private backyard and large deck perfect for your summer cookouts. Enjoy the heat from the Jotul woodstove in the living room, which easily heats the entire 4-star energy rated house. The winter’s 4+ cords is already stacked in the wood shed out back! A downstairs office is the perfect spot for a home office. The upstairs has 3 bedrooms, including a remodeled master bed and bath as well as a laundry room, saving trips with a full laundry basket! There is also central vacuum and a large heated 2-car garage. The basement has been partially finished and provides a great space for a family room or home gym.  Situated on a quiet street and just a short distance to the bikepath and parks, this house is ready to become your next home!

Here are a couple views of the living room, with the Jotul woodstove. The entryway is to the right of the first photo - you can see the tiled floor. The staircase to go upstairs is highlighted by a beautiful stained glass window.

The kitchen and dining area are at the heart of the house, making it a great entertaining area, as well as conveniently situated right off the back deck.

There is an updated half bath off of the kitchen.

And a great home office right off the entryway

The upstairs master bedroom and bathroom were completely renovated. A fantastic new hardwood floor highlights the bedroom as well as the cork bathroom floor.

There are 2 other bedrooms upstairs, one which includes a great walk-in closet.

A second full bathroom and a laundry room complete the upstairs space.

The basement is partially finished. The finished area is a great spot for a family/TV room or a home gym. There is ample DRY storage space, with a convenient access to the garage. The perfect spot for storing decorations or using it as a food pantry.

The backyard is large (the deepest on the block) and private. There is a woodshed, which holds 4 cords of wood. 

For any additional information, please contact me at 802-777-7194 and it will be my pleasure to assist you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Remodel VS Value

Should I replace my windows before putting my house on the market? Should I update the bathroom? These are just a couple of the questions I hear almost everyday. Contrary to what people think, the rule of thumb is that you don't get back what you put into your home. There are of course some exemption - aren't there always? I found a most useful guide that crunched all the numbers are put some very pertinent stats together for today's sellers. I love numbers, so you can imagine how excited I was to find this and cannot wait to share it with my clients!

This guide provides a pretty good rundown on what you can expect to get back from some house projects. Please keep in mind that this is the average and doesn't guarantee return when you sell you home! But it does give you a great guideline on where to spend your money!

Top 3 best bang for your buck:
1) minor kitchen remodel which includes new appliances and fixtures, new cabinet doors, replacing laminate surfaces with higher end surfaces, and painting and redoing the moldings. 112% return.
2) new garage door. 80% return.
3) major kitchen remodel. 78%.

What isn't worth your time and money if you are thinking of selling?
1) Home office remodel. 30% return.
2) Backup power generator. 30 % return.
3) And the most surprising: bathroom remodel. 43% return.

If you would like to discuss any projects that you are doing and how they will enhance your home's appeal in today's market, please call me. It will be my pleasure to share my knowledge and learn from your experience as a homeowner, a seller or a buyer.

Friday, October 18, 2013

House Sold in Milton!

One of the greatest satisfactions with being a real estate agent is seeing the excitement of buyers when they find the perfect home and get the keys to their place! You really do meet some incredible people along the way, and although the buying process can be stressful at times, I do make sure to have a little fun along the way!

This lovely house in Milton now has a new owner. I am sure that he will enjoy this wonderful neighborhood!

We found this house and put in an offer after only 5 days of searching! How is that for efficiency?
It could be you next time!

The 5 biggest mistakes made by first-time buyers

I know. I've been there. That feeling of invincibility when you find the house of your dreams. It can make you overlook so many faults. I definitely do not regret our purchase. However, I might have gone into "it's an old home but it's new to us"  home ownership with eyes wide open instead of jumping in quasi-blindly!

You see lists everywhere about what you should and shouldn't do when shopping for a house. Some are common sense. Some, not so much. Here is my personal top 5. . .

1) Be honest with yourself about projects. Figure out how much time you really want to spend on the house. If you find out that you are unwilling to give up every weekend to do house projects, could you afford to pay someone to do it for you? If not, are you willing to spread the work over more years? If not, WALK AWAY. There will be another house out there for you. You don't want to look back at the last 10 years of your life and regret having spent it with a drill and paint brush in your hand.

2) Find an agent who understands your needs. You need someone who will sit down with you and help you figure out what you are looking for. Let us do the work! We spend our lives immersed in real estate so you don't have to!

3) Don't be afraid of change. It's normal. You thought you'd love living in a cape, but after walking through a few of them, realize that it doesn't work for you. Tell your agent! It's perfectly ok to adjust what you're looking for during the process.

4) Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the neighbourhood you're looking at moving into. Talk to the neighbours. Check out traffic during different times of the day. Is it near an airport? What about train tracks? You're investing a lot of money - don't be afraid to invest a little time too!

5) Don't overspend. Sit down with a financial adviser if you are not comfortable putting together a budget yourself. Regardless of how much your lending institution is willing to lend you, let that not stop you from making sure that you can support not only the new mortgage payment, but also able to maintain the level of lifestyle you want.

What are some other traps to avoid? What is your personal experience? I would love to hear about them!

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Pros/Cons of Buying a Fixer Upper

A fixer upper can be oh so very tempting when you are looking to buy a home, most likely because it seems like the more affordable option. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or real estate veteran, here are some pros and cons to consider before purchasing a property that needs major renovating.

1) A less-than-perfect house often allows buyers to own in a neighborhood they otherwise couldn't afford. A fixer upper located in a desirable neighborhood may often sell for less than the surrounding homes.
2) When redoing a home there is the opportunity to create a space all your own and make it exactly how you would like.
3) There are a lot of variables specific to each property, but often, there is a possibility for profit in resale once the property is renovated.

1)You may be overwhelmed with the amount of work, time and money it takes to renovate. Always have a back up plan to access funds or credit if any unforeseen hurdles are discovered during the renovation.
• Tip: It may be wise to bring professionals with you to walk through the property before you buy to avoid underestimating the work and cost.
2) There is always a possibility that you could lose money on your investment. It is common to go over budget on repairs and renovations. The housing market is another variable that can be unpredictable.
3) Whether you're hiring a contractor or doing the work yourself, the renovation process is often stressful. Consider the commitment before you buy, especially if you plan on living on the property while doing the renovation. If you do want to do the work yourself, consider the time you will spend on it and what you will need to sacrifice in the rest of your life to make time for it.

Looking to buy a fixer-upper? Let me guide you through the buying process so that you can be assured that you are making the right decision! We know there will be work to be done once you move in, but it is most important to get sound advice from knowledgeable people BEFORE buying! You need some recommendations of contractors who could accompany you on your walk-through? Give me a call. I will make sure that you know as much as you can about the property and figure out just how you can achieve your goals.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What affects your credit score and ability to get a loan?

We hear it all the time: "Make sure you have a good credit score, or else you'll never get a loan!". But what is a good score and how can we improve it?

With the tough economic conditions that we have been through during the last 5-6 years, with job cuts and the slow economic growth, many have found themselves in tough situations. It sometimes doesn't take much to push people over the edge into having no choice but to file for personal bankruptcy. Could have been an unforeseen medical emergency, a job loss or taking care of a loved one. Whatever the cause, if you have had to go through a bankruptcy, you know that depending on which kind of mortgage you would be interested in, the wait is anywhere from 2 to 7 years before you can apply for a loan.

Most lenders can offer mortgages to buyers with credit scores starting at 620. What affects that credit score? Student loans, car loan, unpaid credit card debts are just a few of the factors that affect your credit score. How can you improve it? Consolidate your debt and start paying it off! Pick whichever has the highest interest rate and pay that off the fastest. Scary fact: if you are only making the minimal payments on a 5000$ credit card balance, it will take you almost TEN years to pay it off! And that 5000$ will have cost you almost 8000$.

Something to think about. Maybe our mothers were right all along by telling us to not live beyond our means...

If you would like the discuss how to better your credit score in order to be able to get a pre-approval for a house loan, give me a call or email me. We have a great in-house lender who can get you a pre-approval with no charge or obligation.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

52 Governor Chittenden Road, Williston, Vermont 05495

OPEN HOUSE - Sunday August 25th, from 12-2pm.

Great raised ranch on 1.57 picturesque acres for $275,000! Open concept upstairs, with hardwood floors throughout. Updated kitchen, with new appliances and new tiled floor. Third bedroom located downstairs in fully finished basement, which includes a ¾ bathroom, huge family room and laundry room with walkout. A detached 1 car garage and space for 4+ cars in driveway. Beautifully landscaped with raised beds, perfect for a vegetable garden. With just a short walk to Catamount Outdoor Center, minutes from Williston Village & easy access to the Interstate, the location cannot be beat!

Open concept living area with hardwood floor throughout the upstairs.

Updated kitchen with beautiful tiled floor and breakfast bar

Master Bedroom with walk-in closet

Second upstairs bedroom with large closet

Huge downstairs room with laminate floor, and full size windows. Perfect for a family room, office or home gym or all three!

Third bedroom with new carpet. Could also be the perfect home office!

Propane furnace - could easily be converted to natural gas.

3/4 downstairs bath, with lots of storage space.

Great off the driveway entrance into tiled laundry room.

Plenty of parking in the driveway, which includes a 1-car garage and space for at least 4 parked cars.

Beautifully landscaped yard, with swing set and plenty of space.

Back deck off of dining area perfect for entertaining and taking advantage of the outdoors!

Located just one mile from Williston Village, close to schools and the library. Walking distance from the Catamount Outdoor Center, where you can ski in the winter, and bike in the summer!

The perfect balance of being off the beaten path without sacrificing the convenience of being close to town.
Move-in ready!

Give me a call today to set up an appointment.

Sonia Krajicek
CENTURY 21 Jack Associates

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Welcome to SKJ Vermont Homes

Welcome to the SKJ Vermont Homes blog!

Let me introduce myself. My name is Sonia Krajicek. I am a real estate agent with CENTURY 21 Jack Associates in South Burlington, Vermont.

I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, and attended Universit√© de Montreal, graduating with a bachelor of Engineering. I worked at Rolls-Royce Canada for almost 13 years before moving down to the Burlington area. 
I discovered my passion for real estate while I was in the midst of selling my condo in Montreal and looking for a new home in Burlington. The process fascinated me and I was hooked!
I want to help you by taking the time to listen to your needs and desires and use that to help you find a home that you love or to sell your existing home as quickly as possible. Once we've found your new home or a buyer for your existing home, I'll continue to help you understand the process and make sure that everything that needs to be done prior to closing is completed as easily and smoothly as possible.

I will dedicate myself to helping you find exactly what you are looking for, be it the perfect buyer for your property or the perfect house to call home. Let my attention to detail and high level of service work for you!  

I hope to share my knowledge about the real estate industry and about the Chittenden county area with prospective buyers and sellers!

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me:

Sonia Krajicek
CENTURY 21 Jack Associates
1161 Williston Road
South Burlington, VT, 05403