Real Estate Advice

6 Ways To Improve Home Security

6 Ways To Make Your Home SaferToday, there are more ways than ever for homeowners to protect their home and both everyone and everything in it. But with so many options available, homeowners may be at a loss for where to start, so here are six of the different simple and high-tech ways to improve home security. 

1. Buy Smart Cameras and Sensors

Security cameras and sensors are more accessible than they have ever been, and with smart technology, they’re easier to monitor than ever. Homeowners can purchase smart security cameras to place in and outside their home that can be accessed via any smart device, so checking in on home is only a few clicks or taps away. Smart sensors can be placed on nearly any door or window and can notify the homeowner by either text or email if the thing it’s attached to moves during a specified time.

 2. Change the Locks

Changing a home’s locks is especially handy when it has just been purchased from another owner. Although all they keys are supposed to be turned over to the new owner at closing, there’s no way to be certain if other copies of the key were given to the previous owner’s friends or family and forgotten about, so homeowners should take initiative to change the locks soon after moving in.

3. Put Emergency Keys in a Creative Spot

Most homeowners like ...

6 Ways to Stay Organized While Moving to a New Home

Stay Organized While Moving to a New HomeMoving can be a chaotic time. Between packing every last thing into a box and making sure it gets onto the moving truck and then unpacking at the new home, it can be a wonder that anyone is able to keep track of it all. Here are six strategies homeowners can use while moving into a new home to stay as organized as possible.

1. Start Early

Packing an entire home’s worth of possessions is going to take a long time, and there’s no way it can be done in the two days before the move date. Starting early can help prevent the rush right before the deadline where everything gets thrown into the nearest box, and it can also allow the homeowner to take inventory of everything they have so nothing gets lost or overlooked. 

2. Get Rid of Excess

Packing to move can be an excellent time to really sort through possessions and weed out things that are old, broken, or never used. Space is limited on the moving truck, so it’s important for homeowners to get rid of the things they no longer want or need. This can making packing much more efficient because homeowners don’t have to worry about as many boxes making it from point A to point B.

3. Pack One Room at a Time

When packing to move to a new home, it’s easy to get disorganized. However, homeowners can help...

Common Home Buying Contingencies for Buyers to Be Aware Of

Common Home Buying ContingenciesWhether you are buying a home or you are selling one, one of the things that you need to understand are contingencies. When it comes to buying or selling a piece of real estate, a contingency is a condition that needs to be met before a contract can be considered to be valid or final. A contingency needs to be agreed upon and signed off on by both parties when entering into the real estate contract. As a result, these should not be surprises. However, if you are not familiar with contingencies, finding out what some of the more common ones can help you better prepare for any during your home buying or selling adventure. These are just a few of the more common ones today.

Contingent on the Sale of Another Home

This is a very common contingency for home buyers to make if they are trying to sell their home at the same time, whether it's in an area like Carolina Forest or elsewhere. This is something that is done because they do not want to be left with two mortgages at the same time so they add a contingency to the contract that states that the purchase of their new home will not be considered final until the sale of their current home goes through closing.

Appraisal Contingency

This is usually a contingency that is in place...

PMI Basics: What Home Buyers Should Know About Putting Down Less Than 20 Percent

PMI Basics for Prospective Homeowners With Low Down PaymentsIt can take considerable time to save enough money to put down 20 percent in order to buy a new home. This leaves buyers looking at mortgage products that may require private mortgage insurance or PMI. Many buyers continue toward homeownership without having a substantial down payment.

It is possible to get into a home but buyers will be paying a lender more money until sufficient equity exists using a conventional mortgage loan. Conventional home loans are often approved for such borrowers with the requirement of a PMI. Borrowers have little choice in rates and lenders when it comes to PMI. Understand more about PMI and a convention home loan today.

Is PMI Necessary?

When a home buyer needs to make a down payment of less than 20 percent, they may be required to pay private mortgage insurance or PMI. PMI is often required when there is less than 20 percent of home equity in a home and an owner needs to refinance a mortgage. Unfortunately for buyers, PMI payments do not help build equity.

Fees vary on PMI. Interest rates on PMI can depend on a borrower's credit score. Tax deductions related to PMI and PMI premium have been known to change. Premiums may be a significant factor in determining interest rates on this loan. Homeowners will make monthly payments but not for the extent of the life of...

Hire a professional or DIY: Which is right for you?

Should you DIY or hire a professional?Whether a homeowner should hire a professional or do something on a DIY basis is a fair question, and it is one that some homeowners have trouble answering. They may not be sure if they can handle the project, and they may also not be sure how much it will cost them for someone else to take over and get things done. For any homeowner who is unsure about the DIY vs hiring a professional issue, there are some specific issues to consider. By looking carefully at the most important aspects of a home improvement project, homeowners can make the right decision for their specific situation.

How Much Will This Project Cost?

The price of a particular home improvement project may affect whether a homeowner chooses the DIY route or decides instead to hire a professional. Either way there will be some cost to the project because there will be materials and time spent, but in general it will cost more to hire a professional contractor. However, that does not mean that a contractor should be avoided. In some cases it makes far more sense to hire a professional, so that the job can be done correctly and safely. When that is done, the homeowner has more peace of mind and may sleep better at night, despite the added cost. Homeowners with very little money to spend, though, may be better off doing something on a DIY basis as long as they can update their ...

How Do USDA Loans Work?

USDA Loans: What You Need to KnowBuyers looking for the right home in a rural or small suburban area might not know that there is a loan program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help buyers purchase or improve homes. Knowing how USDA loans work and that they may require no down payment could help buyers get a home sooner than they expect. There are a multitude of mortgage options on the market. Is the USDA loan right for you?

What Is a USDA Loan?

The USDA promotes rural development and homeownership by offering different types of loans to buyers who qualify. Many people who want to buy homes find that they cannot save enough for a down payment, or they do not meet other criteria required to get a traditional mortgage. With government funding, the USDA can guarantee loans so that individual lenders are more secure in lending to people who cannot make a large down payment, or who have limited income.

Does the USDA Loan Money to Home Buyers?

Like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the USDA mostly guarantees loans to lenders. This means that a home buyer applies through a local or national lender, and the USDA guarantees the loan in case of a default. In order to qualify for a USDA loan, people must...

Home Buying: How to Manage the Down Payment

How to Handle Saving for a Down PaymentThe largest expense that most home buyers will encounter is the down payment. There are reasons to consider paying more, just as there are advantages to putting down as little as possible. These tips help buyers decide how much to put down towards their home mortgage and how they can get the money for it.

How Much Should I Put Down?

Buyers, especially first-time home buyers, can get overwhelmed by the thought of a down payment. After all, if the median home price nationwide is hovering around $300,000, a down payment of 20 percent is a notable $60,000. Although 20 percent is widely touted as an industry standard, there are plenty of options for prospective home buyers who cannot put that much down. The 20 percent down payment, in a lot of cases, assumes that a buyer already has accrued equity in an existing home that they can use toward the down payment.

Before making a decision about the size of the down payment, future home buyers should estimate how much they can realistically put down, and the opportunity cost of shifting funds from elsewhere. Making a larger down payment is beneficial in that it gives the buyer a larger stake in the home's equity at the beginning and lowers the monthly payment. However, it also ties up funds...

Understanding 203k Home Loans

All About 203k Renovation Home LoansFinding that perfect home can be a challenge. The ideal location, features and condition often don't seem to exist within the same house. Many people dream of finding an affordable home that needs some work. This means the homeowner can renovate the home to give it more of their own personality while including features they desire.

Fixer-Upper Hang-Ups

Often called fixer-uppers, homes that need extensive work in order to be deemed livable can pose special challenges for those who want to purchase them.

  • One such challenge is often the sheer amount of money that is projected to renovate the property. Coupled with the purchase price, this estimate could make the cost of owning what might otherwise be the perfect home prohibitive.
  • Lenders, too, can present roadblocks that stand in the way of a potential home buyer purchasing a particular house. Lenders are often reluctant to sign off on a loan for a home that might not be suitable for anyone to live in.

FHA 203k Loans Can Provide Options

Like many other loan vehicles, a 203k loan has a specific purpose and is targeted for a particular segment of the home-buying population. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), a 203k loan is designed to assist borrowers in purchasing a home that needs extensive repairs in order to become inhabitable once again....

Buying Vs. Renting: Costs to Consider

The Benefits of Buying or Renting a HomeIf the decision involved only weighing basic rent against a mortgage payment, the choice of renting or buying might be simple. However, there are a number of other factors, and some costs that you might not have considered when you commit to either a home loan or a year's lease.

While the decision to rent your first apartment may have been a breeze to make, when it's time to weigh the pros and cons of buying a home or condo, continuing to rent that apartment, or signing a long-term lease, there are a host of other considerations, not all of them financial.

Let's look at the pros and cons of each:


There are the immediate costs of applying for a loan, but you must also tally up and find funds for earnest money and down payment, closing costs that include appraisal and inspection fees, title and mortgage insurance, homeowner's insurance, taxes, possible transfer fees and moving costs. It all adds up and the total can range between two and four percent of the total home price.

Then there are the recurring costs. When you own a home, you commit to the following monthly payments:

  • Mortgage loan, usually including private mortgage insurance and property taxes;
  • Homeowners insurance; sometimes this amount is included in the loan, or it may be paid separately;
  • Utilities, including electricity and/or gas or oil for heating and air...

What to Consider When Buying a Fixer-Upper

Things to Keep in Mind When Selling a Fixer UpperFor some people, a fixer-upper is the ideal home because it allows them to start with something old and turn it into something new that suits their tastes exactly. When looking for a new fixer-upper home, it’s important to know what to look for to avoid buying a home that’s in such poor condition it isn’t even worth renovating, so here are a few things to keep an eye out for when looking at fixer-upper homes.

First: How Much is Too Much?

When considering a fixer-upper, it’s important to take into account how large of a project it’ll be. Not all fixer-upper homes are created equally, and it's important to proceed as you would in any home buying process. Some may just have a couple big jobs that need to be done to make it feel like home, while others may need to be completely gutted and reworked from the inside out. Before committing to a fixer-upper, all buyers should decide just how much work they’re willing to do on a home before beginning their search for one.


How the home is configured can be one of the most difficult things to change when it comes time to start renovating. An example of bad home layout is having bedrooms directly beside the family room or living room. When looking for a fixer-upper home, finding one with an acceptable layout can save the buyer a lot of money and stress...

Branding With a Solid Foundation: Good, Old-Fashioned Customer Service Still Works

How to Brand a Company with Customer ServiceThe modern marketing landscape can look complex. There are more tools than ever before for reaching the prospects who may do business with your brand. However, no matter how many new apps, platforms and networks come out, the fundamentals remain the same. The best marketing for your brand is an excellent customer experience.

Let Your Customers be Your Ambassadors

In your personal life, are you more likely to be drawn to a brand based on an advertisement or the recommendation of a friend? Most of us are more likely to trust the people around us to guide us toward quality products and services. In a recent study, it was found that 92 percent of shoppers trust online reviews.

The reasons behind this is common sense. First, a third party making a recommendation is thought to have no motivation related to the brand. They're a customer; they are relating their own experience and giving recommendations to other consumers. Second, when the recommendation comes from someone who you know, whether they are personally known to you or familiar through social media, the trust you feel toward them transfers to the brand they are recommending.

To harness this power for your brand, you must make the customer experience excellent. Talk to clients to learn where your process can be improved. Do they want a larger selection of products? Shorter wait times? Within reason,...

Buying a Home? Tips to Help You Get Started

Tips to Get Started Buying a HomeThe home-buying process can be a stressful and overwhelming one, rife with paperwork and searches, and filled with days and weeks and sometimes months of searching that eventually—hopefully—cumulate in the purchase of a home. If you're one of the many people thinking about buying a new home, here are some steps to prepare yourself.

Preparing in the months before your home purchase can help increase the chances that you get the property you want, be it in Georgetown or elsewhere. Follow these tips to separate yourself from the competition:

Attend Open Houses

Many people do their real estate research by combing through listings online, but seeing homes in person can make a big difference. Open houses are an important reality check for home buyers. These events also present opportunities for home buyers to meet and ask questions of real estate agents and home sellers. Attend open houses before you even fully begin searching to give your home search focus and direction.

After each open house, take time to drive around each neighborhood looking for eateries and conveniences like grocery stores and gas stations. Doing this kind of research will help you zero in on the neighborhoods where you'd like to focus your attention.

Know Your Priorities


The Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Home

How To Buy Homes for a First Time Home BuyerThere’s no way around it: Buying a home, whether it’s a first home or a fifteenth, a pre-existing home or a new build, is a process that has many steps. To make that process just a little bit easier, here are the basic steps to buying a home, from budgeting to signing on the dotted line.

Create a Budget

A budget creates guidelines that, if abided by, help buyers find houses that are financially right for them, and it also helps an agent pick out appropriate Garden City Beach homes to show the buyer when the time comes. A well-made budget can help keep buyers from accidentally getting in too deep over their heads. 

Pick a Mortgage and Get Pre-Approved

There are a variety of different types of mortgages to help give people in all financial situations the opportunity to buy a home. After choosing the right one, fill out an application for the mortgage and supply all the necessary paperwork. Getting pre-approved will grant the buyer written proof of the amount of money they have been authorized to borrow.

Make a List of Wants and Needs

Everyone has things they need in their home, whether it’s an attached garage or something to make it...

Considering a VA Loan? 4 Things You Need to Know

Facts About VA Loans for Veteran Home Buyers to ConsiderThe 1944 Serviceman's Readjustment Act authorized the Veterans Administration to guarantee loans for eligible veterans to purchase homes, farms, and businesses as soldiers returned home from World War II. The Veterans Housing Benefits Act of 1978 and Veteran Home Loan Program Amendments of 1992 expanded the home loan program to include a wide range of military personnel, whether or not they served on active duty. The program has guaranteed more than 20 million home loans since its inception. If you are considering a VA Loan for your next home purchase, you should know the following:

VA Home Loans Are Only for Veterans and Their Surviving Spouses

The VA Home Loan benefit is available for qualifying veterans and their surviving spouses. Unlike other programs, such as the educational benefits program, the VA Loan program does not consider dependents eligible for benefits. Surviving spouses are eligible unless they remarry. The program is open to all military, military reservists, and National Guard members, each with varying service requirements that apply regardless of the market, be it in Garden City Beach or elsewhere.

VA Home Loans Do Not Require a Down Payment

Perhaps the best feature of the VA Loan Program is that qualifying veterans are not required to have ...

A Guide to Different Mortgage Types

A Guide to Basic MortgagesAlmost always, buying a home will mean making a mortgage agreement with a lender who will provide funds to purchase the ideal home. There are several to consider and keep in mind..

Zero down payment mortgages, such as those available through the VA still require payment of origination fees and minimal closing costs. Under some programs, the funds for a down payment can be a gift from parents; other programs roll initial fees into the mortgage. So, even if you're strapped for cash, you may still be able to buy your way into a home. 

A Standard Down Payment Doesn't Exist

While many people consider a 20 percent down payment "standard," there is really little that is standard about it. There is no reason to let that figure scare you. The truth is that even conventional mortgage loans, those that are not guaranteed by the federal government, may have down payment requirements as low as three percent. Distinguishing criteria for most conventional loans include credit score: A higher score, verified income history, conforming debt to income ratios, and documented property appraisal and legal requirements qualify buyers for a lower interest rate;

There is a standing requirement for private mortgage insurance if the down payment is less than 20 percent of the loan amount, but that disappears on its own when you reach that...

VA Home Loans: Important Facts to Know Before Applying

Understanding the VA Loan ProcessOwning a home is a time-honored dream for most Americans today, and especially so for those who taken the oath to protect and serve their country as a member of the military. For more than seven decades, the Veterans Administration has helped millions of active and retired military members, reservists, and National Guard personnel obtain affordable financing for homes, farms, and businesses.

VA Loan Eligibility Requirements

In addition to the members of the branches of the military mentioned above, surviving spouses of military members who died while on active duty and those who died as a result of a service-related disability are also eligible to apply for a separate type of mortgage loan: the VA loans.

Actual dates of eligibility in relation to service dates can vary. For instance, National Guard members must wait six years to apply, but if called up for active duty, that time span is then shortened to just 181 days. Applicants must also obtain a certificate of eligibility, which will explain their specific dates of eligibility to use the VA loan program.

Benefits of a VA Loan 

The most popular advantage of using a VA loan is that there is no down payment requirement and no mortgage insurance premiums for buyers to pay. These benefits...

Home Buying After Bankruptcy: Tips and Helpful Information

Buying a Home After BankruptcyAfter a bankruptcy occurs, buying a home is tricky but not impossible. Rebuilding credit, allowing the bankruptcy to season and shopping for the right loan can help homebuyers on the path to securing a mortgage.

To understand the options for your specific situation, speak with a lender and/or financial advisor.

Let the Bankruptcy Season

After the bankruptcy has discharged, a home buyer must wait for a while to allow the bankruptcy to season. Once the waiting period is complete, the homebuyer may be eligible to secure a mortgage, however, the length of the waiting period is dependent on a variety of factors, including the type of bankruptcy filed and the type of mortgage the homebuyer is pursuing.

Home buyers who have filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy must wait 2 years to qualify for an FHA or VA loan, or four years for a conventional loan. Home buyers with a chapter 13 bankruptcy on their record can secure a conventional loan in two years and an FHA or VA loan in one year, provided that payments are made on time.

Rebuild Your Credit

During the seasoning period, spend time rebuilding credit and saving for a down payment. Using a credit card responsibly is one of the best ways to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy occurs. To do this, work with a bank to obtain a secured credit card. Use the card regularly, and pay off the balance monthly to show responsible credit card usage. 

Save for a Down...

Choosing the Right Home Improvements

Renovation ROIA home purchase is a big investment, and making changes and improvements can certainly help to increase its value over time. Some upgrades are more common than others, as they are often considered sure fire ways to add value to the investment potential.

However, certain upgrades actually cost more to install than the money they are worth at the final sale of a home, so it pays to be careful when remodeling in order to increase the value of your home. Items like kitchen and bathroom upgrades or adding on another room are the best ways to increase home value, yet there might be other projects to consider too.

The Popular Projects

What improvements add the most value? More often than not, homeowners will point to the kitchen or bathroom first when they decide it’s time to stage or add value to their home. Not only can this type of upgrade reap rewards down the line when the home sells, but the owner gets to enjoy the fruits of their labor while they are still living there.

Depending on the size of the kitchen, an average remodel can run around $10,000 or more. While this might sound like a large chunk of change, keep in mind that homeowners sometimes see at least a 100% return on their investment. In some cases, depending on the housing market and the type of upgrades installed, one might see close to a 200% return. This is also an area where homeowners can spend too much, so it is important...

What Does a Lender Do With My Credit Report?

lender evaluating credit scoreWhen you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, your lender typically obtains a copy of your credit reports and also your credit scores. Although you may not see this information in the paperwork you have to sign, your lender reviews it carefully in determining your credit-worthiness.

Here is why, and what happens to your report once you apply. To better understand your financial situation as it relates to buying a home, speak with a lender and/or financial advisor.

Why Do Mortgage Lenders Check My Credit?

There are two reasons that a lender may want to check your credit when you apply for a mortgage loan. The first is to learn more about your history of borrowing money and paying it back. Although most of the information that shows up in a basic credit report will relate to existing loans you have and open credit lines, there is also data about debts you have had in the past. Your record of paying all debts on time and not letting any delinquent accounts go to collection will show the lender that you are a reliable borrower.

The second reason involves a verification of the information you provided in the application. Your credit report shows the lender how much debt you are currently carrying, as well as the credit limits and monthly payments, as applicable. You are also typically required to quantify your monthly debt obligations in the application. If the...

Buying the Retirement Home: Tips to Help Senior Buyers Make a Great Choice

Tips for Seniors Looking to Buy a New Retirement HomeThe kids have flown the nest and its time to replace the too-large home with a smaller one more suited for just one or two people. But size is just one consideration when considering a house downsize and moving to a new house. If a retirement home purchase is looming in your future, the following tips will help you make sure you are selecting the perfect one for your comfort and your needs.

Stay or Go

The first question senior buyers should ask themselves is where they want to live. In many cases, moving to another city to be closer to grandchildren or friends may be the dream. When considering this type of move, visit the area first to get a feel for what it has to offer. In addition, make sure to drive through any neighborhoods that seem interesting to get a feel for the type of housing that might be available in these neighborhoods. Prices can vary significantly from area to area, so make sure to do the research and learn all you can about an area before deciding to buy there.

Features and layouts

Seniors who plan to remain in their own area throughout their remaining years will want to make sure that any home they consider purchasing will continue to suit their needs. Since some decline in mobility is typical as the human body ages, these buyers should consider looking for a home that has been built specifically to accommodate those with mobility issues or at least look for a home...