Take Advantage of Your Home Equity: A Homeowner’s Guide

Homeownership offers many advantages over renting, including a stable living environment, predictable monthly payments, and the freedom to make modifications. Neighborhoods with high rates of homeownership have less crime and more civic engagement. Additionally, studies show that homeowners are happier and healthier than renters, and their children do better in school.1

But one of the biggest perks of homeownership is the opportunity to build wealth over time. Researchers at the Urban Institute found that homeownership is financially beneficial for most families,2 and a recent study showed that the median net worth of homeowners can be up to 80 times greater than that of renters in some areas.3

So how does purchasing a home help you build wealth? And what steps should you take to maximize the potential of your investment? Find out how to harness the power of home equity for a secure financial future.

WHAT IS HOME EQUITY?

Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and the amount you owe on your mortgage. So, for example, if your home would currently sell for $250,000, and the remaining balance on your mortgage is $200,000, then you have $50,000 in home equity.

$250,000 (Home’s Market Value)

–   $200,000 (Mortgage Balance)

______________________________

             $50,000 (Home Equity)

The equity in your home is considered a non-liquid asset. It’s your money; but rather than sitting in a bank account, it’s providing you with a place to live. And when you factor in the potential of appreciation, an investment in real estate will likely offer a better return than any savings account available today.

 

HOW DOES HOME EQUITY BUILD WEALTH?

A mortgage payment is a type of “forced savings” for home buyers. When you make a mortgage payment each month, a portion of the money goes towards interest on your loan, and the remaining part goes towards paying off your principal, or loan balance. That means the amount of money you owe the bank is reduced every month. As your loan balance goes down, your home equity goes up.

Additionally, unlike other assets that you borrow money to purchase, the value of your home generally increases, or appreciates, over time. For example, when you pay off your car loan after five or seven years, you will own it outright. But if you try to sell it, the car will be worth much less than when you bought it. However, when you purchase a home, its value typically rises over time. So when you sell it, not only will you have grown your equity through your monthly mortgage payments, but in most cases, your home’s market value will be higher than what you originally paid. And even if you only put down 10% at the time of purchase—or pay off just a small portion of your mortgage—you get to keep 100% of the property’s appreciated value. That’s the wealth-building power of real estate.

 

WHAT CAN I DO TO GROW MY HOME’S EQUITY FASTER?

Now that you understand the benefits of building equity, you may wonder how you can speed up your rate of growth. There are two basic ways to increase the equity in your home:

  • Pay down your mortgage.

We shared earlier that your home’s equity goes up as your mortgage balance goes down. So paying down your mortgage is one way to increase the equity in your home.

Some homeowners do this by adding a little extra to their payment each month, making one additional mortgage payment per year, or making a lump-sum payment when extra money becomes available—like an annual bonus, gift, or inheritance.

Before making any extra payments, however, be sure to check with your mortgage lender about the specific terms of your loan. Some mortgages have prepayment penalties. And it’s important to ensure that if you do make additional payments, the money will be applied to your loan principal.

Another option to pay off your mortgage faster is to decrease your amortization period. For example, if you can afford the larger monthly payments, you might consider refinancing from a 30-year or 25-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Not only will you grow your home equity faster, but you could also save a bundle in interest over the life of your loan.

  • Raise your home’s market value.

Boosting the market value of your property is another way to grow your home equity. While many factors that contribute to your property’s appreciation are out of your control (e.g. demographic trends or the strength of the economy) there are things you can do to increase what it’s worth.

For example, many homeowners enjoy do-it-yourself projects that can add value at a relatively low cost. Others choose to invest in larger, strategic upgrades. Keep in mind, you won’t necessarily get back every dollar you invest in your home. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the remodeling project with the highest return on investment is a garage door replacement, which costs about $3600 and is expected to recoup 97.5% at resale. In contrast, an upscale kitchen remodel—which can cost around $130,000—averages less than a 60% return on investment.4

Of course, keeping up with routine maintenance is the most important thing you can do to protect your property’s value. Neglecting to maintain your home’s structure and systems could have a negative impact on its value—therefore reducing your home equity. So be sure to stay on top of recommended maintenance and repairs.

 

 

HOW DO I ACCESS MY HOME EQUITY IF I NEED IT?

When you put your money into a checking or savings account, it’s easy to make a withdrawal when needed. However, tapping into your home equity is a little more complicated.

The primary way homeowners access their equity is by selling their home. Many sellers will use their equity as a downpayment on a new home. Or some homeowners may choose to downsize and use the equity to supplement their income or retirement savings.

But what if you want to access the equity in your home while you’re still living in it? Maybe you want to finance a home renovation, consolidate debt, or pay for college. To do that, you will need to take out a loan using your home equity as collateral.

There are several ways to borrow against your home equity, depending on your needs and qualifications:5

  • Second Mortgage – A second mortgage, also known as a home equity loan, is structured similar to a primary mortgage. You borrow a lump-sum amount, which you are responsible for paying back—with interest—over a set period of time. Most second mortgages have a fixed interest rate and provide the borrower with a predictable monthly payment. Keep in mind, if you take out a home equity loan, you will be making monthly payments on both your primary and secondary mortgages, so budget accordingly.
  • Cash-Out Refinance – With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your primary mortgage for a higher amount than you currently owe. Then you pay off your original mortgage and keep the difference as cash. This option may be preferable to a second mortgage if you have a high interest rate on your current mortgage or prefer to make just one payment per month.
  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. It allows you to draw out money as you need it instead of taking out a lump sum all at once. A HELOC may come with a checkbook or debit card to enable easy access to funds. You will only need to make payments on the amount of money that has been drawn. Similar to a credit card, the interest rate on a HELOC is variable, so your payment each month could change depending on how much you borrow and how interest rates fluctuate.
  • Reverse Mortgage – A reverse mortgage enables qualifying seniors to borrow against the equity in their home to supplement their retirement funds. In most cases, the loan (plus interest) doesn’t need to be repaid until the homeowners sell, move, or are deceased.6

Tapping into your home equity may be a good option for some homeowners, but it’s important to do your research first. In some cases, another type of loan or financing method may offer a lower interest rate or better terms to fit your needs. And it’s important to remember that defaulting on a home equity loan could result in foreclosure. Ask us for a referral to a lender or financial adviser to find out if a home equity loan is right for you.

 

WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU

Wherever you are in the equity-growing process, we can help. We work with buyers to find the perfect home to begin their wealth-building journey. We also offer free assistance to existing homeowners who want to know their home’s current market value to refinance or secure a home equity loan. And when you’re ready to sell, we can help you get top dollar to maximize your equity stake. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation!

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:
1. National Association of Realtors –
https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/highlights-from-social-benefits-of-homeownership-and-stable-housing
2. Urban Institute –
https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/homeownership-still-financially-better-renting
3. Census Bureau –
https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/08/gaps-in-wealth-americans-by-household-type.html
4. Remodeling Magazine –
https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/
5. Investopedia –
https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/heloc/home-equity/
6. Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/mortgage/reverse-mortgage-guide/

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Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block

We all want to be good neighbors. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why we’ve outlined our proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbors!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential

The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.1

So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

Staging your home can be costly but we can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighborhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbors homes.2

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos

You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.3 Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, we only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. But we don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home.

We go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. We work closely with our photographers to ensure the photos taken capture the best angles, lighting and that they capture all of your homes unique features and selling features.The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money!4

 

With the rise in virtual real estate we have been doing virtual tours through the Matterport program. Virtual tours allow prospective buyers to walk through every room of their home remotely on their computer, phone, tablet or through their VR headsets. 95% of buyers are more likely to call about homes with 3D virtual tours5.

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start

Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

We can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

 

STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing

Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

 

STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan

Most agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago.put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, we know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.3

That’s why we invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. Our dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.

By utilizing online and social marketing platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents, your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.

LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact us for a copy of our Home Seller’s Guide, which offers a complete guide to the home selling process. Or call us to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. We’d love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

Sources:

  1. Real Estate Staging Association – https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
  2. Home Staging Resources –
    https://www.homestagingresources.com/2018-home-staging-statistics/
  3. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-real-estate-in-a-digital-world-12-12-2018.pdf
  4. RIS Media –
    https://rismedia.com/2018/12/12/shocking-stats-importance-photography-real-estate/
  5. Matterport-https://bit.ly/matterports

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5 Steps to Finding Your Next Home | Halifax Home Buyers Guide

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, shopping for a new home can feel daunting. In fact, 56% of buyers said that “finding the right property” was the most difficult step in the home buying process.[1]

Buying a home is a significant commitment of both time and money. And a home purchase has the power to improve both your current quality of life and your future financial security, so the stakes are high.

Follow these five steps—and complete the corresponding worksheet offered below—to assess your priorities, streamline your search, and choose your next home with confidence.

The first step to finding your ideal home is determining WHY you want to move. Do you need more space? Access to better schools? Less maintenance? Or are you tired of throwing money away on rent when you could be building equity? Pinpointing the reasons why you want to move can help you assess your priorities for your home search.

 

Don’t forget to think about how your circumstances might change over the next few years. Do you expect to switch jobs? Have more children? Get a pet? A good rule of thumb is to choose a house that will meet your family’s needs for at least the next five to seven years.[2] Be sure to set your goals accordingly.

Many financial professionals recommend following the “28/36 Rule” to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. The rule states that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (e.g., mortgage, taxes, insurance) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (i.e., housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations, like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.).[3]

 

Of course, the 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage BEFORE you begin shopping for homes will give you a much more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your downpayment to find out your maximum purchasing potential.

Many financial professionals recommend following the “28/36 Rule” to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. The rule states that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (e.g., mortgage, taxes, insurance) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (i.e., housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations, like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.).[3]

 

Of course, the 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage BEFORE you begin shopping for homes will give you a much more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your downpayment to find out your maximum purchasing potential.

When it comes to real estate, WHERE you choose to buy is just as important as WHAT you choose to buy.

 

Do you prefer a rural, urban, or suburban setting? How long of a commute are you willing to make? Which neighborhoods feed into your favorite schools? These decisions will impact your day-to-day life while you live in the home.

 

Another important factor to consider is how the area is likely to appreciate over time. Choosing the right neighborhood can raise the profit potential of your home when it comes time to sell. Look for communities that are well maintained with high home-ownership rates, low crime rates, and access to good schools, desired retail establishments, and top employers.[4]

Start with the basics, like your ideal number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. Do you prefer a one-story or two-story layout? Do you want a swimming pool?

 

Keep in mind, you may not find a home with all of your “wants,” or even all of your “needs” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.

 

Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school.

 

If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.

 

A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighborhood to meet your needs, we will be there to assist you every step of the way.

 

And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. We can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, we get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.

 

You might guess that the VIP service we provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, we can represent you throughout the entire home buying process at NO COST to you. It’s true; the home seller pays a buyer agent’s fee at closing. So you can benefit from our time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. That’s probably why 87% of buyers purchase their home with the help of an agent.[1]

 

And although we’ve listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you want to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.

 

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, and let’s start making your real estate dreams a reality!

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20 Ways to Save Money & Stretch Your Household Budget

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

We would love to help you meet your financial goals. Whether you want to refinance your mortgage, save up for a down payment, or simply find lower-cost alternatives for home repairs, maintenance, or utilities, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals. And if you have plans to buy or sell a home this year, we can discuss the steps you should be taking to prepare financially. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

1.    Insurance Information Institute

2.    Department of Energy

3.    Money Crashers

4.    Harvard University

5.    Forbes

6.    Money

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Virtual Home Selling Program

Virtual Home Selling Program

The Halifax Market is on fire. With Mortgage rates falling homes are moving fast and for more money! Using our innovative virtual  program we will be able to get the most out of your biggest investment while practicing social distancing and flattening the curve.

Virtual Consultation

Our team will schedule a facetime or zoom meeting where we can give our listing presentation and go over a comparative market analysis of your home.

Virtual Tours

Our professional photographer  will create a HD virtual tour that will be  showcased to potential buyers

Inspections

Our team will arrange to have an inspection done upfront. Allowing buyers to write offers without physically seeing
the home.

E-signatures

You will be able to sign all  documents digitally right from the comfort of  your home.

Closing Time

A lawyer trained in virtual closings and  remote signing will oversee the closing of the home.

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