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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to move to a new neighborhood, or you want to know if your current neighborhood is a good fit for you, these questions can help you gauge for quality. These are the questions that the American Planning Association (APA) use to determine a neighborhood’s eligibility for “great neighborhood”.

Neighborhood Form and Composition

How does the neighborhood …

  1. Capitalize on building design, scale, architecture, and proportionality to create interesting visual experiences, vistas, or other qualities? Accommodate multiple users and provide access (via walking, bicycling, or public transit) to multiple destinations that serve its residents? Foster social interaction and create a sense of community and neighborliness?

  2. Promote security from crime is made safe for children and other users (i.e. traffic calming, other measures)?

  3. Use, protect, and enhance the environment and natural features?

Neighborhood Character and Personality

How does the neighborhood …

  1. Reflect the community’s local character and set itself apart from other neighborhoods?

  2. Retain, interpret, and use local history to help create a sense of place?

Neighborhood Environment and Sustainable Practices

How does the neighborhood …

  1. Promote or protect air and water quality, protect groundwater resources, and respond to the growing threat of climate change? What forms of “green infrastructure” are used (e.g., local tree cover mitigating heat gain)?

  2. Utilize measures or practices to protect or enhance local biodiversity or the local environment?


For a full list of guidelines, or to view the original article, click here.
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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts
With Summer on vacation, its time to focus on getting ourselves prepared for the half of the four seasons. Here are some tips to make sure your home is ready for Fall and Winter (courtesy of bobvila.com ):

1. Clear out the gutters.

Remove leaves and other debris from your drainpipe and gutters to prevent clogging. In areas with cold winters, outdoor faucets should be drained in the fall.

2. Clean the fireplace and chimney.

You can clear out ash and charred wood from the fireplace yourself, but leave the chimney cleaning to a professional. Have the chimney cleaner check the damper to ensure it can be tightly closed to prevent drafts.

3. Check the heating system.

Do a survey of your home’s heating vents to make sure they’re not blocked or covered by furniture, carpeting, or curtains. Dust vents and clean all filters. Make an appointment for an annual heating system check-up.

4. Store air conditioners.

If you have removable window air conditioners, be sure to unplug them before taking them down. Dust and clean before covering or storing.

5. Check for drafts.

Stay warm, save energy, and reduce your heating bills this fall by examining windows and doors for cracks and sealing them to prevent drafts.

6. Put up storm windows.
If you have removable screens, now’s the time to clean, store, and replace them with storm windows.

7. Ready the water heater.
Prepare for cooler weather by draining the water heater and clearing out any debris that has settled in the tank.

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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts
We, as a global community, have been affected with a large amount of natural disasters in a relatively short time-span. It is important to know what to do when one is unfortunate enough to be caught in such a situation. Here is some information on flooding (courtesy of Ready.gov): 


What

Flooding is a temporary overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. Flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, or it may cover a house to the rooftop. There are many possible causes of floods including heavy rain or snowmelt, coastal storms and storm surge, waterway overflow from being blocked with debris or ice, or overflow of levees, dams, or waste water systems, Flooding can occur slowly over many days or happen very quickly with little or no warning, called flash floods.

Where

Flooding can happen in any U.S. state or territory. It is particularly important to be prepared for flooding if you live in a low-lying area near a body of water, such as near a river, stream, or culvert; along a coast; or downstream from a dam or levee.

When

Flooding can occur during every season, but some areas of the country are at greater risk at certain times of the year. Coastal areas are at greater risk for flooding during hurricane season (i.e., June to November), while the Midwest is more at risk in the spring and during heavy summer rains. Ice jams occur in the spring in the Northeast and Northwest. Even the deserts of the Southwest are at risk during the late summer monsoon season.

Basic Safety Tips:

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ®

  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.

  • Do not drive over bridges that are over fast-moving floodwaters. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridge unstable.

  • Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.

  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.

  • Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.


For safety information on earthquakes, click here. For any other disasters, click here.

 

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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts

While no one can know for sure what will happen to housing values, if you make the choice to buy a home that meets your needs and priorities you’ll be happy to live in it for years to come.

Neighborhood or Home Amenities

For some homebuyers, living in a particular neighborhood takes precedence over all other priorities, but for others, the home itself matters more. Ideally, you’ll find the perfect home in the neighborhood you love at a price that’s below your budget, but realistically, most people have to make some compromises.

Find homes for sale on You (and your spouse, partner or family) should make a list of what features you want in a home, such as the number of bedrooms, a fenced yard, granite counters in the kitchen, and then rank them in terms of priorities. Think about whether the house or the community matter more to you, and whether it’s worth it to you to make a longer commute in order to live in a home with a larger lot.

When to Compromise

Once you’ve determined whether the location or the house itself matters most, you may have to compromise on some of your priorities. If the location is the most important factor for your home choice but you find that homes are priced above your budget, you can compromise in several ways:

– Look for a different home type within the community, such as a smaller single family home, a town home or condominium. Decide if you can live with one less bedroom or other features on your list.

– Consult with a lender or a financial planner to discuss your options for increasing your budget. While no one should overspend on a home, you should recognize that going $10,000 above your price range when you’re financing your purchase with a 30-year fixed-rate loan will actually add only about $30 to your monthly payment.

– Lower your expectations about the condition of the home. While everyone prefers a move-in ready home, you can often get a better deal on a home that needs some cosmetic repairs. Be careful, though, to have a home inspection and to evaluate the structure of the home to see that it meets your needs. Moving walls and adding a bathroom are costly renovations, while painting and replacing appliances are more reasonable.

If you have your heart set on a specific home style or a home with a larger yard for your children or to garden, your compromise is more likely to be in the location. If you’re willing to commute farther or perhaps choose a home in a community next to the ‘hot’ neighborhood, you can often find a more affordable home that fulfills your wish list. An experienced Realtor can help you determine when and how to compromise and should take the time to show you a variety of alternatives so you can make an informed decision about when to make an offer. – Think you might be ready to buy? Visit our newest addition, Doorsteps, to explore the home buying process at your own pace. On your own terms.

To read more, or to view homes in your area, click on this link.

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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts
Analysts at realtor.com have once again gathered data and compiled a list of the latest market trends in El Paso, Texas:

New Listings: 231
Since the end of July, 231 new homes have been added to El Paso’s real estate market. Browse the new properties here.

Price Reductions: 131
Since the last market report from realtor.com, 131 properties have lowered their asking price. Click here to view these properties.

Median Days on Market: 91
According to realtor.com, the average amount of time a home stays on the real estate market in El Paso, Texas is 91 days. More stats can be viewed here.

For more information, or to view all listings in El Paso, click on this link.
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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts
Here are some not-so-known listing tips that can boost your property’s listing value:

1. Staging changes from season to season
The concept of staging was once a secret. That cat’s been out of the bag for a while now, but the practice of staging homes continues to evolve — and it can be much more complicated and elaborate than simply creating a cozy conversation area in a living room. For instance, did you know that it’s better to use shorter furniture during summer months? “It makes the room feel bigger, longer, and in the potential buyer’s mind, a better fit,” says Brian Pickler, president of Nadeau – Furniture with a Soul. Another staging secret is to play soft background music during showings to make a home seem cozier.

2. People love a healthy lawn
Who can resist the smell of freshly cut grass? Apparently, buyers can’t. Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, knows one Nashville, TN, real estate agent’s secret: “She uses our platform to order last-minute lawn mowing before every showing. I’ve seen her get one home’s lawn mowed three times in one week.”

3. Pricing-strategy bands are important
Setting the right price so your home will sell is not a secret, but have you ever heard of pricing within “bands?” Don Tepper, a Virginia real estate agent, explains: “Buyers who want to spend $340,000 on a property may look between $325,000 and $350,000. If that’s the seller’s target market, then pricing a home at $351,000 will result in a lot of potential buyers missing the listing altogether.” So what’s the secret solution? Tepper says to price the home at $349,000. If you price it at $351,000, you’ll get people looking at the band between $350,000 and $375,000. “Those buyers probably want something fancier or nicer than a $351,000 house,” he says.

4. Black holes exist in real estate listings
People can’t see black holes; no light gets out, making them invisible. If your listing falls into a real estate black hole, no one will see it either. “Most cities have listing black holes — times when listings get lost to weekends of sun, family vacations, and nonbusiness topics,” says Matt Parker, a Seattle, WA, real estate agent. If you list right before people go out of town, such as before Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, your listing may get buried before potential buyers see it.

5. Exaggerations in listings only disappoint
People on dating sites often fudge their age or post a photo that makes them look more athletic than they really are. This works in the short term to capture attention, but when the face-to-face meeting happens, those exaggerated online claims often lead to disappointment. The same happens with real estate listings. “If your home is located near a tiny pond, don’t describe it as if it’s this huge, luxurious waterfront lake desirable to all,” says Chantay Bridges, a Los Angeles, CA, real estate agent. “Take what you do have and describe the best features of it. Otherwise, buyers may be turned off and disappointed.”

6. A listing can’t sit too long
In a hot market, “too long” for a house to sit unsold is three to four weeks, max. “That’s a sure sign [the house] is overpriced,” says Miller. If you don’t want to appear desperate by dropping the value, price the home realistically from the start. “It’s much better to be in a position where the seller has multiple offers than to get greedy trying to obtain an unrealistic price — only to reduce it later,” Miller adds.

7. There is a home-buying month
Many real estate agents mark February’s Presidents Day weekend as the unofficial start of the housing season, which runs through September. There is then a steady decline in activity until the next year. But there’s one month during housing season that consistently performs better in sales than all the others. Can you guess this secret month? If you answered June, you would be correct. Housing sales in June are typically 29% above average.


Thanks to Laura Agadoni for these insightful tips.

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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts
Here are my top five favorite tips ( courtesy of USA Today):

1. Start saving for a down payment early
It’s common to put 20% down, but many lenders now permit much less, and first-time home buyer programs allow as little as 3% down. But putting down less than 20% may mean higher costs and paying for private mortgage insurance, and even a small down payment can still be hefty. For example, a 5% down payment on a $200,000 home is $10,000. Play around with a down payment calculator to help you land on a goal amount. Some tips for saving for a down payment include setting aside tax refunds and work bonuses, setting up an automatic savings plan and using an app to track your progress.

2. Check your credit
When you’re taking out a mortgage loan, your credit will be one of the key factors in whether you’re approved, and it will help determine your interest rate and possibly the loan terms. So check your credit before you begin the home buying process. Dispute any errors that could be dragging down your credit score and look for opportunities to improve your credit, such as making a dent in any outstanding debts.

3. Pause any new credit activity
Any time you open a new credit account, whether to take out an auto loan or get a new credit card, the lender runs a hard inquiry, which can temporarily ding your credit score. If you’re applying for a mortgage soon, avoid opening new credit accounts to keep your score from dipping.

4. Consider what type of property to buy
You may assume you’ll buy a single-family home, and that could be ideal if you want a large lot or a lot of room. But if you’re willing to sacrifice space for less maintenance and extra amenities, and you don’t mind paying a homeowners association fee, a condo or town-home could be a better fit.

5. Set aside more money for after move-in
Sorry, that’s not all you need to save up for before home shopping. Once you’ve saved for your down payment and budgeted for closing costs, you should also set aside a buffer to pay for what will go inside the house. This includes furnishings, appliances, rugs, updated fixtures, new paint and any other touches you’ll want to have when you move in.
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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts

Disassociate Yourself With Your Home

Learning how to let go is difficult. You’ve lived in this home for years, and it’s become part of you. However, you’ve got to make that break. Here are a few tips:

  1. Say to yourself, “This is not my home; it is a house — a product to be sold much like a box of cereal on the grocery store shelf.

  2. Make the mental decision to “let go” of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.

  3. Picture yourself handing over the keys and envelopes containing appliance warranties to the new owners!

  4. Say goodbye to every room. Stand in the doorway and talk out loud about your memories.

  5. Don’t look backwards — look toward the future.

De-Personalize.

Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. Buyers can’t see past personal artifacts, and you don’t want them to be distracted. You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they can’t do that if yours are there! You don’t want to make any buyer ask, “I wonder what kind of people live in this home?” You want buyers to say, “I can see myself living here.”

  1. De-Clutter is the number one priority – People collect an amazing quantity of junk. Consider this: if you haven’t used it in over a year, you probably don’t need it:

    1. If you don’t need it, why not donate it or throw it away?

    2. Remove all books from bookcases.

    3. Pack up those knickknacks.

    4. Clean off everything on kitchen counters.

    5. Put essential items used daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use.

    6. Think of this process as a head-start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway.

  2. Rearrange bedroom closets and storage cabinets – Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors. Think of the message it sends if items fall out! Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if she sees everything organized. It says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well. This means:

    1. Alphabetize spice jars.

    2. Neatly stack dishes.

    3. Turn coffee cup handles facing the same way.

    4. Hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same direction.

    5. Line up shoes.

  3. Consider renting a temporary storage unit – Almost every home shows better with less furniture.

    1. Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage.

    2. Since your bookcases are now empty, store them.

    3. Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger.

    4. Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose and plenty of room to move around. You don’t want buyers scratching their heads and saying, “What is this room used for?”


      For more great tips, read this article.

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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts
You know curb appeal when you see it. A house with curb appeal looks loved and nurtured, designed with integrity and accented with creative details. It has healthy, beautiful landscaping, attention to color and a welcoming approach. When people see a house with curb appeal, they often think, “Wow, I could live there.” At its best, giving your home curb appeal means creating the characteristics that elicit strong emotional appeal for you, your family, neighbors—and potential buyers when the time comes to sell.
Whether you want to punch-up your house for a quick sale or inspire family and neighborhood pride, here are 9 things you can do to get your home’s exterior looking great:

1: Lose the junk
Get rid of anything that is an eyesore, including old vehicles, lawn furniture, swing sets, empty planters, unruly garden hoses, dead bushes…you get the idea. If it isn’t attractive or necessary to your lifestyle, give it away, sell it, recycle it or toss it. While you’re at it, find an out-of-sight place to hide garbage and recycling cans. The idea here is to cut loose the clutter. Our articles on Garage Storage and How to Build a Lean-to Shed may help.

2: Mow and nurture the lawn
Rolling out a sod lawn is a way to instantly transform the yard. Because lawns are usually a major part of the front yard, the condition of your lawn can dramatically impact curb appeal. If your home has a lawn, mow, rake, edge and manicure it. Pull or kill the weeds. Then keep it well watered and fertilized. If you live in a region where drought is an issue, consider drought-tolerant landscaping, but be advised that it can take a long time and considerable expense to bring this type of landscaping to maturity.

3: Spruce-up the approach
Power wash pathways and driveways to clean and brighten them. First impressions happen as people approach your house. With this in mind, get the walkway, steps, porch and front door in top shape. Pull weeds from the walkway and repair any cracks. Consider edging a plain concrete walkway with bricks or stones. Lighting is important, too. Outdoor lighting makes a house beautiful at night and adds safety and security. Think about installing low-voltage landscape lighting to accent trees, walkways and landscaping.

4: Focus on the front door
Because every visitor sees your front door, make sure it looks great. Wash or, if necessary, refinish or paint it. If that doesn’t do the trick, consider replacing it with a new one. See Front & Entry Doors Buying Guide. The door’s hardware makes a difference, too. Remove tarnished hardware and polish it with metal polish. If it’s in shoddy shape, replace it entirely. A shiny new metal kick plate at the door’s base can add a touch of elegance and hide scuffs and animal scratches. While you’re dealing with the front door, don’t forget to welcome guests with a friendly doormat.

5: Prune bushes and trees
Trees and bushes can bring a sense of fullness, maturity and majesty to a property. But these wonderful additions to a landscape can become rangy and overgrown, detracting from a property’s beauty. They can overshadow gardens that need sun and block views that you want to accent. If your trees and bushes are out of control, prune them or have them professionally trimmed.

6: Plant flowers and shrubs
A house’s foundation is one of its least attractive elements. If your home’s foundation is visible, camouflage it with flowering hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendrons, knockout roses or large-leafed, flowering plants that have a generous, leafy spread. The best choices for this purpose grow 3 to 4 feet in height and offer a touch of color. Plant them at lease 2 feet from the house. Ask your nursery person for recommendations that will thrive in your region. If you don’t have room for gardens, consider filling pots and containers with colorful flowers. A container garden can add beauty to the entire front area of the house.

7: Add interesting details
You can add a touch of elegance with shiny new house numbers, a stylish front porch light and a brilliant doorknocker. In the garden, consider a water feature, birdbath or garden sculpture.

8: Wash the house
Sweep away dirt and cobwebs, working from the top down. Then use a garden hose or pressure washer to wash the walls. If you don’t have a pressure washer, scrub dirty walls with a long-handled soft-bristle brush and a soapy solution of non-phosphate detergent and water, and then rinse from the top down. A pressure washer makes washing dirty or mildewed siding an easier job, but be sure you know how to use it if you decide to go this route—the strong spray can peel paint or erode siding. For a two-story house, invest in a telescoping wand so you can work from the ground. Use a low-pressure nozzle to spray-on siding cleaner according to label directions, working from the bottom up. Then, use a high-pressure 20- to 40-degree nozzle to rinse with clear water from the top down. Keep moving and hold the nozzle at least 12 inches from the surface so that the powerful spray doesn’t damage the siding. Don’t spray electrical wires, light fixtures, outlets or windows, and be careful not to drive water up under the siding. For more, see How to Clean Siding. If washing doesn’t do the job, the house may need a new paint job. For more about painting your house, see 10 House Painting Rules You Should Never Break.

9: Don’t forget the garage door
The garage door, usually one of the largest surfaces at the front of a house, can be a visual asset or liability, depending upon its condition. If it isn’t in good shape, refinish or paint the garage door or—if necessary—replace it. A new garage door can really add a sense of style to a home, and there are many handsome new options, from modern translucent doors to traditional carriage-house beauties. See Garage Doors Buying Guide. If you decide to install a new garage door, opt for an automatic door operator—this will help ensure that the door stays closed.

A very interesting article, view the original post here.
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Claudia Hargrove Thoughts

1. You can make a small down payment — or none at all

Lenders say they often dispel the mistaken idea that homebuyers have to make down payments of at least 20 percent. In fact, some loan programs allow qualified people to buy homes with no down payment at all. Other loan programs allow down payments as small as 3 percent or 3.5 percent. The Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees zero-down VA mortgages for qualified borrowers: veterans, active-duty service members and certain members of the National Guard and Reserves. The U.S. Department of Agriculture guarantees zero-down mortgages as part of its Rural Development program. The loan guarantees are available in eligible areas — mostly rural areas, though some are suburban. Navy Federal Credit Union offers zero-down mortgages for qualified members to buy primary residences. Finally, Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages allow down payments as small as 3.5 percent. And a few lenders offer conventional mortgages with down payments of as little as 3 percent with private mortgage insurance.

2. With FHA, you can get a loan with imperfect credit

Federal Housing Administration-insured loans are appealing because they’re widely available to borrowers with imperfect credit. In 2016, the average credit score for an FHA homebuyer was around 686, while the average conventional homebuyer had a credit score around 753. You need a credit score of 580 or higher to get an FHA-insured mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent. If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you need to make a down payment of at least 10 percent to get an FHA mortgage. But first you would have to find a lender that would approve the loan. Here are more crucial facts about FHA loans.

3. Keep some savings in reserve

Mortgage lenders don’t want you to deplete your savings on the down payment and closing costs. They want you to have “reserves” — cash, or assets that can be sold quickly, so you can take care of unexpected expenses without missing house payments. Your lender will calculate the minimum reserves you’ll need to qualify for a mortgage. There’s a possibility that the reserve requirements will oblige you to unexpectedly make a down payment of less than 20 percent, triggering the need for mortgage insurance. To avoid mortgage insurance in this case, you’d have to cancel the deal, scrape up more money for a down payment and wait while you put aside more money. Lenders would rather you have an emergency fund than not, even if it means you’ll have to make higher house payments because of mortgage insurance. Depleting your reserves is just one of five first-time homebuyer mistakes.

4. You can save by refinancing into a 15-year loan

Even though mortgage rates are likely to rise in 2017, some homeowners will have reason to refinance. There are various refi triggers, even after interest rates have risen above record lows:

  1. Divorce.

  2. Finally recovering from a low credit score.

  3. To get rid of mortgage insurance.

  4. Finally having positive equity.

  5. To cash out some equity.

  6. To save money in the long term by refinancing into a 15-year loan.

The last item — refinancing into a 15-year mortgage — saves money in two ways: 15-year mortgages tend to have lower interest rates than 30-year loans, and you pay interest over a shorter period. In most cases, the monthly payments on a new 15-year mortgage are higher than for a 30-year loan, but the total interest paid over the life of the loan is less. There are also drawbacks to refinancing into a 15-year mortgage.

5. Borrow what you can afford to repay

When people buy homes, they often “stretch” to make their initial monthly payments, on the theory that their incomes will go up over time, making house payments easier to cover. But it’s smarter to live within your means. You can move up to a more expensive house after (and not before) your income rises. A conservative rule of thumb is that all of your monthly debt obligations, including the house payment, shouldn’t exceed 36 percent of your income before taxes. Let’s say your household income is $5,000 a month: The monthly house payment, car payments, student loans, credit cards, child support and other obligations shouldn’t be more than $1,800, or 36 percent of that $5,000.

For more mortgage tips, or to access the original article, click here.

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