Tips for Choosing the Right Neighborhood


Finding a home that suits you is only part of the journey. Another big part? Choosing the right neighborhood.

The number of bedrooms and square footage are certainly important when buying a home — but the community might be even more vital. 

After all, it’s where you’ll likely exercise and socialize, where your kids will grow up and go to school and, ultimately, where you’ll put down roots and build a life.

Are you ready to look for a new home? Here’s how you can find the right neighborhood:

  • Know your needs. If walkability is high on your list, make sure the neighborhood offers plenty of paths to explore. Is your commute to work a big factor? How long will it be? What are your thoughts on homeowners associations?
  • Do some research. Take some time to look into the community. Check out school district ratings and look at nearby listings to see home values. Reach out to learn what else the community offers.
  • Check out online groups. Pull up any neighborhood groups you can find on social media. Does the online community seem friendly? You can also search for a neighborhood newsletter or local events.
  • Take a self-guided tour. Drive around the neighborhood at different times of day to get a feel for its character. Can you see yourself living there? If you’re buying from out of town, you can hop on Google Maps and take a virtual walk. 

And if you’re ready to take an online tour or see a home in person, get in touch today. Together we’ll find the right home and neighborhood for you.

Posted on September 29, 2020 at 3:31 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying |

An Easy Guide to Virtual Home Tours

Virtual home tours have quickly become the new norm. Sellers and agents now rely on digital tools, and many are skipping the traditional open house and opting for tours via video platforms.

But for buyers, there’s more uncertainty. Can you really judge a home from a screen?  

Surprisingly, you can — as long as you prepare. 

Are you gearing up for a home search? Want to make the most of your virtual tours?  

Download the app. Will the tour be livestreamed on social media? Or will you need to log in to a new platform? Install the right app and do a practice run with a friend.

Research the home. Go beyond the listing description. Look at every photo, drive by in your car, explore the neighborhood and pull up property records. Reach out if you’re unsure how to find this info.

Get the floor plan. Print the home’s floor plan and keep it on hand during the tour. This will help you understand where you’re at in the house (and gauge the size of each room) as you move through the property.

Pay attention to details. Ask to see areas the agent hasn’t shown. How big are the closets? What’s the view outside the windows? You can even ask to walk around the yard or up the street virtually.  

Write down questions. If your tour is one-on-one and in real time, you can ask questions as you go. If it’s a group open house or a prerecorded video, you’ll want to write down your questions, then we can discuss them together.

Adapting to the changing market is easier when you have a partner in your corner. Ready to make your next move? Get in touch today.

Posted on September 15, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying |

What to Know About Home Inspections


Whether you’re buying or selling a house, getting a home inspection can be nerve-wracking.

If you’re selling, you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any hidden issues in the home. And if you’re buying, you’ll want everything to be in great shape so you can move in quickly.

But how much do you really know about the home inspection process? You can start by asking yourself four questions:

Is a home inspection always necessary?

A home inspection isn’t required — but it’s highly recommended. A house could look perfect on the outside but have underlying issues on the inside — like water damage or a faulty foundation. A home inspection is crucial because it can bring problems to light that otherwise would have worsened over time.

What does an inspector do?

An inspector thoroughly checks the safety and proper function of the property. This includes the heating and cooling systems, gas and water, electrical system, foundation, roof and other features both inside and outside of the home.

Who pays for a home inspection?

Typically, the buyer pays for the inspection because it’s for their benefit. If you’re a seller who would like to do a pre-listing home inspection, you would pay for it. The cost depends on the home’s value and size.

Do I have to be there?

It’s recommended if you’re a homebuyer. But as a safety precaution, you may be asked to step outside or follow social distancing guidelines during the inspection. You can also tour the home virtually or talk over the phone with the inspector to discuss any questions you may have.

Do you have other questions about home inspections? Reach out today.

Posted on July 28, 2020 at 1:08 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying, Selling |

5 Ways to Prepare to Buy or Sell Later


Summer is usually the perfect time to buy or sell a home. And for some people, it still is. After all, there are few things more welcoming than warm weather and fresh flowers blooming in the front yard.

But maybe you’re waiting to enter the market. That’s okay too. There are plenty of ways you can use this time to your advantage.

If you’re considering buying or selling later this year or next, here are five things you can do in the meantime.

Get your finances in order. Take stock of your accounts, assets and debts, and pull your free credit report. Make sure you’re in good standing to qualify for a loan and make a down payment.

Watch the market. Keep an eye on local home sales where you’re considering buying. This can give you an idea of what you might spend on a home — or how you should price yours when you list it.

Save up for moving expenses. Moving isn’t cheap — especially if you’re going a far distance. Start saving for your movers, trucks, packing supplies and more.

Talk to a mortgage lender. Start zeroing in on which lender you might want to go with, and make sure you understand the requirements you’ll need to meet to get a loan. You may also want to get preapproved before beginning your home search.

Prioritize your needs. If spending more time at home has made you reconsider your living space, take the time to figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a new home. Then we can discuss your options together. 

For more ways to prepare for buying or selling a home, get in touch today.

Posted on June 23, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying, Selling |

How Tech Helps You Buy or Sell a Home

With much of the country mostly staying home, it’s not your typical spring homebuying season. 

You might think social distancing has made it difficult to meet with lenders, view properties and sign paperwork, but fortunately that’s not the case. 

In fact, prospective buyers and sellers continue to move forward with their housing needs and doing so with safety in mind.

While the process may look a little different, modern technology is making it possible and, in some ways, more convenient.

So how does it work?

  • Virtual Open Houses and Showings: Facebook Live, FaceTime and Zoom are all being used to show properties. And many listings include a prerecorded tour of the home.
  • 3D Floor Plans and Interactive Walk-Throughs: Online tools make it easy to create interactive 3D walk-throughs and even allow for decor and furniture placement to give buyers a more lifelike feel of the space.
  • Electronic Signatures and Deed Filings: E-signing technology means there’s no need to meet in person to sign offers, contracts or any other paperwork needed in the process. 
  • Desktop and Drive-By Appraisals: If sellers are hesitant to have an appraiser visit their property in person, desktop and drive-by appraisals are a good alternative. These use city data, prior appraisals and comparable sales information to assess a home’s value. Homeowners can video chat with the appraiser to show them the interior and exterior elements of the property.

The way we buy and sell homes may have changed for now, but it’s still an active and essential market. If you have any questions about making a move, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Posted on April 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying, Selling |

Do you want more space when you retire?

When you think of the home you’ll retire in, a new house may come to mind. Or maybe you’re contemplating moving to your favorite vacation spot or somewhere closer to friends and family. 

With so many choices, how will you know what’s best for your lifestyle? 

Here are three questions to consider before making a move for retirement:  

1. Will you relocate? Maybe you have a favorite beach town in mind for your retirement, where you can relax year-round. If so, be sure to account for the price of moving and the costs of your new community. If the cost of living is higher, make sure you have enough money saved to live comfortably.

2. Should you downsize or upgrade? The kids have likely moved out, so you could opt for a smaller house or condo. But a more substantial property may offer additional space for visitors and hobbies. Think about what’s best for your family, then consider sitting down with a financial planner to evaluate your assets to be sure you can afford your options.

3. Is the timing right? If you’re not quite ready to retire but thinking about moving, it may be better to buy property while you still have a steady income. On the other hand, you can take your time looking if you start after you’ve left your job. Either way, explore your options to ensure you’re making the most of your investment and your retirement.

Is retirement in your near future? Are you ready to start looking for a new home? Reach out today to discuss your next steps.

Posted on February 11, 2020 at 7:00 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying, Health & Lifestyle |

When should you stop renting?

When is it time to stop renting a home and seriously consider buying your own place? That’s a personal question and a very personal decision — it really depends on your lifestyle, your finances, your employment plans, and many other factors that could make buying a house a really good idea, or an absolutely terrible one.

To figure out where you are on the homeownership spectrum and decide what the best move is for you, personally, here are 5 signs that you should probably keep renting and 11 indicators that it’s time to think seriously about buying a house. 

Signs that you should keep renting

You’re not confident that your income will increase in the future

In many markets, you don’t actually need to make a lot of money in order to buy a house, but it’s always smart to go into homeownership with the confidence that your income and earning power are only going to go up in the near or distant future. Even though renting can be cheaper than buying in many markets and under many circumstances — and even though rent prices tend to increase faster than home prices in most places — your property taxes will go up as a homeowner; you’ll also be on the hook for home repairs, and if you want to make any improvements or even just keep the house you buy looking as good as it did when you bought it, all of that will require money.

So if you’re working at a job where your hours or income are uncertain, where there’s little to no room for advancement — and it’s like that everywhere in your field — or you’re in school and will be in school for a few years, then it might not be the best time to think about buying.

Homes in your area take a long time to sell

Some markets are hotter than others, and when the time comes to sell your house, it’s a lot better to be in an in-demand market than to have a house that takes a long time to sell. Many people don’t want to deal with or can’t afford to pay two mortgage payments at a time, so waiting to sell before finding a new place to live is a must for households in that situation. When you’re ready to move on, you’ll want to move on quickly, so it’s best to buy in a neighborhood or market where you can be relatively certain that the house you’ve yet to buy will be a quick sell.

You can look up average days-on-market information for the city and even state where you live online, but to get the most detailed information about places you’d consider buying, it’s probably a good idea to check with an agent or someone else who knows the area well.

You want to move around to different neighborhoods or different areas

There’s no sense in buying a house if you don’t know whether you even want to stay in the neighborhood! One advantage to being a renter is that you have the ability to leave and try somewhere else as soon as your lease is up, and there are plenty of renters who appreciate and even love this aspect of a renter’s lifestyle. It can be a lot of fun to change things up and try something new, after all!

People who are feeling a little more “settled” in life and ready to try staying in one place for a spell could definitely benefit from considering homeownership, but if that’s not you, then renting is probably a better bet for right now.

You have a lot of debt and no significant savings

It’s not impossible to buy a house when you have debt like student debt and credit card debt — but if your level of debt is overwhelming, then you won’t get the best possible deal on your mortgage loan because your credit will likely be lower than it could be. Likewise, mortgage loans typically require a down payment; you don’t need a full 20% down in some cases, and some loans have 0% down terms, but to secure most loans, you’re going to need some money stashed away. In addition to the down payment, you have appraisal and inspection fees, closing costs, and time away from work that you might need to spend looking for a house and dealing with the transaction itself.

If you’re in a situation where your level of debt is high and you really haven’t saved anything up toward buying a home, then it’s smart to tackle both of those financial realities first and foremost before you start shopping. While you’re getting everything in order, keep renting.

The kind of place you want to buy is unavailable

Even if none of the above applies to you, it still might not be a great time to think about buying a house. Mortgage loans are issued with the understanding that you’re going to stay put for several years (if not decades), and so settling for a place that isn’t quite right just to get your foot in the homeownership door can be a terrible move. To avoid paying capital gains taxes on a home sale, you’ll need to live in the house for at least two years.

So if you really want a yard (or have to have one for your pets or family members), for example, and there are no homes for sale with any yards to speak of — or only yards that are adjacent to busy streets — then it’s usually smarter to keep working on your credit, building up your savings, and renting a place from someone else than it is to buy a house that you’re not sure is right for you. If it’s not and you need to move, you could end up losing lots of money on the deal instead of accruing equity and selling higher than you bought.

Signs that you should consider buying

You know you’ll be in the area for some time

Whether it’s because you’ve fallen in love with a neighborhood or market and can’t imagine leaving, or because the job opportunities in your city are better than anywhere else in the country, when you know that you want to stay in an area for a long time, it’s a good idea to think about buying a house there. You’ll be building equity while you pay your mortgage, and housing prices tend to increase over time (apart from regular market corrections), so if there’s a lot keeping you where you currently live, then you should seriously consider becoming a homeowner.

You don’t have any debt

Mortgage lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio when they consider issuing a loan, and this can influence your mortgage interest rate, among other factors. To save money long-term, it’s a good idea to get yourself in the best financial shape possible before applying for (and securing) a mortgage loan, which is why you might want to do it after your student loans, credit cards, car payments, and any other outstanding debts that you have are all free and clear.

Of course, you might not want to go into debt again so soon after digging yourself out, especially a big debt like a mortgage, but if you ever want to be a homeowner someday, then thinking about it when you’re debt-free is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself.

You have an emergency fund

Another way you can show mortgage lenders that you’re a good prospect for a loan is by increasing the amount of money in your savings account. This could be for a down payment (more on that below), but it can also be simply an emergency fund that you add to and try never to tap except for, well, emergencies.

By saving up an emergency fund, you’ll show a mortgage lender that you know how to save and are responsible financially, which can also lead to a lower interest rate and better terms on your mortgage.

You have some down payment money saved

One of the biggest expenses involved in homeownership is the down payment. Again, not all loans will require a down payment; there are some loans (like those issued by the VA) that don’t ask for any money down, and also programs by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that will let you put as little as 3.5% down on a house.

That said, the programs that allow you to put less than 20% down also usually require private mortgage insurance (PMI) on the loan in addition to paying for the loan principal, interest, taxes, and insurance every month. This PMI amount is calculated depending on the loan amount borrowed. So to save the most money over the lifetime of the loan, it’s smart to get as close to that 20% magic down payment as you can.

Your credit is good

One of the biggest ways that lenders assess your ability to pay back a loan is by looking at your credit score. If your credit is good and the rest of these financial attributes also apply, then it’s probably a really good time to think about buying.

Your credit score is based on multiple factors, including how much credit you have to draw from (think of this number as an equivalent to your account limit on a credit card), how much credit you’ve used, how good you are at paying back debts you owe, and a few other bits and pieces. If you’re worried about your credit score, one of the best things you can do is to make sure to pay all your bills on time and try to pay down any existing debt that you have.

You feel comfortable tackling basic home repairs and own some tools to do it

Renters have it easy in that when something happens to the place where they’re living, they can call someone else to come and fix it — and they won’t be charged for it. That’s not the case when you own the house you live in. Hot water broken? Toilets won’t flush? Lights flickering? You’re going to have to call someone to fix it for you … and pay them.

Some homes come with a warranty that can help offset some of this cost, at least for a few years. You can always ask your agent if a warranty is an option for you when the time comes to buy. But if not, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some basic requirements of homeownership and the tools you’ll need to fix minor problems.

You can’t rent an equivalent home for the cost of buying

This might be hard to determine, but you can look for online calculators (The New York Times has a good one here: that will let you punch in several different numbers and fields, including the price of the house you want to buy, interest rates, how much money you’re putting down, how long you want to stay there, and so on, and then will use some advanced math to tell you how cheap rent would have to be to make renting less expensive (long-term) than buying. If you can tell immediately that there’s no way to rent a house like the one you want to buy for the rent price quoted, then you’re getting a good deal.

You want to customize your home

Although renting does have its perks, one thing that a lot of renters don’t like is the fact that the home isn’t really theirs, and they can’t treat it as such. What if you want to build a fence or even do something simple like paint the walls? Better check the lease!

When the house is yours, as long as you follow local permitting guidelines, you can be as creative as you want and do as much as you want to the place to really make it feel like home. You can redo the kitchen or the closets, turn your bathtub into a shower/bath, plant flowers, start a garden — and mow the lawn on your own schedule.

You’d like a little more privacy

Most of the time, a house or condo you buy is going to have more privacy than one you’re renting. This is partly because you can usually get more square footage for your dollar when you’re buying a house (and hence more privacy), but it’s also because you don’t have to consider the preferences of a landlord who might want to stop by every now and again.

If you’re starting to feel strain from feeling like there are constantly people around your rental abode, then it might be time to start thinking seriously about buying a house.

You want more stable monthly payments

Some metro areas have rent control, and this might not apply there, and others place limits on how much a landlord can raise rent every year, but many do not. It’s not unheard of for a renter to pay increasingly higher rent every year.

Although your property taxes will go up as home values increase, as a homeowner, your mortgage payment is going to be stable over time — despite inflation. You’ll be paying about the same amount toward the end of your mortgage as you did at the beginning, especially if you take care to keep your escrow account balanced. Knowing that you’re not going to pay any more for living where you do year after year can be a huge weight off your mind, and your wallet, and can give you more bandwidth to save for things like renovations and vacations if your income increases, too.

You feel emotionally ready

Buying a house can feel in many ways like getting married: it’s both exciting and terrifying. First-time homeowners might cycle through feelings of elation at finally having a place to call their own, then experience sudden doubts that this is really the right place, that you’re getting a good deal, that you want to stay in the area — all of those feelings are very normal.

But also like getting married, you probably know when your doubts are just a side effect of the commitment you’re about to make … and when they signify something deeper and more troubling. When you feel like you’re emotionally ready to take a step toward homeownership, then it’s time to start thinking about shopping for a house.

Only you can make the best decision for your current situation and lifestyle, but if you have questions about the housing market and how much money you’ll need to become a homeowner, then check with a real estate agent who can help clear up any mysteries, helping you make an educated decision.

Posted on January 2, 2020 at 4:14 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying, Renting |

Are you ready for a new home?

Selling your family home is hardly ever about building your financial portfolio. For most of us, it’s usually a matter of necessity. 

A growing young family or a changing lifestyle usually demands extra space. Maybe your kids are old enough now that they need separate rooms. If you have outgrown your living quarters — for whatever reason — it’s time to explore a move-up forever home. 

How can you tell that it’s time to move? Here are four common scenarios:  

1. You’ve had a change in family size. Whether someone is moving in or you have a baby on the way, you naturally need more space for more people. If you’re struggling to achieve functionality with your current setup, then you need a home with additional rooms.

2. Your DIY and design projects don’t happen — or they cost too much. Maybe you bought your starter home intending to renovate it, but you underestimated how difficult it is to fix up a house. If your fixer-upper has become a money pit or a huge source of stress, it may be time to call it quits and seek greener pastures. 

3. You find it difficult to entertain or have guests over. If you have too little space to host or have few boundaries between your party and private space, it’s hard to entertain comfortably. A larger home that allows more freedom and possibilities for hosting will better align with your needs.

4. You spend all your time in other parts of town. Imagine being closer to work and your favorite restaurants. Instead of wasting hours in your car, why not pick a home that’s close to everything you love?

And if everyone else in the neighborhood is selling, it may be a sign that it’s the perfect time for you to do the same. 

Are you ready to find your next home? Get in touch today.

Posted on December 10, 2019 at 7:12 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying |

Renting vs. buying: Where do you land?

You’ve always been told that owning a home is the ultimate American dream. 

Imagine renovating your master bath into a mini spa or choosing your favorite appliances for your dream kitchen. Or just getting to repaint whatever room you want. Plus, there’s the potential for financial gain when you own.

But renting has its own advantages: flexibility, a smaller financial commitment and the chance to try before you buy.

So when do you know it’s time to take the plunge on a purchase? Answer these questions to see which side of the rent vs. buy debate you might land on:

Why do you want to buy?
Sure, owning a home might be the great American dream — but is it your dream?

For some, the idea of a home where you can raise a family, be close to schools and build a community is enticing. For others, buying is a great investment. But for many, it’s about freedom: the ability to keep pets, renovate and be independent.

Will you stay in the area?
No one has a crystal ball — but knowing how long you plan to live in an area can help as you consider the pros and cons of buying. Generally, longer stays align with purchasing. 

If the thought of travel fills you with more passion than the idea of settling down in your dream property, you may not be ready for your forever home. But there’s always the possibility of turning your house into an investment property. 

What can you afford?
While renting usually costs less in the short term than purchasing property, owning a home can build long-term net worth. A rent vs. buy calculator can help you understand the costs of each option.

Don’t have the deposit for your dream home now? That doesn’t mean you can’t buy. We can work together to find affordable homes, and there are plenty of low or no down payment mortgage options.

Have questions about buying or financing your purchase? Let’s discuss your next steps. 

Posted on November 12, 2019 at 7:09 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying, Renting |

What incentive is better than money?

Are you wondering how to avoid getting into a fast and furious bidding war once you find your dream home? Even if you can afford to pay more, it’s not always the best move. 

Money is one thing that turns sellers’ heads, but it’s far from the only incentive when you’re competing with other buyers. So why raise the ante with more money? 

If you want to offer your seller something they can’t refuse, try offering a flexible closing date.

Why is the closing date important?
On closing day, the home’s sales documents are signed and ownership changes hands. In most cases, that’s about 30 to 60 days from when your offer is accepted. 

But what if that doesn’t work with the seller’s timeline? 

How can a flexible closing help you?
Some sellers need to get out fast. They could be relocating and need to move immediately. Maybe they already bought a new home. By offering a fast closing, you can help them to avoid paying two mortgages. 

Other sellers need more time. Maybe they’re building their dream home and hit an unexpected construction delay. Your flexibility with a delayed possession date offers them the security of having their new home lined up before they have to move. 

How else can we sweeten the deal?
Let’s say the best bid you can make is a bit lower than the listing price. Offering a seller rent-back might encourage them to choose your offer over others that are less accommodating. This lets the seller rent the space from you for a set amount of time until they’re ready to move.

To make a flexible closing date work for you, remember to go on a month-to-month lease or have alternative housing options ready. 

When you’re ready to make an offer on a home, keep in mind that understanding what motivates the seller is how we’ll get your offer accepted. 

Ready to start your search? Reach out today. 

Posted on September 24, 2019 at 7:05 pm
Elisabeth Lugar | Posted in Buying |