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Susan Klement
REALTORĀ®
(941) 720-4107
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Tips for Buyers

Pre-Approval Should Always
Be 
Your First Step


Two people with bankerIn many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well.  When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

 

Want to Keep up with the Joneses? 

Now's The Time

Luxury Living Room

Does your current house fit your needs? Does it seem like everyone else is moving up and moving on to more luxurious surroundings? Are you wondering what it would take to start living your dream life?

Market conditions around the country have presented an opportunity like no other for those who are looking to make the jump to a premium or luxury home.

The National Association of Realtors reports that national inventory levels are now at a 4.3-month supply. A normal market, where prices appreciate with inflation, has 6-7-months inventory. The national market has echoed the conditions felt in the starter and trade-up markets as inventory has declined year-over-year for 25 consecutive months.

According to Trulia's latest Inventory Report, the inventory of homes for sale in the two lower priced markets has dropped by double digit percentages over the last 12 months (16% for starter and 13% for trade-up homes). While the inventory of homes in the premium home category has dropped by only 4%.

This has created a seller's market in the lower-priced markets, as 54% of homes were on the market for less than a month in the last Realtors Confidence Index, and a buyer's market in the luxury market, where homes were on the market for an average of 160 days.

Bottom Line:  If you are even thinking of listing your home and moving up to a luxury home, now is the time to meet with a local real estate professional to evaluate your ability to do so. Homeowners across the country are upgrading their homes, why can't you? Your dream home is waiting!  When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers

 

Picture of checklist

Before you hire a professional home inspector, there are certain things you can look for while you tour a home.  Not only is this going to give you a better idea of what needs to be fixed in the house, but it also gives you the opportunity to ask a professional home inspector what you'd like them to pay special attention to.

  1. The Foundation
    When looking at the foundation, you shouldn’t only be looking at the outside of the home, but the interior also. Look at the base of all the walls in every room as well as the ceilings. You will be looking for obvious cracks and shifts in the foundation. Also, note whether there are any trees around the close vicinity of the property.

  2. The Roof
    You will also want to ask questions about the roof. What is it made out of? When was it last installed? How long has it been since it was maintained and repaired? What is the condition of the roof, overall?

  3. Exterior Inspection
    While on the outside of the house take a look at the paint or the siding on the house. Does it look like it needs to be painted or replaced? Are there missing pieces of siding, brick, stone or wood? Take a look at the windows too. Do these look newer or older? Are they energy efficient or not? Take a look at things like the gutters and downspouts on the home. Anything that is going to need to be repaired or replaced will add extra cost.

  4. Basement/Attic
    Not all homes have attics and not all homes have basements. If the home has one or the other:

    Basements: The basement should not have any dampness to it, there should be adequate ventilation and insulation in the space.

    Attics: Make sure you always enter the attic in a new home. Look for any structural damage on the inside; holes in the walls, missing roof areas, or even things like wet spots should be noted - this usually means the roof does leak and that eventually you could have a major issue down the line.

  5. Electrical Inspection
    There are things you can do such as making sure all the switches work, asking about when the last inspection was done on the wiring inside the home, and if the outlets are grounded.

  6. Plumbing Inspection
    Make sure that you take a look at every sink, faucet and plumbing fixtures in the home. Make sure none of them are dripping water. Next, you want to listen for any odd sounds you might hear when turning on the tap or flushing the toilet. Lastly, you need to ask about the sewer and the last time it was scoped.

  7. HVAC Unit
    An HVAC unit can be one of the most expensive parts of a home, because of this you should make sure that it's in working condition before you move in. Ask how old the furnace is and/or if it was maintained and repaired by a professional HVAC company – if so, make sure you get their name and number. Also, ask if the unit has been converted or if the old tanks are still in place.

  8. Odd Odors
    Not only should you be visually inspecting the home, but you also need to pay attention to the smells inside a new home. If you smell mold, this could be coming from the basement. On the other hand, if you smell sulfur, this could have something to do with the sewer line.

When inspecting a house from a buyers standpoint, it's always okay to ask questions! Just make sure that when you are done doing a personal inspection, that you hire a pro to do another secondary look for you before you put any money down or sign on the dotted line.  

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

The Newbie's Guide to Buying a Home
Know what to do before you buy.

 

Excited couple

Life is filled with amazing journeys and buying your first home should be one of its best. No matter what your budget, age or your motivation for buying, there are a few simple steps that every first-time buyer should follow. These steps will go a long way and help you approach your home buying journey with confidence.
 

Know exactly how much money you’ll need to spend.
 
That might sound obvious, but it’s actually a complex question, because you need to know your budget backwards and forwards before buying a house and taking on mortgage payments. Don’t leave it to your lender to decide how much house you can afford. They may approve you for a much larger dollar amount than you actually want to spend. Don't forget to take into consideration additional money above and beyond the purchase price of your home for things like: a down payment, closing costs, furnishings and repairs.
 
Track your expenses for a few months.
 
Before you start making offers on homes, make sure you’ve spent a few months tracking your expenses and gathering information about your debts, spending patterns, assets and income.
How much do you make after taxes and how much is left over? Make sure you can answer specific questions such as how much are you monthly expenditures for things like groceries, car payments, student loans and other debts. It’s better to overestimate than underestimate, but if you link your accounts to a budget tracking app, you’ll have more exact figures. As a general rule, buyers shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing costs, but those costs include insurance, taxes, interest, utilities, and other expenses after your mortgage.
 
Consider listings that leave room for competitive offers.
 
After you’ve figured out the highest price you can afford, lower it a little and then start looking. You may be tempted to look at properties at the tip-top of your price range, but other potential buyers may have more flexible budgets.
 
Even if you’re not searching in a red-hot housing market, there will probably be other buyers interested in every property you consider, so try to leave room for competitive offers. But just remember: even if most houses in the area are selling over listing price, you don’t necessarily have to pay more to stay competitive. You can add escalation clauses to the contracts you submit, which mean the price only gets raised if other people have higher offers too.
 
Congratulations on the start of this life-changing adventure. Call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
How to buy a home on a lower income
 
Young Couple with Realtor
Learn how to get a larger mortgage and buy a house you thought you couldn’t afford.
 
The process to buy a home is exciting but takes time, research and money. And larger mortgages or mortgages with better rates usually require a high credit score and high income, too. If your credit history or income isn’t up to what most lenders deem acceptable for a home loan, however, it’s time to explore your options.
 
Rebuilding your credit is one way to improve your chances of qualifying for a large mortgage loan, but it can take some time to accomplish. There are several easier alternatives to help you figure out how to buy a house with a large mortgage when you don’t meet certain mortgage requirements.
 
How to Get a Bigger Mortgage Even If Your Income Is Low
 
Before you even start the preapproval for mortgage process, use a mortgage qualification calculator to figure out how much you can afford. Many lenders advise not to spend more than 28 percent of your income on your mortgage.
 
Here are five ways you can get a large mortgage with low income:
 
1. Increase Your Qualifying Income
 
When underwriters look at income, they take a pretty conservative stance. For example, income from your part-time job might not be considered unless you have a history of working more than one job. And if you deduct unreimbursed business expenses on a Schedule 2106, your lender will probably also deduct them from your qualifying income.
 
However, sometimes the rules work in your favor. Per the Equal Opportunity Act Amendments of 1976, you can use income that you receive from public assistance programs to qualify for a loan if the income will likely continue for three years or more.
 
Here are other sources of income that you might not have considered:
  • Alimony or child support
  • Automobile allowance
  • Boarder income
  • Capital gains income
  • Disability income — long term
  • Employment offers or contracts
  • Employment-related assets as qualifying income
  • Foreign income
  • Foster-care income
  • Interest and dividends income
  • Mortgage credit certificates
  • Mortgage differential payments income
  • Non-occupant borrower income
  • Notes receivable income
  • Public assistance income
  • Retirement, government annuity and pension income
  • Royalty payment income
  • Social Security income
  • Temporary leave income
  • Tip income
  • Trust income
  • Unemployment benefits income
  • VA benefits income
2. Choose a Different Mortgage
Some mortgages have more forgiving guidelines than others when it comes to income. VA loans, for example, calculate income two ways: the standard debt-to-income method and the “residual income” method, which is much more generous.
 
For people with lower incomes, a worthwhile option is Freddie Mac’s Home Possible program. To qualify, you must have a yearly income that’s either equivalent to or less than the area median income for the census tract in which the property is located. The only exception to this rule is if the property is in a designated underserved or high-cost area.
 
The Home Possible rules state that if the property is in a high-cost area, your annual income can exceed the AMI within certain limits. If the property is in an underserved area, the AMI requirements don’t apply at all.
 
An FHA loan might be another option to buy your dream home if you have a history of paying your bills on time, even if you experienced a period of financial hardship. FHA loan qualifications state that you might still be able to qualify for a loan, regardless of isolated cases of late or slow payments.
 
 
3. Bring in a Co-Borrower
 
If you’re still wondering how to get approved for a higher mortgage loan, you can bring in a co-borrower — that extra income and equity will likely enable you to qualify for your home. Co-borrowers can be occupants or non-occupants. An occupying co-borrower lives in the home with you. A non-occupant co-borrower is more like a co-signer. This person doesn’t live in the house but is responsible for the payments.
 
Lenders are more likely to put restrictions on non-occupant co-borrower loans, such as requiring a higher down payment. Government loans typically come with fewer restrictions.
 
For manually underwritten loans, the income from a non-occupant co-borrower might be considered as acceptable qualifying income. This income can offset certain weaknesses that might be in the occupant borrower’s loan application, such as limited financial reserves or limited credit history.
 
4. Get a "subprime mortgage".
 
The term “subprime mortgage” has a negative connotation because of the housing bubble and financial crisis it’s often associated with, but subprime mortgages can actually be a gateway to home ownership for some people.
 
A subprime mortgage is a home loan with higher interest rates than their prime mortgage counterparts. The higher interest rates are in place to offset the risk of loan default by subprime mortgage borrowers who are risky customers because of poor credit. These mortgages can be either fixed or adjustable.
 
The benefit of a subprime mortgage is that people with poor credit don’t have to wait as long to own a home. They can repair their credit by paying their mortgage each month, rather than waiting years to repair their credit and then buy a home.
 
The obvious disadvantage, besides higher rates, is that closing costs and fees associated with home loans will be usually higher for subprime borrowers. Although credit score requirements aren’t as stringent for subprime loans, borrowers must still show proof that they can afford the mortgage payments each month.
 
5. Strengthen Your Application
 
It might surprise you to know that income is actually one of the least important underwriting criteria. If you don’t believe it, try calling a few lenders. Tell them you make $1 million a year, but have a 500 FICO score and only 5 percent to put down. You will not get far.
 
However, people with low-to-moderate incomes get mortgages all the time, especially when they have excellent credit, a decent down payment and money in the bank. Some of the first few steps to buying a house are to establish great credit and substantial savings. It helps to have an emergency fund — enough in the bank to cover two to six months’ worth of bills — and a credit score of 720 or better.
 
Other compensating factors include low debt, additional savings, a secure job with excellent prospects and documenting extra “unofficial” income. Even if you know you can’t “officially” count some kinds of income, it’s smart to document its existence anyway.
 

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 
Tips To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early
 
How do I pay off my mortgage early?
 
The answer is different for each homeowner. Your earning power, expected future earning power, savings and even your hobbies will all have an impact on how you choose to pay your mortgage. The good news is that there really are simply, effective tactics for paying of your mortgage early--as long as you're willing to stay committed to the process.
 
Paying Off Your Mortgage Early: Our Number One Tip Plus a Few Bonuses One of the best ways to pay off your mortgage early is to make sure that your mortgage fits your finances well before signing on the dotted line. Free mortgage calculators are very useful when shopping for a mortgage. If you're already locked into a mortgage, don't worry, there's still plenty you can do to more quickly own your home free and clear.
 
1. Cut Expenses, Increase Savings – The number one tip for paying off your mortgage early is both pretty simple on the surface but sometimes easier said than done. It's sort of like saying that to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. We all know that it's true, but cutting expenses and increasing savings requires a lot of planning, discipline and persistence.
 
2. Earn More, Save More – One of the best options to cut expenses will come when you earn a raise at work or move to a higher-paying position. It's natural to want to splurge a bit, but you've already proven that you can live comfortably on your prior salary. Keep the same budget when you get a raise, and put the difference toward paying off your mortgage.
 
3. Focus on Frugal Fun – There will always be little sacrifices when you want to pay off a mortgage early, but that doesn't mean you have to forego fun. You'll just want to be smart about how you invest your entertainment budget. Focus on affordable hobbies, plan vacations on a budget and try replacing a few dinners out with creative, home-cooked meals. It's all about finding the right balance.
 
4. Plan Your Financial Future – If you're not on a first-name basis with a financial adviser, now is a great time to change that. A financial adviser can help optimize your budget, minimize your tax load and identify ways to lower spending that won't cut in to your quality of life. Investing some of your extra savings can also help with paying off your mortgage early.
 
5. Extra Payments – The ultimate payoff of saving more and spending less is the extra payments you'll be able to make, which will help you pay off your mortgage early. These payments add up quickly, and with a little planning you can start making extra payments soon after buying a house. Your financial adviser can help you optimize your extra payments to make paying off your mortgage early as efficient as possible.
 
While the goal of saving more and spending less holds true for all homeowners interested in paying off their mortgage early, there really are a ton of different ways to reach that goal after buying a house. Research, experiment and find the savings tips that work for you. The benefits of owning your home free and clear are worth the effort.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 

Watch for These Red Flags
When Buying a House


Sign

When buying a house, you want to make sure you're getting the best possible house for your investment.

Watch for these red flags that could be signaling “Buyer Beware” during your house hunt.
  • Many Homes for Sale If you fall in love with a house, but notice numerous "for sale" signs in the immediate neighborhood, then you may want to ask yourself why. If there's a mass exodus from the neighborhood, there's probably a reason. You may not want to join a neighborhood where everyone's leaving.

  • An Old Roof Replacing a roof can cost approximately $12,000 to $25,000 with a life expectancy of about 20 years. Find out how old the roof is. Make sure you take its age into consideration when making an offer, or look for a home with a newer roof to ensure you don't have to tackle this repair too soon.

  • Unusual Odors Mold creates a musky or dank smell, and this is something you don't want to overlook. Head to the basement and give the home a good sniff, as this is where these types of problems like to hide. Also, be leery of a home that uses candles, air freshener or even the smell of fresh-baked cookies too liberally. The seller may have something to hide.

  • Uneven Flooring Gaps in flooring tile or bubbles in laminate can indicate poorly laid flooring or a problem with the home's foundation. Both can be costly problems. If the flooring's uneven, you may want to look for a different property.

  • Poor Maintenance Look for signs that the home's owners didn't maintain the home well. Poor home maintenance is a problem when buying a house. If the owners weren't changing light bulbs or fixing leaky faucets, what else did they overlook that you'll have to pay for when you buy the home?

  • Fresh Paint in Select Areas Does one wall look like it has a fresh coat of paint, while all of the others look old and dull? This may make you wonder what they are hiding. While they could be hiding that fire engine red accent wall that they loved, they could also be hiding signs of water damage, cracks, mildew, or mold.

  • Old Windows Like the roof, windows are costly to replace. Old windows also make a home inefficient. Check the windows for signs that they are older than they should be, and only make an offer if it accounts for the cost of window replacement.

  • Old Wiring Old wiring and outdated electrical systems can be hard to detect, but you need to check. These systems work, but put your safety at risk, and you don't want to be buying a house that's not safe. You can look for knobs connecting to the wires or circular knobs on the fuse box, rather than the toggle switches of newer systems. If you're unsure, ask the inspector about the electrical system before you agree to buy the home.
Remember, your job when you're buying a house is to do your due diligence to ensure you know exactly what you're getting. Watch for these red flags, and you can protect yourself from making a poor purchase decision.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 

Is Buying an Energy-Efficient 
Home a Top Priority?

 

Diagram of where house loses energy

As you compare different features when looking for the perfect property, you have a lot to consider: Is energy efficiency on your list?

From price and location to square footage and architectural style, your new home’s features will affect your everyday life, so it’s important to make the right decision for you. Some factors will affect your comfort, others will affect your home’s function, and others will affect your budget. However, one plays a big role in all three: your home’s energy efficiency.
 
Here are some of the most valuable reasons to prioritize homes with energy-efficient features.
  1. Efficient HVAC Systems Could Cut Future Energy Bills in Half Programmable thermostats make it much easier to develop efficient heating and cooling habits, but it all comes down to your HVAC system. Inefficient systems can double a home’s energy use, because they have to work overtime to stabilize indoor temperatures. Because older units are less efficient and may need to be replaced in the near future, it’s important to know the age and maintenance history of every HVAC appliance. However, only an energy audit can reveal the efficiency of the whole system. If you're in the process of buying a house, make sure your inspection also includes an energy audit from a certified home energy rater, who will evaluate the duct work, seals, and other factors that affect how much energy it takes to heat or cool your whole home.

  2. Low-Flow Plumbing & Plants Lower Your Water Bills The average household wastes a lot of water on everyday tasks like flushing toilets, brushing teeth, and watering lawns. While you need water, you don’t need to pay for water that runs down the drain or feeds plants that don’t belong in your climate. Whether you care about saving the planet or reducing your monthly payouts to the water company, it’s time to consider indoor and outdoor ways to minimize water waste. Low-flow, dual-flush toilets use only as much water as they need, while drought-resistant landscaping choices reduce your outdoor irrigation needs. Look for homes with tankless water heaters, water-saving sink faucets, and rainwater irrigation systems too.

  3. Extra Insulation Keeps Your Home Comfortable All Year Newer windows and roofs should always stand out when you're buying a house, and not just because they won’t need to be replaced any time soon. Today’s options are more insulated, sun-resistant, durable, and efficient than ever, with materials specifically designed to reduce indoor-outdoor temperature transfer and withstand the elements better. For example, insulated glass units (IGUs) are windows with two or three glass panes, which have moisture-absorbing spacers between them for even more insulation. Reflective shingles keep roofs significantly cooler, preventing hotbox effects in the attic and reducing the strain on the HVAC system. As you look for your next home, look for newer features that increase insulation and prevent huge seasonal fluctuations in your HVAC usage.

  4. Energy Star Appliances & Lights Have Exciting New Features Buying a house with greener features isn’t all about sacrifice. Energy Star makes it easy to tell which appliances meet recommended efficiency standards, but you’ll probably find that these efficient fixtures are more fun, too. For example, LED light bulbs prevent heat gain and use far less electricity, but some also come with innovative features like mobile connectivity and changing colors that respond to music. Energy Star appliances often make cooking and cleaning easier too, so look for that label.
As you weigh different priorities and consider homes with different types of appliances, windows, and more, it’s important to make sure energy efficiency is always on your mind.
 

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 
Have You Saved Enough for Closing Costs?
 
Lots of cash and piggy bank

When people decide to buy a house, they typically focus on saving for a down payment. However, there's something else would-be buyers should think about ...

The closing costs. Unlike the down payment, closing costs are difficult to negotiable and can be somewhat unpredictable.
 


What Are Closing Costs and Why Do They Matter?

Closing costs are costs incurred by the buyer to formalize transfer of ownership of a property. Closing costs include such things as loan origination fees, underwriting fees, title search fees, and title insurance. They are paid directly to the lender and add thousands to the cost of a home.
Paying closing costs is often the last hurdle to be overcome when buying a house. Unfortunately, the closing costs need to be accounted for very quickly. If you cannot pay them within a short time, you will have to wrangle with changes in your mortgage loan APR and other issues.
Plus, a seller has the option of walking on the deal if closing costs are not settled promptly. With that in mind, it’s important to start planning for closing costs early in the process.
 
How to Plan for Closing Costs
 
Closing costs are a hassle because it is often difficult to get a straight answer about how much they will cost or even what services they’ll cover. In fact, some lenders may pump up closing costs with lots of unnecessary fees.
To make sure you save enough for closing costs:
  • Get Closing Cost Estimates from Multiple Lenders Although closing costs can be mysterious, you can narrow them down by making sure you get an estimate from several different lenders. Three estimates is a good start for triangulating your real closing costs. Plus, it gives you insight into which lender may be best for you.

  • Negotiate Some Part of Closing Costs Sellers usually take a hard line against paying any portion of closing costs. However, you can get a concession from your buyer if there are other issues you’ve discovered, such as repairs that need to be done on the home. Asking for 10, 20 or even 30 percent of closing costs is not unusual.

  • Look for Options from Your Lender Lenders often have leeway to offer you options that will reduce the amount of money you have to pay up front. For example, if you do have the opportunity to tender a big down payment, your closing costs may be rolled into your mortgage. Remember, though, this means paying interest.

  • Partner with Your Real Estate Agent Your agent may be able to uncover opportunities to get more concessions from the buyer or secure more funds for your closing. Call Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 for details.

  • Start Saving Early All in all, the best way to control problems with closing costs is to set a savings goal and stick to it early. In general, the more money you have on hand, the less you’ll have to worry when buying a house. Cash helps you accelerate the process and save on interest.
Remember, closing costs are the last step – if you’re thinking about them, you’re almost in your new home. That’s something to be proud of, and it’s worth one more push to get you there.
 

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 
What's an HOA?
 
Drawings of homes in homeowners association

If you're searching for a home, you've most likely seen the acronym HOA. Do you know what it means?

 

Buying a house exposes you to a large number of variables including industry-specific jargon and abbreviations. HOA is one of these terms. It refers to a Homeowners Association.

What is a Homeowners Association?

 

An HOA is a regulatory group set up to manage shared property. This group collects regular dues and is then responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of community property. Common examples of this property may be a shared rooftop garden at a condo or a playground and picnic area at a town home complex.
 
The more amenities an area offers, the more things there are that will need to be managed, and subsequently, the higher the HOA dues might be. HOAs are also responsible for establishing the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) of an area. Essentially, HOAs make the rules for the homeowners living in this group. These rules can reach beyond city laws and establish guidelines for pet ownership, property appearanceand even noise disturbance. Copies of these rules should be available to anyone buying a house in the HOA area.
  • How are HOA fees determined? HOA costs are based on a variety of factors. Most HOA fees begin at $200 per month and prices increase from there. The average HOA will consider the size of your household (a 3-bedroom will be charged more than a studio apartment) and the facilities offered in your housing area. Facilities go beyond recreation areas like the pool, and will also include maintenance for parking lots, hallways lights, smoke detectors, and elevators. HOA pricing begins with a basic allowance for daily maintenance, and then charges a little extra each month for seasonal and emergency expenses.

  • Who is part of an HOA? HOA rules govern all housing units in a given area. While each property is individually owned, the community itself is communal property and subject to HOA rules. Examples of HOA areas can include a townhome community, apartment-style high-rise, or a suburban cul de sac. HOA basics are managed by a board of elected homeowners. These board members are required to hold regular meetings and provide copies of all CC&Rs to residents. Major decisions will usually be brought to a vote, allowing all registered members of the HOA to have a say in the decision.

  • How do HOA rules work? Property upkeep seems fine, but additional rules can be confusing. How does rule enforcement work, and what happens when you break an HOA rule? First of all, not all HOA's enact rules equally. Some HOA's save rules for only what they consider the most vital concerns like resident safety and accessibility. Other HOA's are concerned with property appearance and value, as well as impressions when buying a house in the area. An area with multiple sets of rules may have a tiered level of consequences, while an area with minimum rules likely has an established set of guidelines with a more equal enforcement. But what's the bottom line? HOA rules can trump individual homeowner choices. You must follow the rules as stated in your area or face fines. Non-payment of fines or dues can have serious consequences, including a worst-case foreclosure of your property. It's important when buying a home to review any HOA restrictions before purchase, to make sure that all items are standards you can comfortably live with.
So should you shop for HOA qualified homes? It's a balance of choices between amenities and individual choices. For help on this or any other home buying or selling question please call me, Realtor Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
7 Easy Ways to Save
Water & Money in Your Home
 
Faucet leaking

Looking to save on utilities, do your part for the environment and keep your home looking beautiful in the process?

Conserving water is one of the best ways to do so. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save on water use throughout the year, and you don't have to give up comfort to keep those water bills to a minimum.
  1. Low-Flow Is the Way to Go.  Old shower heads are among the most common culprits for water waste, and also one of the easiest to address. Purchasing a low-flow shower head is a great way to cut down on water use, and it's an affordable, easy fix to make. You can find a wide selection of low-flow shower heads at your favorite big-name home improvement store.

  2. Don't Forget the Faucets. Just like your shower head, your faucet can cause quite a bit of added waste if it hasn't been upgraded recently. Adding new faucets to sinks around your home will help manage water use, and you can also add some style to the room by choosing fixtures that match the décor. Efficiency and home improvement go hand-in-hand.

  3. An Efficient Toilet. If you're starting to notice a theme, you're right – the bathroom is one of the most common places for water waste. A new toilet will cost a bit more than a faucet or shower head, but it's more than worth it. Old toilets can use up to six gallons of water per flush, while the current standard is much lower at 1.6 gallons per flush.

  4. Find and Fix Leaks. Big water leaks are often pretty hard to miss, but the smaller leaks may take a bit longer to reveal themselves. In addition to helping minimize the chance for major water damage, having leaks addressed by an expert can help you save significantly on water costs by reducing waste.

  5. Install an Irrigation Controller. Do you enjoy gardening and maintaining your lawn, but don't want to use up too much water in the process? Installing an irrigation controller will help you manage your outdoor water use, and keep your garden looking gorgeous in the process.

  6. Wash When Full. This tip applies to both your dishwasher, and your clothes washing machine. Rather than run a load as soon as possible, wait for the machine to fill up completely before starting a wash cycle. Everything will still come out nice and clean, but you'll be using a lot less water than if you split those loads into multiple cycles.

  7. Shorten Showers and Turn Off the Tap. Shortening your showers is a really easy way to start conserving water around the house. Even a few minutes makes a difference. You can also save water by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth and washing your hands. Just turn the tap back on when it's time to rinse, and you'll be good to go.
Conserving water is as good for your bank account as it is for the environment, and there are simple steps that every homeowner can take to minimize water use around the house. There are so many ways to save that we could never cover them all, but upgrading your fixtures, purchasing efficient appliances, and being conscious of your water use is a great start.
 
5 Can't Miss Tips When
You're Buying a Fixer Upper
 
Picture of home with Fixer Upper text

Buying a fixer upper offers you an amazing investment opportunity and provides an endless assortment of projects for those who like to work with their hands.

 

No matter if you plan to flip the property quickly or live there for some time, you shouldn’t cross a fixer-upper off your list when buying a house. Still, we all know that buying a house can be a complex challenge and and fixer-uppers add a bit more for you to think about.  So ... What do you really need to know when buying a fixer-upper? Get off to a running start with these five tips:
  1. Start with Location. Location is one of the most important things to think about in any home purchase. There are two strategies that may be effective here: One is the traditional “central location” that has potential for a lot of curb appeal. The other is talked about less, but can still be a savvy choice: A more secluded and private property set back from the main road.

  2. Set Up a Sound Renovation Budget. The perfect location can still be undercut if the needed repairs exceed your budget. The best way to get the real facts about what needs to be done is to get a complete house inspection. Then, get bids for the things you can’t do yourself and figure out the cost in time and materials for those you can. When you have a figure that seems accurate, add 10% for the unexpected.

  3. Identify the Biggest Issues First. Making repairs to the roof will not only add value, but remove a major stumbling block that can easily scare potential buyers away. Working on the foundation isn’t nearly as glamorous – it may add nothing at all to your future selling price – but you should double-check to see if it is necessary. What else can you look out for? Electrical, heating, and pest issues are important.

  4. Negotiate Hard. So, you’ve done the calculations on what renovating your new find might cost you. Now, you can use that information as leverage in negotiating a better price. It’s not unreasonable to ask for 20 percent or even 40 percent off the asking price. What other factors play in your favor? A property that’s been on the market for a long time – or a goodly sum of cash to offer up front.

  5. See if You Qualify for a Renovation Loan. There are several different types of renovation loans, including the popular 203(k) loan backed by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration. Many different banks can offer this loan as long as they follow federal rules. Home buyers can get low interest rates on a 203(k) and may be able to qualify even with less than perfect credit scores. Buying a house can be the greatest step you ever take for your peace of mind, financial security and yes--your enjoyment. The choice to make that house a fixer-upper can be considered a bold one. Still, for some people, there’s simply nothing better.
Use our tips and you’ll find it’s easier than you ever imagined to make the right decisions for buying a house. In just a matter of months, your very own fixer-upper could become the home of your dreams. If you go in with a clear view and realistic expectations, you can’t lose!
 

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 
5 Home-Buying Moves That Can Backfire
 
Couple dreaming of home

If you want to top a seller's list as a good buyer, make sure you don’t make these mistakes when making an offer to purchase their home.

 

  1. Low-ball Offers. One of the biggest mistakes buyers make is the "how low can you go" strategy. Some buyers do this in an attempt to "magically" get their dream home at a bargain basement price. This tactic can send the wrong message about your interest in a home and get you bounced right off a seller's list of potential buyers.

  2. Using an Inspection To Re-Negotiate The Price. If an inspection reveals legitimate issues about the condition of a home, make a list of recommended repairs and negotiate a reduced offer to cover those expenses. However, trying to re-negotiate a purchase offer because of small, inexpensive issues may knock you out of the running for the home entirely.

  3. Asking For Extras. Some home buyers make the mistake of finding their dream home, only to find that they not only like the home, but everything in it. Don’t ask your seller to include everything including the kitchen sink--appliances, furniture, etc.--without offering to buy it.

  4. Negotiating In Small Incremental Amounts. Engaging in back and forth offers can sometimes alienate a seller. For example, if you know that you have a budget, but you are willing to go up an extra $10,000, make a $10,000 extra offer, don't make five, $2,000 incremental offers.

  5. Making Too Small Of A Shopping List. People buy homes for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they have been living in an apartment to save up money for a home. Maybe they are staying with a relative and want their own place. Heck, maybe they even won the lottery! Whatever your reasoning behind looking for a home to buy, you need to make sure you make a realistic number of homes to see. One or two homes simply won't cut it. Make a list of at least five to ten homes you want to tour.
Buying a home can be a very stressful experience. If you avoid doing the things above, your experience in searching for a home, negotiating a purchase price and also moving in will be much easier.
 
For help on these and other home buying questions please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
Home Buying Help for Single Moms
 
Mom and baby working

Every year, thousands of single moms become homeowners. Buying a home can be complex but it’s far from impossible.

 

With a positive attitude and the right information, you can accomplish it.
 
Funding Options for Single Mothers
 
There are great resources available to make the home-buying process easier for single parents. Some of the best of these are specialized grant and loan programs. These programs offer flexible financing at favorable rates. Plus, they are usually designed to be simple. You won’t have to spend hours combing through details to be sure you’ve gotten it all right.  Let’s consider some possibilities:
  • Habitat for Humanity. Although not a traditional mortgage funding option, Habitat for Humanity facilitates the journey to home-ownership in a unique way. By providing training and assistance for related expenses, the organization supports aspiring homeowners in building their own home. Applicants must meet certain conditions and have at least 400 volunteer hours in the organization.

  • USDA Rural Development. The United States Department of Agriculture coordinates with lenders to ensure easier access to mortgage loans for those living in rural areas. Applicants are typically individuals with limited income who are house-hunting in a designated rural zone. Applicants must usually be purchasing their first home and must intend to use the property as their full-time residence.

  • Federal Housing Administration. FHA is a division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Like USDA, it works with lenders to set guidelines for financing first-time home buyers with limited income. The loans are then administered directly by the banks and other institutions. Because the government works to guarantee these loans, lenders can offer them at reduced risk.

  • Other Nonprofit Organizations. New housing rules adopted by the federal government in 2008 changed the ways that community nonprofits can contribute to down payment assistance, reducing activity. However, there may be nonprofits in your area that furnish grants or other support. A site like the GuideStar Directory of Nonprofits can help you make contact.
Things All Moms Should Know About Pursuing Home-ownership Goals
 
The more information you have as you set out on your home-ownership adventure, the better. Keep these tips in mind so you can make informed decisions about your housing options.
  • You May Qualify as a First-Time Buyer Even If You’ve Had a House Before. Many single mothers may have been in a long-term relationship with a partner who owned a home. Unless you were involved in purchasing and financing the home, however, you probably qualify as a “first-time” home buyer – which means access to many helpful programs.

  • Information is Available from a Common Consumer Education Program. The Fannie Mae Home-ready program has a slew of resources for first-time buyers with limited income or plans to buy property in a low-income area. In addition to flexible loan underwriting, it prepares you with detailed information on all aspects of home buying and home-ownership.

  • Your Real Estate Expert is Your Best Ally. Once you have a clear idea what your funding sources look like, the best next step is to reach out to a real estate agent you trust. Local real estate agents can provide expert guidance tailored to your situation. They typically know which programs and lenders may be right for you. That’s why you should call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. 
Homeownership doesn’t have to stay just a dream. By following these tips, single mothers can make the switch and find the perfect home for them.
 
Don’t Fall In Love With A Home
Before You Can Commit

Couple in front of home with realtor

It’s the ideal scenario people have in mind when they want to buy a house: They spend a week looking, find the perfect home, make an offer, and get it accepted.

Before they know it, they are on their way to their beautiful new home.

A real estate agent is there to help you accelerate and simplify the buying process. I will do everything possible to help you achieve that perfect scenario.

But there is one thing to be careful of: Falling in love with a home when you are not ready to act.

Why Falling in Love with a Home Can Be a Worst Case Scenario

Sometimes, people scour their local real estate market and don’t find a home they feel is perfect. Instead, they have a lot of imperfect options. Each one has positives as well as a negative or two they’ll have to work with. In the long run, this may not be such a bad thing.

If you run into a house that is perfect, you have a number of challenges to deal with:

  • As emotions run high, you will be more likely to make bigger offers and counteroffers;
  • You may find yourself justifying problems you uncover later;
  • Sellers may notice your enthusiasm and use it to their advantage in negotiations;
  • If you don’t get the home in the long run, it could be a major blow to your morale.

All of these are stumbling blocks that can make a big difference to the outcome of your house hunt. When you sense that you’re getting emotionally attached to any property, it’s important to get your real estate agent involved right away. He or she can keep the process moving forward in your best interests, take on communications with the seller, and help you make decisions.

But here’s the biggest issue: When you “fall in love,” the clock is ticking. There is nothing more disappointing than falling in love with a home only to have someone else come along and snap it up. Buyers who are paying cash are usually able to make their offers more attractive to sellers, so properties can move quickly. This is especially true in markets that are highly desirable.

If you have fallen in love with a property, one of the best things you can do is stop looking at alternatives for the time being. The more places you look at, the easier it will be to think of other considerations and end up second-guessing yourself.

The next thing to do is get a sense of how long you have. Your real estate agent has ways to communicate with the seller without tipping your hand. They can determine how much interest there has been in a property and whether there are any truly serious offers on the horizon. However, the situation can change at any time.

If you absolutely must buy time, then communicating directly with the seller is an option. If you express your interest in a property, with a face-to-face meeting or a personal letter, you may have the chance to give yourself a bit more time. However, you might find yourself with a much harder bargainer at the negotiating table.

For all these reasons and more, when you fall in love with a home, dive in fast!
If you’re just not ready, then remember this: An even better home may be waiting.

For help with your home buying questions please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
10 Things Real Estate Agents
Want Buyers To Know
 
Couple on sofa

Buying a house is a big step--especially if it's your first home.

It's not something you should enter into lightly. As great as the feeling of owning your own home can be, many new homeowners have suffered because of not doing enough research and planning.

If you're thinking about purchasing a home, here's what every prospective buyer should know before buying a home:

  1. Understand the process. The home buying process isn't as confusing as it's often made out to be, but it can seem that way if you don't have a lot of real estate experience. Learn all you can about the process before you get started. This is where it helps to have an experienced real estate agent working with you.

  2. Decide if it's worth it. In most major cities, it's cheaper, in the long run, to buy a house than to rent, but that doesn't mean it's the right choice for everyone. You'll have to weigh the financial pros and cons to decide if it's the right move for you.

  3. Know your credit score. Few things have a greater impact on your ability to get a mortgage with good terms than your credit score. Know your score, and take the time to improve it if necessary before you start looking for a home.

  4. Watch out for fixer-uppers. There's an undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes with restoring an older home and transforming it into a palace. But some fixer-uppers turn out to be money pits, especially those that have problems with the basement or foundation. When deciding between an older or newer home, be sure to fully consider all renovation costs.

  5. Save for a down payment. It's rare to be able to buy a home without putting down a sizable down payment, and the more you're able to pay upfront, the better mortgage rate you'll be able to get. Plan on putting down 20 percent of the home's total cost as a down payment.

  6. Know the neighbors. A home's surroundings are just as important as the home itself. So explore the neighborhood, check out local businesses, and get to know your new neighbors before you commit to a home.

  7. Work with a trusted real estate agentFinding a knowledgeable, trustworthy real estate agent is one of the best ways to ensure that you are able to find the right home, and pay a fair price for it.

  8. Understand the long-term costs. Some new homeowners end up making themselves "house-poor" by buying a home that they can just barely afford. Don't forget to think about long-term costs, like maintenance, repairs and property taxes down the line.

  9. Make a checklist. Create a list of your "must-haves," "want-to-haves," and "dream features" that you can use to evaluate every home. This checklist will make it easier to find a home that offers everything you need.

  10. Take your time. Feeling rushed often leads to bad decisions. Take your time, relax, and shop around. Try to avoid feeling pressured—just because you find a home you like doesn't mean you have to immediately make an offer.

If you've done your homework and are working with me, buying a new home can be one of the best investments you've ever made.
 
When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.

First-time Buyers - Should You
Buy a Home or Renew Your Lease
 
Drawing of homes with rent or buy written on them

Is it time to renew your lease or buy your first home?

 

It's a question every renter faces at some point, and the right answer for you depends on a number of important factors.
Choosing the right time to buy your first home makes a world of difference because preparation is crucial. If your finances are in order and you're ready for homeownership, deciding to buy your first house can be an exciting, rewarding decision. Let's take a look at factors that will help you decide whether to renew your lease or become a homeowner.
 
How Do You Decide?
 
  • Are you prepared financially to buy a house? This is the big question because even if everything else is in order you will still need solid finances in order to buy your first home. There are programs available to help first-time buyers qualify for loans. FHA loans may allow you to secure a loan with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent. Consider whether you have the savings to make a down payment, the steady income to pay your mortgage, and cash for the other costs like moving, furniture, and property taxes.

  • How's your credit score looking? Your credit score is a big factor in your ability to qualify for a mortgage with favorable terms. You don't need perfect credit to buy a house, but you'll want to make sure that any outstanding debts or other credit issues are addressed before applying for a mortgage.

  • Have you chosen a location that fits your needs long-term? Shopping for the right neighborhood is often just as important as shopping for the right house. It helps to have a solid idea of where you'd like to live as you enter the housing market. Consider your employment needs, preferred entertainment options, family needs, school district, and anything else that is important to you in the community where you want to live.

  • Are you ready on a personal level to own a home? For many renters, the decision to go from leasing to owning coincides with personal milestones like starting a family or finding a career with long-term financial security. Unfortunately, there is no equation to help you decide if you're ready to buy; however, if you feel like now is the time and your finances are ready, you'll be prepared to approach purchasing your first home with confidence.

  • Are you willing to compromise to get what you need? No matter how many homes you buy, there are always compromises involved. Are you willing to live on a budget to have the cash you need for mortgage payments and home expenses? Have you prioritized wants/needs when it comes to your desired home and neighborhood? Answering these questions will help you decide if now is the time.
There are financial and personal benchmarks that can help you decide whether the time is right to buy a home. Owning a home is rewarding in so many ways, from being able to customize your home to your heart's content, to the equity you can build by owning a home of your own.
 
For help with your home selling questions please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
Open House: Do's and Don'ts

Open house signs on lawn

Visiting an open house is one of the most enjoyable parts of the home buying process.

 

It gives you a chance to fine-tune your idea of what your dream home looks like and learn the reality behind often-vague online listings. You might even get some free food and drinks out of the deal.
 
But like all things, visiting an open house is not without its unwritten rules, so it's important to understand the dos and don'ts of open house etiquette. Think of visiting an open house like you're going on a first date—you never know when you'll find "the one," so you'll want to be careful not to blow it.
  • Do: Have a Game Plan. To make the best use of your time, research properties you want to see and create a schedule for your day that allows you to visit houses in one area, and then move on to the next area. Give yourself enough time to see each home, and don't forget to allow for travel time.

  • Don't: Arrive Too Late. Showing up at the last minute is impolite in any situation, but when it comes to visiting an open house, it does more harm to yourself than to anyone else. Try to be one of the first people through the door rather than waiting until the agent is packing up the brochures and turning off the lights.

  • Do: Dress for Success. The key to dressing for an open house is to find an outfit that is both comfortable and appropriate. A three-piece suit is overkill, but tank tops and gym shorts won't do you any favors either. Plus, you're going to be standing and walking a lot, so comfort is a must.

  • Don't: Be Too Nosy. Sure, the point of an open house is to explore. But it's important to remember that, for the time being, this is still somebody else's house. If a door is closed, check with the real estate agent before opening it. The homeowner's personal belongings should be considered off-limits as well, so no peeking in medicine cabinets or rummaging through drawers.

  • Do: Ask Questions. The real estate agent at the open house is there to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision, so take advantage of the opportunity by asking any questions you might have about the property. Have any offers been made? How long as the property been on the market? How much are utilities? Are there any assessments or extra fees?

  • Don't: Monopolize the Agent. Be careful not to be too demanding of the agent during a busy open house. They have to show a lot of people around and answer everyone's questions. You can always follow up later if you want to know more.

  • Do: Be Polite Manners go a long way. Be polite to the agent, the other visitors, and the homeowners themselves, if they happen to be there. Feel free to politely mention flaws you may notice (scuffed carpeting, mold in the bathtub, etc.) but don't make disparaging comments about the house.

  • Don't: Reveal Too Much. Keep your conversation focused on the property itself when you're speaking with the real estate agent. Avoid answering questions about your income, when you need to move, or how your home search is going.

  • Do: Have Fun. One of the most important things to do when you're visiting open houses is to remember to enjoy it. The opportunity to check out potential candidates for your future house can be very exciting, and it brings you closer to making your dream home a reality.
When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.

 
Why Do Real Estate Agents
Ask If You’re Pre-approved?
 
Mortgage Loan pre approval form

Don’t be embarrassed when your first meeting with a real estate agent slips quickly from polite conversation to a serious Q&A.

 

While you may anticipate your realtor’s need for your name, address, and phone number, you should be ready to answer the big question: “Are you pre-approved?” If you answer is “no,” it could be an obstacle to your home buying process.
 
When you begin your search with pre-approved status, it means your mortgage company has confirmed your income, reviewed your credit, and verified a variety of other personal and financial details. Their assessment considers your ability to repay a loan and calculates your maximum mortgage potential.
 
While a pre-approval is not a commitment to finance you, it does say that you are a good candidate for buying a home. It sends an important message to everyone involved in the home buying process.
  • It Tells the Seller, “I’m serious”. For every home you view, there's a seller who has spent time and money getting it into market-ready condition. Home sellers clean, paint, and comply with repair and staging recommendations. They schedule open houses and leave home at a moment’s notice for last minute showings. A seller puts forth a lot of effort so buyers can come in and take a look. In exchange for that effort, a seller wants to know that the strangers wandering through their home are serious buyers. A pre-approval tells a seller that if you really want their home enough to buy it, you have the financial ability to complete the deal. It tells them you are a serious buyer. It may also give you an edge in negotiating a better price.

  • It Tells Your REALTOR®, “I won’t waste your time”. Professional real estate agents are happy to help you find the home of your dreams. They locate homes that meet your specifications and accompany you to as many showings as you desire. Your agent will commit to your home-buying vision, but they need to know upfront that you can meet the financial requirements. The pre-approval process reviews your personal information, credit history, income, and background before confirming that you are a good candidate for a home mortgage. The process may seem tedious but it allows the mortgage company to project your credit-worthiness as well as the mortgage amount you can afford. Your pre-approval also serves to pre-screen you as safe, and non-threatening. That’s important to realtors who often find themselves alone with strangers in uninhabited homes.

  • It Lets You Know, “I’m ready to buy a home”. When you haven’t taken steps to get pre-approved for a mortgage, house-hunting is more like window shopping. You peek inside homes you may be curious about. You check out the decor, see the color schemes, and get an idea of what you may or may not want. You may think that you are ready to buy a home, but until you're pre-approved, you must admit that you are simply window shopping. Your commitment to the pre-approval process lets you know that you’re ready to buy a home and it confirms that you have the ability to do it. Instead of simply looking, when you see the home you want, you can make a legitimate offer. If your offer is accepted, you'll have a mortgage company that’s willing to work with you to finalize the sale.

  • Ask Your Real Estate Professional. When you're ready to begin your search for a new home, contact a real estate professional. A realtor can further explain how a mortgage pre-approval letter can ease your home buying process.
When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
The Ten Commandments
of Buying a House
 
Cartoon Ten Commandments tablet

In the rush of excitement that comes when you find your dream home, many buyers make the mistake of jumping head first into the homeownership process without ever considering the snags that may occur along the way.

 

To make the buying a home a little less stressful, learn the Ten Commandments of Buying a House.
  1. Maintain Steady Employment. Lenders like to see job stability. It's important for at least one of the applicants to hold a steady job. And the longer you stay at the same job, the better it looks when applying for a home loan.

  2. Limit Bank Account Activity. When you apply for a home loan, you'll need to produce bank statements. Lenders look for consistency each month, like steady deposits, regular bill payments, and no erratic spending.

  3. Continually Monitor Your Credit Score. This is so much easier than it used to be. Gone are the days of waiting for your free, yearly credit report to arrive in the mail. Websites are available to help you monitor your credit score--even offering great tips on how to improve it.

  4. Postpone Large Purchases. Unless you have money to burn, now is not the best time to purchase a car, motorcycle, new furniture or anything else that might make a lender nervous. The bank questioning a large purchase could slow down the loan application process.

  5. Save for a Down Payment. The sooner you start this, the better. A 20 percent down payment is what's recommended. Even if you qualify for no down payment, it's in your best interest to put some money down.

  6. Only Consider Homes Within Your Budget. We're all guilty of wanting more. But taking a peek at what's just a touch over your budget can be dangerous. Don't torture yourself. Embrace what you can afford.

  7. Research Various Neighborhoods. It's a good idea to visit different areas, even ones that may not be on your radar. Check what traffic patterns are like, where the schools are, quality of grocery stores, things that will make your everyday life more comfortable.

  8. Get Pre-Approved. Once your finances are strong and stable, it's a good idea to get a loan pre-approved. As a buyer, this gives you more leverage when the seller knows things aren't going to fall apart on your end after you make a bid.

  9. Resale History. While investigating the neighborhoods, review not only the resale info on the home but other comparable homes in the area. Have they gone up in value? How long do they sit on the market? Is there a cluster of homes up for sale in the same neighborhood? I can help you with these questions, and the answers may give you better insight into what's happening in that area.

  10. Find a Real Estate Agent you Like and Trust. When you find a REALTOR®, you will share a lot of personal information with this person-- not to mention spend many hours with them. It's important to have good chemistry. And remember, thou shalt not carry the entire burden yourself. A great agent is always ready to help their clients through every step of the process.
These are just some of the recommendations I have. When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me..
 
Buying the Right Home Warranty Plan
 
Drawing of home covered by umbrella
 

Choosing the right home warranty can be good for your budget.

 

Buying a house is a big financial decision, and the right home warranty can help you protect some of the most important contents of your new home. A home warranty helps cover repairs to key systems and provides peace of mind once you move into your new home. But how do you choose the right home warranty, and what benefits can you expect? Ahead, we'll cover the critical details on choosing the right home warranty when buying a house.

One of the most common questions about home warranties is, “doesn't my homeowner's insurance cover this stuff?” The truth is that your home warranty and your home insurance serve two different purposes, with homeowners insurance covering major perils like fire, wind damage, and flooding. However, if your furnace, central air-conditioning, or appliances break down on their own, those items won't be covered by homeowner's insurance.

That's where a home warranty comes in because home warranties cover key home systems and appliances. Since repairs to appliances and HVAC systems can be quite expensive, many homeowners prefer the security of a home warranty. Choosing the right home warranty starts with understanding your goals, and how to accomplish them.
  • The Cost of Home Warranties. A solid home warranty typically costs in the range of a few hundred dollars each year, either in a lump sum or through scheduled payments. While the premiums aren't too high, some home warranties have more added costs than others. Just as you would with insurance, be sure to check exactly what's covered, how the claims process works, and whether you will have to pay service fees to have contractors come to examine problems in the home. There are a ton of home warranty options, so shop around to find a plan that fits your needs.

  • What Is Covered By Home Warranties. In simple terms, a home warranty should cover a lot of the stuff that isn't covered by a standard home insurance policy. Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems are a major investment for most homeowners and are typically covered under home warranties. A good home warranty should also cover valuable appliances within the home, so you don't have to worry about shelling out big bucks to repair those fancy new kitchen appliances.

  • When to Buy a Home Warranty. Purchasing a home warranty isn't a requirement when buying a house, so the decision depends on the financial goals of the home-buyer. If you haven't had the time to properly assess the state of a home's appliances, then it may make sense to purchase a home warranty to hedge against bad luck. Since appliance repairs can be quite costly, a warranty may also make sense for anyone who has invested most of their savings in buying a house. Finally, some homeowners simply like the peace of mind provided by a warranty and find the expense to be worth it.
While a home warranty isn't a necessity, it can be a very nice perk when you need the peace of mind, or when you're working to get your budget back in order after the big financial move of buying a house. If you have questions about whether a home warranty is the right fit for you, your REALTOR® or real estate agent is a great person to speak with to learn more. Remember that just as with home insurance, it pays to shop around before making your home warranty choice.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
6 Budget-Friendly Ways
to Scare Off Burglars
 
Masked burglar looking through door

Living in a beautiful, tranquil neighborhood makes crime a lot less likely--but there's nothing out there that can make it impossible.

Criminals often diligently seek out neighborhoods where people are likely to have the most expensive goods for them to steal.
We've all heard about burglars who take weeks to "case" specific homes, learning them inside and out before finally breaking in to snatch some valuables. It's true that most burglaries do not happen on the spur of the moment, but the criminals must see an opportunity to strike.
By making your home even a little bit more difficult to target, you can protect yourself. Luckily, there are lots of quick and inexpensive ways for any homeowner to do it.

Let's look at six simple tactics that can make the difference:
  1. Add a "Beware of Dog" Sign. We've all seen this in countless television shows, but there's a reason it's a cliché – it works. A dog is a dangerous and unpredictable element that can make it much harder to get into and out of a property without being noticed. With that in mind, even if you have an actual dog, you need to advertise the fact for it to be effective in giving would-be burglars second thoughts.

  2. Add a "Protected by ...". Sign One of the most valuable parts of a home security system has nothing to do with the alarms or the technology behind them: It's the sign that you can place on your window. Like #1 above, this puts potential burglars on notice. Even those who think they know everything about home security systems will be baffled when they can't figure out what you're up to.

  3. Use Motion-Activated Lights. Motion activated lights present any thief with a double-whammy. Sure, they realize that lights alone don't mean somebody is in the house. Still, bright lights will make it much more likely that a neighbor will notice something wrong, even from all the way across the street. That means they are much less likely to risk it. Use ultra-bright white lights for best results.

  4. Secure Sliding Windows with Bars. Sliding windows are the weak point in any home. To keep burglars from exploiting them, they need to be reinforced so that smashing them in – with all the loud noise and danger – is the only way through. Luckily, you can get a security bar for $20 online or at a local hardware store. This bar sits firmly on the floor and holds the door handle in place from the inside.

  5. Replace Door Locks with Deadbolts. It's always a good idea to re-key your newly-purchased home with a deadbolt. A deadbolt is much more difficult to move into the open position compared to a standard spring bolt lock, so it is hard to "pick." It also resists brute force assaults more effectively than a standard lock, partially because many of the internal components are made of solid steel.

  6. Run a Fake TV or Radio. It only costs a few dollars to get a simulated television you can run all night or on a timer when you are away. This is especially effective when you combine it with some of the other tactics above. With the combination of exterior lights and realistic activity inside, criminals will have no way of ensuring you're not around. That makes them far more likely to move on fast.
Worries about crime don't need to weigh on your thoughts – even when you're away from home. Implement these six ideas and your house will be that much safer.

For answers to your home selling questions please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers
 
Home inspection check list
Before you hire a professional home inspector, there are certain things that you can look for while your tour a home.
 
Not only is this going to give you a better idea of what needs to be fixed in the house, but it also gives you the opportunity to ask a professional home inspector what you'd like them to pay special attention to.
  1. The Foundation. When looking at the foundation, you shouldn’t only be looking at the outside of the home, but the interior also. Look at the base of all the walls in every room as well as the ceilings. You will be looking for obvious cracks and shifts in the foundation. Also, note whether there are any trees around the close vicinity of the property.

  2. The Roof. You will also want to ask questions about the roof. What is it made out of? When was it last installed? How long has it been since it was maintained and repaired? What is the condition of the roof, overall?

  3. Exterior Inspection. While on the outside of the house take a look at the paint or the siding on the house. Does it look like it needs to be painted or replaced? Are there missing pieces of siding, brick, stone or wood? Take a look at the windows too. Do these look newer or older? Are they energy efficient or not? Take a look at things like the gutters and downspouts on the home. Anything that is going to need to be repaired or replaced will add extra cost.

  4. Basement/Attic. Not all homes have attics and not all homes have basements. If the home has one or the other: Basements: The basement should not have any dampness to it, there should be adequate ventilation and insulation in the space. Attics: Make sure you always enter the attic in a new home. Look for any structural damage on the inside; holes in the walls, missing roof areas, or even things like wet spots should be noted - this usually means the roof does leak and that eventually you could have a major issue down the line.

  5. Electrical Inspection. There are things you can do such as making sure all the switches work, asking about when the last inspection was done on the wiring inside the home, and if the outlets are grounded.

  6. Plumbing Inspection. Make sure that you take a look at every sink, faucet and plumbing fixtures in the home. Make sure none of them are dripping water. Next, you want to listen for any odd sounds you might hear when turning on the tap or flushing the toilet. Lastly, you need to ask about the sewer and the last time it was scoped.

  7. HVAC Unit. An HVAC unit can be one of the most expensive parts of a home, because of this you should make sure that it's in working condition before you move in. Ask how old the furnace is and/or if it was maintained and repaired by a professional HVAC company – if so, make sure you get their name and number. Also, ask if the unit has been converted or if the old tanks are still in place.

  8. Odd Odors. Not only should you be visually inspecting the home, but you also need to pay attention to the smells inside a new home. If you smell mold, this could be coming from the basement. On the other hand, if you smell sulfur, this could have something to do with the sewer line.
When inspecting a house from a buyers standpoint, it's always okay to ask questions! Just make sure that when you are done doing a personal inspection, that you a pro to do another secondary look for you before you put any money down or sign on the dotted line.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
Can Moving Really Be Stress-Free?
 
Man pushing happy woman in packing box
The answer is: "You Bet!"
 
Buying a house is a huge deal. If you've just started house hunting or are already under contract, moving is the next giant step in this process. Moving can be stressful and chaotic.
 
The good news is packing and moving can be relatively effortless with some planning and organization. Use these simple steps to get started:
  • Get Organized. Having a plan is critical if you are going to make your move stress-free. Begin by making a list of everything you need to do and divide it into weeks. Allow yourself enough time to complete all the tasks.

  • Start Packing Well in Advance. Time is not always our friend. If you can, start packing at least eight weeks ahead of time. (If you have more time--even better.)

  • Don't Move it All. Instead of trying to figure out how you are going to do it all, first determine if you really even need it. Inventory all of your belongings and decide what to donate, sell or toss and what will actually be moved. Decluttering and simplifying your life can actually help lessen the load, and moving into a new home is a great time to do it.

  • Label Your Boxes. While tossing everything into boxes and sorting it once you move seems like a great idea, organized packing will pay off in the long run. Label each box with detailed descriptions. Color-coding boxes by room makes it easier when it comes time to unpack.

  • Make a Survival Kit. Just like anyone going on a great journey, it's important to pack a survival kit. In it should be the basic necessities that you and your family will need at some point during the day, the things you just can't make it through a day without. In your kit should be things like:
    • Toiletries
    • Water
    • Snacks
    • Phone chargers

  • Get Familiar with Your New Digs. Familiarize yourself with your new home and community before moving day. Spend some time driving around, determining where grocery stores, shopping areas and restaurants are located. When moving day comes, you won't waste time searching for hardware stores or places to eat. Spending time in your new home can also help you better envision where your belongings should be placed.

  • Hire a Professional Mover. Perhaps the most stressful part of packing and moving is the actual process. It's true that doing all the heavy lifting will save on your bottom line, but it's going to cost you in terms of a sore back and added stress. Letting a professional mover handle everything takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process for you and ensures that moving day will go as smoothly as possible.
No matter how you decide to de-stress your moving day, it's important you keep everything in perspective. Don't decide that all your boxes need to be unpacked in one day. Make sure you take time for yourself on moving day to relax and reflect on what you've accomplished.

If you would like a free estimate of what your home might sell for please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
10 Tips for Buying New
Construction Homes
 
Home under construction
Are you thinking new for your next home?
 
Opting for new construction when you're buying a house has many benefits—it allows you to customize the look, feel, layout, and location of the home to suit your exact needs. But there are also unique challenges to purchasing a new construction home, whether you're searching for the right builder, deciding how to customize the home, or simply trying to make sure that everything stays on schedule. We've got 10 proven tips to help you create the new construction home of your dreams.
 
  1. Find the Right Real Estate AgentFinding a trusted, experienced real estate agent is a good idea no matter what type of home you're buying, and it will go a long way toward helping you land the right new home. Look for an agent who has a deep knowledge of the local market.

  2. Do Your Research on BuildersSome builders are fantastic, and some aren't. You want one of the good ones, so take the time to research builders, ask questions, and get referrals from trusted sources in your area.

  3. Become a Neighborhood ExpertChoosing the right neighborhood plays a huge part in your long-term satisfaction when buying a house, so you'll want to learn everything you can about your target neighborhoods. Research nearby amenities, attractions, services, school districts, and anything else that's important to you.

  4. Research LendersYou may be able to obtain financing through the builder's lender, but it's a good idea to research other lenders to make sure you're getting the best terms. Look up lenders online, speak with your real estate agent, and find the right match.

  5. Mind the Model HomeMany builders offer model homes so that you can preview their work first-hand. While model homes can tell you some important things about a builder, remember that they often include upgrades that won't be present in every floor plan the builder offers.

  6. Research Floor PlansSpeaking of floor plans, you'll definitely want to do some research on the plans available from your builder. Review each plan thoroughly, and ask about customization options to tailor the home to your needs.

  7. Get It In WritingReputable builders back their promises with action, but it definitely doesn't hurt to get everything in writing. Mistakes can happen, and having promises in writing is your best defense when buying a house.

  8. Find Out What's GuaranteedYour new home may come with a warranty, but remember that not every warranty is the same. Find out exactly what's guaranteed, and for how long, to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

  9. Creative NegotiationsThere is often less negotiation about the overall price of a new home, but you can still negotiate to get the upgrades you desire included with favorable terms. Your real estate agent will be a great resource for these negotiations.

  10. Consider the FutureRemember that you're not just buying a home for now, so it's wise to consider what your home, neighborhood, and life needs will look like in the future. If a home matches your present and future needs, then you're probably on the right path.
While buying a new home does have its challenges, it can also be one of the most rewarding decisions for any home buyer. By taking your time, doing your research, and making informed decisions, you'll be ready to build the new home of your dreams.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
 
Home-Buying Guide for Newlyweds
 
Groom carrying bride
When you begin your new married life, it makes sense to include home-ownership as a part of your happily-ever-after plan.
 
Instead of being a property renter, you can build equity as an owner. You can decorate, remodel or upgrade your home however you please. If your life plan includes children, they'll have a green space to play and entertain friends close to home.
 
Before you begin your home-buying quest, you should understand the process of buying a house and the personal commitment necessary to make it happen. That's why we created this Home Buying Guide for Newlyweds. Use it as a framework for discussing basic home-buying concerns.
  1. Decide if you really want to buy a home. Never buy a home because your mom says so or because it seems like the grownup thing to do. A home is a major investment. Long after you've paid your closing costs, it will add a lifetime of expenses to your budget. If you're ambivalent about your home-buying decision, wait until you're ready.

  2. What kind of home do you want. When you're buying a house, it's a good idea for you and your spouse to agree on what kind of house it should be. Discuss architectural style, age, landscaping, bedrooms, and amenities. Detail the must-have features that are critical to your comfort and well-being.

  3. Decide where you want to live. The National Association of REALTORS® 2017 home trend study reported that buyers under age 36 planned to keep their homes an average of 10 years. If you follow this national trend, you'll want to make certain your home will fit your lifestyle today and in the future. To avoid a love-hate relationship with your new home, investigate the community before you decide to buy. - Crime and safety trends - School district standards - Recreation area safety - Questionable neighbors.

  4. Know how much can you afford. Sit down with your spouse to discuss your income and what you can afford. Review any life circumstances that might affect your future ability to pay.

  5. Discuss your credit. You should know your spouse's financial profile before you tie the knot. If you bypassed that discussion, it's important to get the financial details before you consider buying a house.
Credit score - Outstanding debt - Assets - Income - Savings. If there are hidden financial skeletons in either spouse's closet, they could haunt you when the mortgage company assesses your ability to repay your loan. When you know and understand your credit profile, you can take steps to repair your credit ahead of time.
  1. Get a mortgage pre-approved letter. After you've addressed your financial details, it's a good idea to seek mortgage pre-approval before you begin your home search. Your mortgage company will assess your credit, determine your ability to meet their financial standards, and issue a letter confirming your pre-approved status. Sellers and their real estate agents know you're serious about buying a home when you show them proof that you've consulted a mortgage company. They'll be more willing to consider your offer and negotiate a deal.

  2. Consider loan programs. If you're ready to buy a home but your finances aren't perfect, these government-backed loan programs may be able to help you with financing. - Federal Housing Authority - Fannie Mae - Freddie Mac - Veteran's Administration You may qualify for a low-interest rate or a reduced down payment. These programs are flexible in assessing your credit, income and work history.
Work With a Real Estate Professional.  Contact Susan Klement, a real estate professional, when you decide that buying a house is the right decision for you. An experienced agent has the knowledge and experience to guide you through the home-buying process. Call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
 
What Buyers Need To Know
About The Appraisal Process
 
Home Appraisal
The home appraisal process is an important step toward securing a home loan.  It can also be one of the more confusing steps in the process for buyers. Whether you're going through the process for the first time or you've been there before, understanding what to expect from your appraisal, why it's important, and how it works will make life much easier when the time comes.
  • Your Home Appraisal Guide. When you apply for a home loan, the lender needs to determine the home's exact value before they will offer a loan. A home appraisal is an unbiased review of the value of the home, which the lender uses to make sure that the value of the loan matches the real value of the home. This is a crucial step because the home acts as collateral for the loan, and the lender needs to protect itself in the event of a foreclosure.

  • How Does a Home Appraisal Work? The appraiser plays an important role in the home buying process and serves as an impartial observer to establish a fair, accurate value for your home. The appraiser should be licensed or certified with a deep understanding of your local real estate market. Your lender will normally take care of the details for arranging the appraisal. You will be responsible for the cost. The actual appraisal process doesn't require much input from the buyer until the end. The appraisal allows you to understand how the appraiser established the home's value, and see whether you disagree with any aspects of the appraisal. You will not be dealing with the appraiser directly, so it's important to be prepared to review the final report of value.

  • How Is the Value of the Home Determined? The home appraiser will determine the value of your home based on a few factors, which will likely be familiar to anyone shopping for a home. The size of the home both indoors and out, along with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the condition of the home, the neighborhood where the home is located, and the value of comparable homes sold in the area. The final report of value accounts for all of these factors, to provide a comprehensive picture of the home's value.

  • This Sounds a lot Like a Home Inspection. And there are indeed many similarities! However, a home inspection is used to determine whether any repairs are needed for the home, and how much those repairs will cost. The appraisal is a deeper look at the home, with a specific focus on establishing value.

  • What If I Don't Like the Results? As a buyer, a lower-than-expected appraisal can actually be a valuable negotiating tool, as you can request that the seller lower the asking price to match what the lender will offer. If you believe that the appraiser made a mistake or miscalculated the home's value, you can request another review with a different appraiser.
When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
Fireplace Safety and Efficiency Tips
 
Fire in fireplace

Whether it's for the cozy ambiance fireplaces create or simply for the practical use of reducing heating costs, many buyers have a fireplace on their list of wants when buying a home.

Here are three "hot" tips for keeping your home fireplace burning safely and efficiently.


1. Fireplace Preventive Maintenance.
Excessive heat and chimney fires are produced by the buildup of creosote—a highly-combustible byproduct (mostly tar) of burning wood. Whether using your fireplace year-round, seasonally or just when the mood strikes you, chimney preventive maintenance is an essential home improvement project for keeping your home safe.
  • Chimney inspection: Hire a chimney service technician to inspect your chimney at least once a year. Loose bricks, cracks, missing mortar and damaged dampers and lining may need to make your home improvement list.

  • Chimney cap: Chimney caps with spark arrestors (metal screens) prevent snow, rain, animals, and debris from entering the chimney. Moreover, spark arrestors prevent floating embers from escaping the chimney and possibly setting your roof ablaze. Your technician ensures the chimney cap and spark arrestor are functioning properly.

  • Chimney sweep: A 2016 report by the National Fire Protection Association states that the leading factor for home heating fires was a failure to clean the chimney.
2. Building a Fire

Learning how to build a home fireplace fire safely and efficiently are excellent skills to master. There's more to it than tossing some wood in the firebox, dousing it with lighter fluid and—uh-oh—don't do that! Be patient, and take fire building seriously.
  • Choosing wood: Only burn dry, cured wood. High moisture levels in wood create more smoke, doesn't burn as efficiently and tends to produce more creosote. Cover your woodpile, but leave the sides exposed to airflow. Hickory, white oak, beech, and other hardwoods burn longer than spruce and white pine. However, sufficiently dry firewood is more important than the species and density.

  • Building a fire: Open the damper first. Next, place larger logs in the back of the firebox. Put smaller logs on top of the larger ones. On top, place your wood kindling and tinder, such as bunched-up newspaper balls. This "upside down" fire will burn cleaner and hotter than placing kindling and tinder on the bottom. Remember, start slowly, be patient and build up.
  • Only burn firewood: Your fireplace isn't an incinerator. Disposing of crates, construction scraps and painted or stained wood, for example, may seem harmless enough, but treated woods release harmful chemicals into your home.
3. Fireplace Safety and Efficiency

Be mindful of the fireplace surroundings and the fire. Keep tinder, such as newspaper and other combustibles, at a safe distance. Use these tips to keep the warm glow inside the firebox.
  • Spark guard: When you cozy up with your significant other in front of your fireplace, sure, you want sparks to fly—but not sparks from the fireplace fire! Close the mesh spark guard when the glass doors are open.

  • Dampers: You don't want your energy dollars going up the chimney. Close the damper and glass doors when you are not using the fireplace.

  • Alarms: Test your smoke alarms and CO detectors at least twice a year. Alarms/detectors should be installed outside each sleeping area, on each level of your home and about 8 to 10 feet from your fireplace and any doors to attached garages.

    For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.



      What to Look for on a Home Tour

Couple touring home

When you find the home of your dreams, it's like love at first sight.

You feel a sense of urgency to claim it before someone else does. Be careful! The adrenaline rush you feel when you've found the perfect home can easily blind you to its imperfections.

The properties you tour have been staged to draw your eye to their best features. It's up to you to detect any problems. You must ignore the pressure to compete with other buyers and avoid that sense of celebration that tells you you've found the perfect home. Otherwise, you might miss a critical problem.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Is this the best location for my family? A good location has good schools, a short commute, shopping, and entertainment choices. Unfortunately, you must do the research to uncover the riskiest location issues. Pollution - Are there any plants, factories, truck routes, garbage facilities or other pollution hazards nearby?

    • Traffic - Is it safe for your children to play outside? Will you hear cars or trains or trucks or jets all night long?
    • Neighbors - Are your neighbors pleasant with neat yards and clean homes?
    • Lead - Has the home tested positive for lead?

  • Does the home look worn on the outside? A seller can paint the exterior walls, clean the yard and make the property look neat and clean, but longstanding maintenance issues are difficult to hide.

    • Roof - Are the tiles and flashings worn or damaged? Are the gutters rusty or flaking?
    • Driveways - Are there visible cracks, wear, and oil stains?
    • Lawn and Garden - Are plants, grass, and trees dead or dying?
    • Paint - Are the exterior trim and paint in worn condition?

  • Does the home look worn on the inside? Homes are staged to look beautiful. Owners remove excess furniture, books, and knick-knacks for an open, less crowded feel. They paint walls, turn on the lights and open the curtains to fill rooms with light. As you're touring the home, use that minimalist decorating and infusion of light to study every detail.

    • Walls - Are there patched holes or damaged drywall under the fresh paint?
    • Trim - Is the wood dry-rotted, worn or damaged?
    • Floors - Is there damaged wood or faded carpet beneath the furniture and area rugs. Do the floors squeak when you walk? Are they even?
    • Bathroom - Is the grout faded or damaged? Are the tiles in good condition?

  • Is there a water problem? A faulty drainage system can cause water to pool in exterior locations. When water enters through a roof or foundation it can damage ceilings, concrete, insulation, and more. Unrestrained water can leave a trail of mold and mildew within the walls. Left unabated, mold and mildew can cause sensitivities and sickness. Water damage within interior walls is difficult to detect, but you can look for the signs.

    • Ceilings - Do ceilings show signs of water damage?
    • Bathrooms and Kitchens - Could loose grout, deteriorating seals, or leaky pipes be a source of water within the bathroom or kitchen walls?
    • Smells - Do you smell mold or mildew anywhere in the house?

  • Are the climate control systems working properly? Ask the selling agent to turn on the furnace and AC unit during your tour. If one has been shut down for the season, inspect the maintenance stickers to determine the last date of service.

  • Are the windows and doors leaky and worn? When hot or cold air seeps into a climate controlled home, they increase heating and cooling costs. Worn door and window seals and condensation between insulated glass panes are signs of a problem that can cost you money.
When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
Make Any Move Easier
With This Simple List
 
Couple on sofa smiling

Moving involves a roller-coaster of emotions.

On one hand, you're excited about your new home, new neighborhood, and the experiences that lie ahead. On the other, the thought of moving all your belongings can be stressful. You don't realize how many things you have until it is time to move them. However, with proper planning, moving doesn't have to be such a hassle.
 
It is always a good idea to have a complete checklist to guide you through the moving process. You can use your checklist to make sure that you take care of everything in good time and make the move adventurous, rather than stressful. So what should you include on your list?
  • Make a list of what to keep and what to get rid of As you plan for the move, this is the best time to get rid of items you don't need. Take the time to make a list of the must-haves, the maybes, and the unnecessary stuff. This can be even more beneficial when moving to a smaller home. Prioritizing your items also allows you to handle the important items with more care and attention.

  • Purchase packing supplies Next, identify what packing supplies you will need. Because you already have an idea of the items you will be moving, you can have enough supplies ready that will make packing more efficient.

  • Research moving companies Research moving companies in advance. Compare prices, expertise, and contracts in order to find the best moving company to suit your needs. You can also have the movers visit your home and take a look at your furniture to determine how the process will go on moving day.

  • Close/transfer utility accounts Find out how to close or transfer your current utility accounts. Determine all of the paperwork that is required, the costs, and how long the process will take. You can plan your move around these dates so you don't end up moving into a home with no basic utilities.

  • Gather important documentation Make a list of all the critical documents you need to have when moving. This includes your lease/mortgage agreement, medical records, insurance documents, and school documentation if you have kids that will be switching schools. In addition, begin to update your bank and credit card addresses as you draw closer towards moving day. This will allow for a seamless transition of all your financial documentation.

  • Confirm if your friends are coming to help About a week before moving day, confirm if friends you asked for help are still willing to come over to help you move. Reminding your friends in advance can ensure that you avoid any surprises and inconveniences on the actual day.

  • Confirm dates with the moving company Make sure you also confirm the actual moving dates with the moving company a few days before the move.

  • Clearly label all boxes To keep yourself organized on moving day, properly label all the boxes. You can label them by location or by the items they contain. Make sure boxes with fragile items are treated with care and kept aside from others.
For answers to your home selling questions please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.

Mortgage Mistakes That Can Cost You
 
Woman with empty piggybank

If you're interested in buying a house, then you probably already know that getting a mortgage can be no picnic.

 

Your mortgage is almost certainly the largest debt you will ever take on, and like any major life decision, it makes sense to do plenty of preparation before you take that leap. If you do your homework – and avoid these common mortgage mistakes – you'll be well on your way to buying a house.
 
  1. Not Having Your Finances In Order. Before you ever set foot in a lender's office, you need to have your financial ducks in a row. Have all your paperwork handy, obtain a credit report, and take any necessary steps to improve your credit and financial standing before you start applying for a mortgage. If you don't, you could end up getting a pretty rough deal, or even being rejected altogether.

  2. Borrowing Too Much. At the end of the day, your mortgage is a debt that you will have to eventually pay off. So why take on any more debt than you have to? Be honest with yourself about what you can afford. As a general rule, your housing costs should not exceed 30 percent of your take-home pay. Any more than that, and you run the risk of making yourself "house poor," which puts you in a very precarious financial position.

  3. Looking for a House Before Getting Pre-Approved. Looking at houses without being pre-approved for a mortgage is like going to the grocery store without knowing how much money you have in your wallet. There's a good chance you'll be in for a shock when you get to the check-out line. Getting pre-approval will give you a solid idea of how much a lender will be willing to offer. And while this number is not entirely set in stone, it's enough to let you know which houses you definitely can't afford.

  4. Not Shopping Around. For many prospective homeowners, getting a mortgage isn't easy. So it's tempting to jump at the first offer that comes along. After all, it might be the only offer you get, right? That's not necessarily the case, and it's important to remember that just because you've been offered a mortgage – even one that seems like a good deal – doesn't mean you have to take it. Shop around. Do your homework. Talk to multiple lenders. You may be able to get a mortgage with better rates and better terms than you thought possible.

  5. Putting Too Little Down. It goes without saying that the more you pay for your house upfront, the less you'll have to pay later, but it's far too easy to put down the smallest possible down payment without really considering the consequences. As a general rule, you should be able to put down 20 percent of a home's cost upfront. If you don't have that much on hand, it's worth taking the time to save it up. Most lenders require you to put 20 percent down to avoid mortgage insurance, an expense that only increases your monthly mortgage payment.

Getting a mortgage is a major accomplishment, and an important step on the road to buying a house. By avoiding these common mortgage mistakes, you'll be well on your way to making your dream home a reality.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life!
 
Budgeting for Renovations
 
Couple with renovation tools

Turning a house into a home can be an expensive process.

 

When contractors are remodeling your bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom, renovation costs sometimes exceed your expectations. That happens more often than you might imagine.
 
Contractors can find mold inside the bathroom walls while installing new fixtures. Your aging living room carpet may be hiding dry-rotted hardwood. You might not anticipate these conditions but you'll still have to pay the cost and this can be frustrating. Before you begin your next home improvement project, consider these options to help you budget for unseen costs.
 
Understand the costs
 
Calculating the dollars and cents might burst your remodeling bubble, but it can force you to focus on what's most important. Before you make any decisions, discuss pricing with your contractor. Get a written estimate as well, but understand the estimate will include standard home improvement tasks and visible extras. Some cost additions might be out of your contractor's control.
  • Materials and fixture prices may increase between the time your contractor orders them and the day they're delivered.

  • Unavailable materials may be replaced with more expensive options.

  • The job may require more time to complete, which translates into higher labor costs.

  • The estimates may not include the cost of insurance, permits, and state required certificates.
Be realistic

Do you insist on a kitchen remodel that includes granite countertops, marble tile, a custom farmhouse sink and an expensive new stainless refrigerator? If you live in an upscale community, your taste for the finer things in life might increase your home's value. If not, your costly renovations may feel like a waste of money when it's time to sell your home. Be realistic when you plan your home remodel. Make decisions based on the home and neighborhood where you live not the one you dream about.

DIY to reduce costs
 
The concept of sweat equity places a value on the work you're willing to perform to improve your property. Even if you have limited experience working with tools, you can paint, spackle, lay tile, and complete other tasks to reduce your remodeling costs.

Put a cap on your spending

Once you get a handle on the estimated costs for what you want, create a budget you can stick to. An experienced contractor should have a good idea of the potential for remodeling "surprises." Discuss the possibility ahead of time and factor them into your calculations.
Arrange project financing

Even when you have enough cash on hand to pay for your renovations, financing your home improvement might be a better option. A major project can deplete the savings it took you years to accumulate. Instead of using your hard-earned cash, consider one of the following:
  • Home Equity Loan: a single lump sum loan using home equity as collateral

  • Home Equity Line of Credit: a revolving line of credit with a variable interest rate

  • Cash-out refinance: refinance your home for more than you owe and receive cash back
Remodeling surprises happen

Whether big or small, your remodeling job will require that your contractor juggle a hundred little details. Surprises happen, but you can handle the potential for unforeseen renovations when you plan ahead.

For answers to your home selling questions please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Here's Your Home Buying Blueprint
 
Couple standing in front of blueprint drawing of home

Maybe you're tired of paying rent. Maybe your old place is too small for your growing family.

 

Maybe you've got your financial ducks in a row and you're ready to go for it. Whatever the case may be, you're ready to own your own home—but where to begin?
 
The process of buying a house isn't really as intimidating as it often appears, though it can certainly be challenging. For a first-time homeowner, it can seem downright impossible, but we're here to tell you that it isn't. These easy tips will point the way toward buying a house you can call home for years to come.
 
Know What You Can Afford
 
Before you start looking at houses, it's important to get your finances in order. That means evaluating your current income, expenses, and debts to determine how much house you can really afford. It's important to be honest with yourself and arrive at a realistic maximum price tag.
 
Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage
 
Depending on your financial situation, you have a lot of different options when it comes to home loans. Talk with multiple lenders, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Shop around until you figure out the right type of loan for you, and get pre-approved if you can.
 
Pre-approval for a mortgage will give you a fairly solid idea of how much a lender will be able to offer you, which is crucial for finding a house within your budget. It also shows home sellers that you are serious about buying. The pre-approval process is usually pretty straightforward and involves supplying your lender with financial documents including proof of employment, proof of income, proof of residence, tax documents, bank account information and credit history.
 
Find the Right Agent
 
Having a skilled, knowledgeable real estate agent in your corner takes a lot of the stress out of buying a house. A good buyer's agent can offer helpful info on homes and neighborhoods, familiarity with the area you plan to move to, as well as honed negotiation skills and in-depth knowledge of the home buying process. It also takes away a lot of the stress that comes with going it alone. I have been a full time, licensed Realtor for the past eleven years and a resident of Bradenton for 35 years. I have developed a great understanding and knowledge of all the communities within Manatee County and I pride myself on being a Real Estate professional adhering to a high standard of ethics and professionalism. So you can count on help to get you into your new home. Please read my satisfied client reviews on my web site: Customer Reviews.
 
Go House Shopping
 
Once you have your finances in order, your pre-approval in hand, and your agent working hard on your behalf, it's time to get to the fun part—looking for your dream home. Leave no stone unturned. Browse online listings, check the local papers, and visit open houses.
 
But before you start looking at homes in person, it's important to understand what you need. Make a checklist that includes all of your "must-haves," "like-to-haves," and "dream features" that you can use to evaluate each house you visit. This will help you avoid the common pitfall of falling in love with a house that isn't really right for you. Once you find the one, talk to me about making an offer.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
4 Benefits of Buying a Home
When You're Young
 
Couple at table talking with realtor

Not everyone is ready to buy a home. But if you are ready, it's one of the best investments you can make.

 

This is especially true for younger people (the Millennial generation), who arguably have the most to gain from buying a house.
Millennials make up the largest group of first-time homeowners in America, and many in their 30's and even in their 20's are coming around to the benefits of buying their first home. Unfortunately, many factors are keeping Millennials from becoming homeowners—student debt, a volatile job market—but the numbers are improving. Here are four benefits of buying a home while you are young:
  1. Spend money smarter. Making monthly payments on an apartment you'll never own can be frustrating, and escaping from the cycle of renting is one of the biggest reasons many Millennials give for wanting to own a home. Putting your money toward mortgage payments instead of rent gives you something to work toward. Many young homeowners find that the responsibilities of homeownership lead to developing better financial habits in general.

  2. Invest in your future. If you're like many people, a house is probably the most valuable thing you will ever own, but it's more than that. Most real estate increases in value over time, and buying a home at a young age gives you something of great value that you can sell when the time is right—probably for a higher price than you paid for it. Granted, property values can go up and down as the market fluctuates, but if you make a wise choice in the home you choose to invest in, it is unlikely that its value will decrease in the long run. Chances are when you reach retirement age, you'll be glad you bought a house when you were younger.

  3. Build your credit. It goes without saying that if you're buying a home at a young age, you're probably already working with some credit. That being said, buying a house looks good to lenders, and the fact that you're able to achieve it at a younger age than most will only make your credit history look more impressive. Even if you're buying a relatively modest starter home, obtaining a mortgage and paying it off reliably will boost your credit rating and make it easier to buy a larger home in the future.

  4. Enjoy the tax benefits. Many new homeowners are pleasantly surprised by all the tax advantages that come with buying a house. For starters, mortgage interest is deductible from your annual income tax, and homeowners get tax credits that can lower your tax liability. Simply put, owning your home means that you may owe less to the government when tax time rolls around.
Age is just a number, of course, and the right time to become a homeowner is when you're ready, so when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
5 Mistakes to Avoid In Your
First Year as a Homeowner
 
Picture of young couple in front of house

Buying a house for the first time is exciting!

But once you have the keys, don't let your excitement and inexperience take over.

Avoid these five mistakes that often surprise first-year homeowners.
  1. Not budgeting for additional expenses Although you can't envision every possible scenario, there will be additional expenses. Many first-time buyers don't think about extra money needed directly after closing for expenses such as movers, buying furniture, and deposits to get your utilities turned on. Additionally, you may have to purchase tools or other items you didn't need when you rented plus still have an emergency fund in case something critical needs repaired.

  2. Ignoring small repairs. Dealing with repairs can be a mindset change if you're used to calling building maintenance every time something breaks. Repairs that start off small can be tempting to ignore. Some repairs, especially those that involve plumbing or the outside of your house, can create bigger problems if ignored. When you're buying a house, it's a good idea to think of home maintenance as part of your monthly budget, even if you don't spend money on it every single month. That way the money will be there when you do need it. The inspection report that was provided when buying your house is a good place to start when considering what to fix first.

  3. Going on a spending spree. It's easy to get excited about your new home and the opportunity to fill it with things you love. This causes some new homeowners to dive head first into remodeling projects and buying a houseful of expensive furniture and appliances. You're in your house for the long haul. Remodeling projects are usually a better investment once you have a little time to live in your new space. As long as you have the basics, quality furniture purchases can be spaced out to be more budget friendly.

  4. Going with the lowest bid on a repair project. When you don't have experience with home repairs, it can be hard to know what questions to ask when hiring a contractor. Often the lowest estimate isn't the best option and may actually end up costing you more money in the long run. Homeowners often assume estimates are set in stone, but that isn't always the case. Unforeseen circumstances can require extra time and money to complete a project. Vastly different estimates are usually a good indicator that the project requirements are being viewed differently. Any estimate you get should be as specific as possible about what work is being performed, how long it will take, and what situations would incur extra charges.

  5. Not taking advantage of tax breaks. Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you'll make. Take advantage of every incentive you can. Mortgage interest and mortgage insurance premiums are usually tax deductible. There may be state or local tax credits available for first-time buyers or those that have made energy-efficient or eco-friendly upgrades. Consult a tax professional in your area to make sure you're taking advantage of everything you can.

These common mistakes can cost you money, time and cause you headaches. Being prepared and avoiding them entirely is a much better option.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 
5 Things to Consider Before
You Start Flipping Houses
 
Picture of home with pages turning
With high demand for homes and tight inventory, there's great potential to buy a home and quickly resell it for a profit. Even so, buying a house isn't the kind of investment that should be taken lightly.

A quick glance at all the house flipping shows on TV proves just how popular the idea of flipping a house for profit has become. But a 30-minute TV segment misses a lot of important details, so if you're planning to make a killing in the flipping game, be sure to consider a few things first.
  1. Money is Made on the Buy, Not the Sell. It might sound counter-intuitive, but the price at which you purchase a house—not the price you sell it for—determines how much money you make on it. At least, that's a helpful way to look at it. Far too many inexperienced flippers buy homes for too much and are shocked to find that, after all the renovations have been made, it's impossible to resell at a profit.

  2. Know What You Can't Afford to Fix. The key to flipping is buying a house that needs only cosmetic repairs. The home could need new carpets, new cabinetry, a fresh paint job, better fixtures and so on, but it has to be structurally sound. Homes that need a new roof, have a crack in the foundation or need a new plumbing or electrical system can be far too costly to renovate. And always have a full inspection done before you buy a house.

  3. Don't Do Everything Yourself. Flipping a house is a team effort, so it's helpful to know a home inspector, accountant, lawyer, and especially a contractor. Hiring a contractor (or a team of subcontractors) to make the necessary repairs and renovations is essential not only for the expertise they provide but the speed at which they can work. Even if you have the construction know-how to do this work yourself, hiring a professional gets the job done quickly, and frees you up to focus on reselling this house and finding the next one.

  4. Location Is Everything. Buying a house to flip can be a futile endeavor if the location or market isn't a good one. You need to locate areas where you can resell houses at a profit margin of at least 10% to 20% (although more than that is ideal). A real estate agent can help you identify good cities to flip houses in and find the best neighborhoods within each city.

  5. Use a Real Estate Agent. A real estate agent is a great resource if you're just getting into flipping houses. But even if you've been at it for a while, a skilled agent can also help take your flipping business to the next level, giving you access to more homes on which you may be able to turn a profit.

    When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy live.

                       What is Private
                    Mortgage Insurance?
     


    Woman receiving keys

    Buying a house? You'll want to get the facts about Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).


    Whenever you're considering buying a house, it's best to go into the situation as prepared as you can be. An experienced real estate agent helps, but the knowledge you bring to the table is also essential.

    PMIprivate mortgage insurance – is one area where buyers often face confusion.

    • What is PMI? PMI is a form of insurance you may be required to pay for if you have a conventional home loan.

    • Who Benefits from PMI? The home buyer pays but gets none of the benefits. PMI is exclusively intended to protect the mortgage lender in the event that a buyer defaults on loan payments. It is not an insurance policy on your personal property or belongings.

    • How Much is PMI? PMI usually runs from 0.3% to 1.5% of the original home loan amount annually.

    • When Do I Need PMI? If you have a conventional commercial mortgage--not one backed by any government agency--then you probably need PMI. In federal home loan programs, the loans are guaranteed by the government. PMI isn't required in these situations, but the total cost of the loan may be higher. If you are buying a house with a down payment of 20% or more, then you may not need PMI, either. Whether PMI is required and how much you are expected to maintain will depend on the standards of each lender. Requirements may differ depending on the loan's total value, too.

    • Who Arranges for PMI? Although you'll probably compare many lenders before deciding which one should finance your mortgage, you don't have to do any comparison shopping when it comes to PMI. Instead, it's the lender who determines the right PMI arrangement and selects the insurer.

    • Who Receives PMI Payments? Payments go into escrow and are paid to the insurer by the mortgage lender.

    • How Do I Make PMI Payments? Usually, PMI costs are rolled directly into your mortgage payment and you pay them monthly. This ensures that it's impossible to accidentally overlook the PMI payment. As long as you are making mortgage payments on time, you are also up to date with your PMI. However, there are alternative options. In some cases, you may make a single, upfront payment of the PMI premium. This is a convenient way to reduce total cost of ownership. If you later decide to move or refinance, however, you might not be entitled to a refund of the premium. Sometimes, you may be required to pay both an upfront premium and a monthly premium. Your lender should help you determine the best option for you. For example, increasing your down payment may make it possible for you to avoid the upfront payment requirement.

    • Do I Need PMI During the Life of My Mortgage? Homeowners who have continuously paid their mortgage premium for several years often have the option of canceling their PMI insurance. This option may kick in after five years, ten years, or longer. Ask your lender for details.

    • How Does PMI Affect My Loan Eligibility? Some level of PMI is required by many lenders, but not all. Electing to adopt an optional PMI policy can help you secure a loan that you might not otherwise qualify for. Plus, having PMI will usually lower your interest rate, which influences how quickly you can pay off your loan.

    In most cases, there are several ways to improve your loan options: Adding to your down payment, pursuing government loan programs, and, yes, PMI. With personalized advice from your mortgage lender, you can make the right decision.

    When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Home Buying Advice: Seal the 
Deal with Your Purchase Offer
 
Man shaking hands

When you have found the perfect house, you don't want to lose it by not making a proper purchase offer.

Giving an offer that is too low provides the seller with the option to refuse it and for other potential buyers to outbid you. This scenario doesn't have to be your story when you are buying a house; there are ways to make an offer that the seller can't refuse.

Know the Seller's Motivation

If you are working with an agent while buying a house, contact them to see if they are able to find out why the seller has decided to move. If getting the highest amount possible is their motivation, you may have to submit an offer close to the asking price for them to consider it. To know what an appropriate bid would be, work with your agent to compare recently sold homes in the area.

If the seller is motivated by terms and wants the deal to go through as quickly and painlessly as possible, you may want to give up some of the options that allow you to get out of the deal. Contingencies slow down the selling process and giving up some of these time-consuming processes may sway the seller in your direction.

If the sale is causing a lot of emotional upset with the seller and they are just having a hard time letting go and not accepting any offers, you have to prove you are not just anybody. Check with the realtor to see if writing a letter of intent to the seller expressing your love of the property and the bright future you hope to have there may sway the seller in your favor.

The Timing of the Offer

The faster you can submit an offer, the better your chances of a purchase are for you. If your bid is the first one received by the seller, it becomes the leverage offer and will be used against others received. If your offer isn't acted upon right away, don't panic. Sellers have a deadline for accepting bids before they can consider others. Make the offer in a reasonable time and don't sit back waiting while others may be getting consideration.

Make a Realistic Offer

Buying a house isn't the time to become over-confident and submit an offer that is lower than acceptable just to see how the seller will react. This act may just have the seller refusing to work with you on any offer. On the other hand, do not submit an offer you cannot financially follow through. Before making an offer, know it is the perfect house for you, know how much you can afford to pay, and how far you are able to go in obtaining this for your home.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
What Does Sale Pending Mean?
 
Sale pending sign

When is a real estate deal truly done, and when is the last possible moment that you can make an offer on a home you love?

Ask any experienced real estate agent, and they'll tell you that the deal is never really done until closing is complete. So a home that is classified as a "pending sale" may be very far along in the process, but the deal has not been closed.

While the seller cannot enter into a contract with you while still in a contract with another buyer, there are advantages to making an offer on a property that's pending sale when looking to buy a home, and being prepared with a strong offer means you'll be ready to pounce if for any reason the original deal doesn't close.

Pending Sale? You Can Still Make an Offer on Your Dream Home

When a home is classified as pending sale, the buyer and seller have gone a long way toward completing an agreement. Pending sale means that contingencies have mostly been met, contracts have been signed, escrow requirements have been fulfilled, and the transaction is simply awaiting the final steps of the closing process. There are a few key factors to consider when deciding whether to try to buy a home that is pending sale:

  • A pending sale is not a done deal, so you can absolutely make an offer while a home is pending.

  • It's still possible for contingencies to go unmet, financing to fall through, or other unforeseen issues to derail the sale, and if the original deal goes south making an offer will put you in position to capitalize.

  • A pending sale means that the buyer and seller have entered into a contract, which means that the seller cannot break that contract just because you decide to come in with a better offer.

  • The seller is prohibited from entering into a contract to sell the home to you, while still in contract with another buyer. While some agents will still say their client is listening to offers while the home is pending sale, a contract is a contract.

  • It's not just financing and contingencies that can derail a sale at the last minute. While it's rare, sometimes the buyer will decide not to buy a home just before closing, rather than the seller. In those cases, being prepared with a great offer may help you land a quick sale. Just make sure to learn what you can about why the original buyer backed out.

  • While you can't simply swoop in with a better offer on a pending sale, you can set yourself up to be first in line if the original buyer is unable to close the deal. Just remember that the seller won't be able to act on your offer unless the pending sale falls through.

  • If you're the one selling a home, remember that the same concepts apply. The deal isn't done until it's done, so it's not a bad idea to find out what other options are out there--just in case.

In the end, making an offer on a home that's pending sale is certainly possible, and may even allow you to buy a home that you love. It's important to remember, however, that making an offer on a pending sale is not the most likely way to land a home. It may be worth the effort if you truly love the home, because there is always a possibility that the original deal will fall through, leaving you first in line to purchase the home.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
New Construction or Existing
Home? Which Will You Buy?
 
Picture of home

Buying New Construction vs. Existing Homes

 

The majority of homes purchased in any given year are existing homes. However, new home construction is picking up with the economy. You don't necessarily have to have a home designed yourself to move into new construction – some firms build these solely to sell them.
 
Lots of people, especially those who want to buy a home for the very first time, don't think much about the advantages of a new home. It's worth considering, especially if you've saved up enough money for a down payment. Let's take a closer look:
 
Benefits of a New Home
  • New Homes Don't Need Repairs. There are no surprises when it comes to a brand new home. Yes, you could go with a fixer-upper and get an inspection done in advance, but with a new home, you don't even have to go through that hassle. Homeowners are always surprised just how much maintenance a house needs, and a new one simply demands less. That saves you money and it's less stressful too.

  • New Homes Are Clean As Can Be. Before you buy a home, the seller should go through it and clean everything carefully. The rule of thumb is pressure cleaning the exterior and steam cleaning carpets and upholstery. For one reason or another, though, many sellers simply don't follow through. New homes are spotless – no mysterious stains and no built-up pet dander and other allergens.

  • New Homes Mean New Amenities. This is another one that tips the scales if you want to buy a home that's as modern and up to date as can be. Sellers may sometimes leave kitchen appliances or even upgrade them before selling, but there's no telling how long the rest of the house has been exactly as it is. New homes offer all the latest, including interior design and architectural trends that are tough to renovate.

    Benefits of an Existing Home

  • An Existing Home is Easy to Come By. The majority of the housing stock in most communities consists of older homes. This means you have all kinds of options in terms of location and proximity to opportunities in employment, education, dining, and whatever matters to you. In some ways, it's easier to find an old home that matches everything you want than a newer one.

  • Existing Homes Can Be Inexpensive. A home with history tends to be easier to finance than one that's fresh and new. Depending on your needs and budget, you might find you want to look closely at homes that could use a little TLC. Some DIY lovers enjoy the opportunity to paint, fix, and build. And you'll spend less time searching high and low for an appropriate mortgage option.

  • Existing Homes Offer Landscaping and Character. Older homes tend to have larger front and back yards, which may be phased out in more recent construction. They also have had plenty of time to foster beautiful, mature trees and vegetation. Homes in historic styles offer a great deal of character and are often sturdy and robust despite older maintenance standards. Plus, both neighbors and neighborhoods tend to be more stable.

    Buy a Home – New or Existing – With Help from an Expert
No matter whether you're looking for new or older homes, your real estate agent is the one person in your home buying journey who is almost as crucial to the outcome as you are.
 
As the buyer, you call the shots, but your real estate professional is there to make sure you can make an informed decision every step of the way – and, ultimately, find your dream home. So call me when you are ready to consider buying a home, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
6 DIY Projects for Newbies
 
Woman painting

Home improvement is a great way to build value in your home while you enjoy working with your hands.

Many people enjoy DIY projects. Even if you never picked up a hammer before, there are plenty of projects that easy to start especially for the first-time homeowner.

Some people discover that they love home improvement projects so much, they end up using their newfound skills to "fix and flip" homes for a living.

Even if you have humbler ambitions, tackling some DIY projects is a great use of time and saves money on minor improvements.

Let's look at some of them right now:
  1. Replace Door Knobs, Switch Plates, and Furniture Hardware. All these items can be replaced quickly with a simple screwdriver. All you need to do is buy some replacements of the same size, pop them in, and re-tighten the screws. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how this can revitalize a room.

  2. Apply a Quick Coat of Paint. Painting might look like a big job, but it's easier than it seems at first. A can of paint and a simple brush and roller combo will give you the chance to completely transform a room. With the right color palette, it can add thousands to your home's sale price.

  3. Refresh the Floors. The floor may be down low, but it's one thing you should never overlook when renovating your home. The fastest and easiest DIY project for flooring is to rent a commercial carpet cleaner and do some deep cleaning. It can take as little as an hour per room.

  4. Brighten Your Light Fixtures. Light fixtures are easier to replace than they are to repair, of course, and they can add a touch of beauty to any room when they're new. This fix uses the existing wiring, so all you have to do is be sure you've turned off your electric at the breaker panel before you go to work.

  5. Do a Little Landscaping. You don't have to be a gardening aficionado to update your front yard and add a lot of curb appeal in the process. Putting in some shrubs and decorative paving stones from the local garden store can do the trick. Just be sure you select a hardy plant that doesn't need constant attention.

  6. Show Your Furniture Some TLC. Everyone has a favorite chair, couch, table, dresser, or other item that's been around the block. You may not want to replace it, but you can give it new life. It's especially easy to bring wooden items back with sanding and a fresh coat of lacquer.
Getting involved in a bit of DIY can give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Once you see the results you can get from a tiny bit of time and effort, the inspiration is likely to start flowing.

All in all, these subtle touches – occasionally fixes, repairs, and updates – could make your home feel more comfortable and might even help you catch a buyer's eye when that time comes!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 
5 Tips for Buying a Home
in a Different State
 
Map of U.S.If your home search involves a relocation to another state, your search can be a difficult one.

When you're house hunting in your current city or home state, you're in familiar territory. You know your way around. You have friends and family to point you in the right direction. But when you're looking for a home in another part of the country, you're pretty much on your own.

The idea of a cross-country or state-to-state move can leave you feeling anxious and alone. You can't smooth out all of the complications, but your home search will go more smoothly if you're organized and follow these "Five Tips For Buying a Home in a Different State."

1. Sell the Home You Have
If you already own a home, you should do your best to sell it and close before you buy another one. First of all, you may have a difficult time getting a mortgage for a second home. If you are approved, the double mortgage payment may increase the stress and financial pressure of your long distance move.

2. Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage
Before you begin your home search, check with a mortgage company or bank about mortgage pre-approval. If you have a home mortgage, talk to your current mortgage company. If not, check with a company that has an online presence or offices locally and in your future state.
Mortgage companies want to see job consistency, creditworthiness, and the ability to pay. If your credit is in order and you're relocating due to a job transfer, you may have fewer approval difficulties.

3. Figure Out What You Want
You may not know the real estate market in your future home state, but you should have an idea of the kind of home you want. Start by making a list of requirements. Consider cost, style, neighborhood, school systems, commute time, and others features that are important to you. Check out your future state, city, and neighborhoods online. You can get an idea of what's available at your price.

4. Connect with a Buyer's Agent
A real estate professional will take your home search as seriously as you do. You can discuss what you want and what you've found online, and your agent will continue your search.

A local real estate professional knows neighborhoods, price ranges, and crime rates. They know where to find the homes and neighborhoods that meet your specifications.

If you're relocating due to a job transfer, ask your HR manager if the company works with a recommended real estate agent.

Search online listings and real estate referral services.

Review agent's websites for their sales and service track record.

5. Explore Your Future State
You can get some information online and from your realtor, but it's important to see your new location in person. A visit puts your home search into context. When your agent discusses neighborhoods or local features, you'll have a better understanding of what they're talking about. If the perfect home becomes available before you relocate, you'll be in a better position to make a decision.
 
As the buyer, you call the shots, but your real estate professional is there to make sure you can make an informed decision every step of the way – and, ultimately, find your dream home. So call me when you are ready to consider buying a home, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Bringing Order to the
Chaos of House Hunting
 
Words:  Order and ChaosOrganizing your home search makes the process easier.

Every buyer-to-be knows searching for a home can be a challenge. However, your house hunt doesn't have to mean chaos if you start with an organized plan.

Streamlining your search starts with a healthy dose of preparation by including a great real estate agent, setting a budget, creating a wish list and reviewing real estate listings that meet your requirements.
These six tips can keep you organized and focused as you search for your new home.
  1. Involve Your Agent. Your real estate agent isn't there just to set up visits and oversee the closing process when you're buying a house. They're also your number one resource for answering questions, sharing ideas and providing real estate advice.

  2. Set a Budget. While you don't have to know exactly how much you'll be able to spend at the start, it's a good idea to narrow your budget down to a comfortable range. Setting a sensible budget from the start makes every step that comes after easier. You can always adjust later if your finances change.

  3. Scout First. Before you start scheduling visits, it's a good idea to scout some neighborhoods and identify possible matches. Doing online research will help you narrow down the possibilities. You can learn even more by driving through the most appealing spots that your research uncovers. Be sure to write down the info of any homes that catch your eye so that you can visit them later for a closer look.

  4. When in Doubt, Make a List. Making lists are a great way to stay organized and super helpful when buying a house. Making lists of your needs, wants and deal breakers will help you lock in on the best fits and save time by quickly eliminating homes that just aren't a match.

  5. Ask Around. Have any friends or family members who recently bought in a new community or live in a neighborhood you're considering? It helps to get the inside scoop on a neighborhood from someone you trust.

  6. Get Pre-Approved. Want to impress potential sellers and gain some peace of mind in the process? Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an excellent idea when shopping for a house and will make life much easier when it's time to make an offer. Get this step out of the way early and you'll be in great shape.
Creating a plan before you start your search for a home gives you the chance to enjoy the process and to make an efficient, informed decision when it's time to place an offer on your new house.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
Red Flags to Watch for
at an Open House
 
Flag With words

5 Tell-Tale Signs This May Not Be the Right Home For You

  1. Foundation Problems. The first thing you should look for, and the fastest deal-breaker on your list, is any sign of foundation problems. When you walk around the outside of the house or visit the basement, small cracks in the foundation shouldn't pose a problem, but large gaps are warning signs of future trouble. As you walk through the house, check to make sure doors and windows open and close easily and fit right in their frames; poor fit may indicate the house has shifted significantly. Cracks in the drywall above doors or around windows may also indicate a problem. Also, pay attention to whether walls have been removed during renovations; if those were load-bearing walls or structural supports, removing them may have caused the weight to shift to other parts of the house that weren't mean to support it.

  2. Repair Work and Other Signs of Needed Maintenance. As you walk the property, look for signs that the owners don't keep up on the maintenance. Burnt-out bulbs, leaky faucets, slow drains, clogged gutters, and uncut lawns may not seem like a big deal, but they may indicate a lax attitude about necessary maintenance. If the owners haven't taken care of these things that everyone can see as they walk through the home, what have they neglected that you can't see?

  3. Strong Odors or Scents. Obviously, if you smell something unpleasant such as mildew when you walk into the house, it should give you pause. But an excess of pleasant scents can also be a warning sign, as it may mean that the seller or their agent is trying to cover something up. It may be just for the open house, but at the very least you should schedule a time to come back and look at the home again when the seller or the agent isn't trying as hard to make it smell nice.

  4. Random Patches of Fresh Paint. It's not uncommon for sellers to repaint the interior of their homes before listing, especially if the paint was old or if they were trying to depersonalize custom colors on the advice of their agent. But if you walk into a room and find just one wall or even part of one wall, has a coat of fresh paint, you should question why the seller would paint such a small section. Best case scenario, they had just recently done a repair; worst case scenario, they're covering something up that would otherwise be cause for concern.

  5. Trust Your Gut... and Your Agent. If you see something concerning during an open house, don't be afraid to say thanks, but no thanks. Remember that a home will be looking its absolute best for an open house, so if you still see something that makes you pause, there's probably more to it than meets the eye. If you're uncertain, don't forget to utilize the most important resource at your disposal: your agent, who has seen hundreds of houses for sale, and has the experience to get a quick read on the property.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

How Much Do You Really Know
About Home Mortgage Loans

 
Picture if keys and mortgage document

Just the word "mortgage" is enough to make most people nervous.

Securing a mortgage is the most dreaded part of the home-buying process. But the fact is, getting a mortgage isn't as complicated as it might seem, and the more you know, the easier it will be to navigate the entire experience. Here's what you need to know.
  • There are many types of mortgages.  It can be difficult to keep straight all the options available today, but it's always a good idea to talk to your real estate agent to learn more. Options range from FHA mortgages, which are backed by the Federal Housing Administration and are a great option for anyone who might need to make a low down-payment, to VA loans for veterans and service members. There's also a choice between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages, which is definitely something you should discuss with your agent.

  • You don't have to accept the first offer.  Most buyers are in a stronger position than they may realize when applying for a mortgage. Remember that you don't need to take the first option that comes along. Shop around. Talk to a variety of lenders until you find the right loan that suits your needs and has terms you can live with. And remember that asking questions is free.

  • It's getting easier to get a mortgage. They're not just handing out subprime loans like they were before the recession – and it's a good thing – but it is getting easier to qualify for a mortgage than it has been in recent years. Increasingly, many lenders are allowing lower down payments and higher debt levels for borrowers, which is particularly great news for first-time homeowners.

  • Know your financial standing. Although it's getting easier to secure a loan, it's still important to understand the financial risks and to make sure you have stable income, a good credit score, low debt-to-income ratio, and enough savings to make a down payment and still have enough left over to live on. The usually-recommended 20 percent down payment isn't necessarily required in all cases, but the more you're able to put down, the less you'll end up paying in interest.

  • Get pre-approved. Pre-approval for a home loan is a bit more involved than being pre-qualified, but it will give you a more concrete idea of what your budget will be. For what it's worth, being pre-approved also lets sellers know that you're serious about buying. To get pre-approved, you will typically have to supply your prospective lender with documentation showing proof of income, proof of employment, credit and bank account information and tax documents. In turn, you will get an estimate as to how much they will be willing to offer for a loan.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home. Please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Student Debt? You Can
Still Buy Your First Home
 
 
Picture of graduating students

Dealing with Student Loan Debt? Buying a House Starts with Having a Plan

In the not-too-distant past, the process of moving from college student to homeowner was fairly straightforward. You went to school, earned your degree, started your career, and began building for your financial future until you were ready to purchase a home. Today, things are different... to say the least. Student loan debt is a reality for most college students, and too much student loan debt can make it feel like buying a home is out of reach. The good news is that you can still buy a house while paying off student loan debt, and we've put together a guide to help you accomplish your homeownership goals.

Clean Up Your Credit and Pay Down Other Debts

Lenders want to see a strong credit history when offering a loan, and you can do plenty to spruce up your credit without paying off big chunks of your student loan debt. Start by paying down any other debts you may have, especially from high-interest credit cards. Make sure that you're making all of your necessary payments on time, and consider refinancing options if your credit payments are out of line with your current income.

Understand How Much Home You Can Afford

Every homebuyer has to make compromises between their idea of a perfect home, and the properties available that best fit their budget. It's no different when you're shopping with student loan debt! Consider your ability to make a down payment, your ability to pay your mortgage, and the other debts that you need to cover. Speaking with an experienced lender can help you get a better grasp on what you'll have to spend.

Start Saving for a Down Payment

Your ability to make a down payment plays an important role in securing a loan, so it's a good idea to start saving as soon as possible. Saving for a down payment can feel like a daunting task while you're also paying down student loan debt, but you don't have to do it all at once. Save what you can, when you can, and look for creative opportunities to add to your down payment fund.

Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio and Pay Bills on Time

Your debt-to-income ratio, or the amount of debt you pay each month compared to your monthly income, is a big factor in securing a mortgage. Lower your debt-to-income ratio by earning extra money, paying down debts, and considering refinancing your student loan debt if the right opportunity arises. It's also important to make sure that you always pay existing debts on time, including your student loan payments. Lenders want to see that you have the funds to cover your payments and that you take the necessary steps to make those payments on time.

Don't Be Afraid to Seek Help

You're far from alone when shopping for your first home, and there are plenty of happy homeowners who have been in your shoes before. Don't be afraid to ask for advice from trusted sources, or to look for help from government agencies that may be able to provide assistance. FHA loans are a popular tool for many first-time homebuyers.
Paying off student loan debt and buying a house at the same time can be a challenge, but it's one that many first-time homebuyers are able to overcome. By paying down debts, saving when you can, shopping within your means, seeking help from qualified sources, and working closely with your lender, you can set the stage for buying a first home that you'll love to call your own.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

What a Girl Wants...More Single
Women Buying Homes
 
Single woman holding keys in front of home
Single Women Buying More Homes Than Single Men
 
Throughout history, women have been no stranger to breaking boundaries and exceeding expectations. When it comes to real estate, women have continued to raise the bar and bridge the gender gap in surprising ways. In recent years, the market has taken notice that more and more single women are buying homes.

Understanding the Numbers

In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, single women made up 18 percent of recent buyers. This is more than twice the rate of single male home buyers. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics jointly sponsors the Current Population Survey which considered women who were never married, widowed, and divorced in their finding. This survey concluded that out of the 60,000 households covered by data collect, a record-breaking 22 percent of single women were home buyers.
 
This awe-inspiring statistic can be attributed to a number of reasons. Single women of all ages cited ever-increasing rental costs, downsizing, divorce, and everything in between as their motivation to purchase a home. While married couples continue to dominate the largest share of the home-buying market, single women secured the second largest share of 18 percent as they surpassed the smallest share of buyers, just 7 percent, which is comprised of single men.
 
The NAR also reports that older women, typically 72 or older, are the primary investors in real estate. Generational trends indicate that single women are more likely to purchase a home in their golden years than men. In 2016, the percentage of females between 50-60 years old who bought a home was double that of men in the same age range.
 

Smart and Strategic

 

The home buying process can certainly be a nerve-wracking process for anyone, this can be especially true for single women. Here are some smart strategies females can use to help them navigate the complex and often overwhelming home-buying process.
 
Let's face it - a girl wants what a girl wants. And when it comes to home, making a hasty or poor decision can lead to big trouble. As you consider your home-buying options, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
  • Consider a fixer-upper - While it may not have all the bells and whistles of a turnkey or newly-built home, a fixer-upper gives you the ability to manage financing more easily and create a design that's truly your own.

  • Timing is everything - the time of year you choose to purchase your home can make a huge difference. If you have the flexibility to wait until the market is in your favor, you'll have a larger inventory to choose from, at a better price, with more affordable options.

  • Lower Debt - It's imperative that any potential home buyer significantly reduce existing debt before beginning the home-buying process. This will provide a host of additional benefits. Debt reduction can help improve your status as a mortgage applicant and increase your appeal to sellers who appreciate the reduced liabilities of your liability reduction. This can also help you to lower your debt to income ratio and give you a better foundation that you'll need to manage the ever-growing list of new and unexpected expenses associated with home ownership.
I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Real Estate Checklist to
Buy Your First Home

Woman with note pad
Buying a house is a lengthy process that requires an extensive amount of preparation and paperwork before you ever get to the sign the final papers. Before you consider purchasing your first home, it is important to prepare in advance to make the process as smooth as possible. Here is a helpful real estate checklist that can help you avoid common issues and make the entire house purchasing process much easier.

  1. Set Your Budget. The first action you need to take before you begin looking for a home is to set your budget. Are you looking for an expansive four bedroom home or do you prefer to downsize? The size and location of your home can help you determine your budget and allow you to determine if you need to make any adjustments. Reviewing the current interest rates, the type of mortgage loan, and the size of your down payment can give you a general idea of the costs of a home.

  2. Check Credit Score. The next step is to review your credit score, as this plays a critical role in determining the interest rates of your home. A high credit score will result in low-interest rates, while a poor credit score will cause much higher interest rates and may even prevent you from being eligible for a loan. If you notice any errors on your credit report, it is important to contact the credit bureau to correct any mistakes.

  3. Review Mortgage Lenders. It is always a good idea to review multiple mortgage lenders to find the best deal available. Different mortgage companies offer a wide variety of rates, and some companies provide much better financing than others. Determining the amount of mortgage than you can afford and gaining pre-approval is an excellent way to show sellers that you are serious about purchasing a home.

  4. Save & Prepare for a Down Payment. If you wish to attain the best rates, you will need to at least make a 20% down payment on your home. The current median home value is slightly over $300,000, which results in a down payment that is over $60,000. However, you can also pay less to fit within your budget, as not everyone can afford a 20% down payment.

  5. Find a Real Estate Agent. As a real estate agent I can answer any questions during the home searching process and help you find a home that perfectly fits your needs. I’ll help you locate homes within your budget and provide essential guidance throughout the home buying process.
Buying your first home is a daunting task for many people but using this real estate checklist can help simplify the entire process. First-time home buyers that follow these guidelines can avoid common mistakes and find their perfect dream home with my help.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

                  5 Reasons Buyers Pick
                 Move-In Ready Homes

Guy holding wife in front of their new homeWhen buying a house, would you prefer a home that's a fixer-upper, or one that's ready for you to move in right now? While some buyers enjoy the challenge and can manage the cost of fixing up a home, there are many who prefer the perks of move-in ready home. These home buyers would rather not worry about remodeling, extensive maintenance work, and finding contractors. They want a house that is ready to be lived in, with ample amenities, minimal maintenance issues, and everything they need to feel at home.

Why Many Buyers Prefer a Move-In Ready Home
  1. Know Exactly What You'll Get When You Move In
    While there are various definitions of a move-in ready home to consider, we're talking about a home that has been prepared for your arrival in every reasonable way. So a move-in ready home should be clean, well-maintained, and ready for you to live in right now. One of the perks of a move-in ready home is that you don't have to worry about projecting what the home will be like after you've spent a bunch of money to get it in shape. Instead, the home that you see is exactly what you'll get, and you can prepare accordingly.

  2. Minimal Maintenance Issues to Worry About
    It's nice to know exactly what you're getting with a move-in ready house, and even nicer not to worry about investing the time and money required to fix up a fixer-upper. A move-in ready home should not have any significant deferred maintenance, which means less time heading to the hardware store or calling contractors after you move in. Instead, you can focus on making your new house feel like home.

  3. No Need For a Temporary Residence
    Whether you're moving for work/family reasons or you're simply ready to purchase a home, buying a move-in ready house means you won't have to worry about finding a temporary residence while you are "in between" homes. As long as you prepare ahead of time, you can be ready to move in as soon as you own the home. No waiting, no hotels, and no wondering when the home that you purchased will be ready for you.


  4. Get Started Quickly in a New Location
    There are always a ton of little things to take care of when you move to a new location, and some buyers don't have the time to devote to fixing up a home while still taking care of other priorities. Buying a move-in ready home can significantly lessen your workload when you move to a new community, so you can keep the focus on the tasks that matter most to you.

  5. Fewer Big Investments After Moving In
    Minimal maintenance issues are a nice start, but that's not all that you should expect when purchasing a move-in ready home. Major systems in the house, like HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical systems, should all be in solid condition with a move-in ready home. Since those systems often account for some of the biggest costs in updating a fixer-upper, your budget can really benefit from choosing a move-in ready home instead.
When you're shopping for a home, it's important to understand the benefits of a move-in ready home. The ability to move in right away, get comfortable, and hit the ground running in a new location is a huge draw for many new buyers and one you may want to take into consideration during your search.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
5 Simple Ways to
Allergy-Proof Your Home
 
Woman blowing nose
Allergy sufferers of all ages are always on the lookout for ways to avoid the onset of symptoms. There are a number of steps you can take around your home to help relieve and prevent allergy symptoms. Here are five simple ways to allergy-proof your home.
  1. Doorway Deterrents
    One of the best ways to allergy-proof your home is by reducing the number of allergens that can gain entry to your home. Place 2 doormats at each door, one outside the door and one inside the door. This will greatly reduce the amount of irritants that make their way inside. It's also a good idea to ask family and friends to remove their shoes before venturing further into your home.

  2. Say Goodbye to Carpet
    One of the best ways to reduce the allergens in your home is to get rid of carpeting and padding. Carpeting is notorious for accumulating all types of allergens including dust, pollen, and even pet dander.

    Allergens are released into the air with each step you take on carpeting. By installing impervious flooring, you can significantly reduce the amount of allergens that may accumulate in your home.

  3. Upgrade to HEPA Filters
    HEPA filters are designed to trap microparticles of allergens and other contaminants in and around your home. By using HEPA filters with your heating and cooling system, you can minimize the potential allergens in your home year round. It's important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and replacing the filters in your heating and cooling system.

    You may also consider upgrading your vacuum to a model that includes a HEPA filter as well. This will help to reduce the allergens and other contaminants that may be trapped in carpeting, upholstery, and window treatments. Regularly vacuuming will help to prevent dust, dander, and pollen from exacerbating allergy symptoms.

  4. Curtain Call for the Curtains
    Curtains and drapes are known for harboring dust, mites, and other allergens. Binds and shades will harbor fewer allergens and are much easier to maintain. Dust-removal once a week with your vacuum's brush attachment will keep your window treatments allergen-free all year long.

  5. The Humid Factor
    High levels of humidity can lead to a greater risk of mold growth within your home. This not only increases the severity and frequency of allergy symptoms, mold growth poses a serious health risk to your family and guests.

    Making a small investment in a hygrometer can help you get a better understanding of your home's moisture levels. This device enables you to take a measurement of the humidity levels in each room—allowing you to pinpoint areas of concern. Adding dehumidifiers can also help to reduce excess humidity and relieve allergy symptoms.

    For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me.

Discover 5 Hidden Costs
of Buying a House

Man and woman looking at sheet of paper

Discover the hidden costs of buying a home.

When you're budgeting to buy a home, especially your first home, saving for a down payment is at the top of your list. Then comes your monthly mortgage (principal, interest, taxes, insurance). At this point many home buyers start thinking they're in the clear. Not so fast!

The truth is--there are far more costs involved you might not have thought about that will affect your overall budget. And those costs, if not added in, can be enough to throw a monkey wrench into your home-buying plans.
Here are five hidden costs that can really add up:
  1. Home Inspection Costs.
    One of the most important steps you’ll take after having your offer accepted is the home inspection. It’s an assurance that the home you’re interested in has no hidden problems. You may be okay with some cosmetic fixes or even a kitchen replacement, but sometimes it’s the things under the surface or the age of the home that can create unforeseen costs. Inspectors look at plumbing, appliances and heating/cooling systems during their appointment. They may even refer you to specialists, like pest inspectors, if they see signs of something that concerns them. Many people don’t factor in the hundreds of dollars you may end up spending on inspections, but that up-front cost can save you thousands in the long run.

  2. Taxes.
    You may know that you’ll be paying taxes on your new home, but many people don’t understand you may be paying for a couple months of those taxes at closing. On top of that, you may be paying for a year of homeowners insurance and any homeowners association fees due as well.

  3. Utilities.
    Your costs for electricity, gas, sewer and water could be higher depending upon where your new home is located. You should also budget for garbage collection, Internet, cable and phone expenses.

  4. Maintenance, Repairs, Renovations & Redecorating.
    Regular home maintenance (cleaning windows and gutters, landscaping, minor updates) is estimated at one percent of your home's value each year. This does not include larger, unexpected repairs that may happen. In addition to maintenance and repairs, allow for renovations and redecorating you may undertake when you move into your new house to make it your home.


  5. Moving Costs.
    In your excitement to find and buy a home, it’s normal to overlook the cost of moving. Moving can end up being a huge expense that you’ll need to prepare for. Depending on the route you take—hiring movers or a DIY move—there is a wide budget range. But no matter what you choose, you’ll be looking at paying for boxes and packing materials, a truck, time and gas. Create a moving budget ahead of time so you have the right amount on hand. Plan and schedule as far in advance as possible so you have your choice of movers.
I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 

Secret Tips to Avoid Buyer's Remorse

Realtor talking with clients5 Tips to Avoid Buyer's Remorse

You know the feeling. You're headed home from the store with that big purchase you were so excited about before you bought it – only now you're not so sure.

That sinking feeling in your stomach is buyer's remorse, and it's not a good feeling. You certainly don't want to feel it right after you've bought a house. What if you've acted too quickly? What if you find a better house next week? What if you can't afford it? Here's how to steer clear of the dreaded buyer's remorse after buying a home.
  1. Don't Settle
    If you have a feeling that you haven't gotten the house you wanted, it might be because you didn't. It is crucial that you not settle for a home that doesn't meet your needs. In the end, you'll never be satisfied with it if you do. As you're out on the house hunt, make a complete list of "must-haves," "would-like-to-haves" and "dream features," and use this checklist to evaluate every house you tour. If a home doesn't meet your criteria, this list will make it easier to keep looking until you find one that does.

  2. Be Careful About the Opinions of Others
    Buyer's remorse often sets in when you start showing your new house to other people, and they start asking questions. They probably mean well, but questions about the size and layout of the house, its location, and how much you paid for it can cause you to start questioning your choice. So do your best to take the questions and comments of friends and family members with a grain of salt.

  3. Get Your Finances in Order
    Buying a house comes with significant financial commitments, and that responsibility if one of the most significant factors that cause people to second-guess their decision. The best way to combat this is to make sure you're financially ready before purchasing a house. Be sure that your income is steady and your job is secure, plan your budget carefully, and leave yourself enough of a nest egg that you don't end up "house poor."

  4. Don't Keep Going to Open Houses
    Continuing to look at houses after you've bought one is like leaving your online dating profile up after you've gotten married. What good can it possibly do? After finding a house, it's best to leave the house hunt behind. Instead of continuing to look at other houses and wondering if you can find one better, focus instead on working to make your new house feel like home.

  5. Work With a Professional
    If you go through the process of finding and buying a house on your own, it's easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. Even if you're successful, the lack of guidance could cause you to second-guess your decision. It's important to work with a qualified, dedicated real estate agent. Not only can they help you with every step of the home buying process and offer expert advice along the way, but the fact that you've had professional assistance will make you more confident that you've chosen wisely.
Of course, the most important way to avoid buyer's remorse is buying a house that's perfect for you and your family.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
10 Things To Do Before
Moving Into Your New House
 
Man using screwdriver to change door lock

Handle these ten tasks before moving into your new home.

After buying a house, it's time to relax (for a second), take a deep breath, and plan your next move. Getting your new house ready for your arrival will take some work, but this is the sort of work you've been looking forward to from the moment you decided to purchase a home. We'll cover the details ahead, with ten important tasks for preparing to move in after buying a house.

  1. Turn on Utilities
    The last thing you want is to show up to start making a home your own, and find out you forgot to have the electricity turned on. Not that we're speaking from experience, of course. Just get this one out of the way ahead of time, by calling your local utility companies.

  2. Change Locks
    When a home is on the market, it's not unusual for a REALTOR, contractors, and previous owners to all have copies of the keys. Having your locks changed when you move in is an easy way to boost security, and make the home feel like your own.

  3. HVAC
    Even if you're not moving in the heart of summer or winter, you'll want to have your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems serviced when you move in. These systems all require regular maintenance to maintain efficiency, and may need a tune-up if they haven't been used in a while.

  4. Seasonal Prep
    If you're moving to an area with extreme seasonal weather, making a few preparations can save plenty of headaches. Be sure to have rock salt, a snow shovel, and sturdy boots in your new home if you're moving in the winter.

  5. Change of Address
    Another easy one to forget during the heat of a move, so it's best to change your address as soon as possible. Basically, if a business sends you a bill or any regular correspondence, then it's a good idea to let them know your address is changing.

  6. A Coat of Color
    Painting your new home is a great way to make it feel like your own, and it's much easier to paint before you start moving furniture into your home. There's no shame in contracting out the job, if you want that professional touch.

  7. Find Main Circuit Breaker
    Your circuit breaker is a key line of defense, allowing you to shut off electrical systems in an emergency, or re-start tripped breakers. Get to know your breaker, its labels, and the systems it controls.

  8. Name and Number
    Moving into a new home means you'll be making plenty of phone calls, so create a list of key names and numbers for easy reference. It's also a good idea to write down the numbers of local emergency response services.

  9. Clean and Tidy
    If you're moving into an unfurnished home, you'll never have a better opportunity to clean those hidden corners. Even if the home is already furnished, it's a good idea to move things around, and clean your new home thoroughly.

  10. Landscaping
    Depending on the time of year, you might also want to make some landscaping preparations. Spring is naturally a good time for planting, while fall and winter are great for cleaning.
There's plenty of work to be done after buying a house, but we have a feeling that you're going to enjoy every minute of it. Follow our ten tips for moving into your new home, and you'll already be off to a great start.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

5 Things to Take On
Your Next House Hunt

 

Couple in front of home

For a prospective home buyer, embarking on a house hunt is an exciting adventure. You're ready to purchase a home and are anxious actually to see the homes available. Much like preparing for a vacation, there are certain things you'll want to bring along on your house hunt. Gather the following items to take with you before leaving for your house hunt.

5 Things to Make Your House Hunt Easier
  1. Notebook and Pen
    You may have a great memory, but it's wise to carry a notebook and pen with you while you are searching for a house. There are so many factors to consider and reconsider while walking through a home and taking notes gives you a solid starting point for comparing houses later in your decision-making process. Hopefully, in your notebook, you will have written down a list of must-have features and deal breakers beforehand so you can easily refer to your checklist while inside each home you visit. It's also a great idea make a list of properties you want to visit to help keep you on schedule and ensure that you don't miss a potentially great house.

  2. Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
    During your house hunt, you will be doing a lot of walking, stair climbing, bending, and stretching. Wearing comfortable shoes and clothing will undoubtedly make the day more pleasant. You may need to take off your shoes when touring homes, so footwear that slips on and off quickly is a smart choice for a day of house hunting.

  3. Small Camera or Phone
    Taking pictures of the homes you visit allows you to capture different angles and reference points, and gives you a great comparison resource for later. You'll also be able to show family and friends what you've seen on your house hunt so they can offer opinions or advice if you are having trouble making a decision. Bring a small, easy-to-handle camera or use your phone's camera for convenience.

  4. Two Essential Tools
    Of course, you want to keep your load as light as possible while viewing various homes, but a couple of small household tools brought along for the hunt will prove more useful than burdensome. When you are preparing for your day out to look at homes, put a good flashlight and a tape measure in your tote or car. A compact but bright flashlight will give you a better view of dark spaces such as attics, basements or storage closets, so there's little guesswork when it comes time to make your decision. Bringing a tape measure gives you the confidence of knowing if your furniture and decor will fit before you making an offer on the home.

  5. The Voice of Reason
    It's likely that you will be both excited and a bit emotional while looking for your new home, and your real estate agent is there for support and information. However, bringing along someone you trust, such as a close friend or family member, is a great way to help keep you on track with your goals and budget. A good friend or family member who knows you well may point out the pros and cons that you might overlook.

House hunting, while somewhat stressful at times, should be a memorable and fun experience. Get your house hunting game plan together, and let's find your next home!

Oh, one other very important thing. Bring me as your Realtor. Of course I will help you determine what homes to look at based on your desires saving you time, energy and money!  

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Swimming Pools:
Fun vs. Extra Money
 
Picture of large home with pool

Are Swimming Pools Worth it?

Surely we don't have to tell you all the benefits of owning a swimming pool. From hosting great backyard get-togethers to the ability to take a dip anytime you want, the benefits of having an in-ground pool at your house are self-apparent. What some homeowners miss are the costs and potential drawbacks, of which there are many.

The purpose of this piece is not, of course, to scare anybody away from having a pool. We would never think of coming between our clients, and the joys of having your own swimming hole just footsteps from your back door. We want you to understand the pros as well as the cons so that you can make a well-informed decision.

Getting a Good Return on Your Investment

Many homeowners have an in-ground pool installed with the idea that it will increase the value of their home. Sometimes this idea works out, and sometimes it does not. It all comes down to getting a higher return on your investment than you put into it. Having a pool put in makes good financial sense if:
  • Your backyard is big enough to still offer plenty of open space after installing a pool.

  • You live in a high-end neighborhood in which most of the homes have pools (in which case not having a pool could make your home harder to sell).

  • When you live in an area where the weather is warm most of the year, a pool offers more benefits throughout the year.
Whether or not a pool will boost your home's value also depends on the pool's style, condition, and age. Generally speaking, the more years go by after installation, the less likely a pool is to recoup its costs.

Considering the Costs

Surely, one wouldn't expect to install an in-ground pool to be cheap, but it's essential to examine the costs before you commit really. At present, the cost to install a 600 square foot concrete pool starts at around $30,000. That's before factoring in the lighting, landscaping, and fencing – a safety fence around the lake is a requirement in many states – which lead many homeowners to pay nearly $100,000 when all is said and done.

Costs depend on the type of pool you choose. Fiberglass shells and pools with vinyl liners are less expensive but often need more maintenance. Some need to be replaced as frequently as every ten years. And not to focus too much on the negative, but you'll also be responsible for the ongoing costs of heating, filtration, and maintenance over the lifetime of your pool.

An in-ground pool might be a worthwhile investment, or you might be better off buying an above-ground pool, which will cost a fraction of the price but won't do much in the way of boosting your home's value.

If you're still on the fence, I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Is buying a home in "as-is"
Condition worth the risk?

For sale sign in front of home

For some, it's a siren's call, begging to be answered; for others, it is a warning to stay far, far away. While sometimes it may indicate the mark of a great deal, it could also be a fair warning to abandon all hope before entering. If you are looking in to buying a house, it's important that you know what "as-is" really means.

With the rise in foreclosures and bank-owned properties over the last decade, the term "as-is" has become a lot more common. Just as with used vehicles, "as-is" is an indicator that the seller makes no promises about the condition of the house. If you are interested in buying a house labeled "as-is," you can certainly perform an inspection, but those two words are there to let you know that no matter what your inspection finds, the seller is not going to be fixing it to your liking.

In some cases, like when the bank is selling the home, selling "as-is" is simply the bank's way of communicating that they don't know enough about the house. The previous owner may know that the basement leaks, but the bank may not have any way of knowing that.

Sometimes "as-is" may be tagged on to a house listed by those who have inherited the house and are looking to move it quickly. They may simply not have the money, time or interest.

What "as-is" doesn't mean, however, is that the seller doesn't need to disclose anything they already know about the property. That would be considered fraud.

It's pretty clear, then, what the risks might involve when choosing the buy a home "as-is." If you decide to roll the dice, it's important to still have an inspection done. Of course, "as-is" also offers benefits for the seller.

• Instead of hiring a more costly inspector, you may be able to get away with just having your contractor perform a walkthrough to apprise you of any major problems.

• "As-is" homes generally sell for $5,000 to $10,000 less than a regularly-listed home in consideration of the risk a buyer is taking.

• If it is a bank sale, you might find that they are willing to work with you on repairs in order to sell the home, especially if it's been on the market a while.

The gigantic risk is that even with an inspection and required disclosures, you may not find something major that will impact your financial position. Termite damage, seasonal issues or leaky roofs may not rear their ugly heads until well after you've committed to buying a house. In the end, if you are considering buying an "as-is" home, it's important to consider both the pros and the cons.

Bottom line, a home listed "as-is" shouldn't automatically trigger your flight response, but it's also imperative to go in with your eyes wide open. If you plan on doing any repair work yourself, you might be able to avert the risk of your new home turning in to a money pit.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Ceiling Fans: Keeping
Cool Makes Cents
 
Picture of ceiling fanWhen you come home, you expect your castle to provide a cool welcome. That's what AC is for, but your energy bill keeps rising when the temperature gets out of control.

Ceiling fans are an inexpensive home improvement fix for when the weather is hot but not too hot. They won't give your home an Arctic chill, but they lower the cost of staying cool, and that makes cent$. If you've only thought of ceiling fans as stylish vintage decor, it's time for a second look.

Ceiling Fans Save Dollars and Cents

An overhead fan should keep you comfortable enough to lower your summer thermostat setting by about 4°. The lower setting can reduce your climate control costs by about 8%. The little daily savings quickly add up to dollars.

They Cool Your Body, Not Rooms

Fans perform a minor cooling miracle. When your ceiling fan circulates air, it feels like a gentle breeze blowing through the room. As Energy.gov suggests, fans "...cool people, not rooms…" Those swirling blades move the air around enough to evaporate the perspiration from your skin. That might be all you need to keep cool.

Energy-Star Rated Ceiling Fans Save Even More

If you plan to install a ceiling fan as part of your next home improvement project, you should shop for a fan with the Energy Star logo. That means they're certified to be 40% more energy efficient than non-certified fans. When you operate your fan, you'll use less energy, and that means saving more green. If you want to estimate your energy use for a fan or other appliance, check out the ES Appliance Energy Calculator.


The Bigger the Blade, the Bigger the Breeze

Bigger blades circulate more air. You can run your bigger fan at a slower speed and get the same cooling effect as running a smaller fan at a faster speed. If you go big, make sure it fits the room. You wouldn't want a huge fan overpowering the decor in your tiny bathroom. Energy.gov explains the recommended fan size based on room dimensions.

Save Cents in Winter Too

Fans have a directional motor switch. Turn it one way, and the blades circulate air to supplement your AC system. Flip it the other way during the winter, and it reverses direction. The change pulls heated air away from the ceiling and disperses it into the room.

Optional Fan Upgrades

Some ceiling fans have a center light fixture with LED and other light source options. You can operate the fan and light at the same time or separately. If your fan doesn't have a built-in light, you can buy a kit and do the upgrade yourself. If you want to save on your energy, a ceiling fan remote gives you push-button feature control.

Three Blades Will Do

If your home improvement fan project calls for a sleek three-blade model, that's just fine. Fans with fewer blades look more modern and generate less noise. three-blade fans also operate more efficiently, so your energy savings keep adding up.

They're Affordable

A ceiling fan installation is a cost-efficient way to reduce your energy bills. They're economical too. You'll find plenty of ceiling fans beginning at around $100. If your home improvement plan calls for a high-end model, you'll find luxury fans around $2,000 and up. Of course, it will take you a while longer to recoup your costs.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

The Pros and Cons of HOAs

Toy houses stacked on top of letters HOA

Home shoppers have a lot of choices to make. You have to carefully weigh an endless laundry list of factors, from location and price to size and style, and hope that you end up with a beautiful house that meets all your needs.

For some, knowing that a house is part of a community with a homeowners association (HOA for short) could either sweeten the deal, or it could be a total deal-breaker. Let's take a moment to go over HOAs – what they are, how they work, and their many advantages and disadvantages.

What HOAs Mean To You

A homeowners association is usually founded by a real estate developer to manage the houses in a given area. They are most common in master-planned communities. Essentially, buying a home that is part of an HOA means that you agree to live according to the association's rules and pay a fee that goes toward the general maintenance and management of the community.
What those rules are and what you are paying for tends to vary quite a bit. Consequently, you might enjoy living in one particular homeowner's association, but find another to be oppressive, costly and unnecessary. Some homeowners love HOAs, and even specifically seek out houses that are part of one. Others refuse to be part of one, ever.

Pros and Cons

Pro: HOAs maintain common areas, which might be a big selling point if you're not into mowing lawns, trimming hedges and shoveling snow. The HOA will care for the pool, community gym, clubhouse and any other amenities that are shared by the whole community.

Con: You have to pay your dues. If you live in a community with an HOA, then membership is probably mandatory, and you'll have to pay the monthly or annual fee. Falling behind with your HOA can mean foreclosure.

Pro: HOAs handle disputes between neighbors. That means you get to contact the HOA about a noisy neighbor, a barking dog or an unkempt yard, rather than confronting the neighbor about it in person. Likewise, if someone has a complaint about you, you'll hear about it through the HOA.

Con: The HOA sets the standards for your home. Some HOAs are a lot more strict than others, but they all have some say over things like where you park your car, what color you paint your house, how often you clean your roof and mow the lawn, and how lavishly you decorate for the holidays.

Pro: They protect the value of your home. As we've said, buying a house in an HOA means you agree to live by their aesthetic and safety standards. Some find these oppressive, but they also serve to keep curb appeal high and maintain the value of your and your neighbors' homes.

Con: Rules aren't for everyone. In fact, there's a good chance that you decided to buy a house instead of rent to get away from rules. So when your HOA tells you that you can't build a new deck, have to be out of the pool by 10 pm, or can't have parties on certain nights, you might not like being told what to do and how to live.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

Pros and Cons of Metal Roofing

 

Home with metal roofWhether you're tired of paying for costly repairs on a traditional roof or want to try something more efficient and stylish, there are many good reasons to consider a metal roof for your home. Today's metal roofs can be manufactured to look like nearly any traditional roofing material, and offer significant advantages over traditional roofing. However, there are some potential drawbacks to metal roofing, and it's wise to consider both sides of the equation before embarking on a major home improvement project. So let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of installing metal roofing on your home.

Make It Metal? Yes or No.

Pro: Metal Roofs Are Built to Last
One of the biggest advantages of metal roofs is that they're built to last, with durable materials and less potential for leaks than traditional roofs. While you may have to replace a traditional roof more than once over the lifespan of a home – and pay for repairs in between – the right metal roof can last for as long as you own your home. In addition to being sturdy, metal roofs are very efficient at whisking away the rain, ice, and snow that lead to leaks with traditional roofs.

Pro: Metal Roofing Is Environmentally Friendly
If you like your home improvement projects to have a limited impact on the environment, then metal roofing is more than worth a look. Asphalt shingles, the most common non-metal roofing material, are a petroleum product and need to be replaced relatively frequently compared to metal roofs. Your metal roof, on the other hand, won't be heading to the landfill any time soon.

Con: Metal Roofs Are Costly to Install
When it comes to durability, look, efficiency, and environmental impact, it's hard to argue with the advantages of metal roofing. However, those advantages come with a cost, and installing a metal roof can be considerably more expensive than a traditional roof, depending on the metal roofing that you choose.

Pro: Metal Roofs Are Energy-Efficient
Those increased costs will be evident up-front, but the efficiency and durability of metal roofing often make it more affordable in the long run. Metal roofing is very energy-efficient, minimizing heat gain and reflecting the sun rather than absorbing it, which can help lower cooling costs in your home.

Con: Some Metal Roofing Materials Can Dent
While metal roofing is much more durable than most traditional roofing materials overall, some types of metal roofs do have the potential to dent. Metal roofs made of softer materials, like copper or aluminum, are more likely to dent than steel roofs. If you want to avoid this drawback, choose a metal roofing material with a "no dent" guarantee.

Pro: Choose Any Look for Your Metal Roof
Today's metal roofs are more stylish than ever, and you can choose nearly any look for your home. If you want to replicate the look of just about any type of traditional roofing material, you can find a metal shingle that will do the job. Metal shingles come in a wide range of colors, styles, and materials, to achieve the look that you crave.

While there are some potential drawbacks to installing a metal roof, the advantages are likely to outweigh those drawbacks for most homeowners. Metal roofs are durable, long-lasting, efficient, and attractive, so for many, the real question comes down to cost. A metal roof may be a more costly home improvement project more up front, but it can also save plenty of headaches (and repair bills!) in the long run.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

Settling into a New Neighborhood
After You Move

 

Outdoor cocktail partyMeeting people is the best way to make your new digs feel like home.

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, it’s tough to feel like the new kid on the block--regardless of your age. Here are five great ways to make friends with your new neighbors and make the move into your new community.
  1. Just Say Hi!
    Your new neighbors are busy and most likely won’t come knocking to help you unpack. So, if you want to meet your new neighbors make the first step. Start by making the rounds through your new neighborhood and introduce yourself to everyone. Not only is this a great way potentially meet new friends, it’s also a great time to get recommendations on things like local mechanics, gyms, grocery stores and upcoming community events; great information to know after buying a new house.

  2. Take the Kids Out to Play
    If you have children, go outside to play. Go to a local park. This will give you an opportunity to meet neighbors with children the same age as yours. Schedule a play date to get your families acquainted. Walking your children to the bus stop is a great way to meet several parents at once.

  3. Host a Get Together
    If you don’t like the idea of going door to door to meet your neighbors, you can encourage them to come to you. The simplest way to do this is by hosting a meet and greet. As soon as you’re settled, plan a small party and invite only your new neighbors. Keep everything low key and friendly. You shouldn’t ask them to bring anything. Be clear as to whether or not kids are invited to the get together.

  4. Become an Active Community Member
    After buying a house and getting settled in, look for ways you can become an integral member of the community. Sign up to volunteer at things like your local pet rescue, school functions or 4-H events. You should also consider participating in community rallies and charitable events. The more active you are in the community and the more people you’ll meet.

  5. Talk to People
    The odds are pretty good that you will run into at least some of your new neighbors while you’re running errands around town. It's so important that you make an effort to be friendly and make small talk as many people as you can in the months after buying a house in a brand-new neighborhood. The few minutes you speaking to a cashier, bank teller or the person standing line behind you could be the start of a new friendship.
When you buy a house, there’s plenty to be excited about during the packing and moving processes. Once you’re settled in, roll out the welcome wagon and meet your new neighbors. Your new house and neighborhood will soon be feeling just like “home sweet home.”

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
Buying a House Together. What
Unmarried Couples Need to Know.

Man and woman holding keys
Last year, 16% of all first-time home buyers were unmarried couples. Some of these couples are of the "buy a home first, get married later" variety, while others  have no interest in getting married, ever.

It's important that you understand the potential risks of buying a house as an unmarried couple, and it's just as important that you learn how to avoid some of the potential pitfalls.

Communication Is Key

Honesty is important in any relationship, but if you're buying a house together, you might have to discuss a few topics, both personal and financial, that you haven't had to talk about before. For example, both parties' credit histories are going to be examined when you apply for a mortgage, so if one partner has a poor credit score, that's something you'll want to bring up long before it becomes an issue.
 
But beyond financial matters, you'll also need to be upfront about your needs, desires, and expectations for homeownership. Purchasing a house that one half of the couple is secretly unhappy with is a recipe for disaster, so make sure all lines of communication are clear.

Sign a Prenuptial Agreement for the House

It goes without saying that no couple wants to talk about breaking up. But if you're planning on buying a house together, it's a conversation you're going to need to have. Not only that, but it's best to put down your plans in writing.
 
Who pays for utilities, maintenance, and repairs? What happens to the property if you split up? What if one of you dies or becomes disabled? These aren't fun topics, but it's important to discuss them all the same, preferably leading to a mutually agreed upon co-ownership contract with the help of a legal professional.

Consider Your Title Options
 
There are three ways a couple can own a property. Whichever you choose, you'll still both be living in the home together, hopefully for a long time. Still, it's important for unmarried couples, in particular, to consider their title options carefully:
  1. Sole ownership means that only one name is listed on the deed, which essentially makes one person the sole owner of the house. There are tax benefits to this option if one member of the couple makes drastically more than the other, but there is also a risk that if you split up, one of you will be left with nothing.
  2. Joint tenancy means that each person owns a 50 percent share of the property, and if one person dies, the other automatically inherits full ownership. It makes sense if you're committed to going in 50-50, but an unfriendly breakup could spell trouble.
  3. Tenants in common is an option that allows unequal ownership. For example, one person could own 75 percent of the property, and the other could own 25 percent. This gives you the option of tailoring each person's share to their financial contribution. One stipulation to remember, however, is that if one person dies, the other does not automatically inherit the property unless it is spelled out in the deceased party's will.
Buying a house can be a challenge for just about anybody, but if you're a couple who are thinking about buying a house before you get married, you might be in for a few more challenges than most.
 
I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
10 Tools for the New DIYer
 
Hand holding drill
Whether you are in the middle of a home improvement project or just working in the garage, having access to the right tools for the job can make the entire process much easier. Of course, having access to the right tools is especially important for someone new in the DIY world, and here are the top ten tools that everyone needs for a wide range of projects.
  1. Tape Measure
    A tape measure is a must-have for any homeowner. Whether you are measuring the length of a board or determining the amount of space between a wall and the couch, a tape measure is a handy tool that is excellent for nearly any DIY project.

  2. Circular Saw
    A circular saw is highly versatile for any woodworking project and is fantastic at making precision cuts. This mobile tool is excellent for building outdoor structures, such as a fence or a wooden deck.

  3. Hammer
    A hammer is an essential tool for the vast majority of projects. Whether you need to drive a nail into the wall or build a birdhouse, a hammer is a versatile tool that is great for a wide range of activities. A fiberglass claw hammer is especially useful, as it absorbs the shock much better than a wooden hammer.

  4. Cordless Drill
    A cordless drill is a popular choice for a wide range of projects, whether you are installing drywall or a doing a woodworking project. A cordless drill quickly adds or removes screws, which is much more efficient than a traditional screwdriver.

  5. Standard Level
    A standard level is a perfect tool for almost any DIY project. Instead of worrying about a crooked shelf or picture frame, a level will help you maintain the perfect balance by aligning the small bubble in a vertical or horizontal position.

  6. Putty Knife
    Do you have small nail holes or cracks in a wall that need filled? A putty knife is a fantastic tool for the job, as you can easily spread plaster to cover up any deficiencies in a wall or other material.

  7. Table Saw
    A table saw is the standard for making rip-cuts and is great for cutting large sheets of wood for furniture or cabinets. A table saw also excels at cutting off the rounded edges of boards and is an essential item for any woodworking projects.

  8. Adjustable Wrench
    An adjustable wrench is a handy tool for repairs, whether you need to tighten or loosen bolts. An adjustable wrench is also highly versatile, as you can alter the size for many different sizes of nuts and bolts.

  9. Utility Knife
    Trying to use scissors to open boxes or trim wallpaper is not always an easy task. However, a sharp utility knife will allow you to easily open boxes or shave wood without accidentally cutting yourself because the blade is stored inside the handle for maximum protection.

  10. Flashlight
    Working in a dimly lit area such as the attic or a basement compounds the difficulty of any DIY project, but a flashlight gives you the flexibility to work in areas with minimal lighting. A flashlight is also important to have if the power ever goes out for an extended period and can help you find your way around your house.
Of course, there are plenty more tools available, but these tools are a great starting point for anyone beginning a new home improvement project. Whether you are a beginner or have many years of experience, you can save the added expenses of using a contractor and start your DIY project today!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

How to Know When You Have
Found the Right One
 
Woman sitting on mans shoulders in front of homeAre you buying the right house?
Finding a home can be a wonderful experience. You feel excited, energized, and a little confused too. Maybe it’s the neighborhood, the potential in the home, or the fact that the home is move-in ready that appeals to you. With so many different variables, you want to make sure you're choosing the right house that fits your needs.

Whatever the reason for your interest in a particular home, you may still have some doubts. Use these tips to help you determine if you've found your dream home.

Searching for "The One"

Before you can determine if a house is "the one," you have to know what "the one" looks like. Think of it like any relationship, there are ideals and deal breakers. Start with a list—things you have to have, things you want to have, and things you don’t want at all.

For some people, the list focuses on location rather than features. This means they want to be near work, good schools, or within walking distance to town. Others want the chef’s kitchen or a big back yard for the kids and pets to run around in. The list will help you decide what the most important items are, and what you’re willing to compromise on a bit. You’ll also want to decide if you’re willing to fix things up, or if your “one” should be complete, with only basic maintenance on the horizon.

Signs You’ve Found the Perfect House for You

There is a lot of anticipation in buying a house, but there can be a slight hesitation as well. The pause often comes from wanting to be sure the house you’re looking at buying is the right one for you. Luckily, there are a few signs that let you know when something is right:
  • You feel at home. When you look at the house from the street, you may start to feel a sense of excitement. You want to go in—and when you do, it feels inviting and welcoming. This is the first sign that a house is the right one.

  • You are possessive. Let’s say you’ve toured a home. Maybe it’s even your second visit. You see someone entering, and you want them gone. That possessiveness means there’s already a part of you that thinks about the house as yours.

  • You start visualizing each room. Are you moving your furniture in with your mind? Can you see your favorite photo hanging there? If you are already visualizing what your house looks like, it may be the one.

  • The house fits your needs and wants. Does the house cover most of the basics? Are you in the right location and have the features you want? If the house covers all your basic desires, it is probably a pretty sure bet. If it is all you want and more, then that speaks volumes.

  • You can’t wait to tell everyone. If you are texting, sending pictures, and getting excited about sharing the news about a particular house, it is probably a good choice. You’re already getting invested.

  • Your intuition tells you it’s the one. You shouldn’t ignore your gut. If you walk in, and something inside you says, “This is it.” Chances are, it is.

  • You don’t want to look at any other houses. If you don’t have the urge to see if there is something better or look at other options, you’ve got a pretty clear sign that you’ve found your home.

    Buying a House
Once the signs say you’ve found “the one,” it’s time to leap into action. You don’t want to wait too long to buy a house that works for you. Gather your agent, your resources, and make an offer.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Home Utilities: Do Your
Homework Before You Buy
 
Picture of file labeled

Hidden Costs Can Sack Your Budget

It's important to look at the big picture once you decide you are ready to become a homeowner. You've likely already thought about how much you can afford to spend on a mortgage payment, and you may have even obtained a pre-approval from your bank. However, there are additional factors that will affect what you have to spend each month once you close on your new home. Some home buyers take utility costs for granted assuming that the costs will be similar to what they currently pay.

If the home you are considering is larger than your current home or apartment, keep in mind that more square footage will likely mean higher bills for heating and cooling. Buying a house in a city or town could come with a water bill if the property accesses the local water system instead of a private well and sewer system. Natural gas or propane availability for heating and cooking should be considered when figuring a budget to purchase a home. The last thing you want as a homeowner is the surprise of utility bills you cannot afford after you've settled into your new house.

Be a Smart Shopper

Your real estate agent is your biggest ally while searching for your perfect home. Be open and honest about your budget, and ask plenty of questions regarding utility costs for any home that catches your attention. Your agent can help you obtain utility costs from the seller for the past year to give you an idea of what you can expect regarding monthly expenses. You may need to adjust the figure according to personal factors such as the size of your family and the way you will use your home, but a the very least, you have a starting point to help you plan your budget.

Once you find a home that you are seriously considering, you might find ways to make the home more energy efficient to save you money on utilities for years to come. A home inspection is one of the best ways to pinpoint its areas that could be improved to make it more comfortable for your family and your budget. Windows, doors, and insulation are all areas that can make a huge difference in energy costs. Major systems in the home such as the heating and cooling system and water heater should be considered for efficiency and a possible upgrade if necessary. If your budget will allow it, addressing these repairs early on makes way for ongoing savings.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 

Do School Districts Affect Home Prices
 
Kids getting off school bus
When you're buying a house, you may wonder what exactly goes into determining the value of a property. In many cases, appraised value is based on an algorithm with variables including the home's actual construction, land values, location, and more.

In addition to reviewing the appraised value, you must also decide how much a home is worth to you based on your tastes and factors like neighborhood demographics, crime rates, traffic, and proximity to shopping and other conveniences.

Home buyers with and without children often wonder how much influence the area's school districts have on a home's price. Here's what you need to know.

Great Schools Matter More than Good Schools

Although some argue that certain schools perform better as a result of being in a more affluent neighborhood, rather than the other way around, it's hard to argue with statistics when it comes to the correlation between quality school districts and home prices.

A study found that the cost of homes in areas where the school districts were only average was based almost purely on the home's characteristics like size and location. In above-average school districts, however, properties are often priced well above what the characteristics of the home would have indicated. This suggests that only top-notch schools significantly impact home sale prices.

Buyer Statistics

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, approximately 25 percent of all buyers are concerned with the quality of school districts in their potential neighborhoods.
40 percent of buyers at peak child-bearing age (36 and under) reported that school districts were a major influencing factor in choosing a home, as did 35 percent of those between the ages of 37 and 51. With such a large demographic citing this as a concern, it's not surprising that school districts are a factor in determining home pricing.

School District's Impact on Home Prices

The next obvious question home buyers have: "How much more will a great school district cost me?" Economists estimate that a 5 percent improvement in a school district's test scores can increase home prices in the area by approximately 2.5 percent.
A study of metropolitan areas across the nation found that being located in top-notch school districts can add an average of up to $50 per square foot to a home's price. This means buyers of a 2,000 square foot home could be shelling out up to an extra $100,000 to be in a great district.

The Snowball Effect

When it comes to pricing homes, supply and demand is a major factor. The simple fact is that there are only so many homes available in the best school districts, and there are often more buyers than sellers. This means a bidding war may occur when a home goes up for sale in a desirable area, leading to homes being sold for well above the asking price. When the next home goes up for sale, appraisers use the most recent comparable sales to assess its value, and the snowball effect continues.

The bottom line is that buying a house in an area with excellent schools is likely to cost you more. However, as long as the district retains its status, it should continue to contribute to your home's value for years to come.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.


            Buying Your First Home -
            Are Your Ducks in a Row?
 
Rubber duckies in a rowWhen you decide on buying a house, there are plenty of options and factors to consider, and amidst all your excitement and anxiety, it can be all too easy to leap into the housing market before you are ready. With some careful planning on your part, the home buying experience can be fun and not-so-stressful. Consider this your to-do list as you begin the process. Your ducks will be all in a row, and your search for the perfect home will be much more productive.
  1. Target Your Desired Location

    Though it may seem like common sense, deciding just where you want to live is a crucial step in buying a house. Even if you're staying in the same city, you'll want to decide which neighborhood is best suited to your lifestyle. Whether you're moving across town or hundreds of miles away, researching different communities early on helps you focus on fewer homes once you begin viewing houses seriously.

  2. Assess Your Finances

    Before you speak with a lender or set your sights on a particular home, get acquainted with your finances. Sit down and make a budget, and determine how much flexibility your monthly expenses and savings allow when it comes to purchasing a home. Don't forget to consider extra costs such as your down payment, closing costs, and added expenses you'll be responsible for as a homeowner including insurance, property taxes and HOA fees. Check your credit score now, and look for ways to improve it such as paying down credit card debt.

  3. Pump Up Your Savings Account

    You are likely already thinking about a down payment, and ideally, your savings will cover it. If not, it's time to build up your savings. Cutting back on unnecessary expenses now may hurt a little, but forgoing those extras will pay off by helping you reach your home ownership goals. Find creative ways to add to your savings like investing in CDs, selling unused or unwanted items, and doing a bit of part-time work.

  4. Pre-Approval Brings Peace of Mind

    Although pre-approval from a bank doesn't guarantee a mortgage, it's a relatively good indication of what they will ultimately be willing to lend you. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, the process of buying a home becomes less frustrating as you can narrow the search down to homes in your preferred location that fall into your budget.

  5. Pick an Agent, But Not Just Any Agent

    Choosing the right real estate agent should be a priority when buying a house. All agents are different, and finding one that makes you feel both comfortable and assured of their skills and knowledge is essential in making your house hunt successful. Interview a few agents, and don't hesitate to ask them about their experience and knowledge of the area and the housing market. Have a look at their website and ask for referrals before deciding. After all, your agent will be your best friend and adviser throughout the process. That’s why I recommend calling me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
Following these simple but important steps will go quite a ways in making your experience of buying a house a pleasant one. So put on your game face, do your homework, and get ready to find the home of your dreams!
 
12 Tips for Organizing Our Home
 
Picture of closet shelf boxesYour home is where your life happens. Your home is also where you happen to have every piece of clothing, every birthday gift and nearly every purchase that you've made over the last few years.
Organizing all of these items can seem like an overwhelming task, especially when all of life's other responsibilities seem to get in the way. Thankfully, tidying up around the house can be accomplished in a stress-free way with these 12 simple home organization tips.
  1. Break down this large project into small chunks.
    Do you have an entire day to organize your home? Neither do we. The best way to tackle this project is to divide it into mini-projects that you can integrate into your schedule. When do you have time available to focus on your home? Even if you only have 10 minutes per day, you can organize your home within a few minutes just by concentrating on one small area.

  2. Finish the task you start before beginning a new one.
    There are distractions aplenty when you're organizing your home and with those distractions comes the temptation to stop what you're doing and focus on other tasks. Nip this idea in the bud and make sure you always finish what you started before moving on.

  3. Get rid of what you can.
    Everyone has a pile of items that sit unused for years in the closet or drawer. Purge this clutter from your home and make sure you save that space for efficient storage.

  4. Don't buy more until you know where it's stored.
    Purchasing storage bins to "store your stuff" can instantly create bulky boxes full of clutter. Before adding anything to your home, including storage tools, make sure these items have an organized home.

  5. Ditch your junk drawer.
    It's called the "junk" drawer for a reason. Cull through it and find real homes for what you need to keep.

  6. Sort wisely.
    If your sock drawer has extra room, it's okay to store another similar item in there. Though some items should be separated, you can sort two small groups together to manage your spaces wisely.

  7. Eliminate common clutter spots.
    Does your mail stack up on the kitchen counter while your dining room table collects shopping bags or school supplies? Identify these "dump spaces" and find these items a convenient home that won't create additional clutter.

  8. Clear your mind.
    Stop and breathe. Organizing a home is a mighty task, and it can feel overwhelming at times. Be sure to take breaks to clear your mind and rely on checklists or voice memos to help keep you organized as you organize.

  9. Take your family to task.
    Once you've organized a space, make sure your family understands the importance of that area's organizational system.

  10. Clean out your car.
    If you've got a trunk or backseat full of items that belong in the house, find a home for them while you're organizing instead of waiting until you're finished.

  11. Define your spaces.
    Is your workout equipment in the spare bedroom because that's where you exercise or because it doesn't have a home? As you define what each space is used for, make sure to clear out items that don't belong in that designated area.

  12. Don't overdo it on the labeling.
    A label maker is a great tool but be cautious before your label your entire organizational system. You may need to modify it shortly which will create an unnecessary new labeling project.

    For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

Building Equity May Be
Easier Than You Think

 

Miniature house built with dollar bills

Equity is an oft-used term in most real estate fields and has a rather significant bearing on personal wealth and your future plans. Understanding equity in and of itself isn't difficult, but there are some things you should know that may help build equity and potentially pay off your mortgage.

What is Equity?

Equity is essentially the value of your home minus what you still owe on it. Unless you're purchasing a home up front with cash, then you will have equity on your side and a mortgage as a liability. Of course, the longer you pay your mortgage, the more equity you build and the more each incremental payment will go towards principal instead of interest.

So how can you build equity faster?

Make a Larger Down Payment

For most conventional mortgages a 5% down payment is a requirement, and most mortgages have some form of PMI or private mortgage insurance for any equity less than 20%. With that said, the larger your down payment the more equity you have at the onset of your mortgage and the shorter the duration you pay PMI.

A larger down payment will also lower your monthly payments and, depending on how aggressively you're paying your mortgage, can potentially help you pay it off faster.

Make Paying Down Your Mortgage a Priority

One of the best ways to get more equity faster is to make paying down your mortgage a top priority. Let's face it, homes and mortgages are a longterm commitment which means paying off a mortgage and building equity can take some time.

In order to prioritize paying down your mortgage, consider paying extra each month. An additional payment of as little as $25 can trim months, even years off of a mortgage and give you an extra $25 per month in equity. Additionally, you can choose to put income tax refunds, gift money, bonuses, or one-time payments towards your mortgage. Finally, consider refinancing to a shorter loan note or a lower interest rate to maximize where your payments go.

Increase Your Property Value

When it comes down to it, many homeowners living in older homes neglect the fact that they can add significant value to their property. Remember, equity is your property value minus any debt. Therefore, increasing property value will inherently increase your equity in your home.

Of course, when many homeowners think about increasing property value, they see the dollar signs following soon after with visions of pricey remodels, extensive work, and days without conventional creature comforts. And while this may be the case, how much you choose to spend will depend largely on how much value certain improvements add to homes in your local region.

Additionally, maintaining your home can be just as valuable as spending in increasing your property value. We're talking about maintaining big-ticket items such as HVAC systems, other mechanical systems, and staying on top of potential problems including exterior weathering, rot, and pest issues.

Make the Most of Your Equity

No matter what method you choose to increase your equity, make sure your efforts are not in vain. Weigh the pros and cons to attacking your equity on a variety of different fronts. It may work best to mix and match tactics and focus on long-term equity gain as well as making bigger headway in the short term.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

Kid Power and Home Buying

 

Kids carrying boxes entering homeThere are so many factors to consider when buying a house, especially if you're shopping for a home for your whole family. And it's about more than just the number of rooms, or even the school district where the home is located.

According to a survey from SunTrust Mortgage, 55 percent of buyers with at least one child under 18 years of age say their child's opinion was a factor in their purchasing decision, and that number jumps to 74 percent with parents from the Millenial generation. So there's no doubt that kids have a huge influence on the purchasing process, and for good reason. Factoring in the needs of your children – both now and in the future – can help you identify a house that you'll be happy with for years to come.

How "Kidfluence" Shapes Home Buying Process

There are two important factors to consider when shopping for a house with kids – what the children want from the home, and what you need from the home in order to make life easier for the whole family. It's also important to look to the future, and consider what your kids will need from the home in 2, 5, or 10 years. By planning ahead while considering the current needs of your children, you can find a home that fits every member of the family.
  • School DistrictThe quality of the local school district has always been a major priority for most parents shopping for a home, even if buying in the best districts often comes with an increase in price. For many parents with children, the quality of the school district takes precedence over other neighborhood preferences, like attractions, entertainment, or commute to work.

  • Room for EveryoneIf you ask kids what they want before you start shopping, a room of their own will often rank at the top of the list. Buying a home where everyone has their own space can be worth the cost, and becomes especially important when younger children start making the march toward their teenage years.

  • A Safe Place to PlayA fenced-in yard is a parent's dream, and kids will love it, too! A safe, outdoor space where kids can play – and adults can throw a barbecue – is a major perk when buying a house, allowing you to enjoy peace of mind while the kids have the time of their lives.

  • Access to AttractionsWhether you're shopping alone or with children, finding the right neighborhood is a huge factor in long-term happiness when buying a house. With kids, it's nice to have nearby parks, museums, and attractions, where you can enjoy family outings close to home.

  • Love Your LayoutAn open floor plan may look nice aesthetically, but it also means that younger children will have free rein to run throughout the house. Having doors, hallways, and spaces where it's easy to place a gate can make it easier to keep an eye on kids. Of course, it also means that you can set aside your own space, where you can enjoy some peace, quiet, and conversation with other adults.
While you, of course, have the final decisions, listening to your kids can make life much easier when buying a house. Just remember that the tastes and desires of children change quickly, so it's important to use your parental powers to focus on what matters most long-term. Balance the present and future to find a home that both you and your children can love.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
New tool narrows home search
 
Magnifying glass looking at pictures of homes

Buyers can configure their ideal house in their desired neighborhood and price range.

You're planning to buy a house, and you're thinking it would be nice to have a spare bedroom for those visiting relatives from Rochester. Or you still have two teenage girls at home, and bathrooms for both would end a lot of earlymorning fights.
 
But can you afford that extra space? There's an online tool that can help you decide.

Realtor.com just launched 'Price Perfect,' which enables buyers to configure their ideal house in their desired neighborhood and price range. Zillow, Trulia and other online sites also let buyers search by ZIP code, size, etc. But Price Perfect goes a step further by showing the median price of homes in a ZIP and how certain features increase that price.
 
'We found that the No. 1 consumer need is understanding affordability,' Brad Silvert, Realtor.com's general manager, said in a phone interview Wednesday. 'Not just how much you can afford but what tradeoffs you are willing to make. If you can afford $360,000, what features are most important to you in looking for a new house?' Example: In ZIP 33626 of Tampa's Westchase area, Price Perfect shows that the median price of all three-bedroom, two-bath houses currently on the market is $459,000. An extra bedroom adds $40,900 to the price; an extra bathroom $60,000.
 
Or in St. Petersburg's 33704, which includes the Old Northeast and Snell Isle areas, the median price of a three-bedroom, two-bath house is $694,900. A fourth bedroom would pump up the price by $267,510 and a third bathroom would raise it by $144,460.
 
Conversely, deleting one bedroom would reduce the cost by only $27,590 and subtracting one bathroom would reduce it by just $5,990.
 
Why such a price differen- tial? 'It has to do with inventory,' Silvert said. 'In St. Pete, there are not as many four-bedroom houses and by default those tend to be nice homes and the price goes up dramatically. If you really want that extra bedroom, maybe you should consider expanding the search' to another area.
 
Once users have added or deleted features, Price Perfect links to all homes meeting the criteria in that ZIP. It also shows what the monthly mortgage payments would be, based on 20 percent down and including taxes and insurance.
 
Price Perfect currently has limitations. It can't account for the cost of pools, waterfront locations or certain other soughtafter features. But users of the site are asked for suggestions, and more features 'absolutely will be added,' Silvert said.
 
Price Perfect uses an algorithm of listing prices and characteristics of homes currently on the market in a specific neighborhood. 'This ensures all costs reflect market conditions in real time, making these insights incredibly relevant to buyers currently in the market,' Realtor. com said in a release.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

 

Multi-Generational Homes: Find a
House the Entire Family Will Love

 

Group picture of multi generational familyMultigenerational living is making a comeback. With shifting conditions in the job market, younger people are finding it more challenging to achieve immediate success on their own. At the same time, many families are choosing to make space for elders to help their quality of life while saving money.

While the conditions that gave rise to this new housing trend are far from thrilling, the choice to embrace a multigenerational household can lead to wonderful results for families.
 
The key to making it work is to take care in finding a place everyone can call home.  Here's how you can get it done right.
  1. Respect Everyone's Needs – and Make Those Clear
    When seeking a property for many generations to share, it's a good idea to have everyone pitch in and participate. This starts with having each member of the family write a list of their "must have" items for the home: It should be a list of 8-10 items, ideally in order by priority.

    Yes, if you are buying a house for a big family, you will have to find ways to compromise. By creating these lists, however, everyone in the family makes a contribution. This way, you can try to focus on the desires you hold in common and find properties that provide them.

  2. Think About Safety and Convenience
    Often, you'll have to think critically about your family's needs before you uncover everything.

    For example, an elder member of the family may benefit from an access ramp in the home or, if possible, simply living on the bottom floor with all conveniences provided nearby. If a home is "almost" perfect, you can negotiate for funds to do any necessary safety renovations.

    Also, think about how convenience plays a role. For example, how many members of the family will be driving regularly? Will you need a larger driveway or even a standalone garage? It may be necessary to measure and make sure you have sufficient space.

    Go through each room of the house and think about the ways to use it. Let each member of the family visit each prospective home and give their opinion. It's vital to find a middle ground, but it's also wise to listen carefully. Address objections to a home quickly.

  3. Consider How Your Situation Changes Your Financing
    A larger family may mean more working adults living in the household – that, in turn, can make it easier to get the financing you need. Even family members living on a fixed income can have their income considered. This can raise the amount you may be eligible for and reduce interest.

  4. Let Your Real Estate Agent Know Your Plans
    A real estate agent's job is to support and advise you during the process of buying a house. He or she will do a better job if you lay your goals out from the beginning. This also empowers you, since you're able to ask the right questions and choose an agent with experience.

    Multigenerational homes are growing in importance, but not every agent knows the ropes. In your first chat with an agent, talk about your family and the specific amenities you really want. A good agent will be able to provide insight on home listings that may suit you.

    Having many generations under one roof provides brilliant opportunities for family members to bond. Young people can learn and grow with the wisdom of their elders, who get to see all their life milestones. It all begins with selecting the right home with the help of a real estate agent.
I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
6 Ways to Spot the Next
Hot Neighborhood
 
Do you dream of living in one of the area's hottest neighborhoods, but find that all the homes are out of your price range? If you want to live in a trendy area, but also want to get the most out of your real-estate-dollar, the trick is to buy an inexpensive home in a neighborhood that's destined to be the next new hotspot.

Cities and urban areas across the country are going through a revitalization, also known as gentrification. Formerly run-down, lower-income regions are experiencing an influx of affluent residents, causing the neighborhoods to become desirable and home prices to rise. This trend is growing year-over-year as buyers have been placing more value on locations close to city centers and near their places of employment.

Up-and-coming neighborhoods tend to start as neglected and run-down areas that might have high crime rates. Purchasing a home in these areas can be risky, so you'll want to do your homework first.

How can you tell a neighborhood is getting ready to pop? Start with these six pro tips.
  1. Start with the Current Hotspots
    If you take a close look at some of the hottest local areas, you'll likely find neighborhoods just on the outskirts that need some love and attention. Purchasing a home in these neighborhoods will guarantee you're close to the amenities you want, and it's likely just a matter of time before your new neighborhood catches on.

  2. Keep an Eye Out for Construction
    An increase in construction is a good sign that a neighborhood is up-and-coming, but by the time you see the equipment, it's often too late. Instead, pay attention to the news to see what projects are in the works and attend city council meetings. If the city or large private investors are willing to put money into a neighborhood, it's a good sign that you might want to invest there too.

  3. Listen to the Press
    If the news outlets begin reporting on revitalization in an area or referring to it as up-and-coming, home prices often start to climb. If you hear these reports and are ready to jump on a purchase right away, you might be able to get in before prices skyrocket.

  4. Follow the "Cool" People
    Historically, areas, where artists and musicians choose to live, have become some of the hottest neighborhoods in the country (think SoHo in NYC). This is because they typically search out less-desirable areas looking for cheap rent, then significantly improve it by bringing their creative energy.

    Also, look for areas where younger people are flocking. It's almost guaranteed that trendy bars, restaurants, and other cool amenities will follow.

  5. Consider a Historic Area
    Areas designated as "historic" are prime for revitalization. Not only is the city or local government likely to invest in improvements, but many also offer significant tax breaks for buyers willing to spend in the area. If you're ready to put the time and effort into a restoration, you can turn a diamond-in-the-rough into a gorgeous dream home.

  6. Talk to Your REALTOR®
    A good REALTOR® will have his or her finger on the pulse of the local area and know which neighborhoods are destined to be the next hotspots. Together, you can also examine real estate trends like days on the market (DOM). A decrease in DOM quarter-over-quarter is an excellent indicator of a neighborhood's popularity.
I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
10 Perennials to Plant
for Almost Any Yard
 
Perennial flowers in garden
If you want to enjoy a beautiful yard, now is the perfect time to get started. Don't have a natural green thumb? No worries! Creating beautiful flowerbeds is easier than you think when you plant these easy-to-care-for perennials.
  1. Peony
    With large, gorgeous, blooms that are both colorful and strongly-scented, the Peony is one of the most popular perennial flowers. They're also extremely dependable. They often bloom for three or more years, and some continue to come back and bloom for many decades!

  2. Black-Eyed Susan
    The Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) creates cheery-looking blooms that resemble daisies. The petals come in shades of yellow or orange and have dark centers. They're naturally resistant to insects and drought and most varieties will continue to bloom year after year.

  3. Bearded Iris
    With eye-popping flowers that resemble a crown, the Bearded Iris is one of the most stunning perennial flowers you can add to your garden. They come in a wide variety of colors and often boom both in the spring and in the fall. Even when they're not blooming, the foliage creates a beautiful backdrop for your yard.

  4. Oriental Lily
    The Oriental Lily can grow up to seven feet tall and creates a large, pendulous flower with an unmistakably pleasant scent. This species of flower is easy to care for, and since they spread, you'll enjoy more flowers year after year.

  5. Salvia
    Salvia, also known as Perennial Sage, is coveted for its deep blue blooms. There are many varieties of Salvia, some of which do well in cold climates, and others that are great for hot and humid states like Florida. If you trim them back after they're done blooming, you're also likely to enjoy a second late-summer bloom.

  6. Purple Coneflowers
    The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) used to come in only one variety but is now available in many colors. These flowers grow up to three feet tall and will bloom in your garden from early summer until the fall. They also attract butterflies and are excellent for making indoor bouquets.

  7. Penstemon
    A tubular flower that comes in white and shades of pink, purple, blue, and red, the Penstemon thrives in sunny areas. Some have blue/green leaves, which can create a beautiful contrast within your flowerbed.

  8. Coral Bells
    Often planted at the front of flowerbeds, Coral Bells (Heuchera) are popular for their colorful, crinkly-looking leaves. They also grow tiny perennial flowers on stalks that stick out above the leaves. These plants prefer sun or partial shade and bloom in late spring.

  9. Moss Phlox
    A very versatile plant, Moss Phlox creates a dense mat of foliage that has a tendency to creep. It grows to a height of six inches to two feet and gives off highly-fragrant blooms in the springtime. It's great for planting in rock gardens, in the front of your perennial flowerbeds, or alongside sidewalks and other paved areas.

  10. Whirling Butterflies
    How can you not love a plant with a name like Whirling Butterflies? This North American Wildflower blooms for several weeks at a time throughout the summer and fall. Its name comes from the small, delicate flowers that look like butterflies when the wind blows. They tolerate drought well once they're established and do best when planted in areas with full sun or partial shade.
If you're thinking about selling your home this spring or summer, adding some flowerbeds for curb appeal is a great way to get started.

For answers to your home selling questions please give me a call, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
8 Ways to Start Over in a New City
 
Back of SUV loaded with posessions
Moving to an entirely new city as an adult is both exciting, and challenging. There are so many new things to experience, but in many ways, it may feel like you're also starting over from scratch. That's why it helps to have a plan, and you can start with our guide to 8 ways that you can start over in a new city.

  1. Scout Your City Before You Arrive
    Starting over in a new city is much simpler when you have an idea of what to expect ahead of time, so be sure to scout out your new city long before it's time to make your move. Find out where essential services are located, check out attractions you might visit for fun, and sample the local dining scene.

  2. Work with an Experienced Real Estate Agent
    Handling the logistics of your move and getting to know your new city is a lot easier when you have an experienced real estate agent you can trust for guidance. You want an agent who makes life as easy as possible while moving, and who knows the community.

  3. Make Yourself a Regular
    Once you arrive, find a few favorite coffee/dining/nightlife spots where you can make yourself a regular. Get to know the staff, talk to other regular customers, and look for new opportunities to build relationships. Before you know it, you'll have a comfortable hangout where "everybody knows your name."

  4. Don't Be Afraid to Say "Yes"
    It's easy to say "no" when somebody in your new city asks you to try something new, but do your best to resist the temptation. Say "yes" to new opportunities to connect with people, even if they invite you to something that normally might not be "your thing."

  5. Be Aggressive in Searching for New Friends
    Making new friends as an adult can be a challenge, but the most important step is putting yourself out there with a willingness to meet new people. Whether you're chatting with people from work, at your new, regular hangout, or anywhere else in the city, be aggressive about making new friends.

  6. Find a Job That Fits Your Needs
    Finding the right job is naturally a huge priority for anyone making a move to a new place because a job means financial security and new social opportunities. A job provides a reliable schedule for each day and helps you build a comfortable routine in your new home.

  7. Don't Be Ashamed to Act Like a Tourist
    It may seem strange to act like a tourist in a place you now call home, but everybody starts as a tourist when living in a new location. Don't be afraid to get out and explore, take in all of the local attractions, and search for out-of-the-way hidden gems just like you would on vacation.

  8. Keep Trying New Things Even After You're Comfortable in Your New Home
    If you follow our tips and your plan, then you'll soon start feeling comfortable in your new home city. Just don't let that stop you from exploring, and trying new things. There should be plenty more to experience in your new city, even after you're comfortable with the basics.
Every person – and city – is unique, but starting over in a new town doesn't have to be a mystery. By exploring the community, building new relationships, being open-minded to new experiences, and learning as you go, you can quickly start to make your new city feel like home.
 
For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Buying a House for a Blended Family
 
Picture family of fiveWhen the step-siblings of The Brady Bunch made their TV debut in 1969, the concept of a blended family was something of a novelty. Today, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 75 percent of divorced people remarry and 65 percent of those remarriages include children. In addition, a study by Pew Research Center indicates that 16 percent of kids under the age of 18 are living in blended families.
 
By definition, a blended family increases the number of household members, making it unlikely that either of the current homes is suitable options. If you're buying a house for a blended family, start off on the right note with these helpful tips.
 
  • Get Professional Financial Advice
    In first marriages, couples are generally building a financial profile together. Couples who come together later in life have already established careers, credit histories, and tolerance for risk. Consult a financial advisor who can help create mutually compatible goals and budgets.

  • Be Realistic about Space Considerations
    What seems doable in theory often turns out to be impractical in reality. How many kids can reasonably share a bedroom? Will everyone have to stand in line to shower in a single bathroom? Give your blended family room to breathe as they become accustomed to their new living situation.

  • Choose Location Strategically
    If real estate is all about "location, location, location," that applies double to buying a house for a blended family. Instead of having only one side relocate, you may decide on a "neutral" neighborhood to put everyone on equal footing. Proximity to kids' other parents is also a vital factor in shared custody arrangements.

  • Involve the Kids
    When partners in a new relationship have children, kids may often feel they are along for the ride. They may find themselves in the middle of changes completely out of their control. Bring kids along as you view houses and solicit their input to emphasize that it's their home also. Once you've made the move, assign each child a designing "project" to put their own stamp on the new home.

  • Plan Timing Carefully
    Coordinating the process of buying a house with the sale of your existing home can be tricky enough. When you add in the sale of a second home, it becomes a real juggling act. Prepare a backup plan, such as renting out one of the homes or moving into a short-term rental, in case the timing hits a snag.
The definition of family continues expanding to include previously non-traditional forms, but the idea of home as the center of family life remains constant. Buying a house that accommodates the needs of a blended family is the first step toward creating happy memories together.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Home Search Made Simple
 
Door mat
Buying a house may look complicated, but it doesn't have to be intimidating.
 
Any home search is an expression of your needs and values. With the right approach, you can make sure you get what you want from the process. And, yes, it can even be fun. Here's how:


  • Choose an Area to Focus On
    Before you can start looking for a home, you need to have a general idea where you want to be. Most homebuyers begin by drilling down to a single town or city. High-level considerations like the job market, healthcare, transportation, and the state of the community usually drive a choice. It's a good idea to explore an area and spend plenty of time there before you choose.

  • Decide on a Neighborhood
    Some neighborhoods may only span a few blocks, but each neighborhood a community offers will provide a different lifestyle. Walk and drive your possible neighborhoods, visiting them at different times of the day and week. This will give you a better idea of the patterns of life in an area. If possible, talking to local residents is the best way to get insight fast.

  • Prioritize Needs for a Home
    What do you most need from your home? Anyone who will be living in the new home – including the kids, if they're old enough to understand – should compose a list of 4-6 priorities. While it's usually hard to "have it all," you can identify areas of commonality. A home should meet all of your basic needs and have something to get everybody excited!

  • Review Loans and Budgets
    The first step to getting a new home loan is often to set up a budget. This helps you understand how much disposable income you have, which gives you an idea of your financial range when buying a house. With this information in hand, you can compare loan offers from various lenders. Getting prequalified for a loan early can save you time once you identify the home you want.

  • Compare Home Options
    This is where the footwork starts. Many buyers will take a few months before choosing a home they are excited enough to bid on. Your real estate agent is an important ally here: He or she will help you take advantage of market trends and zero in on the best value. Try not to "fall in love" with a home until you've seen the full range of what's available out there!

  • Make an Offer (and Negotiate)
    There are several steps between choosing the home you want and making it to closing. Be ready for twists and turns: For example, a home inspection report could reveal problems at a property that are costly to fix. It's your real estate agent to the rescue: An agent's local insight helps you make informed decisions. Plus, agents have experience in negotiating on your behalf.

  • Close on the Home
    The closing day can be nerve-wracking, but it's also one of the most exciting days when buying a house. It is true that a deal can fall through at the last minute, but this is rare. Unless your final walkthrough uncovers something objectionable, things usually go off without a hitch. Bring a pen and be ready to sign, sign, sign ... this process can take a couple of hours. Then the keys are yours!
No matter what your real estate goals are, partnering with a trusted real estate agent is essential. Not only does it make buying a home faster and easier, but it often means you'll save money, too. That’s why when you are ready to consider buying a home you should call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
5 Ways to Welcome a New Neighbor
 
Shaking handsWhen you notice the home on your street with the "For Sale" sign now says "Sold," it's time to start thinking about how you're going to welcome your new neighbors. Starting off with a friendly gesture isn't just the right thing to do, it will also help you build a great relationship that you'll be able to enjoy for years to come. It's clear that introducing yourself to your neighbors is a good idea, but how do you do it without feeling awkward? Don't worry, we've got you covered with these five tips.
  1. Stop By on Moving Day
    Stopping by for a brief introduction on the day you see the moving truck pull in is a great way to break the ice without feeling like you need to stay too long. Obviously, they'll be busy, so you can simply say hello and let them know you look forward to getting to know them better later.

    If you have the time, offer to stick around and help them unload. There's a good chance they won't be ready to accept just yet, but the gesture is one they'll remember forever.

  2. Leave a Card
    Don't want to deal with the awkwardness of ringing a stranger's doorbell? Write a nice card and leave it in their mailbox. You don't have to go into a ton of detail, simply introduce your family and welcome them to the neighborhood.

    This is also a great idea if you notice that a lot of other neighbors are going over to visit. Although a warm welcome is nice, new neighbors often don't want to be bombarded with visitors right away.

  3. Visit as a Group
    If you're uncomfortable meeting new people by yourself, gather up a few of the neighbors and stop by together. Not only is this likely to make everybody more comfortable, but it will also cut down on the number of times the new neighbors have to stop what they're doing and answer the doorbell. During the first few busy weeks after a move, they'll likely appreciate this thoughtfulness.

  4. Make a Creative Gift Basket
    Gather up some of your favorite items from local vendors and use them to make a creative gift basket. Think about including things like pastries from the neighborhood bakery, a bottle of wine, or something from the local gift shop.

    Make the basket truly valuable by adding in menus from your favorite local takeout places, business cards for reputable companies you recommend, and a list of "insider" information like the best babysitters and handymen in the area.

  5. Host a Welcome Party
    What better way to really get to know your new neighbors than inviting them to spend an evening in your home. Give them at least a month to settle in, then offer to gather up a group of your neighbors and friends for a casual dinner or outdoor barbecue meet and greet.
When you're new to a neighborhood, everything can feel a little bit intimidating and scary. A warm smile and a hello can go a long way. It only takes a moment to make new neighbors feel welcome and might be exactly what they need to start feeling right at home!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Scouting Out Your New Neighborhood
 
Arial photo of housing developmentFinding a new neighborhood can be nerve-wracking when you realize what's at stake. You're not just buying a house, you're also investing in the future of the neighborhood.
 
Make a bad decision, and you could find yourself living someplace you hate, or worse, unable to sell when you find a new area you prefer.  
 
It's incredibly important to make certain your new neighborhood has all of the right qualities you and your family might need for the foreseeable future. Take these things into consideration when scouting your new neighborhood when you're buying a home:
  • Housing Statistics
    When you're first vetting out a potential neighborhood, a little online research can go a long way. For instance, you can look up average home values in the area, and whether they are increasing in value. There are also several websites where you can research statistics such as crime rates in a specific neighborhood, giving you an idea of just how safe an area is before you commit to it.

  • Schools
    Any parent knows when you're buying a home, quality schools are a top factor in your home-buying decision. Couples without children that are buying a home should also research local school districts. School ratings reveal a lot about a neighborhood. Quality, well-funded schools indicate a neighborhood with more stable home values. If you do have children, research the availability of daycare, open enrollment, and private schools.

  • Commute
    Many home buyers overlook the importance of their daily commute. Decide what an acceptable drive time might be before you begin your home search, then determine how a potential neighborhood measures up. Scout out multiple routes, check typical traffic during rush hour using interactive maps on your phone or online, and if you are really serious about buying a home in a particular neighborhood, take the time to actually drive it first.

  • Transportation
    Families that have a car for every driving-age adult may overlook the importance of public transportation in a new neighborhood. It's a good idea to see what's available in a potential community. You never know when you might need access to public transportation; be sure to locate train, subway, and bus routes in the area. Also take a look at the main roads in and out, bike routes for cyclists, and what is within walking distance.

  • Local Amenities
    Consider where you'll need to go on a regular basis. This includes gas stations, grocery stores, and other types of local businesses. Make sure these places are conveniently located in the neighborhood, but also drive by or visit them in person if possible, so you can get a feel for the neighborhood itself.

  • Neighbors
    There's something to be said for getting to know your potential neighbors. Take walks through the neighborhood and talk with the people you encounter. Friendly people out for leisure walks are a good sign. You can use a dog or another casual opening as an opportunity to chat a little and see what they like or don't like about the neighborhood.

    When buying a home, it's important to remember that as much as we tend to focus on the property that's for sale, there's actually much more at stake than just the home. While your money is buying a house, your investment is tied to the ups and downs the neighborhood goes through over the years, and how happy you are there depends heavily on whether the neighborhood itself meets your needs.

When you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
7 Things Everyone Should
Do in a New Neighborhood
 
Family walking down sidewalkMoving to a new neighborhood means starting all over.
When you combine the uncertainty of moving to a new location with the process of unpacking and preparing your new home, it can be overwhelming. There are certain things that you can do to make sure your neighborhood transition is as smooth as possible. Having a plan for getting acquainted with your new home is the best way of avoiding unnecessary stress. Use these tips to make the move to your new neighborhood easier.
  1. Start off by being considerate
    Start off on the right foot when you're moving to a new place. This means being considerate of the concerns of your neighbors at all times. It starts with moving day. If using a truck, don't park it such that it blocks the road or other people's driveways.

    Try to cause minimal inconvenience to your neighbors when moving your belongings by being as quiet as possible, making the move clean, and not causing damage to the outside areas. This will give a positive impression to your new neighbors.

  2. Explore the neighborhood
    Take a break from unpacking to explore the neighborhood. Visit local shops, community centers, and other places as you tour the streets. If moving with your family, encourage your spouse or your children to come with you. This can make it easier for you to meet new people and begin a conversation. And who knows? You might just stumble upon your favorite store, coffee shop, or even a unique restaurant.

  3. Get involved in local activities
    To get quickly acquainted with your new home, you should become involved in local activities as soon as possible. This will enable you to meet your neighbors and begin to form healthy relationships.

    Local communities often organize many different activities, from jogging teams to book clubs and potlucks. Get yourself out there and participate in such activities so you can meet new people. Be on the lookout for signs and posters that are advertising such events and may be displayed in communal areas of the neighborhood.

  4. Be friendly
    As the new member of the neighborhood, it is important for you to come across as friendly and approachable. Try to keep a smile on your face, and look for opportunities to start a friendly conversation with your neighbors. Children can be a great way of getting to meet their parents if both your kids begin to play together.

  5. Have a yard sale
    One of the best ways of getting a sense of what your new neighborhood is like is by having a yard sale. Set up in your front yard, and price items such that people would be willing to buy. This is an effective way of sparking conversations with the locals and beginning to make friends.

  6. Don't be afraid to ask questions
    As you get to know the locals, ask questions about the neighborhood. Ask them how the people are like the state of local schools, the crime rate, and how the economic situation is.

  7. Keep up your old hobbies
    Just because you moved to a new area doesn't mean you should stop doing what you loved to do. Try to pick up on your old hobbies at your new location. If you used to jog daily at 6 pm, try to keep the same routine. Look for any nearby gyms to keep fit, and join local teams if you used to play a sport.

    For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Read This Before Buying
a Short Sale Home

 

For sale sign in front of homeShopping for a short sale home can present an opportunity to find a deal when buying a house, but it's important to understand exactly what to expect from the process. In a short sale transaction, the property owner's lender agrees to accept the buyer's purchase offer, even though the offer is less than the seller owes on the home. Because of the unique circumstances required for buying a house on a short sale transaction, there may be some additional hurdles to clear before you purchase the home. Short sale transactions are increasingly common, and you'll want to read our guide before taking the plunge on a short sale purchase.

  • Comparable Sales and Too Good to Be True Prices
    One key to remember with short sales is that the lender or lenders have to approve the transaction, so the asking price could be much different than what the lender will actually require. A short sale home with an extremely low price is unlikely to be approved by the lender, so it's important to look for comparable sales when shopping for a short sale home. The closer your offer comes to the home's actual value, the more likely the lender is to approve it.

  • Research Property Records and Loans
    Finding out how many loans are on the home and how much is owed will help you decide whether a short sale is worth pursuing. A property with multiple loans will require sales approval from multiple lenders, which can complicate the process. Some lenders are easier to work with on short sales than others, and I can point you in the right direction.

  • Find an Agent Who Knows Short Sales
    Working with the right real estate agent should always be a top priority when buying a house, and that's especially true when you're targeting a short sale. In addition to having familiarity with various lenders, an agent with short sale experience knows how to navigate the technical details of the process.

  • Short Sales Take Time
    You may have heard stories of short sales taking up to 6 months to close, and it's not uncommon for lenders to take multiple months to reach a decision. If you're hoping for a quick close, then a short sale is typically not the best option. If you can afford to wait, then you have a better chance of finding a deal.

  • Short Sale Documentation
    In order to sell a home on a short sale, the seller needs to submit a short sale package. The short sale package submitted with the offer should make a compelling case for why the seller needs a short sale, and the listing agent will need extensive financial documentation from the seller for the short sale package. Make sure that the seller has the necessary documentation.

  • Above Competition, Below Market
    If you're willing to take the extra steps required for a short sale, then you'll want to make sure that all of your hard work pays off with a good deal. The goal is to offer a price above other buyers, but below market value for the home. Your real estate agent should be a great resource when putting together your offer.
If you're considering a short sale home, the first thing to remember is that the transaction takes time. By preparing for the process, researching property records, reviewing the required documentation, and working with a real estate agent who has short sale experience, you can successfully navigate the process of buying a house on a short sale.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
Tips for Buying Land
to Build a New Home
 
Wood house framing
Whether you're having trouble finding the perfect home on the market or have always dreamed of building your own home from the ground up, there are a variety of advantages to buying land to build a home. But shopping for vacant land is also a bit different than buying a house, so it's important to be prepared. That's true whether you're buying acreage in the country or a smaller vacant lot in a more urban area. Researching the process ahead of time makes it much easier to find the right piece of land for your next home, and we've got some key tips to help you achieve your goals.
  1. Location
    Location is naturally still a huge priority when shopping for land, just as it would be when buying a house. You'll want to make sure that the land is located in a community you can love, with a manageable commute to work and all of the local services that you'll need. Of course, location will also have an impact on price, so it's a good idea to consider school districts, nearby attractions, the demand in the community, and anything else that may impact the cost of the land.

  2. Neighborhood
    For long-term happiness, finding the right neighborhood is almost as important as building the right home. The neighborhood where the land is located has a big impact on your day-to-day life, so consider whether a neighborhood has all of the services you need, what you'll do for fun, and what your neighbors are like. If there's anything you simply must have from your new neighborhood, place it at the top of your priority list while shopping.

  3. Zoning and Land Restrictions
    The last thing that you want is to purchase a piece of land only to find out that local zoning laws or land restrictions may keep you from building the home of your dreams. Find out whether there are restrictions on any plot that draws your interest, and research the zoning of your plot and nearby properties.

  4. Access to Utilities
    If you're buying land in a rural area, then it's vital to make sure that you will be able to gain access to all of the utilities you need, including water, power, and internet service. A larger piece of land may require new utility lines or pipes to be run, which can add to the cost of developing the land.

  5. Options for a Land Mortgage
    Planning to finance your land purchase? Then just like with buying a house, it pays to start researching your mortgage options early. It can be easier to secure a land mortgage for partially developed land with some utilities in place, but there are still loan options available for plots that haven't yet been improved in any way.
While there are a variety of unique factors to consider when buying vacant land, there are also many similarities with buying a house. By choosing the right location, understanding exactly what you're buying, planning ahead, and identifying the right real estate agent, you can find land that's perfect for building your next home.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
5 Smart Ways to Buy a
Foreclosure Bargain
 
Sign:
Buying a foreclosed home can be an excellent way to find a bargain, but there are also quite a few obstacles to overcome before landing the right foreclosure. The number of foreclosed homes available varies by area and fluctuates based on market conditions. You may be able to save significantly on the overall cost of buying a house and purchase "more home" for the same investment. Understanding exactly what you're getting into is crucial for succeeding on the foreclosure market, and we've got five tips to help you find the right home, for the right price.
  1. Never Buy a Foreclosure You Haven't Inspected
    At auctions, you will rarely have the opportunity to inspect the home, and that can lead to major regrets once the keys are in your hand. A foreclosed home may be a bargain compared to a comparable home on the open market, but it's still a major investment. If you want to avoid buyer's remorse, don't purchase a foreclosure sight unseen. Make sure you get the opportunity to complete a thorough inspection.

  2. Work with a Knowledgeable Real Estate Agent
    Just as with buying a house of any type, finding the right real estate agent will make life much easier when shopping for a foreclosure. An agent with foreclosure experience will be able to help you avoid common pitfalls, research prices for homes, find the right listings, and ultimately make a competitive bid.

  3. Research the Prices of Comparable Homes
    One way an agent can help you is by providing an analysis of the market for comparable foreclosures. While foreclosure prices are different from market prices, knowing how much a home would be worth on the market will also help you put together a strong bid that still saves you money. You can research on your own as well, by visiting listing sites that allow you to search for foreclosed homes and setting the filter to show foreclosures.

  4. Plan for Extra Costs after Purchase
    Foreclosures are sold as is. When purchasing a foreclosure, it's always wise to plan for significant maintenance and upgrade costs after your purchase. If the previous owner was unable to afford their mortgage payments due to financial distress, then there's a good chance that important maintenance tasks may have been overlooked for the same reason. A thorough inspection can give you an idea of the potential costs, but may not reveal underlying issues. And even if the home is in great shape, you'll want cash on hand to customize it to your needs once you move in.

  5. Make a Competitive Bid
    All of your research, planning, and the help of your real estate agent will really pay off when it's time to make a competitive bid. While you'll naturally be shopping for a bargain, there is likely to be competition. The right bid depends on the home, the market, the level of competition, and how much you expect to spend on maintenance/upgrades after purchase.
Buying a foreclosure is different from buying a house on the open market, but many of the same rules still apply. Inspecting the home thoroughly, knowing the price of comparable homes, and working with a real estate agent who knows foreclosures will help you make a competitive bid for the right home. While it may take more than one try to find the right match, your preparation and patience can ultimately pay off with a great bargain.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
Buyers Beware: Mortgage Closing Scams
 
Buyer Beware signBuying a home--especially your first home--is an incredibly exciting time in one's life. When it comes to closing on your mortgage, it is important to exercise caution so as not to fall prey to scams designed to steal your hard-earned money.
 
According to an FBI report, Americans lost nearly $150 million to real estate scams in 2018. In fact, scams targeting the real estate industry have increased over 1,100 percent since 2015.
 
Scammers use a variety of tactics to get rich at your expense. While the rewards of owning a home outweigh the risks of fraud, it's wise to educate yourself about common mortgage scams as you navigate the home-buying process.
 
Be Aware of Phishing Scams at Closing Time

Mortgage fraud takes many forms, and phishing scams have become increasingly popular. Scammers target real estate professionals to monitor emails and identify clients nearing closing time for the purchase of their new home.
Scammers create phony emails posing as real estate agents, closing officers, or other trusted parties attempting to coax unwitting buyers to redirect their monies into fraudulent accounts by sending last-minute changes to wiring instructions.

When in Doubt, Check it Out

While it's easy to think you would never fall for this kind of scam, these emails can look almost exactly like the real thing. There are steps you can take to avoid falling prey to this crime.

How to Avoid Being Scammed
  • Before closing on your mortgage, review the process (in person or over the phone) with trusted individuals like your real estate or settlement agent. Be careful about exchanging details about your closing through email. Agreeing to a code phrase (or safe word) only known by involved parties may be an excellent way to confirm their identities in the future.

  • Keep a record of all parties names and contact information involved in the closing for reference.

  • Before wiring any money, confirm information with trusted representatives in person or by using the phone number you previously agreed to.

  • Do not use phone numbers or links sent in an email. Scammers can closely replicate your agent's email address and phone number as part of the phising scam.

  • Do not email financial information.

  • Be cautious during phone conversations. Scammers often call and ask you to confirm your personal or financial information. When in doubt, always contact your trusted professionals to confirm whether the request is legitimate.

What to Do If It Happens to You

When it comes to closing on your mortgage, remember the adage that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Reduce your risk of fraud by remaining aware of the latest phishing scams, working with people you trust, and seeking advice from official government resources when you think something seems "phisy." While you can't completely eliminate the risk of fraud when buying a house, vigilance goes a long way toward protecting your hard-earned money.

If you suspect you are a victim of this crime:
  • Contact your bank or wire-transfer company immediately. Ask for a wire recall. By reporting the issue immediately, you can increase the likelihood that you'll be able to recover your money.

  • Call your local police department.

  • Call your lawyer.

  • Change your name and user password on all financial sites.

  • File a complaint with the FBI by contacting the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Closing on a new home can be one of your most memorable life moments. Take the right steps to ensure your home-buying memories are happy ones.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Mortgage 101: Home Loan Basics
 
Mortgage contract with set of keys on topBuying a house is one of the most significant financial commitments most people make in a lifetime. Most home buyers don't make their purchase with one lump sum of money. A mortgage makes it possible to pay for a home over time. If you're buying a house for the first time, it's essential to understand how mortgages work, and what to expect from your loan. Fortunately, there's plenty of help available, starting with our guide to home loan basics.
  • How Does a Mortgage Work, and Why Is It Necessary?
    A mortgage is a loan used to purchase a home, and in many ways, it's similar to loans for a smaller purchase. The difference – aside from term and overall cost – is that a mortgage is specifically for buying a home, and it's customizable. You borrow an agreed amount, pay a set or adjustable interest rate to the lender, and have a predetermined time to pay back the loan.

  • Key Steps Toward Qualifying for a Mortgage
    There are a wide variety of mortgage types available when buying a house with varying qualification standards. In addition to conventional mortgages, the three types of government-backed mortgages are VA loans, FHA loans, and USDA loans. To qualify, you'll need to meet a minimum credit score requirement, verify your income with documentation, and deal with any errors/issues on your credit report. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage gives you an idea of your buying power, and shows sellers you're serious about buying a house.

  • How Your Down Payment Impacts Your Loan
    The size of your down payment will impact the size of your monthly mortgage payment, and with conventional mortgages may also influence your interest rate. Making a larger down payment means you borrow less money, which may let you pay the loan off faster.

  • Interest Rates and Your Mortgage
    Every mortgage type has a set, base interest rate. Your rate will also be influenced by how much you choose to pay in closing costs – paying more closing costs means a lower rate while opting to pay less can increase your rate.

  • Calculating Monthly Mortgage Payments
    Your monthly mortgage payment depends on three key factors: how much you borrowed, how much interest you're paying, and how long you have to pay back the loan. Plug those three data points into a mortgage calculator, and you can calculate your monthly payments. Remember that if you opt for an adjustable-rate mortgage, your payments are subject to change over time.

  • Speeding Up the Process of Paying Off Your Mortgage
    If you wish to pay off your mortgage ahead of schedule, there are two main options. Either you can refinance, allowing you to pay off the loan more quickly, or you can pay more than required each month. If you want to pay off your loan early, work with your lender to find the path that's best for you.
Working with a lender you know and trust makes life much easier. If you're not sure where to start, your real estate agent can help you find a lender. By consulting trusted sources, doing your research, and asking key questions, you can navigate the process of securing a mortgage with confidence.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Becoming a Home Maintenance Pro:
Tips for New Homeowners
 
Repair person caulking windowsBuying a house is a big achievement, and also the start of a long, rewarding journey. As a new homeowner, you have a lot on your plate getting familiar with your new dwelling, moving all of your possessions, and getting used to making mortgage payments. Home improvement will also become an important part of life moving forward, and it's wise to start on home maintenance tasks as soon as possible once you move in. Start your life as a new homeowner on the right foot, with our guide to becoming a home maintenance pro.
  • Start with a Deep Cleaning
    Ideally, the home should be spotless when you move in, but it doesn't hurt to make sure every corner has been scrubbed. In addition to all the usual home improvement benefits of cleaning, scouring every corner of the house will help you spot any maintenance issues. Be sure to clean the areas around appliances, check the coils on your fridge, and check basements/crawlspaces. Stay on top of cleaning year-round, and always keep an eye out for maintenance problems while you work.

  • Caulk Around Doors and Windows
    A poorly sealed home can lead to a significant increase in energy costs, and make it harder to keep the temperature in your home comfortable. Check around doors, windows, vents, and other openings, to make sure they're sealed. You can pick up silicone caulk at your local hardware store to take care of any trouble spots.

  • Find Your Circuit Breaker and Water Shut-off Valve
    As a new homeowner, it's essential to prepare for emergencies, so that you can respond quickly. Learn where your water shut-off valve is so that you can cut water quickly if a pipe bursts, and find your circuit breaker so that you can control the electricity in your home. That way, if there's an emergency or you need to work on one of those systems, you'll always know where to go.

  • Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    Your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are lifelines in the event of an emergency and can tip you off to trouble before things get out of control. Make sure to check regularly that both types of detectors are working, and replace batteries as needed.

  • Maintain Your HVAC System
    Does your new home have central heating and air conditioning? Then you'll want to stay on top of HVAC maintenance. Change the filters regularly based on manufacturer's instructions, and have an HVAC pro visit twice per year to check that your system is in good working order.

  • Take Care of Your Outdoor Deck
    An outdoor deck is a perfect place for a party, but it will need a bit of annual work to stay in great shape. Late summer or early fall are great times to stain and reseal your deck so that it will be ready for outdoor fun when the warm weather returns.

  • Know When to Call a Contractor
    While there is a ton you can handle DIY around the house, some jobs require specialized tools and expertise. Find a contractor you trust or ask for referrals from trusted sources, and rely on the pros whenever you need an experienced hand.
Home improvement is a constant, ongoing project for most homeowners, so it's a good idea to get used to the process when you move into your first home. By staying on top of maintenance and keeping an eye out for signs of trouble, you can tackle small maintenance issues before they become big ones.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
8 Things to Negotiate
When Buying a House
 
Wooden blocks spelling win close.When it comes to buying a house, you need every advantage you can get. That's why honing your negotiating skills is so important. The ability to haggle is crucial to getting the right price, but the right price is just one of many things that are negotiable when you're buying a house. Here's what else you can work into the deal.

  1. Closing Date
    You may want flexibility on the closing date for any number of reasons. You could be in a hurry to move in because you're starting a new job on a specific date, or maybe you want to push the date back so your kids can finish the current school year. Closing date is always open to negotiation, but do keep in mind that the seller may have their own timetable, so try to arrive at a date that serves all parties.

  2. Closing Costs
    These can cover any number of one-time fees that must be paid on closing day. Closing costs often include inspection and appraisal fees, loan origination fees, recording fees, and lender title insurance. They are typically paid by the buyer, but that rule is not set in stone. As home prices continue to rise, it's common for buyers to negotiate a deal in which sellers pay the closing costs.

  3. Contingencies
    A contingency essentially stipulates an action or condition that must be met before a real estate contract becomes binding. Some of the most common contingencies include inspections, appraisals, and repairs, but the buyer or seller can negotiate any number of contingencies. For example, you could stipulate that purchasing your new home is contingent upon financing coming through, or upon selling your old home.

  4. Inspections
    No one should ever buy a home without having it professionally inspected. With that in mind, the specifics of that inspection (i.e. the inspection timetable, the depth of the inspection and how you proceed after the results come in) are often open to being a negotiation. If the seller tries to negotiate a sale in which they refuse an inspection, you should see that as a major red flag.

  5. Repairs
    If a home inspection reveals problems or defects, it's up to the buyer and seller to decide whether repairs will be made before the sale is finalized. You can reach an agreement that repairs must be completed at the cost of the seller, or negotiate a lower sale price that takes the cost of repairs into account.

  6. Appliances
    It's quite common for large appliances to be included in the sale of a house, but be sure to ask. As a buyer, it's important to know exactly what you're buying. If you want the seller to leave the refrigerator, washer and dryer, or other major appliances behind, you can include it in the negotiations. Conversely, if you want the seller to take these items with them, you can make that clear as well.


  7. Taxes
    Many states and cities have required transfer taxes and fees that must be paid when a property changes hands. Whether the buyer or seller pays these fees is not set in stone. In a buyer's market, it's not uncommon for buyers to insist that the sellers pay these taxes; but if you're a buyer looking to make your offer more attractive, you could offer to pay them yourself.


  8. Furniture
    Including furniture in the sale of a home isn't quite as common as including appliances, but it's not unheard-of. If you absolutely love the decor, you can negotiate a price that includes any part of it that you and the seller agree on (although it may need to be drawn up in a separate contract from the property itself).
The fine art of negotiating is one of the best skills you can have when you're buying a house, and it's also important to work with a real estate agent who can bring his or her bargaining skills to the table. And remember, price is just one of many things that may be open to negotiation.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
 
Buying Your First Home Might
Be Closer Than You Think
 
Couple holding keysBuying a house is one of the biggest parts of the American dream, but that doesn't mean you have to wait for it your whole life. If you take the right steps, you can start on the path to homeownership right now.

Each step builds on the last, and you'll learn more about your needs and challenges as you go. If you run into something you need to reassess, advice is a call or email away. Real estate agents help first-time buyers like you every day.

Here's how to get off to a good start when buying a house:
  1. Work on Building Your Credit
    Strengthening your credit can help you get a better interest rate on your mortgage and may save you thousands of dollars. Aim to pay off (but not close!) any high-interest credit accounts you may have. Don't start on any new financial obligations, such as a car loan.

  2. Gather Financial Information
    Any loan provider you work with will want details of your financial situation. That usually includes three months of pay stubs and two years of tax filings. If you are self-employed or your income varies for other reasons, you may need to submit a longer income history. If you have past issues such as bankruptcies or charge-offs, prepare to explain them.

  3. Develop a Budget
    Tally up your monthly expenses and income sources to figure out how much disposable income you'll have for home expenses. You might find costs you can cut so you can save for your down payment. Remember, you shouldn't spend more than 30% of your monthly income on housing.

  4. Talk to a Real Estate Agent
    Before you talk to a lender, reach out to a real estate agent you can trust. He or she will help you get clear on your needs and develop realistic expectations for the process. A real estate agent will be your best ally throughout the process, answering your questions and steering you toward the resources you need to get to closing day without a hitch.

  5. Get Prequalified for a Loan
    Prequalification is a process where you submit financial information to your lender of choice so a loan package can be issued as soon as you need it. This is essential if you are dealing with "motivated sellers" or putting in a bid on a home that has attracted a lot of prospective buyers.

  6. Assess Your "Must Haves"
    It's time to start making your dreams a reality. Everyone who will be living in the home should come up with a list of five features that they most want from it. Although it's hard to find a perfect home, this will help you zoom in on areas where everyone agrees. You'll also know at a glance which properties don't match your priorities, saving you time.

  7. Compare Homes and Neighborhoods
    This is where your real estate agent shines. He or she should get you off to a running start with a list of neighborhoods that suit you. From there, make time every weekend to attend open houses, tour properties, and look at current listings. You can do it!

  8. Get a Home Inspection
    A home inspection gives you a complete report on the home's condition from top to bottom. Most buyers choose to walk away from homes with electrical, plumbing, or pest issues, and mortgage programs for first-time buyers will not finance homes with certain serious defects.
Buying a house is a lot to wrap your mind around at first, but it's easier than it looks.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Can Moving Really Be Stress-Free?
 
The answer is: "You Bet!" Buying a house is a huge deal. If you've just started house hunting or are already under contract, moving is the next giant step in this process. Moving can be stressful and chaotic. The good news is packing and moving can be relatively effortless with some planning and organization.
 

Use these simple steps to get started:
 
Get Organized - Having a plan is critical if you are going to make your move stress-free. Begin by making a list of everything you need to do and divide it into weeks. Allow yourself enough time to complete all the tasks.
 
Start Packing Well in Advance - Time is not always our friend. If you can, start packing at least eight weeks ahead of time. (If you have more time--even better.)
 
Don't Move it All - Instead of trying to figure out how you are going to do it all, first determine if you really even need it. Inventory all of your belongings and decide what to donate, sell or toss and what will actually be moved. Decluttering and simplifying your life can actually help lessen the load, and moving into a new home is a great time to do it.
 
Label Your Boxes - While tossing everything into boxes and sorting it once you move seems like a great idea, organized packing will pay off in the long run. Label each box with detailed descriptions. Color-coding boxes by room makes it easier when it comes time to unpack.
 
Make a Survival Kit - Just like anyone going on a great journey, it's important to pack a survival kit. In it should be the basic necessities that you and your family will need at some point during the day, the things you just can't make it through a day without. In your kit should be things like: Toiletries, Water, Snacks, Phone chargers.
 
Get Familiar with Your New Digs - Familiarize yourself with your new home and community before moving day. Spend some time driving around, determining where grocery stores, shopping areas and restaurants are located. When moving day comes, you won't waste time searching for hardware stores or places to eat. Spending time in your new home can also help you better envision where your belongings should be placed.
 
Hire a Professional Mover - Perhaps the most stressful part of packing and moving is the actual process. It's true that doing all the heavy lifting will save on your bottom line, but it's going to cost you in terms of a sore back and added stress. Letting a professional mover handle everything takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process for you and ensures that moving day will go as smoothly as possible.
 
No matter how you decide to de-stress your moving day, it's important you keep everything in perspective. Don't decide that all your boxes need to be unpacked in one day. Make sure you take time for yourself on moving day to relax and reflect on what you've accomplished. 
 
For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me.
 
5 Ways to Know If a
Neighborhood is Kid-Friendly
 
Mom, Dad and 2 kidsWhere are you planning to buy your new house? If you have children, it's likely that nothing is more important to you than their overall well-being. When your adult life necessitates for you to relocate to a new neighborhood, it might be harder for your children to find a place they like than for you. So, if you are moving to a new neighborhood, take an in-depth look at the area to determine whether it's the right fit for your kids.

Here are five ways to know whether a new neighborhood is kid-friendly.
  1. Review the Educational Resources
    Check out the ratings and reviews of public schools in the area. The reports will weigh heavily on the sort of education your kids will receive. Look at the schools in the neighborhood and also other educational resources such as daycare centers. Investigate if the enrollment is high or low? From that, you'll know the number of families with younger kids that are entering or leaving the area.

    Also, check out the local private tutors. Most of the time, private tutors only play a role if the demand for educational assistance exceeds the supply. If too many children in public schools require help, private tutors come in to fill the gaps left by overworked tutors. Checking if there are active private tutors is a fast and simple way to determine whether families with young kids stay in the neighborhood.

    It is highly unlikely that you would hire a new plumbing company without reading their reviews. Therefore, do the same before buying a house in a new neighborhood.

  2. How Many Kids Live in the Neighborhood?
    Ask your real estate agent or local police about how many children live in the area, especially those who are of the same age as your kids. More children in the neighborhood mean a better social experience for your children and the community.

    Your children will have a chance to have friends and grow their social horizons. Given that no families are staying in the prospective neighborhood yet, you might want to look for other options for the sake of your children.

  3. Public Green Spaces for Kids
    Green spaces allow young children to play and be themselves. They can read books in the fresh air, create art without messing the house, and run around using their vast amounts of energy. All in all, green spaces allow for creativity, imagination, and fulfillment in your children.

    Backyards are essential outdoor spaces, particularly for families with pets, but your kids may need more outdoor exposure. Ensure your new neighborhood has expansive gathering places where your children can interact with their peers. Look out for parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, and basketball courts.

  4. Year-Round Activities for Children
    Check if the new neighborhood offers public opportunities for children throughout the year. Such opportunities include library reading programs for kids, summer camps and local sports. If the area does not offer child-centric opportunities, you may want to look at other areas before buying a house. The idea is to live in a neighborhood that offers children a chance to grow their talents and explore wisely.

  5. Pay Attention to the Advertisements
    Just by taking a look at the advertising in the community, you can determine whether it is kid-friendly or not. Investigate who the local businesses are targeting. Are the local parks holding little league sports? Does the local theatre offer programs for kids? Who do the local restaurants attract?
Buying a house in unfamiliar territory is a huge step. If you have children, you want to ensure that the new place has low crime and offers kid-friendly opportunities. Performing a survey before buying a house will ensure you find the right neighborhood for your kids. If the area meets the requirements above then you can rest assured that your whole family will love your choice.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
6 Tips on Buying Acreage
 
Farm field
Are you considering a move to the country, on a lot where you can build the unique home of your dreams? There are many advantages to buying acreage, but the process is a bit different than what you may be used to when buying a house. Location is still a huge priority, and it's important to know exactly what to look for from the right piece of land. Understanding how to identify the right acreage for your needs will make it much easier to find the ideal match, whether you're buying as an investment or looking for a place to build your next home. Start the process with our 6 tips for buying an acreage that you'll love long-term.
  1. Remember That Location Is Still King
    It may be a bit different than choosing the right location in an urban setting, but selecting the right location for your acreage is still one of your most important priorities. Consider your commute time for work, how long it will take to reach necessary nearby services, and of course what you want from the setting of your property. Every shopper is different, and the right location for you depends on personal factors.

  2. Consider the Availability of Services
    Buying an acreage doesn't mean going "off the grid," so you'll definitely want to check on the availability of key services like utilities, garbage collection, internet service, and road maintenance. Learn whether there are any existing wells on the property, assess their quality, and find out if you will have to build a new septic tank for your home.

  3. Learn the Rules of the Land
    Acreage can be a blank canvas for building a new house, but first, you'll want to make sure there aren't any restrictions on how you can use the land. Find out if there are any protective covenants or ordinances that regulate how you can use the land, as well as any local zoning laws that apply to the property. Contacting the local zoning commission is the best place to start when discovering how you can use a potential property.

  4. Research Property Boundaries
    In addition to learning about zoning rules, you'll also want to know exactly how much land you'll be getting when you buy an acreage. You can check with the county assessor's office to find out exactly how many acres are being taxed for the property, which will give you a strong idea of what you're buying. For added security, consider hiring a professional surveyor to analyze the property boundaries.

  5. Consider Additional Costs of Ownership
    Maintaining an acreage may come with additional costs, like an ATV, mower, garages, and farming equipment if you plan to grow food. Consider how you expect to use the land, and plan for any additional costs of ownership that may arise.

  6. Rely on Your Real Estate Agent
    Whether you're buying acreage or buying a house, the right real estate agent can make life so much easier. Start the process by interviewing agents with rural experience until you find someone who suits your needs, and then rely on your agent whenever you need advice. The right agent will have the experience and knowledge necessary to allow you to purchase acreage with confidence.
Buying an acreage may be different from buying a house, but the processes also share many similarities. By choosing the right location, preparing for costs of ownership, learning the rules of the land, and relying on your real estate agent to assist you throughout the process, you can find the acreage that best suits your needs.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
10 Tips to Make Moving Easier
 
Couple holding boxesThere are a lot of things to look forward to when you buy your first home and move on to the next chapter in your life. Packing up all your things is not one of them. Still, moving day is unavoidable, and when that day comes, these simple tips will make the process easier than you thought possible.
  1. Get More Boxes
    They say it's better to be safe than sorry, and when it comes to packing, they're absolutely right. Make sure you have plenty of boxes before moving day, along with packaging tape and labels, so you know you won't run out.

  2. Pack Smarter
    Keep in mind that one size doesn't fit all. Get large boxes as well as small ones so you can stuff the big ones with lightweight items (pillows, towels, clothes), and fill the smaller ones with heavy stuff (books, knick-knacks, electronics).

  3. Make a Packing Playlist
    Everything gets easier when you have the right tunes playing. Make a playlist you can pack and unpack to. Keep it upbeat and filled with your favorite jams to help you keep moving, and steer clear of sad songs about moving on and leaving things behind.

  4. Stretch it Out
    There's no reason to wait until the last minute. The farther ahead you can make arrangements and start working on packing, the less stress you will feel. Give yourself at least four weeks for the whole process. Start by making lists and getting organized, and then move on to packing up items you seldom use before you start boxing up the essentials.

  5. Don't Pack on Moving Day
    Moving day is for moving, not packing. By the time you wake up on moving day, everything should already be boxed up and ready to put into the truck.

  6. De-Clutter Your Life
    When you sell your house and get ready to move, you have a great opportunity to reduce clutter and get rid of unwanted items. Have a yard sale. Donate old clothes and unused furniture. Recycle what you can, and throw out what you can't. The less you own, the easier it is to pack it all up.

  7. Keep Irreplaceable Items With You
    Don't waste valuable mental energy worrying about whether your valuables and family heirlooms will make it out of the moving truck unscathed. Set aside items that have sentimental value and can't be replaced, and carry them to your new home in person so you know they're safe.

  8. Label and Color-Code Everything
    It's impossible to overstate the importance of labels. Make sure every box is clearly marked so you know exactly what's inside. Take it a step farther by color-coding your labels based on where everything goes, using different colored labels for each room.

  9. Put Your Kids to Work
    If you have children who are old enough to help out, give them jobs to do. Feeling important and being able to help out will make the process easier for them, and will definitely take some weight off your shoulders. If you have kids who are too young to help out, it's usually best to send them off with a relative on moving day.

  10. Pack a "First Day" Box
    Set aside anything that you will need right away when you arrive at your new home and put it all in one box. Include essential toiletries, phone chargers, a coffee maker, and anything else you want to have easy access to as soon as you arrive.
When you're moving, countless exciting paths lie ahead. Following these ten moving tips will make the moving process much more simple and stress-free.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
6 Questions to Ask a Buyer's Agent
 
Man, woman, agent sitting at deskThere are a lot of great real estate agents out there. But just because someone is a great agent doesn't mean they're the right agent for you. You need someone skilled, experienced and, above all, dedicated to helping you find your dream home. These are the questions you need to ask to find a great buyer's agent.
  1. Are you fully licensed?
    You don't want to work with someone for whom real estate is a part-time job or a hobby. You want an agent who is dedicated to the job and has had years of experience. Ask if the agent is fully licensed. If the answer is, "yes," ask how long they have had their real estate license.

  2. What is your experience in the neighborhoods I'm interested in?
    Markets change from day to day, and from one neighborhood to the next. If you know where you want to live, it's important to find a real estate agent who has a solid understanding of the real estate market in the neighborhood you're interested in. That includes the ability to track real estate trends in that neighborhood over a long period of time.

  3. What can you tell me about your negotiation style?
    The ability to negotiate is one of the biggest things home buyers look for in a real estate agent. But negotiating skills aren't always something that every agent has. Ask about negotiation courses they have taken, and tough deals they have had to go through. The ability to negotiate is crucial to you getting the best price on your home.

  4. How many homes have you bought or sold in the last year?
    This is one of those questions that doesn't really have a right or wrong answer. But the answer could still tell you a lot, and you may get a gut feeling about an agent based on how they answer this question. If they give you a large number, that might mean that they're good at buying and selling houses, but it could also indicate that they have a lot of clients, so you might not get the level of attention you deserve. On the other hand, if they answer with a lower number, it doesn't necessarily mean they aren't good at their job; it could simply mean that they dedicate all their resources to relatively few clients.

  5. Can I talk to some of your former clients?
    Hopefully, before you meet with a real estate agent in person, you will already have read some online reviews and gotten a sense of how the agent's former clients feel about the service they received. Even so, talking to those clients in person can be very illuminating. Plus, the way the agent answers this question can tell you a lot. Pay close attention to how willing they are to refer you to old clients.

  6. Do you have experience with clients like me?
    There may be no more important question to ask an agent. It's essential that you work with someone who not only has a lot of experience but who has a lot of experience in situations like yours. Have they sold a lot of homes in your price range? If you are a first-time homebuyer, do they have a lot of experience with helping people buy their first home?
Having a great buyer's agent on your side is one of the best ways to make the process of finding your dream home much easier. There are a lot of great agents out there, and finding the right one comes down to asking the right questions.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
10 Mistakes to Avoid as a
First-Time Home Buyer
 
Couple on couch rejoicingBuying your first home is an exciting experience, but it is also a complicated process. Learning all you can about that process before you get started is essential to reaching your end goal – buying a house you'll be proud to call home at a price you can afford. One of the most important things to learn about is how to avoid costly missteps along the way, so here are ten mistakes to avoid as a first-time home buyer:
  1. Not dealing with credit reports ahead of time
    Check your credit reports – even if you are sure you have good credit. Report errors are common, and they can increase your interest rate, or even make it difficult to get approved for a loan. Get copies of your reports and make sure they are accurate. If not, get them corrected before they are examined by lenders.


  2. Not knowing what you can comfortably afford
    You need a solid budget in place to avoid getting in over your head when buying a house, so tally up your expenses carefully. Subtract the total from your take-home pay and see what's left every month for an accurate appraisal of how much you can afford to pay for your new home.


  3. Not getting pre-approved for a loan
    Having a pre-approval in hand when you're ready to make an offer on home signals the seller that you are a serious buyer, prepared to make a deal and follow through. Not having one, especially in a competitive market, can result in your offer being rejected in favor of one from a buyer who has all their ducks in a row.


  4. Failing to shop around for the best mortgage deal
    Many first-time home buyers pay more than they should for a home loan by getting a mortgage from the first lender they speak to. Get quotes from at least three to compare interest rates, fees, and terms.


  5. Under-estimating the costs of home buying
    First-time home buyers are often taken off-guard by expenses that come up during the home-buying process. Expenses to budget for include appraisal and home inspection fees, and the biggie; Closing costs, which are generally between 2 and 5 percent of the purchase price of the home.


  6. Applying for new credit or spending too much before the closing
    Your mortgage is approved and the closing date is set. Now you're home free, right? Not quite. Your lender will check your credit again just before closing, and if you have made large purchases or opened new credit accounts, your credit score could fall. This may result in a higher interest rate or even a mortgage cancellation.


  7. Looking for perfection and overlooking potential
    Great homes can be decorated badly, so being able to overlook cosmetic, easy-to-fix details to see the potential of a home is key to making your best deal.


  8. Failing to consider the neighborhood
    You may love the house, but will you hate the neighborhood? Check it out before you sign on the dotted line.


  9. Skipping the inspection
    If you really love a home, it can be tempting to speed the process by skipping the inspection. This can be an extremely costly mistake, leading to large, unexpected expenses later.


  10. Not using an agent
    A good buyer's agent will protect your interests – and only your interests – as you navigate the home-buying process. Having someone solidly in your corner when you're buying a house is invaluable when it comes to avoiding the common pitfalls first-time home buyers often encounter on the road to becoming a new homeowner.
I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Tips for Picking an Interior Decorator
 
Interior decorator in livingroomHave you decided to hire a professional interior decorator? Perhaps you are moving into a new home, or maybe you want to update your current décor. An interior decorator can offer you insights and skills that go beyond aesthetics. They can help with space maximization and turning unused space into livable areas.

Expertise for Any Home

Interior decorators aren't just for the rich and famous. Yes, the affluent do use them to plan their home furnishings. At the same time, interior decorators excel at optimizing your budget to make your home stunning, well planned, and more useful. You can choose an interior decorator to design and execute a project for your whole house, or you can hire one to help with a smaller project.


An interior decorator can assist with advice on paint colors, fabric sourcing, lighting, space planning, and furniture shopping. Hiring an interior decorator can also be on an "as needed" basis when your budget allows. This gives you access to expertise and insight while enabling you to fulfill your vision of a perfect home for you and your family.

Once you have decided to hire an interior decorator, you need a plan to select the right professional for your project. Here are some tried and true recommendations for finding an interior decorator.

Where to Look

Doing a quick internet search may be a good starting point, but you need more information before actually hiring an interior decorator. Consider these three steps as well:
  1. Interview your prospective interior decorator. You may fall in love with a particular look in a model home or ad in a magazine, but the best way to know if that decorator can produce the same effect in your home is to sit down and talk to that person.
  2. Ask friends and family for recommendations. If you have family or neighbors who used a professional decorator, talk to them about the experience. If it was positive, consider contacting that interior decorator as a starting point.
  3. Go through a professional organization. Your city may have a chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). You can search their list of local members or use their referral service.
Professional Certification

If this is your first time choosing an interior decorator, you may feel more comfortable hiring one with professional certification. Some states regulate the interior design industry and require specific education and degrees to obtain a state certification. Also, an individual may be required to pass a certification exam by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).
ASID accreditation means that your decorator has completed the required experience and education to meet state guidelines. Also, they will be up-to-date on building codes as well as project management. This is especially pertinent if your project involves construction and subcontractors.

If your interior design project does not need an accredited interior designer, you can interview interior decorators that focus on less complex projects.

As with any project, assessing your specific needs and desires is the best place to start. Do you want help coordinating colors and fabrications? Do you want expertise in maximizing space in a small kitchen? Once you have your objectives clearly defined, finding the right interior decorator will go much more smoothly.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
5 Reasons to Buy Instead of Rent
 
Couple holding key
While renting a home is a rite of passage for most people, there comes a time when most of us get tired of stroking a check to the landlord every month. If you've started thinking about joining the 65 percent of Americans who own their own homes, you'll be glad to know that now is a great time to do it!

Not sure if you're ready to take the leap into homeownership? Check out these five huge advantages of buying a house over renting.
  1. It's a Great Long-Term Investment
    It's true that buying a home adds some expenses you won't have as a renter. You'll have to pay for things like closing costs on the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance expenses. However, when you're paying down your own mortgage instead of paying monthly rent, you're investing in your future. Buying a house allows you to build equity that you can later pull out if you need it. Owning a home also gives you an asset that you can sell when you get older or pass onto your loved ones.

  2. You May Qualify for Tax Benefits
    Although tax laws are complicated, many homeowners are able to take deductions for the mortgage interest they pay. This gives those who buy a home a clear advantage over those who continue to rent.

  3. Buying a House Give You More Control
    When you sign a rental lease, there are usually a ton of stipulations you'll need to follow. You may not get to decide what color to paint the living room or whether you'll add a dog to your family. Want to put a pool in the backyard or add an extra bathroom? If you rent, you're out of luck. Buying your own home gives you the power to make all of these decisions and more. You can control the landscaping and all of your home's interior and exterior features. You also get to decide who stays in your home with you, and for how long.

  4. Homeownership Gives You More Security
    As long as you make your mortgage and property tax payments on time, no one can throw you out of a home you own. As a renter, however, there's always a chance that the property owner will decide to sell the property, and you'll have to move. When this happens, it's almost never at a time that's convenient for you.

    There's also the chance that your landlord will eventually raise your rent as the cost of living continues to rise. Homeowners who have locked in a fixed mortgage payment are creating extra stability in their lives. While your homeowner's insurance, utility expenses, and property taxes will likely rise, you'll at least have the peace of mind in knowing that your mortgage payment will never go up. Even better, once you pay off the mortgage, you can eliminate that expense from your budget. As a renter, you'll never have that opportunity.

  5. You'll Feel a Huge Sense of Accomplishment
    For many people, buying a house is one of the biggest accomplishments of their lifetime. You'll be able to feel proud of what you've done, and know that you've done what it takes to make your dream of owning a home a reality!
I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
Help for Choosing the Right Siding
 
House with siding being installedWhen it comes to choosing your home's siding, the number of choices available can be overwhelming. It is the first part of your home that anyone will see which adds more pressure to the decision-making process. The good news is there is a simple approach to choosing your best option.

While it's easy to get distracted by choices such as color, it comes down to the best combination of price, durability, and return on investment. With that in mind, here's our guide to choosing the best siding options for your home.

What You Need to Know About Siding
To begin with, let's make take a quick look at each of these three factors.
  1. Price is the amount you pay for materials and the labor to install the siding. Before making any purchase, you should have an idea of your budget and what you can afford.

  2. The next factor is durability. Durability is the projected number of years that you should expect before having to replace the siding again. While your goal may be that you only do this once, you need to consider the fact that you could do it again if you plan to own your home for a while.

  3. The third factor is the return on investment. Return on investment comes into play when you sell your home. Your ROI is based on how much value is added to your home by replacing the siding. Some siding investments can recoup up to 83% of their value according to some studies.
Let's take a look at siding options available today.

Vinyl Siding

Perhaps the most common type of siding these days is vinyl. Its combination of affordability and ease of installation make it an ideal choice for most homeowners. There is also a wide range of color and accessory options to choose from which further adds to its appeal.

In addition to being lower priced, some homeowners even feel comfortable installing it themselves which can save on the labor costs. The tradeoff for the lower price will be durability. While you can expect to enjoy your vinyl for 15 years or more, it will typically not last as long as some of the other options.

Fiber Cement

One of the newer options available today is Fiber Cement Siding. Its popularity has continued to grow due to its combination of price and durability. Homeowners can expect to enjoy their fiber cement siding for 30 years and beyond.

One potential drawback of this type of siding is the installation process. The fiber cement siding is much heavier and requires special tools and installation techniques. This could drive up your costs due to increased installation labor charges.

Wood

Nothing turns heads like a beautiful wood sided home. Plus, you can customize the look of wood siding. Depending on the grain of the wood and stain that you intend to use, you can create a naturally beautiful look to your home.

The challenges with wood are price and maintenance. Wood siding is going to be more expensive than other options. Plus, you will have to re-stain or re-paint it every 3 to 5 years. Since the wood exterior can last for 20 years, you could end up doing this several times while you own your home.

The Bottom Line

Stay focused on price, durability, and ROI, and you can't go wrong with any of these siding options.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.


Move or Improve? You Decide
 
Woman sitting on floor with paint supplies
Your house doesn't meet your needs anymore. Perhaps you've run out of space. Maybe your house's appliances or style are out of date. Whatever your reasons, you've decided you need a change. But do you renovate the home you've got to better suit you and your family? Or do you look for a new one that already does? The answer depends on your needs, your financial situation, and your tolerance for the stresses involved in moving and renovation.

Your Needs
 
One of the benefits of renovation is that you can all but guarantee you'll get what you need—within reason. Does your kitchen need updating? Do you need an extra bathroom or bedroom? Those types of renovations might be easier than buying a house in your neighborhood, at your price point, that has everything you need.
Getting what you want with a new home depends on what's available in the market. You might have to make compromises in price, features, or area. At the same time, the market can provide many more options with a new home than could ever be available with a simple renovation.
 
Ultimately, the choice of what, when, and where to buy is always yours. The decision on what to renovate, however, is generally static. You'll still be limited by your finances, equity, and your home.

Finances

In most cases, paying for a renovation will be easier than buying a house. While renovations aren't cheap, they're still less than buying a new home, and they're easier to pay for. If you've lived in your home for a while, chances are it has accrued equity. Equity is the difference between the current value of the house and the balance left on your mortgage. Typically, homeowners use home equity loans to pay for renovations because they're easy to secure; Your home is the collateral securing the loan.
If your current house has little to no equity, it probably makes more financial sense to buy a new home than renovate. Without equity, you'd likely have to take out a personal loan which could be harder to secure and more expensive to payback. Also, you might be better off buying a house if the cost of your current mortgage plus a home equity loan would exceed or match a new mortgage.

Stress

Neither renovation nor buying a house are stress-free. The renovation will likely require you to live, at least part-time, in a construction zone for weeks or more. It'll be loud, there will be strange people in your home, and it'll be messy. You might also have to endure interruptions in power, plumbing, and the internet.

Moving has its stresses, too. Of course, there's the actual process of packing and moving. There's also the emotional toll of leaving a home, a neighborhood, and possibly friends and family. There's also the stress of selling the old house, which could persist well past the time you've moved into the new one.

Deciding to renovate your current home or to buy a new one isn't easy. However, if you understand what your current and future needs are, you can make a decision that will make you happy.

If you would like a free estimate of what your home might sell for please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Tips on Buying Land for Sale
 
View of 2 lane road in country
Are you considering a move to the country, on a lot where you can build the unique home of your dreams? There are many advantages to buying acreage, but the process is a bit different that what you may be used to when buying a house. Location is still a huge priority, and it's important to know exactly what to look for from the right piece of land. Understanding how to identify the right acreage for your needs will make it much easier to find the ideal match, whether you're buying as an investment or looking for a place to build your next home. Start the process with our six tips for buying an acreage that you'll love long-term.
  1. Remember That Location Is Still King
    It may be a bit different than choosing the right location in an urban setting, but selecting the right location for your acreage is still one of your most important priorities. Consider your commute time for work, how long it will take to reach necessary nearby services, and of course what you want from the setting of your property. Every shopper is different, and the right location for you depends on personal factors.

  2. Consider the Availability of Services
    Buying an acreage doesn't mean going "off the grid," so you'll definitely want to check on the availability of key services like utilities, garbage collection, internet service, and road maintenance. Learn whether there are any existing wells on the property, assess their quality, and find out if you will have to build a new septic tank for your home.

  3. Learn the Rules of the Land
    Acreage can be a blank canvas for building a new house, but first, you'll want to make sure there aren't any restrictions on how you can use the land. Find out if there are any protective covenants or ordinances that regulate how you can use the land, as well as any local zoning laws that apply to the property. Contacting the local zoning commission is the best place to start when discovering how you can use a potential property.

  4. Research Property Boundaries
    In addition to learning about zoning rules, you'll also want to know exactly how much land you'll be getting when you buy an acreage. You can check with the county assessor's office to find out exactly how many acres are being taxed for the property, which will give you a strong idea of what you're buying. For added security, consider hiring a professional surveyor to analyze the property boundaries.

  5. Consider Additional Costs of Ownership
    Maintaining an acreage may come with additional costs, like an ATV, mower, garages, and farming equipment if you plan to grow food. Consider how you expect to use the land, and plan for any additional costs of ownership that may arise.

  6. Rely on Your Real Estate Agent
    Whether you're buying acreage or buying a house, the right real estate agent can make life so much easier. Start the process by interviewing agents with rural experience until you find someone who suits your needs, and then rely on your agent whenever you need advice. The right agent will have the experience and knowledge necessary to allow you to purchase acreage with confidence.
Buying an acreage may be different from buying a house, but the processes also share many similarities. By choosing the right location, preparing for costs of ownership, learning the rules of the land, and relying on your real estate agent to assist you throughout the process, you can find the acreage that best suits your needs.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Today's Buyer: How Technology
Helps You Buy a Home
 
Family looking at laptop screen
Technology changes everything, from the way we communicate to the way we experience the world. It would be impossible to count the ways in which technology has changed real estate in recent years.
 
But the real question isn't how has technology changed the game, it's how can you use it to help you win. If you're gearing up to buy a home, it's essential to use technology to your advantage. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to do just that.
  • Searching for a Home
    The Web has vastly improved the speed and ease at which today's buyers can search for homes. A lot of the long-distance driving associated with finding a home has been replaced with online searching. Real estate websites have made it much faster to conduct an online search and narrow down your options before you start visiting homes in person. These websites are not exactly new, but they continue to evolve, with ever-improving tools to search for homes based on price range, location, amenities, and many other criteria.


  • Finding an Agent
    With or without technology, a skilled real estate agent is still one of the greatest resources you can have. But the ways you can connect with real estate agents have greatly improved thanks to technology, which allows you to view an agent's accomplishments, awards, and experience at the touch of a button. Social media also makes it easier to learn more about a prospective real estate agent; chances are your agent will have personal and/or professional profiles on all the major social media platforms.


  • Viewing Homes
    It wasn't long ago that browsing online real estate listings meant endlessly scrolling through blurry pictures of houses in an attempt to find something that met your needs and fit your price range. Today's listings are different. Thanks to sellers' and agents' increasing ability to harness technology, it's much more common now to see beautiful, professional photos of every home, and sometimes even 360-degree views inside. Plus, tools like Google Maps make it easier to explore remotely, with street-level views that make it possible to get a feel for a city or town even if you're on the other side of the country.


  • Getting a Mortgage
    Securing a home loan has never been the most enjoyable part of the home-buying process. Technology hasn't changed that, but it has made searching for a mortgage much faster and more convenient. Before you head to a lender in search of pre-approval, you can get a free credit report online to see if you need to work on your credit or use one of many free mortgage calculator apps to get an idea of how much you may qualify for. Many financial institutions also offer online applications, allowing you to get pre-approved for a home loan right from your laptop.


  • Closing on a Home
    Attending a home closing in person has long been a requirement for buyers, even though sellers have had the ability to skip out on the proceedings for years. With the increasing availability of remote closings, that's no longer the case. It must be said that there are drawbacks to not being physically present on closing day, especially if you have questions, but for anyone moving a great distance, the ability to close on a home remotely and sign documents online can be a huge advantage.
When you're ready to become a homeowner, technology is one of your greatest assets. Learn to use it to your advantage, and you already have a leg up on the search for your dream home.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
How to Increase Humidity in a Dry House
 
Steam rising from pot
High humidity levels can be unbearable, but what really catches homeowners by surprise is low humidity levels. With so much of a focus trying to cool a home down in the summertime, we often forget just how dry our homes can become in the winter. An increase in the use of our heaters and furnaces will lower the moisture levels in the house, making our skin dry, worsening allergies, creating static electricity, exasperating breathing issues, and even increasing our susceptibility to viruses like the flu. Luckily, there are a handful of easy ways to humidify your home even without the help of a humidifier.

Why Homes Become Dry

Aside from significant problems that would require home improvement solutions, it's normal and expected that many homes become drier during the colder months. However, dry air can certainly impact your level of comfort and potentially contribute to damages throughout your homes such as peeling wallpaper or wood cracking. Our homes are humid during the summer because warm air holds moisture. When temperatures outside begin to drop, the air holds less moisture. When cold, dry air makes its way inside, it settles beneath the hot air pumping through your air vents.

How to Increase Humidity in a Dry House

Adding moisture to the air in your home can offset the dryness you're experiencing. Except for air sealing your home, which can be a significant home improvement project or require a professional, there are plenty of ways to create moisture in rooms throughout your home.
  • Invest in a Humidifier
    The most obvious solution is typically the most effective. Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, many of which can comfortably fall within your home improvement budget. If you feel particularly dry when you wake up or spend a lot of time in a specific room, a portable humidifier is an excellent solution. For homeowners who feel dryness throughout the home, a whole-home humidifier will restore healthy moisture levels evenly and consistently across each room.

  • Cook on the Stove
    Cooking meals on a stovetop, or even boiling water in a kettle, releases moisture into the air. If you're not cooking but still want to use this trick, boil a pot of water. After the water and pot have cooled, place the pot of water onto your heat registers or radiator. When the furnace turns on, it will heat the pot again and release humidity into the air.
  • Shower with the Door Open
    Who doesn't love a hot and steamy shower in the dead of winter? Leave your bathroom door open and let the steam drift into the surrounding areas. Though it likely won't increase the humidity much farther than your bedroom, this trick works very well for increasing humidity levels to help you fall asleep more comfortably.

  • Use Houseplants to Generate Humidity
    Houseplants go through a process called transpiration in which moisture on the leaves or stems evaporates. By placing a plant in front of a sunny window, you'll double the humidity output as the sunshine evaporates the plant's water supply. Just be sure to continually check on the water levels of your plants — a dry home makes them just as uncomfortable as it makes you.
Humidity levels will fluctuate throughout the year, but that doesn't mean your comfort as to do the same! Say goodbye to dry air and hello to humidity with these easy and affordable home improvements tricks.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Protect Your Investment with
Homeowner's Insurance
 
UmbrellaBuying a house involves a myriad of elements that the average first-time homebuyer is quite unfamiliar with. One critical decision that buyers need to make is whether they need to purchase homeowner's insurance. Though many men and women have a general understanding of what a homeowner's insurance policy is, some do not fully understand what this protection plan covers and why it's necessary. Here is a quick overview detailing the basics of homeowner's insurance.

What is Homeowner's Insurance?

Simply put, homeowner's insurance is property insurance that protects the structure, some furnishings, and people in the event of damages or accidents.

What Does Homeowner's Insurance Cover?

Homeowner's insurance generally will cover damages to the exterior and interior of your home, damage or destruction of personal property, and any injuries that occur on your property. Like car insurance, when you file a claim after an incident occurs, you'll pay a deductible. Keep in mind that certain incidents are traditionally not covered by homeowner's insurance, including damages stemming from "acts of God" or "acts of war". For example, flood damage is typically not covered by homeowner's insurance, however, you can take out a separate flood insurance policy to protect your home.

Is Homeowner's Insurance Required When Buying a House?

Homeowner's insurance is not legally required in most states. While policies like car insurance are often mandatory to own or lease a vehicle, you can legally purchase a home without purchasing a homeowner's insurance policy. However, if you plan on financing your home purchase, your lender will likely require that you purchase some form of homeowner's insurance. When you're buying a house with help from a mortgage lender, they technically own the house as well and will want to protect their investment.

Is Homeowner's Insurance the Same as a Home Warranty?

No, a home warranty and a homeowner's insurance policy are not the same. A home warranty is a separate, optional policy that protects other aspects of your home. A home warranty covers the systems and appliances in your home if they break down. A home warranty may cover:
  • washers and dryers
  • swimming pools
  • HVAC systems
  • plumbing or electrical problems
  • other elements of the home not covered under a traditional homeowner's insurance policy

Why Should I Purchase Homeowner's Insurance?

Even if you're buying a house in cash without additional financing, a homeowner's insurance policy is a wise investment. If a catastrophic event completely ruins your home, you'd be responsible for rebuilding the home and replacing your assets if you are not covered under a homeowner's insurance policy. These policies also protect you in the event that someone, even a visitor or service repair professional, gets injured while on your property. Homeowner's insurance gives you peace of mind against the unknown accidents that could put you, your family, and your finances in jeopardy.

Which Homeowner's Insurance Plan is Right for My House?

There is a range of coverage options available for homeowners of all needs. Many policy providers will customize a plan that meets your specific coverage needs. Compare plans and rates to find the best fit for your home.

Though homeowner's insurance may not be mandatory, we believe that all individuals should purchase this protection plan when buying a house. You'll be surprised at just how much peace of mind these affordable policies can provide.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
 
Keep in Touch with Neighbors
After You Move
 
Woman on sofa talking on cell phoneSelling a home is the start of a new chapter in life, but that doesn't mean you can't retain important elements of your previous life, such as your old friendships with neighbors. Even though you may not live close by, you should try to maintain and strengthen your relationships with those you care about. Use these five suggestions to keep in touch with your friends and neighbors after you relocate.
  1. Social Media
    Social media has forever changed the way that we can stay in touch, communicate, and reconnect with those from our past and present. Because these applications are generally easy to use and are available on everything from smartphones and computers to televisions and gaming systems, it's never been easier to stay in the loop with what's going on in an old friend's life. Add your neighbors to your friends' list so you can keep up with their status updates and talk whenever you wish.

  2. Texting & Phone Calls
    Similar to social media, text messaging is another rapid way to communicate with others casually. Though it may be considered a little more formal, a phone call is an equally easy way to reach out. Many people find a phone call to be a more personal and significant gesture. Setting the time aside to speak with someone over the phone is a great way to catch up and lend an emotional depth to your conversation that is often absent in text-based messaging.

  3. Special Correspondence
    Phone calls and emails are effective, but that doesn't mean you need to limit your communication to these simple methods. Infrequent yet special ways of reaching out, such as writing a letter or sending a gift, are quite a meaningful gesture. Sending a handwritten letter or small package through traditional mail shows that you care enough to go the extra mile to make your old neighbors feel appreciated.

  4. Schedule & Stick to Plans
    Although distance can create obstacles for frequent in-person communication, you can plan ahead and schedule dates to meet with your former neighbors. As you chat via social media or on the phone, schedule a time to get together for lunch or coffee. It could be to celebrate a special occasion or just any old weekday that you both have time available. Whichever you decide, make sure you make this meeting a priority — postponing or rescheduling will make time slip by before you know it.

  5. Make a Sincere Effort
    Ultimately, the best way to stay in touch with your former neighbors is by communicating via a method and frequency that is meaningful to them. For instance, some individuals value friendships that have frequent communication regardless of form. Other individuals may be satisfied with not communicating for long periods of time, provided that the times that you two do speak or see each other are spent enjoying each other's company.
Staying in touch with your longtime friends and neighbors after selling a home doesn't need to be difficult. By using a variety of communication methods, going the extra mile to stay connected in-person, and understanding what makes your old friends feel appreciated, you can maintain and strengthen your relationships with your previous neighbors no matter how far away you've relocated after selling a home.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Benefits of Maintenance-Free Living
 
Town housesImagine buying a house that you love on a perfectly maintained property, without ever having to worry about home maintenance.
What would you do with all of that extra free time? While there is some charm in tackling your to-do list, that charm can fade very quickly when every weekend features an endless series of maintenance tasks around the house. When you don't have to worry about home maintenance, you have so much more time to pursue your hobbies, customize your home, enjoy time with your family, or even just spend a relaxing day lounging around the house. If you're tired of the endless cycle of maintaining your current property and planning on buying a house, then it's time to take a closer look at the benefits of maintenance-free living.

Examining the Benefits of Maintenance-Free Living

  • Say Goodbye to Seasonal Maintenance
    While there are many perks to living in a place with four distinct seasons, there's no doubt that changing weather usually leads to more chores around the house. Most maintenance-free homes allow you to skip tedious seasonal tasks like raking leaves, removing weeds, shoveling/plowing snow, mowing the lawn, and cleaning gutters. It's so much sweeter watching the leaves change colors when you know that you won't be the person who has to rake them up when they fall.

  • Beautiful Landscaping and Curb Appeal
    A home that looks great from the curb is one that you'll be proud to return to after a long day of work, and maintenance-free living allows you to enjoy all of the benefits of beautiful landscaping, without getting dirt under your fingernails. Whether you're relaxing on the patio or inviting friends for an outdoor party, it's nice to know that your property will always look its best.

  • Need to Find a Contractor? No Problem!
    There are few things more frustrating than struggling to find a reliable, reputable contractor when something in your home needs to be fixed right now. With a maintenance-free home, you no longer need to worry about finding the right contractor for the job. That's all taken care of for you, which means less stress when something does need to be fixed.

  • No More Worries about Minor Maintenance Issues
    Even if you don't mind investing a chunk of time every weekend into maintaining your property, there are always a few things on the to-do list that always seem to get pushed to the next week... and the next. Maintenance-free living isn't just about the big stuff – it also means that all of those little things will be handled for you.

  • Travel with Peace of Mind
    Wouldn't it be nice to take a long, relaxing vacation, without having to worry about how your house will look when you return? A maintenance-free home allows you to travel with peace of mind, knowing that your home will be looked after and taken care of even when you're thousands of miles away.

  • More Time to Customize and Organize Your Home
    When your to-do list isn't filled with a million little maintenance tasks, you'll suddenly find yourself with much more time to customize your property to your heart's content. Maybe that means organizing the home, decorating, or personalizing the property with fun, artsy projects. Not worrying about maintenance opens more free time to make your house feel like home.
Buying a house that's maintenance-free ultimately means more time doing what you love, and less time worrying about every little thing on your property. Enjoy the peace of mind that your home is always in great shape, without spending every weekend on maintenance.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

          Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips
 
Picture of gas being put in lawn mower
Raise your hand if this has happened to you. You're ready to begin your spring to-do list by sprucing up your yard only to discover that your lawn mower has kicked the bucket.

When it comes to home appliances, most homeowners overlook this pricey piece of equipment even though it's one of the most vital resources for the exterior. Whether you're dedicated to crafting the best lawn on the block or simply want to provide a tidy space for your children and pets to play, lawn mower maintenance is a necessity. Here are a few helpful tips to keep your lawn mower running for as long as possible.
  • Add it to Your Home Improvement Checklist
    Do you have a monthly or seasonal checklist? Add lawn mower maintenance to the list! You'd be surprised how many years can pass before you remember to tend to important maintenance tasks. We suggest always adding it to your home improvement list so that you can rely on the mower from spring to fall without worry.

  • Read the Owner's Manual
    Though you may know how to operate a lawn mower, each machine is unique in a number of ways. By reading the owner's manual and consulting its operating instructions once a year, you can ensure that you're following the best practices intended to keep the machine running correctly throughout its lifespan.

  • Manage the Fluids
    In many ways, your lawn mower engine is similar to your car's engine. It will likely require oil and gasoline, two fluids that you must consistently monitor. Old gasoline should be removed from the gas tank before starting up the mower, especially after it's left sitting unoperated during the winter. You should also drain and replace your oil regularly, just as you would on your vehicle.

  • Check Other Vital Components
    The oil and fuel aren't the only similarities between lawn mowers and vehicles. You should swap out your spark plugs annually and inspect your air filter. This can be easily completed each year when you replace your oil.

  • Sharpen the Blades
    Over time, the blades of your lawn mower will wear down and become dull. Thankfully, they can be sharpened and rebalanced to provide an even cut on your lawn. If you don't feel comfortable sharpening them on your own, call a professional for help.

  • Keep the Underside Clean
    Every time your mow, grass clippings, and other debris will accumulate on the underside of the mower above the blades. These clumps can prevent the blades from moving correctly and they must be removed before they build up too much. When the mower is out of gas, or when you remove the battery, turn the mower on its side and safely clean the undercarriage.

  • Winterize the Mower
    Here's a home improvement tip that many homeowners neglect — winterizing their lawn mowers. After your final mow of the fall, remove all gas from the gas tank. You can also replace the oil at this time so that it's ready to run during the spring.

  • Consider an Annual Tune-Up
    Is your home improvement list a lot to tackle? Let a professional handle your lawn mower maintenance. Lawn mower repair services, which you can often find in hardware stores and some mechanic shops, will typically change your oil, remove the old gasoline, change the spark plugs and air filter, sharpen the blades, and make sure the machine will operate without fail throughout your next mowing season.
Don't neglect lawn mower maintenance! Keep this expensive tool running smoothly throughout the year by adding lawnmower maintenance to your annual or seasonal home improvement checklist!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me at. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.


                Introducing Your Dog
                  to Your New Home

Dog peaking out from under rug
You're not just buying a house for yourself — you're buying a home for your whole family! As you tour each property, you need to consider every member of the household, including your pets. Once you've found the perfect place, you may want to bring your dog over immediately to let them explore and share in your excitement. To help them adjust to the space comfortably, use these tips when introducing your dog to your new home.
  • Discover if Any Animals Used to Live in the Space
    Before you bring your pet over to the new house, you need to know if any animals had previously occupied the space. The presence of another animal, dog or otherwise, means there may be lingering odors that you may not sense. When your dog senses these smells, they may react negatively by covering the scent via urination. Give your new home a deep cleaning and consider using a pheromone diffuser to mask these odors.

  • Prep the Home for the Dog
    After the home is thoroughly cleaned, you must prep the house for the dog. It's best to complete as much of your move and set up as possible before the dog arrives. This will help them get acquainted with the space without getting stressed from constant furniture moving and box unpacking. Bring their bed and toys over so that their scent has time to settle into the home.

  • Walk the Dog Around the Exterior
    When you bring the pup over to the house for the first time, it's a good idea to walk them around the exterior. Let them smell the perimeter and consider letting them off of the leash in the backyard. They'll likely be a little excited and a little nervous, so make sure they have time to find a spot to mark their territory in the yard.

  • Explore the Interior One Room at a Time
    Place the dog back on the leash as you bring them inside. Although you may want them to explore the house, it's best to walk them through the space together during the initial visit. Move from room to room, allowing them to get acquainted with each area before moving onto the next. It's a good idea to take them to the rooms where their bed, bowl, and toys are first so that they can recognize these familiar objects and scents.

  • Keep a Consistent Schedule
    Whenever you move the dog into your home, try to get them on a consistent schedule as quickly as possible. Feeding, walking, and playing time will help them create a routine that will increase their comfort level in the home.

  • Find a Social Group for Them
    After your dog is acquainted with your home, it's time to find other spaces for them to play and socialize around the neighborhood. If there is a community dog park, start by taking them once a week. If not, see if you can set up a puppy play date with your neighbors.
Buying a house is an exciting moment, especially when you can share it with your pet. As you get ready to introduce your dog to the house, make sure, you keep their needs in mind. Preparing the house for their arrival, and taking your time to guide them comfortably into the space will help them feel right at home in no time.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
There are No Dumb Questions
When You're Buying a Home
 
Picture of girl with question marks around her headWhen you're buying a house for the first time, you're bound to have plenty of questions. Even those who buy and flip houses regularly have a list of questions they ask before and during the transaction. When it comes to real estate, there are no dumb questions when you're buying a house.

If you're like most buyers, you'll have a million questions on your mind the minute you decide to buy a home. Get in the habit of writing these down, as many of them will need to be asked prior to your home search or listing offer.

10 Questions to Ask Me, Your Agent or a Mortgage Lender
  1. How can I prequalify for a mortgage or raise my credit score in anticipation of securing a mortgage?

  2. How much should I save up when buying a house?

  3. How much do you know about this property and neighborhood?

  4. What happens if the appraisal comes in lower than the selling price?

  5. Are there any drastic changes currently planned for the area?

  6. Can you show me comparable homes that have recently sold?

  7. What happens if an element of the home fails the inspection?

  8. Which contingencies are worth including in the purchase agreement?

  9. Why has the home been on the market for an extended time?

  10. What should we prepare for closing?
10 Questions to Ask the Seller When Buying a House

Although you might not be able to speak to the seller directly, your agent will be happy to relay any questions you may have. Be honest and open with your agent; they will phrase the questions properly so that you get as much relevant information from the seller as possible.
  1. Why are you selling the home?

  2. What is the neighborhood like?

  3. What are the average utilities?

  4. Is there anything that's up for negotiation?

  5. What items are included in the sale?

  6. Have there been any insurance claims on the home?

  7. How old are the appliances and roof?

  8. Are there any liens on the home?

  9. Is the home prone to damage from natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, or flooding?

  10. Were there any major renovations or damages to the home?
There are no dumb questions when buying a house. Even if you think the question sounds strange or if you might be embarrassed asking it, confide and trust in me, your real estate agent. Create a checklist of questions to ask so you can be sure you gain answers to all of your questions. You need to be confident and comfortable in every aspect of this transaction. Asking questions is key to securing peace of mind.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Buying a House? Talk to
the Neighbors First
 
Two people talking over fence
You can't pick your neighbors, but you can pick their brains before buying a house! It's wise to talk to those living in your desired neighborhoods before putting in an offer on a home. Without being intrusive, a casual conversation can be eye-opening. If you're interested in gaining first-hand insight into what life in the cul-de-sac is like, we encourage you to ask neighbors the following questions.
  • How long have you lived here?
    This question is typically the first question buyers ask, as those who have lived in the neighborhood the longest have more detail to offer. Naturally, the next question is, "why do you like living here?" Both questions produce telling answers.

  • Are there many renters?
    This question is one question that many buyers fail to ask, but it is essential to know when buying a house. Are houses being flipped and rented out, or are long-term owners choosing to stay? Although no one can anticipate neighborhood changes over time, the frequency of which your neighbors are leaving or staying is a good indication of how rapidly the area may evolve.

  • Do you feel safe in the neighborhood?
    It may seem like an awkward and potentially insulting question, but it is important nonetheless. If you feel uncomfortable asking this, call the local police station and ask for crime analysis data from the last two years. Your local law enforcement will be happy to give you the statistics of crimes committed in that area compared to surrounding neighborhoods.

  • Is there a community in the neighborhood, or do people keep to themselves?
    Some homeowners desire a tight-knit community in which kids and adults alike spend time together. If there is a social presence, ask these neighbors how often and where these groups gather so you can join in on the fun.

  • If you could change one thing about the neighborhood, what would it be?
    Usually, this question is answered with a problem that is inconvenient yet common, such as wishing that the streetlights were replaced or that the roadways were resurfaced. However, if the neighbors begin stating major issues like wishing it was quieter or safer, you may need to take these comments seriously.

  • Do you have to commute far for work, school, or shopping?
    Buying a house means loving the home itself and where it's located. During your showings, you may not have time to explore the area or view it during peak commuting hours. By asking these questions to neighbors, they'll let you know if the main road is bumper to bumper traffic in the evenings or if it's a long drive to certain creature comforts.

  • Is there anything I should know about buying a house in this neighborhood?"
    The inspection and listing should tell you everything you need to know about the house you're considering buying, but it doesn't hurt to ask the neighbors if they know any other relevant information.

  • What were your reasons for buying a house in this neighborhood?
    This question will also provide telling answers: to raise a family, for work, a love for the area, etc. Don't be surprised if many of the neighbors give the same answer.
Most neighbors will be happy to speak with you if only for just a few moments. Unfortunately, there will always be a handful of people who may give you the cold shoulder. We recommend talking to a few neighbors in the surrounding houses to get varying opinions for you to consider. The most important aspect of buying a house is to find the one that feels like a loving home, but having friendly, helpful neighbors next door doesn't hurt either!

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
 
Buying a House? Not as
Easy As It Looks on TV
 
Woman with remote looking at TVDo you think that buying a house is a bit easier than others make it seem? Perhaps you're right.

Many people believe that they have the wit and luck to negotiate the sale themselves — even without any prior experience in selling or buying a house. Are these investors coming out on top when buying a home, or are they missing out on the knowledge and experience of a qualified sales associate who can potentially save them thousands?

For anyone who has watched potential buyers negotiate a home sale on television or in the movies, spoiler alert, it isn't that simple. While some aspects of a real estate transaction are pretty cut and dry, we caution buyers to attempt price negotiations alone. Money is a subject buyers and sellers often take personally. A buyer may be offended by what they perceive as an unreasonable asking price while a seller may be insulted when receiving a lowball offer.

What many buyers fail to realize is that the price negotiations when buying a home involve much more than the listing price. The "price" of a home is all of the expenditures involved on the buyer's side, financial and otherwise. A seller may agree to pay the price of the closing costs, but the buyer may need to pay the "price" of renovations or furnishings that require an investment after the home purchase is finalized.

Why Investing in a Real Estate Agent Saves Money When Buying a Home

While some buyers may balk at the thought of paying an associate to perform a service that they believe they can do themselves, these individuals typically don't understand how much an experienced and knowledgeable professional can save them in the end. Real estate agents are expert negotiators who know not only how to approach this conversation, but also know which aspects of the sale can and should be negotiated for the buyer.

For example, a buyer may be able to talk a seller down a few thousand dollars on their own, only to realize that they need to replace their roof within a year of the home sale. In contrast, a real estate agent can order a roofing inspection from a certified roofing company and negotiate a replacement roof installation before the sale. The investment of a few thousand dollars ends up saving the buyer upwards of tens-of-thousands of dollars on the roofing and potential damage expenses.

Can a buyer negotiate buying a home on their own? Absolutely. Some even come out on top in the end. However, this is not a wise decision for most buyers, especially those who are entering into their first real estate transaction. By hiring an experienced real estate agent, buyers have the potential to save more than they ever could have by entering into negotiations alone.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
Buying a Vacation Home in the US?
Here's What You Need to Know

Pair of hands holding mock up of a homeDo you daydream about a waterfront home where you and your family can get away from the stress of daily life on a whim? Forget the worries about availability, fees, or restrictions. As a bonus, you can cover costs by renting the home out periodically.
If owning a vacation home is part of your American dream, here's some useful information to help you make it a reality.
  • Be Realistic People often get caught up in the emotional aspect of having a vacation home without really giving any thought to how much they'll actually use it. What if you grow tired of the spot and want to vacation in different locations? Ultimately, it may be more cost-effective to make a rental arrangement with another homeowner in the area.

  • Crunch the Numbers You may spend less time at your vacation home, but it's every bit as much of an expense as your primary residence. Create a detailed budget including mortgage, insurance, taxes, and contingencies such as maintenance and repairs. Be sure to consider how the purchase of a vacation home fits in with retirement, kids' college tuition, and other big-picture goals.

  • Plan for Higher Rates Many people who purchase vacation homes still have mortgages on their primary homes, making them a bigger financial risk. As a result, lenders sometimes require larger down payments and higher interest rates for second-home mortgages, especially if it's an investment property.

  • Perform Due Diligence While a vacation home may mean fun and relaxation, it's also an investment. Approach the purchase just as you would any other major purchase and gather all the appropriate facts. You might discover that the location you have in mind has a dismal outlook in terms of real estate trends.

  • Rent First Are you considering a certain area based on recommendations from friends or glowing reviews in travel magazines? That doesn't mean it's a good fit for you. Rent a home first and spend some time getting to know the area before you make a bigger commitment.

  • Know the Difference Between "Vacation" and "Investment" Regardless of your perspective, lenders and the IRS have specific definitions of what constitutes a vacation home vs. an investment property. For example, some lenders will consider a second home to be an investment property if you rent it out at all, while the IRS affords some leeway.

  • Learn the Tax Ramifications Tax write-offs are one of the benefits of homeownership. This also applies to vacation homes, but different criteria may apply. It's well worth the cost to consult an attorney, CPA, or another professional who is knowledgeable about current tax codes.

  • Have a Rental Plan How much will you charge? Is the property governed by the rules of a homeowners association? Will you use Airbnb or another third-party service? If you're planning on renting out the home for a significant part of the time, don't expect to play it by ear.

  • Be Cautious About Alternative Ownership Options Fractional ownership, timeshares, and other plans involving multiple parties may sound like a good answer but tread lightly. Not only do these plans come with a wide range of restrictions, but reselling them can be difficult at best.

  • Work With a Local Real Estate Agent The expert guidance you get from a real estate agent who knows the area you're looking at can be invaluable.
Businessman Arnold Glasow once said, "The average vacation is one-tenth playing and nine-tenths paying." With some clear-eyed planning, you can change that ratio with a smart investment in a vacation home that provides endless enjoyment.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
Simple Cleaning Tips to Turn
Your House into a Home
 

Woman washing wall
Now, more than ever, people are spending their time working on home improvement projects and spring cleaning. Whether you love to clean or hate it, there's no denying that a refresh can make your house feel more like home.

Luckily, you don't have to spend all day scrubbing to make your home look great. These simple cleaning tips will help you get the job done fast so you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
  1. Gather Your Supplies Gather everything you need before you get started. The last thing you want is to find out part-way through that you need to run to the store because the vacuum bag is full or you're out of paper towels. Avoid this problem by making a checklist and verifying your inventory before you start.

  2. Remove Everything You Can The next thing to do before you start cleaning is to clear out each room. It's much easier to deep clean a space when there isn't a bunch of clutter in the way. Start by getting rid of anything you no longer need and finding a "home" for everything else. Once you've opened the space, you can start to get down to the nitty-gritty.

  3. Tackle Built-Up Dust Most homeowners are surprised by how much dust accumulates in their homes. Tackling one room at a time, start at the top, and work your way down. Turn off ceiling fans and clean each blade with a pillowcase to trap the dust, then wipe them down with a damp microfiber cloth. Remove the grates from your air vents and wash them to remove dust. Use furniture polish and a dust cloth to clean your furniture. This will remove built-up dust and also add a nice shine and a pleasant smell.

  4. Clean Windows and Treatments To clean windows and treatments, remove your drapes and wash them or refresh them in the dryer. Use the brush attachment on your vacuum to clean blinds, shades, and windowsills. Then, clean your windows inside and out. Check your screens to ensure there are no holes or other damage. If you find problems, go ahead and fix them now. You'll find that this is an easy project that you can DIY in just a few minutes.

  5. Shine Appliances No matter how clean your appliances might be, if they're stained or covered in fingerprints, they'll make your home look dirty. Use a microfiber cloth dipped in a mixture of hot water and dish soap to remove any surface dirt. Use mineral oil to buff out stainless steel surfaces and give them a beautiful shine. Avoid using food-based oils (like olive oil) as this can go rancid.

  6. Clean Grimy Grout Stained grout is another issue that can make the cleanest of floors look dull and worn out. To bring it back to its like-new state, start by sprinkling the grout with a thin layer of baking soda. Then, spray it down with white vinegar. Allow the mixture to fizz for about five minutes, then use a scrub brush to remove the dirt easily. Don't let it sit too long, though, or the dirt will settle back in.

  7. Freshen Your Curb Appeal One of the best ways to give your home a spring refresh is to update your curb appeal. Choose a few small projects, like adding a new coat of paint, planting flowers, or replacing the numbers on your home. This will make your home look fresh and welcoming from the minute guests arrive.
Get the whole family involved, and you can tackle all of this in just a day or two. Once you've finished the tasks above, your house will look clean and fresh and will feel more like a home!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.


How Long Is Too Long to
Respond to Your Home Offer

Picture of clock

Buying a house is quite an emotional experience, especially after you've extended an initial offer. Excitement and anticipation mix together as you await the seller's response. How long will it take for the seller's agent to provide an answer — Hours? Days? Weeks? While you can't necessarily wait forever to move into a new home, you also don't want to pressure the seller for a decision and risk losing the home of your dreams. How long is too long to respond to your home offer? Let's take a closer look at this process.

Is the Wait Worth It?

Even if this is your first real estate transaction, you surely know that buying a house isn't a sale that's completed overnight. Many buyers feel pressured to submit an offer as soon as possible, in hopes that they can secure the property before another buyer submits an equal or more attractive offer. Some buyers are also dealing with time constraints like selling their own home or attempting to relocate, increasing their need for a rapid response to their offer.

Unfortunately, waiting is part of the process. Worst of all, there are no laws dictating how soon a seller must respond to an offer. When a seller receives an offer from a buyer, they have the option to either accept it, reject it, or provide a counteroffer. If the seller decides to accept the offer, a real estate purchase agreement is created, and the sale moves into its next phase.

While there are no official timetables in which a seller must respond to your offer, there is an industry-standard which most real estate agents adhere to. It's common practice for a seller's agent to provide an answer to the buyer's agent within a few days. The selling agent will attempt to respond to the buyer's agent with an answer within a day or two, though it may be extended by another day or so as the agent waits for a response from the seller.

Buying a House Takes Time

Although you should expect an answer between 24 and 48 hours of making your offer, there are some exceptions. Certain real estate markets may have different customs.

Technically, you can attempt to expedite the process by placing an expiration date on your offer. Buying a house can be a tricky process, though, and we often suggest that you consult your real estate agent before making this decision. It may be in your best interest to give the seller ample time to make a decision. Keep in mind that there are some exceptions that may delay a response, such as when you're buying a house that's owned by a bank or if the seller is entertaining multiple offers or counteroffers.

When you're buying a house, patience is key. Though they are permitted to take as much time as they need, most sellers will respond to your offer within a few days. If more than three days pass without a response, ask your agent for advice. They will advise you of whether to retract your offer or wait a little longer to secure your dream home.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

     Benefits of Maintenance-Free Living

Picture of townhomesImagine buying a house that you love on a perfectly maintained property, without ever having to worry about home maintenance.

What would you do with all of that extra free time? While there is some charm in tackling your to-do list, that charm can fade very quickly when every weekend features an endless series of maintenance tasks around the house. When you don't have to worry about home maintenance, you have so much more time to pursue your hobbies, customize your home, enjoy time with your family, or even just spend a relaxing day lounging around the house. If you're tired of the endless cycle of maintaining your current property and planning on buying a house, then it's time to take a closer look at the benefits of maintenance-free living.

 Examining the Benefits of Maintenance-Free Living

  • Say Goodbye to Seasonal Maintenance
    While there are many perks to living in a place with four distinct seasons, there's no doubt that changing weather usually leads to more chores around the house. Most maintenance-free homes allow you to skip tedious seasonal tasks like raking leaves, removing weeds, shoveling/plowing snow, mowing the lawn, and cleaning gutters. It's so much sweeter watching the leaves change colors when you know that you won't be the person who has to rake them up when they fall.
  • Beautiful Landscaping and Curb Appeal
    A home that looks great from the curb is one that you'll be proud to return to after a long day of work, and maintenance-free living allows you to enjoy all of the benefits of beautiful landscaping, without getting dirt under your fingernails. Whether you're relaxing on the patio or inviting friends for an outdoor party, it's nice to know that your property will always look its best.
  • Need to Find a Contractor? No Problem!
    There are few things more frustrating than struggling to find a reliable, reputable contractor when something in your home needs to be fixed right now. With a maintenance-free home, you no longer need to worry about finding the right contractor for the job. That's all taken care of for you, which means less stress when something does need to be fixed.
  • No More Worries about Minor Maintenance Issues
    Even if you don't mind investing a chunk of time every weekend into maintaining your property, there are always a few things on the to-do list that always seem to get pushed to the next week... and the next. Maintenance-free living isn't just about the big stuff – it also means that all of those little things will be handled for you.
  • Travel with Peace of Mind
    Wouldn't it be nice to take a long, relaxing vacation, without having to worry about how your house will look when you return? A maintenance-free home allows you to travel with peace of mind, knowing that your home will be looked after and taken care of even when you're thousands of miles away.
  • More Time to Customize and Organize Your Home
    When your to-do list isn't filled with a million little maintenance tasks, you'll suddenly find yourself with much more time to customize your property to your heart's content. Maybe that means organizing the home, decorating, or personalizing the property with fun, artsy projects. Not worrying about maintenance opens more free time to make your house feel like home.

 Buying a house that's maintenance-free ultimately means more time doing what you love, and less time worrying about every little thing on your property. Enjoy the peace of mind that your home is always in great shape, without spending every weekend on maintenance.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Making the Switch: Transferring
Your Utility Services

Finger flipping wall switch

Buying a house is one of the biggest investments you'll ever make. It's easy to get excited about moving into a new home; however, too often we do not pay attention to the details that lead up to that long-awaited move-in day.

There's a long list of things that you need to do to ensure a smooth transition, and one of them is transferring your utilities. You don't want to spend your first night in your new home without electricity, water, or gas. Ahead, we take a look at five things to remember about setting up your utilities when moving into your new home.

  1. Start Early
    When buying a house, you need to start the process of transferring your utilities as early as possible if you want to complete the switch-on time. Start to think about what utilities you want to shut off in your old place and turn on in your new home. That way, you will have a lot of time for any in-person appointments you might need to switch your utilities before moving into a new house.
  2. Make A List of Current Providers
    Make a list of all utility providers that you currently have accounts with before you start calling. Write down your account number and the company's telephone number alongside each provider. Having this information organized will make things easier when calling to transfer your utilities. Some of the services you might have to transfer include gas, electricity, internet, and waste removal.
  3. Find Out Who Your Providers Will Be
    Some of your current utility providers may not provide service to your new home depending on where and how far away you are moving. Unfortunately, this means that you won't be able to simply switch over your account to a new address. Therefore, you will have to find new utility providers in your new locality. One of the best ways to go about it is to inquire at the local city hall or municipal building. You can also ask your real estate agent or landlord.
  4. Notify Your Utility Providers of The Move
    After you have all the utility information in one place, it's time to contact each provider separately to let them know that you will be moving. We recommend that you notify your utility providers about the move at least two weeks in advance. It's always a good idea to call about a month in advance for utilities that need installation such as internet and cable services.
  5. Update Your Address and Clear Your Final Bill
    Don't forget to update your address. Be sure to provide your new address when calling utility providers and change your mailing address with USPS. You can easily choose the date that you wish to start forwarding your mail by visiting their website. That way, utility providers will be able to send you the last bill that will be ready soon after the shut off/disconnection date.

 Finally, don't forget to have your utility providers come to your house and do a final reading of your electric, water, and gas meters before moving. Make a copy of the meter reading reports for your files just in case you receive any unexpected bills. Generally, moving can be stressful, but using this checklist will help you switch utilities to your new home with minimal hassles.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Waterfront Buying: 8 Steps to
Buying a House on the Lake

Beautiful home overlooking lakeDoes the idea of turning your love of spending weekends out on the lake, fishing, or lounging by the shore, into your everyday way of living? Buying a house on a lake could be your answer. However, be aware it comes with challenges making it a tall order. Still, the effort is worth it!

 Let's look at eight crucial steps when buying a house out on the lake:

  1. Connect With a Local Real Estate Agent
    Talk to a trusted local real estate agent as soon as you decide you are in the market. It is not unusual for some agents and firms to specialize in lakefront property. Explain your needs, and they will help you find a terrific property for you.
  2. Visit the Property Multiple Times
    Depending on how developed the lakefront area is, your neighbors could have a significant impact on how inviting the property is to live in. Visit several times – at different times of the week and hours of the day – to get a better sense of the community's culture and the level of privacy.
  3. Make Sure the Water Meets Your Needs
    One of the biggest reasons to pursue lakefront property is to enjoy boating any time you want. This is a laudable goal, but make sure the property can comfortably accommodate your boat. Also, get familiar with local ordinances on boating and docking that could affect your enjoyment.
  4. Factor in Your Frontage
    Frontage is the area of the home that sits along the water itself. In general, the more the amount of frontage, the higher the asking price will be. Rough waters can damage your dock facilities or the lake-facing wall. Factor in these costs and ask the seller about any past repair work.
  5. Give Yourself a "Lifestyle Realty Check"
    Whether you buy a house on the lake or by the ocean, waterfront properties all lend themselves to a certain lifestyle. Double-check to be sure it's really what you want before you commit. The premium you pay for a lakefront home may not be worth it if you never hit the water!
  6. Get a Complete Home Inspection
    Before committing to any lakefront property, get a complete home inspection done. A qualified inspector can uncover issues, such as electrical problems, that might make a home much less attractive. You'll be "in the know" about any repairs that need to be done.
  7. Look Into Wind and Flood Insurance
    Waterfront properties have become riskier buys as climate change strengthens summer storms. In many areas, flooding can happen even outside the rainy season. Depending on your location, this can add substantial insurance costs, so check up on your policy options.
  8. Double-Check for Hidden Costs
    In addition to insurance and vulnerability to weathering, waterfront properties can conceal other hidden costs. One common issue is higher water and sewer rates. Also, review any docking and lift fees and any septic tank or well upkeep charges that apply to your property.

 For the right buyer, a lakefront home is an ideal choice. As a primary residence, a seasonal vacation getaway, or even a rental property, it's an excellent investment in your quality of life. Use these eight tips, and you'll be on your way to a successful lakefront buy.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Does Your Buyer's Agent
Have You Covered?

couple at desk listening to real estate agentBuying a house is a complicated process no matter how many times you've done it, but the right real estate agent can make life much easier.

 Any buyer's agent can tell you that they'll have you covered, but the best agents will earn your business by showing it. They anticipate your needs in advance, guide you through each step of the purchasing process, answer questions, and help you with every milestone on the path to buying a house. With the right agent, you can approach the home buying process with confidence.

  • Regular Communication and Updates Communication is crucial when buying a house, so you want a buyer's agent who's easy to reach, contacts you promptly, and reaches out whenever there's an update to share. When you have a question, you want to be sure that your agent will respond quickly with an answer. And if you prefer to communicate by email, social media, instant messaging, or text, make sure your agent is available through your preferred channels.

  • Knowledge of Local Real Estate Markets
    The right agent can tell you about so much more than homes in the communities where you're interested in buying a house. They should be an expert on neighborhoods, school districts, local attractions, and the many little things that go into picking your next community. Of course, a good buyer's agent will also have extensive knowledge of local real estate prices and trends.

  • A Strong Professional Network
    The best agents work hard to establish a strong professional network so that they can point you in the right direction when you need other services related to buying a house. Whether you're looking for a lender, a mover, or a contractor to make repairs, the right buyer's agent will be able to recommend high-quality service providers.
  • Guidance on Local Rules and Regulations

    Local regulations have an impact on so many things, from the long-term costs of owning a home in a community to the ways that you can alter your property after buying a house. Different communities also have varying rules that govern the process of buying a home. Make sure that your agent has extensive knowledge of local rules, to avoid unexpected complications with your purchase.
  • Negotiating Skills

    Whether negotiating the price of your purchase or negotiating for repairs after the home inspection, the best agents have both the skills and emotional intelligence necessary to negotiate with the seller's side. An agent who has you covered will always be looking out for your best interests and will listen to your needs to understand precisely what you want to accomplish in each negotiation.

  • Guidance Through the Closing Process
    The closing process is often a stressful time for buyers, especially if this is your first time buying a house. This is one area where the best buyer's agents shine by guiding you through each step. They'll help you handle the extensive documentation required for closing, and will make sure to tie up any loose ends to avoid complications with closing on your new home.

 If you're still searching for the right buyer's agent, then interview multiple agents that can help you get an idea of what each has to offer.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Buying a House During COVID-19

Man and woman looking at tablet computerThe coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on real estate markets across the country, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to put your home-buying plans on hold. Residential real estate sales have been ruled essential services, and the industry has adapted so that you can shop for your next home from the safety of your current residence. There are deals to be found in many markets, for buyers who are willing to adapt to the temporary new normal in real estate. Learn how to find your next home in our guide to buying a house during COVID-19.
  • Be Prepared to Do Most of Your Shopping Online
    In many markets around the country, in-person showings and open houses currently aren't possible due to social distancing regulations. So if you're planning on buying a house, most of your search will likely take place online. Many sellers have adapted by providing virtual tours of homes, in addition to traditional online listings. Virtual showings are a great way to get a deeper impression of a home and explore every room as if you were visiting in person.

  • Attend Virtual Open Houses to Learn about Homes
    In addition to virtual tours, some sellers and real estate agents are offering virtual open houses to help buyers get a stronger sense of what homes have to offer. Virtual open houses have the added advantage of allowing you to ask questions of the real estate agent or seller about the home. If an online listing or virtual tour piques your interest in buying a house, be sure to attend the virtual open house when it's available.

  • If You Can Visit Homes, Prepare to Practice Social Distancing
    If you live in a market that is still allowing in-person visits or a state where markets are beginning to open back up, make sure you're ready to practice social distancing. Wearing a mask or face covering, sanitizing regularly, not touching surfaces, and keeping a safe distance from others can help you stay safe while buying a house.

  • Prepare for an E-Closing or the Use of a Remote Notary
    The typical closing process involves a handful of people gathering in an attorney's office, but that's not currently possible in many locations. Instead, expect to handle your closing digitally with an e-closing, by videoconference with a remote notary, or with a "drive-through" closing where you sign the relevant documents without leaving your vehicle.

  • You Can Handle the Mortgage Process Digitally, Too
    If you're buying a house, then you're probably shopping for a mortgage, too. Fortunately, the mortgage industry adapted to handling things digitally even before COVID-19, so there shouldn't be a huge adjustment. Your lender can help walk you through the process remotely and answer any questions you may have.

  • Is It Safe to Buy a House Without Visiting In Person?
    Whether buying a house sight unseen is a good choice depends on your tolerance for risk, but virtual showings and open houses allow you to get a deeper picture of any property you're considering. Military members and people changing jobs often had to take the plunge without visiting a home before COVID-19, so it's certainly possible to find a great home from a distance.

While the process may look different from what you'd expect traditionally, buying a house during COVID-19 is certainly still possible as long as you're comfortable handling things digitally. Remember to always check your local coronavirus regulations so you know what to expect when you start shopping.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Your Guide for Buying a
House Sight Unseen
Couple looking a magazine showing homes

There was a time when buying a house without actually setting foot in it was a risky bet suited only for Vegas high-roller types. Today, thanks to advancements in technology and the effects of a pandemic, people with less tolerance for risk are more willing to go all-in on virtual home shopping.

In addition, if you're in the military or planning a long-distance move, circumstances may limit your opportunity to make first-hand tours of homes. Use these expert tips to turn up an ace sight unseen.

  • Have a Detailed Wish List
    Sometimes home buyers will go on instinct, believing they'll know the right house when they walk in the front door. When you're shopping for homes online, you can't rely on vibes to guide your decision. Create a list of specific features and amenities you want to make it easier to include and exclude potential houses.
  • Hire a Local Real Estate Agent
    An experienced real estate agent is invaluable in the best of circumstances, let alone when you're navigating a long-distance purchase. Find a reliable real estate in your target area who can give you a valuable perspective on the housing market and other intangibles affecting your search.
  • Leverage Video Options
    Video home tours have become increasingly sophisticated, with features such as 3D tours with 360° views and zoom capabilities. As virtual shopping becomes more popular, sellers and listing agents are investing in higher-quality still photos as well. But don't stop there. Have your real estate agent conduct a FaceTime tour where you can see literally every inch of the home.
  • Research Neighborhoods
    A great home in an unpleasant neighborhood is no bargain at any price. Use sources such as U.S. News & World Report, AreaVibes, NeighborhoodScout, and Sperling's Best Places to do a deep dive into local statistics and information. Particular areas of attention should include school systems, crime and safety, cost of living, housing market, and economy. This is a step where your real estate agent can be extremely helpful.
  • Double Down on Due Diligence
    Yes, a long-distance move is expensive, but due diligence is no place to cut corners. You're more reliant than ever on the accuracy and thoroughness of home inspectors, attorneys, brokers, and any other professionals on your team helping to vet both the home and the purchase process. Mistakes can end up more costly than hiring the appropriate person in the first place.
  • Have a Plan B
    We all know even the best-laid plans can go sideways. No matter how carefully you proceed, there's a chance a long-distance home purchase can fall victim to Murphy's Law. Before you reach the point of no return, be sure to construct a back-up plan. Would you be able to resell the house quickly without a loss? What are the possible options for renting it out? You'll feel more comfortable having a safety net in place.
  • Plan for Move-In Day
    Regardless of how many pictures you've seen and digital tours you've had, there's bound to be a disconnect once you actually see your new house in person. Don't panic! In most cases, the feeling will be temporary. As soon as you start moving furniture in and personalizing the decor, it will begin feeling like home.

Ready to put your cards on the table? Follow this strategy for a winning hand in your virtual home search.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

How to Spot a Walkable Neighborhood

Pedestrian only street

The ability to get around without a car can really make a neighborhood feel like home. Not to mention walking is good exercise, relaxing, convenient, economical and better for the environment. With all those benefits, it's no wonder living in a walkable neighborhood is something home buyers really want. Here's what to do when buying a house in a walkable neighborhood.

  • Do some research.
    There are websites that can give you some general insight into a neighborhood and you can read comments and ratings from people that actually live there. Although the true walkability of the neighborhood may be difficult to determine by using only online information, you can use other information about the neighborhood to help determine if it's walkable enough to consider buying a house there. How many people live in the neighborhood, what kinds of places there are to walk to, low crime and proximity to public transportation can be good indicators. If you're familiar with the neighborhood you can ask some people there.
  • Look for a neighborhood center.
    Walkable neighborhoods have some kind of a hub that draws people there and encourages them to walk around. Parks and public spaces or a main street business district can easily attract pedestrians.
  • Use tech for a virtual tour.
    Use Google maps street view to "walk" the neighborhood before going to see it in person. Just keep in mind this might not tell the whole story since you probably won't know when the photos were taken.
  • Visit the neighborhood in person at different times of the day.
    Take notice of how much pedestrian and bike traffic you see. Notice how often the buses run. See if the places you would go to are open for business when you would use them.
  • Look for pedestrian-friendly features.
    The two big ones are obviously crosswalks and pedestrian signals. But others to look for include wide sidewalks, cut out curbs that slope to avoid step-ups, some shade, and street furniture like benches where you can stop to rest. These little things indicate walkability is actively being encouraged.
  • Do a "near me" search while you're in the neighborhood.
    Search for something you would use often such as coffee shops, the grocery store, or places to work out. Are the walk times reasonable and would you actually do it every day? Are the routes you would take easy to navigate?
  • Look for local dining spots.
    If there are plenty of places to eat, other people in the neighborhood are likely to be out and about as well.
  • Check out the commute.
    Not only to know how you would get to work but so you can see how many people in the neighborhood walk, bike or take public transportation. When modes of transport other than cars are easy to access and work well, more people are likely to use them.

 If finding a walkable neighborhood is one of your top priorities when buying a house doing a little research will go a long way toward finding the right neighborhood for you.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Do You Have What it Takes
to Tackle a Fixer-Upper?

Words:  Fixer upperBuying a house that needs renovations can be a great way to find a deal, but the choice between a move-in ready home and a fixer-upper is about more than just the purchase price. The cost of renovations, the time you have available to tackle DIY tasks, your timeline for moving in, and your risk tolerance all play an essential part in making the right choice. If you have what it takes to tackle a fixer-upper, you may be able to customize your home and save some money on the purchase price.

  • Can Your Budget Accommodate Renovations and Unexpected Costs?
    Naturally, the draw of a fixer-upper is that you can purchase it for a much lower price than a similarly sized and located move-in ready home. The trick is deciphering exactly how much work the home needs, how much it will cost, and whether the combined renovation/purchase cost of the home will ultimately be more affordable than buying a house that's ready right now. When calculating renovation costs, it's also important to budget for the unexpected, because there are often surprises when renovating an older home.

  • How Much of the Work Can You Handle Yourself?
    One way to keep renovation costs down when buying a house is to handle as much of the work as possible yourself, but it's important to be realistic about what projects truly qualify as DIY. If you have experience in the contracting trades or have renovated a home in the past, then you may be able to tackle some of the more costly aspects of renovating. Most people who are buying a house will be able to handle smaller renovation tasks DIY but will need to leave the bigger, more costly aspects of renovating to the pros.

  • How Soon Do You Need to Move In, and Do You Have a Place to Stay?

    When we talk about surprises during renovations, we don't just mean in terms of cost. Time is also an important factor. If you have a place to stay and don't need to move into your new home right away, then time may not be a major issue. If you need to move in ASAP, then a fixer-upper probably isn't the right choice when buying a house.
  • Do You Have Trusted Service Providers?

    No matter how much or how little of the work you can handle DIY, you'll likely still need contractors, an architect, and other service providers to tackle key tasks. It helps to have people you know and trust – or referrals from trusted sources – when coordinating work on a fixer-upper. Having quality service providers helps keep added costs down, and makes it easier to keep the project on schedule.
  • Do You Have a Vision for the Home You'd Like to Create?

    Success with a fixer-upper depends in large part on having a plan and being able to see it through to completion. So it's essential to have a vision of the home that you want to create. If you don't have the desire to customize every detail, then buying a move-in ready house may provide more value for your investment.

 While there are risks involved, buying a house that needs work can allow you to maximize your budget and customize your new home to your preferences. The key is to be honest with yourself about whether a fixer-upper fits your needs, and set clear goals when buying a house.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Don't Let Your Credit
Score Get You Down

Picture of document with credit scoreIf you're considering buying a house, getting your finances in order is a top priority. However, you may be worried about your credit score more than you need to.

Make no mistake about it, a decent credit score is critical; however, it doesn't have to be perfect! The following facts should help ease your mind.

 A Perfect Credit Score is Rare
While it's a noble goal to strive for a perfect 850 credit score, it's also important to note that only 1.6% of the U.S. population with a credit score has achieved this feat. According to experts, a score of 760 is typically enough to qualify for the best loan rates. However, even if your score is lower than this, it won't likely prevent you from buying a house.

 The Credit Score You Really Need
While you may have access to more lenders and get better offers with a higher credit score, don't give up on your dream of buying a house if yours falls in the lower end of the spectrum. In fact, the U.S. Federal Housing Administration (FHA), approves loans for homebuyers with a credit score of just 580 as long as you have a down payment of at least 3.5% of the total home price.

 In some cases, you might even be able to buy a house with a score as low as 500! In general, however, you'll need a score of 680 or better to get the best rates.

 Your Income Plays an Important Role
While a lender might be willing to look beyond a less-than-stellar credit score, consistent income is critical. Note that the key word here isWhile a lender might be willing to look beyond a less-than-stellar credit score, consistent income is critical. Note that the key word here is consistent. As long as the lender determines that you earn enough to comfortably make your mortgage payments, you don't need a super-high income. In fact, having a high income is less important than having stable employment.

 With layoffs and furloughs running rampant right now, loss of employment is a factor that's more likely to derail your plans for buying a house. Expect that the lender will verify your employment several times during the period between when you first apply for the loan and your closing day. If you're laid off or fired before you close, this could lead to a denial.

 Facts and Myths About Raising Your Credit Score
If you're interested in raising your credit score before buying a house, you can do some simple things. However, many people fall for myths that not only don't help raise their scores but could also lead to other problems. For example, shopping around for rates and offers from multiple lenders won't lower your score. What it likely If you're interested in raising your credit score before buying a house, you can do some simple things. However, many people fall for myths that not only don't help raise their scores but could also lead to other problems. For example, shopping around for rates and offers from multiple lenders won't lower your score. What it likely will do, however, is save you a few thousand dollars in fees and interest payments over the life of your loan.

 It's also a great idea to pay off debts before you apply for your loan, but you'll want to choose the right ones. Paying off revolving credit, like credit cards, will have a much greater impact than paying down long-term loans.

 It's also important to note that negative marks on your credit history usually won't prevent you from buying a house. As long as your recent credit history is better and you have a decent score, most lenders won't deny you due to a blip in the past.

 The Truth About Buying a House
Now that you know the credit score you Now that you know the credit score you really need before buying a house, you should be able to breathe easier. Remember to avoid taking out any new credit immediately before you apply and to keep making all of your liability payments on time. While you don't need a perfect credit score, the better shape your finances are in, the easier it will be to achieve your goal of buying a house of your own!

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Your Guide to Buying a Home

Couple talking to Real Estate AgentBased on the size of the investment, the intricacy of legal documents and the potential for second-guessing, buying a house is one of the most intimidating decisions most of us will ever face. With so many moving parts and the amount of technical knowledge involved, how can anyone be expected to make the right call?

 To borrow a popular expression, buying a house is like eating an elephant: take it one bite at a time. Plan your strategy with this practical list that demystifies the steps of the home buying process.

  1. Put Your Financial Ducks in a Row
    Knowing what you can comfortably afford removes a lot of the guesswork. Take a clear-eyed look at your savings, budget and credit score. If any element isn't where it needs to be, take steps to correct it.

  2. Get Pre-Qualified and Pre-Approved
    Pre-qualification is a ballpark estimate of how much money you could potentially borrow, calculated off of general information you provide. When you get a little further into the buying process, a lender will use verified documentation to provide pre-approval for a specific amount. While you will still need to complete a mortgage application, pre-approval signals your status as a motivated buyer and demonstrates your financial worthiness.

  3. Do Your Homework
    Once you've established a price range you can afford and what features and amenities you're looking for, study real estate listings in your preferred area. See if your wish list is realistic according to current asking prices. Pay attention to fluctuations and how long homes remain on the market.

  4. Find a Dependable Real Estate Agent
    DIY is great when you're remodeling or upgrading your home, but when you're actually buying a house? Not so much. An experienced and knowledgeable real estate agent is worth their weight in gold in terms of the time and money they save you. And the fee is paid by the seller, so you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

  5. Start Looking in Earnest
    Now that you have your price range and neighborhood dialed in, it's time to get serious. Huddle up with your real estate agent to find listings that fit your criteria and make some in-person visits.

  6. Make an Offer
    This can be one of the scarier steps in the process, but one where your real estate agent is truly invaluable. What contingencies does the offer need to cover? Do you offer the asking price or take a chance on a lower bid? Your agent can help answer all these questions and more.

  7. Schedule a Home Inspection
    You have no doubt looked in closets, turned faucets and light switches off and on and made sure doors open and close. A formal home inspection goes deeper into structural and technical issues that affect the saleability of the house. Depending on the results, you may choose to negotiate for repairs or a reduction in the sale price.

  8. Apply for a Mortgage
    Conventional, FHA, adjustable rate. There is a wide array of elements that go into a mortgage. A good mortgage lender will help you sort them out and find the type of loan that best meets your needs.

  9. Obtain an Appraisal
    The lender will arrange for a third-party appraisal to confirm that they're financing you for a fair price.

  10. Close the Sale
    Limber up your wrists. Purchasing documents still require a live signature, so be prepared to do a lot of writing.

 And just like that, the elephant is gone. When you follow these steps, buying a house becomes a lot less overwhelming and a lot more fulfilling.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Ten Must-Haves for Your
Home First Aid Kit

Picture of First Aid Kit bag

Whether you smash your finger while working on a home improvement project or your child takes a fall while playing outside, a well-stocked first aid kit can help you avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor or hospital. Luckily, it's easy to create an at-home first aid kit. Here are some of the most important things you'll want to include.

  1. Bandages and Wound Care
    Cuts are one of the most common injuries you'll have to deal with. If a tool slips while you're doing a home improvement or you slip with a knife when you're cooking, it's important to stop the bleeding fast. For this reason, you'll want to keep your first aid kit stocked with a variety of different sized bandages, gauze pads, and adhesive tape.

  2. Help for Sprains and Strains
    From twisting your ankle to spraining your wrist, there are many ways you can hurt your joints. Make sure you have elastic bandages (like an ACE bandage) that you can use to wrap and stabilize them. A finger splint will come in handy as well. If you want to make sure you're really prepared, consider purchasing a wrist splint, elbow brace, and knee brace so they're handy if the need arises.

  3. Lotions and Ointments
    Antibiotic ointment and antiseptic solutions or wipes can help prevent infection. Hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion will bring itch relief caused by bug bites, poison ivy, and more. It's also a good idea to have aloe lotion on hand to help with sunburn pain.

  4. Basic Tools
    Just like when you're working on a home improvement project, having the right tools can make all the difference. Stock your first aid kit with tweezers, cotton balls, Q-tip swabs, scissors, latex gloves, plastic bags, and a thermometer.

  5. Prescriptions
    If anyone in the household uses prescription medication regularly, try to keep backups of them in your first aid kit. You may consider keeping extras of your pet's medications as well.

  6. OTC Medications
    Over the counter medications can also bring serious relief! Make sure you have your preferred pain reliever, some aspirin, cough and cold medicine, antacids, laxatives, and anti-diarrheal medications.

  7. Eye Care
    Getting debris in your eye is another hazard that comes with certain home improvement projects. Make sure you're prepared by stocking your kit with saline solution, an eyewash cup, and eye bandages.

  8. Emergency Items
    You never know when an emergency can strike, so make sure you're prepared! A well-stocked first-aid kit will have items like a flashlight or headlamp, extra batteries, cell phone and solar charger, sunscreen, insect repellant, a space blanket, and waterproof matches.

  9. Important Forms
    Keep a copy of each family member's medical records in your first aid kit. Also, make sure you have completed medical consent forms for each family member.

  10. Important Phone Numbers
    Keep a written list of phone numbers for each family member and a few emergency contacts outside of your immediate family. Also write down numbers for your family doctor, pediatrician, and dentist as well as the poison control hotline, local emergency services, and emergency road service providers.

 It may seem simple, but creating a well-stocked first aid kit is one of the most important home improvement projects you'll ever do. Remember, also, that this isn't a "set-it-and-forget-it" type of project. At least once a year, check through your first aid kit. This will help ensure that you have everything you need on hand. As items get low or near their expiration date, make sure you remember to replace them.

 Expecting the unexpected is critical for keeping your family safe! Make sure you're prepared by starting to create your emergency first aid kit today.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Avoid These 5 Mistakes When
You're Buying a Luxury Home

Picture of luxury home

Luxury home buying is vastly different than traditional real estate purchases. Everything from the way that you search for these properties to how your sales associate assists you through the process is significantly different. It should come as no surprise that many first-time luxury homebuyers often fall victim to these five mistakes:

  1. Choosing an Inexperienced Agent
    Specialty home sales require specialty agents. Hiring an underqualified agent will not have the experience necessary to not only help you find the home you desire but to also help you successfully negotiate the purchase. By enlisting the assistance of an agent who specializes in luxury properties, you have an experienced resource who knows how to navigate these transactions to your benefit.
  2. Failing to Identify Your Homebuying Goals
    Many people dream of owning a "mansion," but few can articulate what they really desire in a property. Before you begin your search, you must be clear about your homebuying goals. This includes detailing everything from amenities and customized design details to the community it's located in and its proximity to other destinations that you frequent.
  3. Shopping By Sight Alone
    It's easy to get overwhelmed by a luxury home's features, and these details can easily leave you with positive or negative first impressions. Tour the home to objectively determine if it will suit your desires. Remember, swapping out countertops is a lot easier than remodeling the floorplan itself.
  4. Overextending Your Finances
    Purchasing and continuing to finance a luxury home is no small feat. Aside from the down payment, closing costs, and various taxes, these homes require significant investments for furnishing and upkeep. Many sellers won't even consider offers from buyers who cannot show that they are preapproved for a loan and that they have assets, employment history, and accounting statements that show that they will handle the financial responsibilities of the home for the long haul.
  5. Unnecessarily Overpaying
    The seller's listing price can be misleading, especially if you're unfamiliar with current market values. Many first-time luxury buyers assume that the listing price is accurate, and unfortunately, pay more than the home is valued at.

 Owning a luxury home is a reality, but you must be aware of potential pitfalls along the way. Avoid these mistakes by enlisting the help of a knowledgeable and experienced luxury real estate agent.

 I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

All the Right Moves: 10 tips
to Make Moving Easier

Man and woman holding boxes

There are a lot of things to look forward to when you sell your home and get ready for the next chapter. Packing up all your things is not one of them. Still, moving day is unavoidable, and when that day comes, these simple tips will make the process easier than you thought possible.

  1. Get More Boxes
    They say it's better to be safe than sorry, and when it comes to packing, they're absolutely right. Make sure you have plenty of boxes before moving day, along with packaging tape and labels, so you know you won't run out.
  2. Pack Smarter
    Keep in mind that one size doesn't fit all. Get large boxes as well as small ones so you can stuff the big ones with lightweight items (pillows, towels, clothes), and fill the smaller ones with heavy stuff (books, knick-knacks, electronics).
  3. Make a Packing Playlist
    Everything gets easier when you have the right tunes playing. Make a playlist you can pack and unpack to. Keep it upbeat and filled with your favorite jams to help you keep moving, and steer clear of sad songs about moving on and leaving things behind.
  4. Stretch it Out
    There's no reason to wait until the last minute. The farther ahead you can make arrangements and start working on packing, the less stress you will feel. Give yourself at least four weeks for the whole process. Start by making lists and getting organized, and then move on to packing up items you seldom use before you start boxing up the essentials.
  5. Don't Pack on Moving Day
    Moving day is for moving, not packing. By the time you wake up on moving day, everything should already be boxed up and ready to put into the truck.
  6. De-Clutter Your Life
    When you sell your house and get ready to move, you have a great opportunity to reduce clutter and get rid of unwanted items. Have a yard sale. Donate old clothes and unused furniture. Recycle what you can, and throw out what you can't. The less you own, the easier it is to pack it all up.
  7. Keep Irreplaceable Items With You
    Don't waste valuable mental energy worrying about whether your valuables and family heirlooms will make it out of the moving truck unscathed. Set aside items that have sentimental value and can't be replaced, and carry them to your new home in person so you know they're safe.
  8. Label and Color-Code Everything
    It's impossible to overstate the importance of labels. Make sure every box is clearly marked so you know exactly what's inside. Take it a step farther by color-coding your labels based on where everything goes, using different colored labels for each room.
  9. Put Your Kids to Work
    If you have children who are old enough to help out, give them jobs to do. Feeling important and being able to help out will make the process easier for them, and will definitely take some weight off your shoulders. If you have kids who are too young to help out, it's usually best to send them off with a relative on moving day.
  10. Pack a "First Day" Box
    Set aside anything that you will need right away when you arrive at your new home and put it all in one box. Include essential toiletries, phone chargers, a coffee maker, and anything else you want to have easy access to as soon as you arrive.

When you're moving, countless exciting paths lie ahead. Following these ten moving tips will make the process of moving onto the next chapter of your life much more simple and stress-free.

If you would like a free estimate of what your home might sell for please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Run Don't Walk! 5 Things to Do
When You Find a House You Love 
Woman and Man looking at listingSometimes, you just know. Perhaps it's the location, the layout of the home, the backyard, or more likely a combination of many factors. But when you know that a home is the one, it's time to get serious about buying a house you love. Before you can make a competitive offer, it pays to be prepared. That's why you should do these five things when you find a house that you love.
  1. Arrange a Showing to See the Home Firsthand
    With detailed listings, neighborhood guides, property photographs, and more, it's easy to fall in love with a house online. But there's still no substitute for a full tour. If possible, arrange a showing so that you can tour the home in person before you get serious about making an offer. If a showing isn't possible, see if there is a virtual tour or virtual open house available. Getting as much information as possible is critical when buying a home.
  2. Make Sure That Your Finances Are in Order
    Buying a house is so much easier when you prepare your finances in advance, and that starts with your credit score. In the past, you could request a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus annually, and use what you learn to improve your score. However, due to the impact of COVID-19, the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, are now offering free credit reports to all Americans on a weekly basis through April 2021 so you can protect your financial health. These free credit reports will be available on www.annualcreditreport.com.

    Pay off old debts, and avoid opening new lines of credit before securing a mortgage and buying a house. Save as much as possible for your down payment, to increase the appeal of your offer and keep mortgage payments as low as possible.
  3. Develop a Competitive Offer
    Once you've gotten an up-close impression and decided that this home is the one, it's time to create an offer that catches the seller's attention. Having pre-approval for a mortgage, or better yet, being fully underwritten upfront – is a must for buying a house. Beyond that, in a competitive market, you will want to make a serious offer that comes close to the buyer's asking price, as long as the asking price is reasonable for the current market. A low-ball offer is likely to be ignored and may cause the seller to take you out of the bidding entirely.
  4. Request a Home Inspection to Identify Underlying Issues
    No matter how much you love a property, you should always have it inspected before buying a house. The inspection may reveal hidden maintenance issues that need to be addressed, and the cost of repairs will have an impact on your final offer. In extreme cases, an inspection can uncover serious issues that may make you reconsider buying a house, but typically the cost of repairs can be covered in negotiations.
  5. Consider a Personal Touch to Supplement Your Bid
    While the financial nuts and bolts of your offer have the most significant influence when buying a house, some sellers are also looking for a buyer who truly loves the home and will work to improve it. Sending a personal letter to let the seller know exactly why you love the house and how it fits your family can help tilt the competition in your favor.

Every negotiation is unique when buying a house, but taking the right steps after falling in love is key to landing your dream home. Learn as much as you can about the property; make sure your finances are in order and make an offer that separates you from other buyers.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email meI look forward to helping you enjoy life.

6 Things You Need to Know
About Buying a Duplex

Picture of Duplex homeA duplex is a multi-family home that consists of two units in one building. Units usually stand side by side. They share one wall that connects them but has their own entryway and front landscaping. A duplex can also be a two-story building with a single front yard.

A duplex is a common investment property. Instead of buying a house, a buyer can live in one unit while renting the other. A duplex may be ideal for a growing family, too: Parents can live in one unit while grandparents or college-aged children use the second.

However, you decide to use it, buying a duplex is a bit different from buying a house.

Here's what to know:

  1. You Have Plenty of Financing Options
    The idea that duplexes offer few loan options is, thankfully, a myth. You don't need cash to bid on a duplex. In addition to conventional financing, FHA loans, VA loans, and 203k loans can all be used. In some cases, you can also include the cost of needed repairs in the financing package. That helps you get both units of your duplex ready for occupants sooner.
  2. Repairs and Maintenance Can Be an Issue ...
    If you choose to allow a tenant to live in one of your units, then you have certain responsibilities as a landlord. It's a good idea to talk to a specialist in real estate law to know the expectations. In general, units must be kept safe – free of mold and other hazards. Landlords must act quickly on major repairs, like water heaters, that affect tenants' quality of life. These charges can stack up!
  3. ... But They May Be Offset by Tax Breaks
    On the flip side, tax breaks for duplex owners can be substantial. If at least one unit is used by tenants for some part of the year, you may qualify for offsets on property taxes or repair costs. Using the duplex as your primary residence expands your options in many jurisdictions. Remember, there may be state and local programs to look into as well as federal ones.
  4. Many Tenants Prefer Duplexes
    At an apartment, a tenant could be sharing as many as five walls with other people – yikes! On the other hand, a duplex means there's only a single point of contact between units. The lower potential for noise complaints and other conflicts attracts many tenants. Plus, duplexes tend to have more floor space. This can help you maintain occupancy.
  5. Location is Even More Important
    To maximize rental income, you want to get as close as possible to 100% year-round occupancy. Location is crucial to attracting reliable tenants who are interested in long-term accommodation. For example, there can be a high demand for a unit in a "bedroom community" outside of a major city, a much easier lift than trying to purchase a comparable property in the heart of downtown.
  6. Reselling Can Be a Challenge
    Reselling a duplex can be tough for several reasons. You may find yourself in hot water if you want to evict a tenant on a rapid timeframe. Likewise, it can be difficult to attract a qualified buyer who is interested in what you have to offer, and you may need to perform more pre-sale repairs than you would on a single-family home. Be prepared for a longer sales horizon.

A duplex offers both the potential to grow in value and passive income that takes the sting out of a mortgage loan. As with any time buying a house, consider your options carefully. Pick a real estate agent who knows multi-unit properties inside and out!

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home or duplex please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Goof-Proof Plants for Your Landscaping

Well landscaped lawn

Not all of us are fortunate enough to be born with a green thumb, live in a climate that's conducive to exotic plants, or have a yard with perfect growing conditions... and that's okay! There are tons of plants out there that are easy to care for, look great in your yard, and fit perfectly as part of your next landscaping home improvement project. Whether you're looking to spice up your landscaping for your own outdoor enjoyment or boost curb appeal when selling your home, these goof-proof plants are ideal for tackling home improvement projects outdoors with minimal maintenance.

  • Knock Out Roses
    All the beauty of a blooming rose bush, without the extensive maintenance required for many rose varieties? Sign us up! Knock Out Roses are very easy to maintain and will look fantastic as part of your next outdoor home improvement project. Just make sure they're planted where they'll get plenty of sun, and you're good to go.
  • Marigolds
    Adding a touch of gold to your garden is easy if you plant some marigolds, which bloom from spring through fall and require very little care after you plant them. They can hold up to the heat in more extreme climates and should thrive as long as they're planted where they can receive lots of sunlight.
  • American Beautyberry
    Looking for a low-maintenance shrub to accent the rest of your landscaping? These beauties will do the trick. American beautyberry shrubs feature green foliage year-round, blooming purple flowers in the spring/summer, and beautiful purple berries during fall/winter. They thrive in most climates, are resistant to drought, and require very little maintenance after planting.
  • Spotted Laurel
    With large, green, glossy leaves and a hardy disposition, spotted laurel is a great option when adding some green to your garden is at the top of your home improvement to-do list. It's a great complement to the more bright, flowery plants in your garden and grows slowly so it requires minimal trimming.
  • Geranium Brookside
    Looking to attract some butterflies to your garden, without also attracting deer, rabbits, and other critters? The geranium brookside plant thrives in a wide variety of challenging conditions, has blooms that last from spring through summer, and is great for attracting butterflies.
  • Ice Plant
    Whoever named the ice plant had a sense of humor, because this colorful, flowering succulent definitely doesn't thrive in icy conditions. However, if you live in a dry, arid area where watering plants can be a challenge and winters are warm, then ice plant is a fantastic choice. It requires very little water, making it a favorite for desert home improvement outdoors.
  • Coral Honeysuckle
    With vivid, red, trumpet-shaped blooms, coral honeysuckle can be a colorful addition to any outdoor home improvement project. It's not a very picky plant when it comes to sunlight, and doesn't require much watering. It may even attract hummingbirds to your yard!
  • Clematis
    Searching for some (almost) instant gratification from your next home improvement project? Try planting some clematis, which grows quickly and can produce flowers of many different colors depending on which variety you purchase. Clematis also climbs well as it grows, so it's a great choice if you want a plant that will grow to cover outdoor structures as part of your landscaping.

Home improvement projects come in many forms, and gardening is certainly one area that you won't want to overlook. Whether you're trying to build a garden in a tough climate or new to landscaping, picking the right plants is key to achieving your home improvement goals outdoors.

If you would like a free estimate of what your home might sell for please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Five Ways to Get the Most
from Virtual Tours

Picture of tablet computer

Real estate's traditional touchpoints are helpful when buying a house, but most people want to avoid all of the face-to-face contact in today's world. To continue offering excellent service, more real estate pros are introducing virtual tours.

A virtual tour provides you with the opportunity to walk through a home using streaming video. Because of its crisp, live visuals and high interactivity, it's a step up from a static "tour" that uses property photos to create a panoramic view of a home's interiors.

Touted as "the next best thing to being there," a virtual tour can actually be better than an in-person walkthrough in some surprising ways. And yes, it is a tremendous asset when you're buying a house!

Here's how to make the most of a virtual tour for your decision-making:

  1. Choose a Live Tour Over a Recorded One
    While a recorded tour could be accessed any time, you don't want to miss out on the opportunity to go live. Your real estate agent should be prepared to walk through the property and give you details on all it has to offer, just as you would expect from a typical tour or open house.
  2. Ask Questions and Make Requests
    A live virtual tour also has the benefit of being interactive. Don't hesitate to ask questions. Keep an eye on the action at all times so you can get clarifications: For example, asking your agent to zoom in on a particular area so you can get a closer look.
  3. Take Your Time
    Without travel time to consider, a virtual tour can be much faster than an ordinary one. Still, you want to take as much time as you need, since setting up a second tour might be a hassle. Block off about 90 minutes to explore a single-family home, even though you might take only an hour.
  4. Review the Instant Replay
    Every virtual tour creates a "permanent record" – the video your real estate agent is taking. Be sure to ask him or her to send you the video so you can review and digest, potentially spotting things you didn't notice before. It's wise to bring this up early so your agent doesn't delete the file by accident.
  5. Take the Chance to See More Properties
    As you're buying a house, you're bound to run into more than one property you find enticing. Use the time you save to compare more homes. Even if you don't see anything else that catches your eye, you'll be able to go forward with confidence knowing you did your research.

What's the key to success? Don't overlook the value of a virtual tour – but be sure you get the information you need from the experience. Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make, and a good virtual tour can help you get there faster.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Do-It-Yourself Pest Control Tips

Picture of guy with containers of chemicals

If you're plagued by ants, flies, roaches, or other nasty bugs, you'll want to get the situation under control right away! Luckily, there's a good chance you can save some money by taking care of the problem yourself. Start with these simple DIY pest control tips.

  1. Seal Up Your Home
    One of the most important things you can do to keep pests out of your home is to figure out how they're getting in and block their entry. Check around your foundation for cracks or areas where materials have started to separate. Also, take a look at your roof. If your facia or soffits are damaged, this can create an easy entryway for pests. Next, check to make sure your windows are sealed properly and check the doors. Some issues you may find include shrunken caulk, worn-out weather stripping, or doors that don't close properly. Fix any problems you find right away.

  2. Store Pet Food Properly
    Dog and cat food will attract all kinds of pests. Make sure you store it in a sealed container. A clean metal trash can with a lid is a good option, as mice can't climb up the can's slippery surface. It's also a good idea to feed your pets on a regular schedule, then empty and wash the food bowls when they're done.

  3. Get Rid of Standing Water
    Bugs love standing water! Keep a sharp eye out for any water sources you can get rid of. Inside, check under your sinks and in your basement to make sure there's no leaks or drips. Outdoors, watch for things like children's toys or lawn furniture that are collecting rainwater. This can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes! Termites, carpenter ants, and rodents can all tunnel their way through moist wood. Clean your gutters regularly so rain is directed away from your home. This will help keep your home's exterior and foundation dry.

  4. Stave Off Spiders
    Spiders are some of the creepiest pests, but they're easy to get rid of. Start by placing a dehumidifier in the area where they're congregating and keep it set to 40% humidity. Next, use a broom or vacuum to knock down any spider webs you see. Keep up with this cleaning routine, and, in a few weeks, your eight-legged "friends" will have packed their bags and moved on.

  5. Drive Out Ants
    Ants are a big nuisance, and they're often attracted to food. A great way to deter them is to clean your kitchen countertops, walls, floors, and other surfaces with a mixture of equal parts water and apple cider vinegar. You can also keep ants away by soaking cotton balls in a mixture of Borax, sugar, and water and placing them around the house. Borax can be toxic if it's ingested, so don't use this solution if there are small children or pets in the home.

  6. Use Essential Oils
    Essential oils are one of the best non-toxic pest control options. Peppermint oil is very effective and versatile. You can use it to deter ants, beetles, fleas, flies, moths, roaches, and spiders. Thyme will keep away beetles, chiggers, and ticks. Dealing with gnats? Use patchouli or spearmint. Citronella is well known for being excellent for keeping mosquitos at bay.

If you know what to do, DIY pest control will often completely eliminate your problem. However, if the infestation is severe or you've been trying to handle things yourself for more than a few weeks and still don't have it under control, it's time to wave the white flag and call in the pros.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me.  I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

How Remote Working is
Changing Home buyer needs
 
Mother and daughter on sofa
Almost overnight, our world changed completely due to the impact of COVID-19. Since then, every element of our lives has been altered, including the real estate industry. Over the last nine months, adults considering buying a house have identified new lifestyle needs as a result of working remotely. Remote working is drastically changing homebuyer needs across the country, which means those selling and buying a house must accommodate these new necessities. Here are just a few things buyers are looking for to help better accommodate their work from home lifestyle.

𝗘𝘅𝗽𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝗦𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝗔𝗿𝗲𝗮
With no office to commute to, professionals buying a house are interested in exploring a wider search area. Previously, reports stated that many professionals lived within a 30-minute one-way trip to their workplace. Now, they can live much farther away, which encourages them to seek out areas outside of major metropolitan areas.

𝗢𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗦𝗽𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗱
Working from home is not as simple as it sounds. Many professionals require a bare minimum set up, including a sturdy workspace, privacy, and ergonomic office equipment. When working from a home that features other adults and children, these professionals will likely seek out dedicated office space when buying a house. It should come as no surprise that the majority of homeowners polled say that they want a home with an office or multipurpose space that can be easily converted into a sufficient workspace.

𝗪𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗔𝘁-𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘁𝘆𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀
Unless the individual lives alone, a professional working from home will also need to consider the lifestyle needs of their family while working from home. They may need a separate office space for their spouse and an area where their children can engage in remote learning. Because they're working and living in the same space, they may also desire additional amenities or features that make their homes more comfortable for relaxation, such as swimming pools, game rooms, exercise areas, or outdoor living spaces.

𝗟𝗼𝗻𝗴-𝗧𝗲𝗿𝗺 𝗟𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴
Although people may be interested in buying a house now, they may be looking at this move as a long-term decision. Because they can work from home, they can move to the area they desire and won't have to worry about relocating if their role or company undergoes changes. This may also encourage those buying a house to consider higher-priced homes that include features or amenities that meet their diverse needs.

There's no telling what our post-COVID world will look like, but one thing is for sure: those buying a house are seeking out specific features. Not only do their homes need to accommodate remote working, but they're also interested in buying a house that caters to their family's at-home lifestyle needs for the long-term.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

A Young Family's Guide
to Buying a Home

Mom and Dad holding a chair with kid in itMany young families find themselves ready to buy a home--often for the first time. Buying a house that not only suits your own needs but also those of your child--and possibly future children--requires some planning, but the payoff is well worth it.
The following are some homebuying tips for young families:
𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗙𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲
Buy a home that will not only suit your needs now but also in the future. Think about what you'll need in a home when your child is older. Consider the neighborhood and what the schools are like. Is there a park nearby? Does the neighborhood have a lot of other kids that could be potential friends for your child?

Also, think about whether you'll want to add to your family in the next few years. How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need? Could you use a bonus room to help provide a play space?

𝗕𝘂𝗱𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝗖𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘆
When you have a child, it can be harder to budget. Try to keep a larger cushion between your expenses and what you expect to earn in order to make sure you can handle your mortgage payments and other obligations.

For example, you or your spouse may want to reduce the number of hours you work, take a less demanding job, or quit work entirely. This will reduce your household income. Even if you keep your work schedules the same, you may have daycare costs. And whether you continue to work or change your employment situation, you'll also need to pay for everything from diapers to clothes to activities.

𝗠𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗦𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗮𝗳𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗻
A home should be a safe haven for your family, so make sure the house itself and its immediate environment area are child-friendly. Take a walk around the neighborhood to determine whether you feel safe. Do you live on a busy road, or in a quiet subdivision where your child could ride their bike? Is there a pool in your yard, and if so, are you comfortable making sure it's gated and has motion-detectors and also ensuring your child doesn't get near it if they're unsupervised? If you have a yard, is it fenced in, or will you take care of having this done yourself?

In addition, consider the inside of your home. Are there stairs, and if so, are you OK with buying and navigating your way past baby gates? And if you're buying a house that's older, make sure to have it tested for lead paint and asbestos before making a commitment.

𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗧𝗶𝗺𝗲
You may want to buy a home before you have your first child, but don't be in a hurry. Take your time and make sure your finances are in good shape and that you'll be able to be approved for a mortgage at a favorable interest rate.

And when you're ready to look for a home, don't settle for a house just because you're in a rush. Take your time and find a home that's right for you and your family. No home will probably include every single thing that you want, but if you're realistic, you should be able to find one that has the vast majority of attributes you're looking for.

Buying a house will help your family have a place of your own to bond and build memories. By planning, taking your time, and knowing what you're looking for, you'll find the home that's right for you.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

7 Financial Steps after
buying your first home

Woman at deskYou’re a first-time home buyer — congratulations are in order. While you’ve just completed quite a bit of heavy lifting in terms of pulling together your finances, your work isn’t finished. Now, it’s time to think about what to do after buying a house. As you start checking off the items on your move-in to-do list and turning your house into a home, here are seven key financial steps you should take.

𝟭. 𝗦𝗲𝘁 𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗿𝘀.
When you were a renter, repairs were your landlord’s responsibility. Now, those costs fall on your plate. “Consider increasing (your) savings held in a high-yield or other low-risk account to account for the reality that homeownership includes additional and sometimes large personal expenses that a renter does not have,” advises Elliot Pepper, CPA, CFP, MST, financial planner and co-founder of Maryland-based Northbrook Financial. How much extra cash should you put away? “One percent per year of a home’s value if new or 2 percent or more if older (than10 years) is a reasonable amount to budget for repairs and maintenance,” according to Eric McClain, CFP, co-founder of Alabama-based McClain Lovejoy Financial Planning. “You may not actually spend that amount each year, but when the A/C needs replacing, you’ll blow through that line item pretty quickly,” McClain says.

𝟮. 𝗕𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗲𝘀.
When your air conditioner breaks, it’s a hassle. If you lose your job, it’s a much bigger deal and can create a terrifying level of concern over how you’ll pay your expenses, including your mortgage. Since owning a home means some of your expenses have changed, make sure to determine how much money you should now have in your emergency savings fund to weather a worst-case storm.

𝟯. 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗮 𝗯𝗶𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗸𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝗮𝘆𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗿𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲.
When you signed on to your mortgage, you found out what your monthly payment would be. That doesn’t mean you have to think in a12-times-per-year payment schedule, though. Pepper recommends asking your lender if you can make your payments on a biweekly schedule, which divides your monthly payment into lower payments paid every two weeks. “From a cash-flow standpoint, this might not be too impactful to your budget, but under the biweekly schedule, you will end up making one additional payment per year,” explains Pepper. “On a 30-year mortgage, this can literally cut years from the mortgage and save thousands in interest.” The key to saving is to ensure your lender or servicer applies the extra payment to the principal of the loan. You could also be charged a prepayment penalty if you make biweekly payments (uncommon, but it can happen), so check what your limitations are there, as well.

𝟰. 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲.
As you enjoy your new home, you need to make sure it’s protected from any potential disasters with enough homeowners insurance coverage to rebuild it if necessary. “First-time homeowners should have as large a deductible as they are comfortable paying, as that will lower the premiums,” notes Ariadne Horstman, CFP, Registered Life Planner and founder of California based Appreciate Finance.

𝟱. 𝗜𝗻𝘃𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗮𝘃𝗲.
A large deductible isn’t the only way to lower your insurance premiums. You can also install a home security system. While setup and monthly fees will cost you, some insurance companies offer discounts up to 20 percent for having a security system, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

𝟱. 𝗜𝗻𝘃𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗮𝘃𝗲.
If you’re buying a house with your partner, you might be thinking about filling the rooms with some little ones. If that’s the case, you should start considering long term strategies for your money and worst case scenarios. “When kids are on the horizon, estate planning and life insurance become crucial,” McClain says.

𝟳. 𝗔𝘃𝗼𝗶𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗿𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀.
Today’s record-low interest rates have created a surge in refinancing, and it makes sense for many homeowners: If they locked in a rate a few years ago, they could be in line to shrink their monthly payments now. However, interest rates constantly move. If you just bought your home, there’s no need to think about adjusting your loan terms. “Don’t get in a hurry to refinance every time rates move,” McClain says. “How long you’ll stay in a home should drive that decision. Remember that you’ll pay fees each time you refinance.”
𝗕𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗺 𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲: Moving into your first home is an exciting time, but it brings a new set of responsibilities. Make sure you’re paying extra attention to your money so you can spend less time stressing and more time celebrating your big purchase.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Getting Out of the Rental Rut

Woman hugging man with keys
There's nothing wrong with renting your home. In fact, in certain circumstances, it's the smarter choice. However, if you've been renting for what seems like forever, you might have started thinking about wanting to get out of the "rental rut."

While it's nice to know you can call the landlord any time there's a problem with the home, there are some major advantages to buying a house of your own. If you've been on the fence about finally taking the leap into home-ownership, consider these important benefits.

𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝗹𝗹 𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗘𝗾𝘂𝗶𝘁𝘆
One of the biggest advantages of buying a house is that you're no longer handing over your hard-earned money to pay for someone else's property. Each time you pay your rent, that money is gone, and you have nothing to show for it. Whenever you make an improvement to the home you're renting, or you take care of routine maintenance, you're building your landlords equity – instead of your own. Buying a house allows you to start building your equity. It's a long-term investment that you can sell or take a loan against in the future.

𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝗹𝗹 𝗛𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆
When you rent, you don't have any control over changes your landlord might decide to make. Not only can your monthly rent payments suddenly go up, but your landlord could also decide to sell the property – meaning you'll have to find a new place to stay. Buying a house gives you a lifetime of predictability and stability. If you get a fixed mortgage, your payments will always remain the same. As long as you keep making those payments, no one can ever tell you it's time for you to go.

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗠𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗦𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗧𝗮𝘅𝗲𝘀
In addition to being a great long-term investment, buying a house will likely also create short-term benefits in the form of tax savings. You may have access to the mortgage interest payment deduction, tax write-offs, and other tax deductions that aren't available to renters. This could allow you to start making money back on your investment right away.

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗚𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗶𝘁 𝗮 𝗣𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗧𝗼𝘂𝗰𝗵
Another huge advantage of buying a house is that once you do, it's yours. This means that you don't have to ask permission to paint, change out the carpets, or completely update the landscaping. When you own your home, you're free to give it your own personal touch in any way you see fit.

𝗜𝘁'𝘀 𝗮 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗧𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗕𝘂𝘆
It's one thing to understand the advantages of buying a house. It's quite another to feel financially prepared to do so. Luckily, the current economic conditions are perfect for buying a house. Interest rates are at historic lows, so locking in a mortgage today can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your loan. There are also many programs available that can allow you to buy a home with little to no money down.

If you've been thinking about buying a home, now is a great time to do it. However, the inventory of homes for sale has also reached record lows. Since there are fewer houses on the market, it might take you longer to find your dream home. Starting the process of buying a house sooner, rather than later, will give you the best chance to take advantage of these optimal conditions and finally get out of that rental rut.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

      5 Hacks to Remove a Stripped Screw

Picture of screws
Nothing can throw a wrench in your home improvement projects quite like a stripped screw! We're talking about those stubborn screws that have been over-tightened so much they won't turn properly or simply refuse to budge. If you're a home improvement enthusiast, these can quickly become the bane of your existence!

Next time this happens to you, take a deep breath. All is not lost. There are actually several simple ways to remove a stripped screw. Once you learn these techniques, you'll be able to fix the problem in a matter of seconds and get your home improvement project back on track.

𝗧𝗿𝘆 𝗮 𝗗𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗦𝗰𝗿𝗲𝘄𝗱𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿
This is a very simple solution, but it often works. If you're dealing with a Phillips screw, try switching to a flat-head screwdriver. You might need to dig through your home improvement tool kit to get one that's the appropriate size. A properly-sized flat-head should have the perfect amount of space to get a good grip. Press it as hard as you can into the screw and attempt to turn it.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝘂𝗯𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝗕𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗧𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗸
You might be surprised to learn that the simplest solution to your problem is likely floating around in your junk drawer. Grab a wide rubber band and place it on top of your screw head. Then, press the screwdriver down really hard while slowly unscrewing. The rubber should give you the extra grip you need to get the stripped screw out.

𝗨𝘀𝗲 𝗮 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗹
Depending on the type of home improvement projects you've been doing, you might have a Dremel or similar tool available. If so, you're in luck. You can use it to make a notch in the head of the screw. Then, grab your flat-head screwdriver, push it into the notch, and put some muscle into unscrewing the stripped screw.

𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗢𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗗𝗿𝗶𝗹𝗹
The king of home improvement projects to the rescue! You likely use your drill a lot -- but did you know you can use it to remove a stripped screw? Simply use your drill to create a small hole in the middle of the screw head. Just be careful not to go too deep. All you're trying to do here is allow your Phillips screwdriver to get a better grip when you start to turn it.

𝗧𝗿𝘆 𝗡𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗹𝗲-𝗡𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗣𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗿𝘀
If some of the methods above have worked at least slightly, there's a good chance that part of the screw is now exposed above the surface. In this case, head back to your home improvement tool kit and get a pair of needle-nose pliers. Clamping ones will work best, but regular ones might also work. Just grab the screw with the pliers and use them to finish unscrewing it.

𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮 𝗛𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗜𝘁
It's so frustrating to have a home improvement project stalled by a stripped screw, you might think about grabbing an oversized hammer using it to smash the screw. Don't do that... (yet). Instead, try using the hammer to gently tap the screwdriver into the screw head. Since the metal was soft enough to strip in the first place, there's a good chance that this will push the screwdriver in deep enough to get a firm grip. Then, you can proceed with unscrewing it.
Next time a stripped screw threatens your home improvement project, stay calm, and refer back to this list. One of these tricks might help salvage your project and save your sanity!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

         𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗮 𝗖𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗺 𝗶𝗻 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲

Picture of room with 2 desks Of the many home improvement projects on the to-do list, few homeowners imagined that creating a classroom in their homes was going to be a top priority this year.

Due to the ever-changing impacts of the coronavirus, students from preschool all the way to doctoral programs now have to learn, study, and test within their own homes. It's uncertain when traditional in-classroom learning will return to full capacity, and there's a good chance that remote learning opportunities will continue to be present throughout your student's life.

Thankfully, creating an effective and engaging "classroom" space is an easy home improvement project that homeowners of all budgets can accomplish.

𝗗𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻 𝗔𝗿𝗲𝗮
First, you need to find an area of the home that your student can use as a classroom. Ideally, dedicating an unused room for their studies would be best, but lofts, dining rooms, patios, and even garages can be great spaces. The area that you choose needs to be able to accommodate all of the supplies necessary to keep your student prepared, productive, and comfortable. If you don't have the space to devote to a large home improvement project, finding a cozy corner of a little-used room like a guest room can be a perfect space for your makeshift classroom.

𝗗𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗡𝗲𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗹𝘀
Don't forget that this home improvement project requires materials like notebooks, pencils, printer paper, glue, and folders. Depending on grade level, your student may require a range of materials.
Make a list of everything they'll need throughout the semester, including items they may only need on occasion. Once your list is created, consider creative storage options that keep everything within reach without making the space feel cluttered.

𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁'𝘀 𝗜𝗻𝗽𝘂𝘁
Ultimately, the student will be spending the most time in this space, so be sure to let them have a say as much as possible. Whether it's picking out the types of pens and pencils they'll use or deciding where the desk will be located, let your student be as involved in this home improvement project as often as possible.

𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗘𝗻𝘃𝗶𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴
Be careful not to go overboard or do too little on this home improvement project. Too much stimulation in the room can break a student's concentration, while too little stimulation can make the classroom feel like detention. Make sure the area for this home improvement project feels spacious but offers privacy, utilizes natural light that can be shaded, and contains comfortable furniture that will help the student keep a good posture.

𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗮 𝗠𝗼𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗕𝗼𝘅
Of course, if your child is home all day, going to "school" won't feel like they're leaving the house. Along with this home improvement project, you'll need to also have a plan to help them stay on-task when they want to study in another location. To keep them stimulated, consider creating an easily transportable mobile learning box so you can take your education out of the "classroom." Whether it's bringing notebooks and textbooks to the backyard for studying under the sun or driving to a library or community center for a change of scenery, use this mobile box to help your student escape the monotony of their homeschool life and keep them engaged.

Homeschooling, even if your child is still enrolled virtually, is challenging for all members of the family. Thankfully, a few quick home improvement projects can help you create an effective classroom where your children can accomplish their academic goals.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Buying a Home? 3Ways to Lose
Your Earnest Money Deposit

Drawing of a small house sitting on top of dollar billsMany first-time buyers don't know the financial obligations involved in buying a house. With so much emphasis placed on saving for a down payment, some people don't fully understand all other financial aspects of the transaction, including the earnest money deposit. I encourage all buyers, first-time or otherwise, to understand what an earnest money deposit is — and how you can lose it when buying a house.

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗘𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗠𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘆 𝗗𝗲𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁?
When you place an offer on a home that the seller accepts, you're laying the foundation for the entire transaction. As a part of the purchase offer, the buyer commits to a financial obligation. The earnest money deposit, also called an escrow deposit or good faith money, follows the signing of the sales contract or purchase agreement. The amount may be between 1 percent and 10 percent of the sales price. The contract outlines if and when a buyer may seek a refund for this deposit.

𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝗮 𝗿𝗲𝗳𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘆 𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁? One example may be if the house doesn't appraise for the sale price, the buyer can stipulate a contingency that they can take back their deposit. How can you lose your earnest money deposit? It's easier than you may believe. There are three surefire ways to lose your earnest money deposit when buying a house:

𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝘃𝗲 𝗴𝗼𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝗹𝗲.
Buying a house is a huge commitment — a commitment that a small percentage of buyers don't fully understand until they've signed the purchase agreement. Backing out of the sale of a home simply because you've reconsidered your personal decision is not permitted.

𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝘃𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗰𝘆 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀.
When you're buying a house, always read and understand the stipulations of the contract. Real estate agreements often have contingencies included, like allowing you to remove yourself from the sale and retain your earnest money deposit if the inspection fails or if there are financing issues. Some buyers will waive these rights to make their offer appear more attractive to the seller. For example, if the inspection were to fail or if the house is appraised for less than it's listed, you'll either need to complete the sale or lose your deposit if you've waived the contingency rights.

𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝘃𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝗴𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗱-𝘂𝗽𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗰𝘁.
Your purchase agreement will include a number of new responsibilities that you must tend to within a specific time frame. This includes securing financing from a mortgage lender, completing a home inspection, getting an appraisal conducted, and setting availability to schedule closing. While some sellers will extend these time limits within reason if requested, you're contractually obligated to meet these demands, or you can forfeit your earnest money deposit.

Buying a house is one of the most significant decisions and investments you'll make in your life. While it is common to have some uncertain thoughts in this process, you should also keep in mind that you are responsible for keeping up your end of the bargain — morally and legally.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

           Displaying Art in Your Home

Framed artwork on shelf
Displaying artwork in your home is the perfect way to add some personality and give visitors a glimpse into what you value in life. From family portraits and vacation photographs to prints and paintings that evoke powerful emotions, your options are limited only by your imagination.
While most homeowners love the concept of displaying art in their homes, many struggle with figuring out the details. From where to place artwork to how to choose the best pieces, decorating with art can feel like an insurmountable task. Luckily, it's not as difficult as you might think. Take a look at this room-by-room for some inspiration.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗞𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗻
While the kitchen is often called "the heart of the home," many people don't give it a second thought when they're looking for places to add artwork. As one of the most-used rooms in your home, it's actually the perfect place to get creative and add a personal touch.

When choosing art for your kitchen, look for smaller pieces. This will help ensure it complements the space instead of overwhelming it. Place art on your countertop with a stand or hang pieces above your cabinets or on an open wall.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗲𝗱𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗺
For your bedroom, look for art that invokes feelings of peace and relaxation. Abstract art with soothing tones and landscape photography are both excellent options.

Large-scale pieces work well here. They're often best displayed at eye level either over the bed or on the wall directly across from the bed. Minimal frames are also popular for bedrooms, so consider canvas pieces or images placed in gallery frames.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗢𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗲
If you have an office space, you'll want to decorate it with images that inspire and energize you. One great idea is to install a floating shelf and decorate it with framed images that you rotate when the mood strikes.

This allows you to keep things fresh and exciting without too much effort. When choosing your images, look for pieces of different sizes, as this will add visual interest. If you prefer a minimalist look, choose frames that are all similar. Otherwise, choose a selection of different-looking frames to give your space more of a unique sense of style.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗺
The bathroom is another commonly overlooked room when it comes to art. When choosing pieces for this space, make sure they fit in with the room's overall vibe. The master bath often does well with calm, serene pieces, while fun, bright pieces might work well in a main-level powder room.

Consider choosing art in pairs that follow the same theme. For placement, you typically can't go wrong hanging pieces over the toilet, above a freestanding bathtub, or over your towel hooks.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗟𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗥𝗼𝗼𝗺
While the living room can be the most fun room in the house to decorate, for many, it's also the most intimidating. The good news is, you have a lot of options.

Try choosing one large-scale piece of artwork that speaks to you or setting up a large gallery wall. If you feel creative, consider adding some 3-dimensional pieces to your wall décor. This unique touch will add some extra character and really make your space pop.

𝗘𝗺𝗯𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗶𝘁𝘆!
While the tips above are an excellent guide, it's important to remember that the art you choose is a reflection of your personality. If you come across a piece of art you really love, find a creative way to make it work.

Ultimately, your home — and the artwork in it — should make you feel happy. If it does, then you're doing it right!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?

Picture of worn homeBuying a fixer-upper home can be a great way to acquire a home in a neighborhood you might not otherwise be able to afford. Maybe you've picked out a charming older home you think just needs some tender loving care to bring out its best. That may be true, but beware of romancing yourself into a costly renovation nightmare, where you can't recover your investment once the house goes on the market.

That doesn't mean you should avoid fixer-uppers altogether. But do be aware of the possible pitfalls. Once you've weighed the pros and cons, you can make a more informed decision about investing in that sweet little mid-century modern you've had your eye on. Consider these points before buying a fixer-upper.

𝗗𝗜𝗬 𝗦𝗸𝗶𝗹𝗹𝘀 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗠𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮 𝗙𝗶𝘅𝗲𝗿 𝗨𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗿 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗔𝗳𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲
So you've fallen for a fixer-upper, and you're weighing the possibilities. One of the first things to consider is how much of the work you're able to do yourself. If you love to work on old houses, you're a step ahead. But those with no DIY skills may be locked into overseeing contractors for every renovation. That can cause some headaches and will certainly cost more than if you can do the work yourself.

𝗗𝗜𝗬 𝗦𝗸𝗶𝗹𝗹𝘀 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗠𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮 𝗙𝗶𝘅𝗲𝗿 𝗨𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗿 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗔𝗳𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲
Once you make an offer for a home and it's accepted, you'll need a home inspection. An inspection can help assure your fixer-upper is a good investment, or it may provide a warning that you should take a pass.

Be mindful that major repairs — foundation fixes, roof and wall renovations, plumbing, and electrical system redos — may not raise the house's value sufficiently to offset the renovation cost. Ideally, a fixer-upper should require mainly cosmetic repairs. These repairs don't cost a lot, and they raise the value of the home. They might include painting touch-ups, fixing doors, installing new light fixtures, drywall repairs, refinishing floors, and updating bathrooms and kitchens.

Also, be aware that if your fixer-upper has some differences that set it off from other homes in the neighborhood — for example, two bedrooms instead of three, or one bathroom instead of two — these may impede selling it.

Further, you will want to avoid renovations that promise to take an extraordinarily long time. By the time you finish, you may find that the home's market value has gone down.

𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗔𝗳𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗱 𝗜𝘁?
Add up the cost of materials and labor — that is, your labor and that of any contractors. Then, subtract that figure from the estimated market value of the home post-renovation. Compare your fixer-upper with other homes in the neighborhood to determine estimated market value. Deduct another 5 to 10 percent for extras, possible problems you may encounter, and inflation. The figure you arrive at should be your offer.

𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗥𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀
You've got several options when it comes to financing your renovation. Putting the bills on a credit card is easy, but you'll be paying high interest rates. A renovation loan lets you finance a house and improvements together. The interest rate is lower than many other financing types, and you can take longer to pay off the loan. Some types of renovation loans include:

VA renovation loan
HomeStyle
FHA 203(k)
CHOICE Renovation loan

Is a fixer-upper worth it? The answer, as with any investment, is: "It depends." For many homeowners, a fixer-upper will be the right choice. Just be sure the renovation is not more work and more expensive than you're anticipating. A good real estate agent will also help you make a more informed decision.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.
          
                Keeping a Fire Extinguisher
                            in Your Home

Picture of hand holding fire extinguisherIt's the device every home should have but hopefully should never have to use: a fire extinguisher is an important home safety device, and no fire safety plan is complete without one. When you go to the hardware store to purchase your fire extinguisher, you'll find a variety of extinguishers designed to deal with different situations. Knowing what you'll encounter will help you determine what types are best for your home.

𝗧𝗼𝗽 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀
Fire extinguishers are sorted into classes based on the type of fire they're designed to extinguish, and each class uses a different type of agent to extinguish the fire. Here are the classes you can expect to see:

𝗖𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗔 𝗶𝘀 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗼𝗼𝗱, 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿, 𝗼𝗿 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰𝘀. If your favorite scented candle fell onto the book you'd just put down, you'll need Class A.

𝗖𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗕 𝗶𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗼𝗶𝗹𝘀, 𝗴𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗼𝗿 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗮𝗻𝗲.
You'll want this type of extinguisher for grease fires in the kitchen or for most fires around the garage.

𝗖𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗖 𝗶𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝗲𝘀.
If your home has older wiring or if you're having electrical work done on your home, get a Class C fire extinguisher.
You may also see Class K fire extinguishers, which are designed especially for professional kitchens and can cope with big grease fires.

Several manufacturers make fire extinguishers for multiple types of fires and may have A-B-C on their labels to indicate this. If you see a number before the A or B, this shows how effective the extinguisher is against each type of fire. Higher numbers mean greater effectiveness against that type of fire.

𝗪𝗲𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘆 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿𝘀
Size matters when it comes to fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers range from 2 to 10 pounds, and more isn't always better. You want a device large enough to be effective but small enough to store conveniently nearby. You may want a few extinguishers in different sizes depending on how much time you spend in an area and the number of combustible items in that area. You may need a bigger device in the garage, whereas a mid-sized one would be better in the kitchen to deal with sudden grease fires.

𝗧𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗜𝘀 𝗔 𝗗𝗿𝗶𝗹𝗹
Familiarize yourself with how your fire extinguishers work before you use them. Most will use the P.A.S.S. method: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle at the top of the extinguisher, and Sweep the device side to side. Keep your fire extinguishers in a place where you can access them easily, and remind yourself of their location several times a year. A good time to remind yourself is when you check your smoke alarm batteries or test a hard-wired smoke alarm system for a more complete fire safety check.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗔𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗱
A fire extinguisher is a pressurized device, and nothing can maintain pressure forever. If your extinguisher has been used or is more than a few years old, your local fire department can direct you where you can have it recharged. Fire extinguishers can also corrode or be damaged otherwise. If this happens, replace the device quickly.

While improvised remedies can extinguish some house fires, without a tested and certified way to get fires under control, you could inadvertently turn a small home accident into a serious emergency. Of course, fire extinguishers are not meant to suppress large fires, and if you're unsure, the safest thing to do is exit your house. But obtaining and maintaining the right fire extinguishers will still help keep your home and your family safe.

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

        Your Buyer's Guide to Fixtures

Picture of gas stove top
Fixtures are an important part of any home, especially for buyers looking to reduce expenses. If you're purchasing a home, you expect to see the same fixtures in the house you saw earlier. Unfortunately, some buyers are surprised when they move in to find the seller removed fixtures.

When you're in the market for a new home, finding one that complements your design style, existing furnishings, and lifestyle can be challenging. Since the purchase of a new home is a major expense, homebuyers often look for homes with upgraded fixtures that appeal to their sense of style and reduce the costs of new fixtures.

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘅𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲𝘀?
As a general rule, fixtures are things that are permanently attached to the home. Common fixtures that usually remain with the home include:

𝗟𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴
Permanently attached ceiling fixtures include recessed and spotlights, track lighting, chandeliers, and pendants. Because these fixtures are often difficult to remove without an electrician, most sellers leave them behind. In some cases, a seller may remove expensive antique chandeliers and high-end fixtures.

𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝘁-𝗜𝗻𝘀
Built-in fixtures like cabinets, entertainment centers, bookshelves, and window seats are usually custom-made items designed and built for specific spaces. Plantation shutters, blinds, shades, and draperies are also often custom-made items. Most sellers leave custom-made fixtures with the home, as they are unlikely to fit spaces in a new home.

𝗛𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗲
Hardware includes doorknobs and handles, cabinet knobs, and drawer pulls. In most cases, the seller with leave these for the new buyer, because it's too time-consuming to remove them. However, some sellers may remove expensive hardware that can be used in their new location.

𝗞𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗔𝗽𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀
Most mortgage lenders require a new home to have a kitchen with working appliances; however, they don't have to be the same ones you saw during the open house. If the home's listing mentions "recently upgraded kitchen" or "professional-grade appliances," you should expect to see them when you move in. Unless specified, washers and dryers usually go with the seller.

𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗦𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗦𝘆𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗺𝘀
Home security systems can be hard-wired into the home or activated with plug-in equipment. While wired-in systems always stay with the house, sellers may choose to take plug-in systems with movable and wireless features with them.

𝗦𝗺𝗼𝗸𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗖𝗮𝗿𝗯𝗼𝗻 𝗠𝗼𝗻𝗼𝘅𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘀
In most cases, sellers leave these fixtures with the house since they are inexpensive to replace. Most mortgage lenders require working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in a home. If a home inspection shows these fixtures missing or not working properly, the new homeowner will be required to install them.

𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗮 𝗣𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗔𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁
A purchase agreement between the buyer and the seller is important to specify which fixtures remain in the home and which ones do not. Your real estate agent should draw up a purchase agreement signed by the buyer and seller to avoid any disputes. The purchase agreement should list all fixtures that remain in the home for the new buyer. If you're buying a new home, you shouldn't just assume the fixtures you saw are included in the sale.

A purchase agreement can also specify movable items that the buyer wants to keep. Sellers often negotiate prices to leave area rugs, bookcases, wall-hung shelves, patio furniture, outdoor gas grills, and washers and dryers.

If you're buying a new home, it's important to work with a real estate agent who can draw up a proper contract with a purchase agreement. That way, moving into your new home will be a rewarding, stress-free experience.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying or selling a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

                   6 Eco-friendly Updates
                          for your home

Drawing of house sitting on cash
Wouldn't it be nice to boost the energy efficiency of your home, improve your comfort, and benefit the environment in the process?

Eco-friendly home improvement projects offer all of those benefits and more. Whether you're aiming to add value and increase buyer interest for an eventual sale or you're looking for home improvement projects to improve your own enjoyment of the home, eco-friendly upgrades are a great place to focus. Get started with our guide to 6 eco-friendly updates for your home that can help you save money and make your home more energy-efficient.

𝗥𝗲𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗴𝘂𝗹𝗮𝗿 𝗟𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗕𝘂𝗹𝗯𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗘𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗴𝘆 𝗘𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗟𝗘𝗗 𝗕𝘂𝗹𝗯𝘀
Replacing them with efficient LED bulbs is such a simple home improvement project and one that can save you real money in the long run. LED bulbs provide excellent lighting for a much lower energy cost, and can usually be purchased wherever you get your regular bulbs.

𝗢𝗽𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗘𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗴𝘆 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗿 𝗔𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱 𝗔𝗽𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀
Planning a big home improvement project for your kitchen or laundry room? Consider upgrading to efficient, Energy Star approved appliances for those rooms. With an Energy Star approved appliance, you can be confident that your purchase will be eco-friendly and save money on energy costs. Just look for the Energy Star logo, which is displayed prominently on approved appliances, whenever you shop.

𝗠𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗦𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗔𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗔𝗿𝗲 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗹𝘆 𝗜𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱
If you want to make the biggest eco-friendly impact with your next home improvement project and only choose one item from our list, make it proper insulation. This is especially true if your attic is lacking in insulation, or has old, lower quality insulation. An energy audit can help you determine your insulation needs, and the cost of having new insulation installed is made up quickly with the money saved by improved energy efficiency.

𝗨𝘀𝗲 𝗮 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗞𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗳𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗘𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗲𝗻𝘁
With your home properly insulated, adding a programmable thermostat is an affordable home improvement project that can help you save even more on heating and cooling costs while ensuring that your home is always just the right temperature. Keep your home comfortable while you're there, and avoid wasting money on unnecessary heating/cooling while you're out of the house.

𝗜𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗙𝗮𝘂𝗰𝗲𝘁 𝗔𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗟𝗼𝘄-𝗙𝗹𝗼𝘄 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘀
Even if you're careful about water use, regular shower heads and faucets often waste significant amounts of water. So why not opt for something a little greener? Faucet aerators cost only a few dollars, can be installed DIY, and significantly reduce water use without sacrificing water pressure. Low-flow showerheads are also a great option to help minimize water waste and make your shower more comfortable.

𝗨𝗽𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗚𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗗𝗼𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝗻 𝗘𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗴𝘆-𝗘𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗠𝗼𝗱𝗲𝗹
While it may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to saving money on energy, an old, poorly insulated garage door can lead to significant energy waste, increased heating/cooling costs, and higher energy bills. The up-front cost of updating your garage door with a newer model can largely be recouped simply by the money that you'll save on energy bills. For the ultimate eco-friendly garage door home improvement solution, opt for a model that has been built with recycled materials.
Whether you're thinking big or planning to start small, every eco-friendly home improvement update helps to improve the energy efficiency of your home while saving on energy costs. Eco-friendly updates offer some of the best ROI of any home improvement project and can add significant value to your home.

For answers to your home selling questions please give me a call, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

               Considering School Districts
                    While Home Shopping

Kids walking to school
There are lots of factors to consider when buying a home and for most buyers, location is right at the top of that list. And with that location comes school districts. Even buyers without school-age children will take them into consideration. So what exactly goes into evaluating whether the school systems you're looking at make the grade?

𝗦𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹 𝗦𝘆𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗺 𝗗𝗮𝘁𝗮

𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝘇𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝗰𝗼𝗿𝗲𝘀.
This is some of the most revealing information about how schools are really doing. Lower teacher-to-student ratios mean teachers have a reasonable workload and are available to help students individually when they need it. It also means the school is less likely to be overcrowded. Standardized test scores can give insights as to how effectively students are learning. If most students are scoring average or above average on those tests, they have learned the information effectively and are able to apply it.

𝗚𝗿𝗮𝗱𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗴𝗲-𝗯𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝘁𝘂𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀.
These statistics can be helpful, but they don't tell the whole story. A more useful piece of information is knowing the percent of graduates that require remedial work when continuing their education. A high number here would indicate that students are graduating without the skills they need.

𝗔𝗴𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀.
Buildings that are overcrowded and deteriorating can be distracting, uncomfortable, and provide less room for learning and other activities. All of this can create a less than ideal or even dangerous environment. This information also might give some insight as to whether your taxes are likely to go up in the near future.

𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆.
A financially sound school district is more likely to continue to meet higher educational standards further into the future because they consistently have the resources to do so. This is especially important if your children are very young and you plan on staying until after they graduate.

𝗢𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘀
The data-based factors mentioned above are a good place to start. But there are some other more subjective factors to consider that are just as important.

𝗗𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹 𝗼𝗿 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗰𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗲𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗻'𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱𝘀?
If your student is special needs or gifted, you'll need to do a little more investigation to make sure what they need is available. Small districts often transport students to neighboring larger districts if these services aren't available, so you'll want to know that too. If your student has a sport or other outside interest like music that they participate in, you'll want to make sure those kinds of opportunities are available to them as well.

𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗰𝘁.
A good amount of parent involvement means the schools are going to be more aware of and responsive to the needs of students. First-hand information about the schools is invaluable. If you can talk to the PTA or other parents to get a feel for the situation, that is excellent information to have.

𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗻𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻.
This is something that affects your family every day, so it's worth looking into ahead of time. Not all school systems provide transportation and some may not provide it to every school or every area of the district. Transportation to and from daycare can be an issue as well.
The school district is an important consideration when buying a home. Knowing what to look for can help you make an informed decision that will benefit your family and most importantly your children.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.


How Remote Working is
Changing Homebuyer needs

Mother and daughter looking at books
Almost overnight, our world changed completely due to the impact of COVID-19. Since then, every element of our lives has been altered, including the real estate industry. Over the last nine months, adults considering buying a house have identified new lifestyle needs as a result of working remotely. Remote working is drastically changing homebuyer needs across the country, which means those selling and buying a house must accommodate these new necessities. Here are just a few things buyers are looking for to help better accommodate their work from home lifestyle.

𝗘𝘅𝗽𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝗦𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝗔𝗿𝗲𝗮
With no office to commute to, professionals buying a house are interested in exploring a wider search area. Previously, reports stated that many professionals lived within a 30-minute one-way trip to their workplace. Now, they can live much farther away, which encourages them to seek out areas outside of major metropolitan areas.

𝗢𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗦𝗽𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗱
Working from home is not as simple as it sounds. Many professionals require a bare minimum set up, including a sturdy workspace, privacy, and ergonomic office equipment. When working from a home that features other adults and children, these professionals will likely seek out dedicated office space when buying a house. It should come as no surprise that the majority of homeowners polled say that they want a home with an office or multipurpose space that can be easily converted into a sufficient workspace.

𝗪𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗔𝘁-𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘁𝘆𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀
Unless the individual lives alone, a professional working from home will also need to consider the lifestyle needs of their family while working from home. They may need a separate office space for their spouse and an area where their children can engage in remote learning. Because they're working and living in the same space, they may also desire additional amenities or features that make their homes more comfortable for relaxation, such as swimming pools, game rooms, exercise areas, or outdoor living spaces.

𝗟𝗼𝗻𝗴-𝗧𝗲𝗿𝗺 𝗟𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴
Although people may be interested in buying a house now, they may be looking at this move as a long-term decision. Because they can work from home, they can move to the area they desire and won't have to worry about relocating if their role or company undergoes changes. This may also encourage those buying a house to consider higher-priced homes that include features or amenities that meet their diverse needs.

There's no telling what our post-COVID world will look like, but one thing is for sure: those buying a house are seeking out specific features. Not only do their homes need to accommodate remote working, but they're also interested in buying a house that caters to their family's at-home lifestyle needs for the long-term.

Many young families find themselves ready to buy a home--often for the first time. Buying a house that not only suits your own needs but also those of your child--and possibly future children--requires some planning, but the payoff is well worth it.
The following are some homebuying tips for young families:

𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗙𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲
Buy a home that will not only suit your needs now but also in the future. Think about what you'll need in a home when your child is older. Consider the neighborhood and what the schools are like. Is there a park nearby? Does the neighborhood have a lot of other kids that could be potential friends for your child?

Also, think about whether you'll want to add to your family in the next few years. How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need? Could you use a bonus room to help provide a play space?

𝗕𝘂𝗱𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝗖𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘆
When you have a child, it can be harder to budget. Try to keep a larger cushion between your expenses and what you expect to earn in order to make sure you can handle your mortgage payments and other obligations.

For example, you or your spouse may want to reduce the number of hours you work, take a less demanding job, or quit work entirely. This will reduce your household income. Even if you keep your work schedules the same, you may have daycare costs. And whether you continue to work or change your employment situation, you'll also need to pay for everything from diapers to clothes to activities.

𝗠𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗦𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗮𝗳𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗻
A home should be a safe haven for your family, so make sure the house itself and its immediate environment area are child-friendly. Take a walk around the neighborhood to determine whether you feel safe. Do you live on a busy road, or in a quiet subdivision where your child could ride their bike? Is there a pool in your yard, and if so, are you comfortable making sure it's gated and has motion-detectors and also ensuring your child doesn't get near it if they're unsupervised? If you have a yard, is it fenced in, or will you take care of having this done yourself?

In addition, consider the inside of your home. Are there stairs, and if so, are you OK with buying and navigating your way past baby gates? And if you're buying a house that's older, make sure to have it tested for lead paint and asbestos before making a commitment.

𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗧𝗶𝗺𝗲
You may want to buy a home before you have your first child, but don't be in a hurry. Take your time and make sure your finances are in good shape and that you'll be able to be approved for a mortgage at a favorable interest rate.

And when you're ready to look for a home, don't settle for a house just because you're in a rush. Take your time and find a home that's right for you and your family. No home will probably include every single thing that you want, but if you're realistic, you should be able to find one that has the vast majority of attributes you're looking for.

Buying a house will help your family have a place of your own to bond and build memories. By planning, taking your time, and knowing what you're looking for, you'll find the home that's right for you.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

7 Financial Steps After
Buying Your First Home

Happy couple hugging in front of home
You’re a first-time home buyer — congratulations are in order. While you’ve just completed quite a bit of heavy lifting in terms of pulling together your finances, your work isn’t finished. Now, it’s time to think about what to do after buying a house. As you start checking off the items on your move-in to-do list and turning your house into a home, here are seven key financial steps you should take.

𝟭. 𝗦𝗲𝘁 𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗿𝘀.
When you were a renter, repairs were your landlord’s responsibility. Now, those costs fall on your plate. “Consider increasing (your) savings held in a high-yield or other low-risk account to account for the reality that homeownership includes additional and sometimes large personal expenses that a renter does not have,” advises Elliot Pepper, CPA, CFP, MST, financial planner and co-founder of Maryland-based Northbrook Financial. How much extra cash should you put away? “One percent per year of a home’s value if new or 2 percent or more if older (than10 years) is a reasonable amount to budget for repairs and maintenance,” according to Eric McClain, CFP, co-founder of Alabama-based McClain Lovejoy Financial Planning. “You may not actually spend that amount each year, but when the A/C needs replacing, you’ll blow through that line item pretty quickly,” McClain says.

𝟮. 𝗕𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗲𝘀.
When your air conditioner breaks, it’s a hassle. If you lose your job, it’s a much bigger deal and can create a terrifying level of concern over how you’ll pay your expenses, including your mortgage. Since owning a home means some of your expenses have changed, make sure to determine how much money you should now have in your emergency savings fund to weather a worst-case storm.

𝟯. 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗮 𝗯𝗶𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗸𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝗮𝘆𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗿𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲.
When you signed on to your mortgage, you found out what your monthly payment would be. That doesn’t mean you have to think in a 12-times-per-year payment schedule, though. Pepper recommends asking your lender if you can make your payments on a biweekly schedule, which divides your monthly payment into lower payments paid every two weeks. “From a cash-flow standpoint, this might not be too impactful to your budget, but under the biweekly schedule, you will end up making one additional payment per year,” explains Pepper. “On a 30-year mortgage, this can literally cut years from the mortgage and save thousands in interest.” The key to saving is to ensure your lender or servicer applies the extra payment to the principal of the loan. You could also be charged a prepayment penalty if you make biweekly payments (uncommon, but it can happen), so check what your limitations are there, as well.

𝟰. 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲.
As you enjoy your new home, you need to make sure it’s protected from any potential disasters with enough homeowners insurance coverage to rebuild it if necessary. “First-time homeowners should have as large a deductible as they are comfortable paying, as that will lower the premiums,” notes Ariadne Horstman, CFP, Registered Life Planner and founder of California based Appreciate Finance.

𝟱. 𝗜𝗻𝘃𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗮𝘃𝗲.
A large deductible isn’t the only way to lower your insurance premiums. You can also install a home security system. While setup and monthly fees will cost you, some insurance companies offer discounts up to 20 percent for having a security system, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

𝟱. 𝗜𝗻𝘃𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗮𝘃𝗲.
If you’re buying a house with your partner, you might be thinking about filling the rooms with some little ones. If that’s the case, you should start considering long term strategies for your money and worst case scenarios. “When kids are on the horizon, estate planning and life insurance become crucial,” McClain says.

𝟳. 𝗔𝘃𝗼𝗶𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗿𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀.
Today’s record-low interest rates have created a surge in refinancing, and it makes sense for many homeowners: If they locked in a rate a few years ago, they could be in line to shrink their monthly payments now. However, interest rates constantly move. If you just bought your home, there’s no need to think about adjusting your loan terms. “Don’t get in a hurry to refinance every time rates move,” McClain says. “How long you’ll stay in a home should drive that decision. Remember that you’ll pay fees each time you refinance.”

𝗕𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗺 𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲: Moving into your first home is an exciting time, but it brings a new set of responsibilities. Make sure you’re paying extra attention to your money so you can spend less time stressing and more time celebrating your big purchase.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

       Getting Out of the Rental Rut 

Couple hugging, he's holding new home keys
There's nothing wrong with renting your home. In fact, in certain circumstances, it's the smarter choice. However, if you've been renting for what seems like forever, you might have started thinking about wanting to get out of the "rental rut."

While it's nice to know you can call the landlord any time there's a problem with the home, there are some major advantages to buying a house of your own. If you've been on the fence about finally taking the leap into home-ownership, consider these important benefits.

𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝗹𝗹 𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗘𝗾𝘂𝗶𝘁𝘆
One of the biggest advantages of buying a house is that you're no longer handing over your hard-earned money to pay for someone else's property. Each time you pay your rent, that money is gone, and you have nothing to show for it. Whenever you make an improvement to the home you're renting, or you take care of routine maintenance, you're building your landlords equity – instead of your own. Buying a house allows you to start building your equity. It's a long-term investment that you can sell or take a loan against in the future.

𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝗹𝗹 𝗛𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆
When you rent, you don't have any control over changes your landlord might decide to make. Not only can your monthly rent payments suddenly go up, but your landlord could also decide to sell the property – meaning you'll have to find a new place to stay. Buying a house gives you a lifetime of predictability and stability. If you get a fixed mortgage, your payments will always remain the same. As long as you keep making those payments, no one can ever tell you it's time for you to go.

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗠𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗦𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗧𝗮𝘅𝗲𝘀
In addition to being a great long-term investment, buying a house will likely also create short-term benefits in the form of tax savings. You may have access to the mortgage interest payment deduction, tax write-offs, and other tax deductions that aren't available to renters. This could allow you to start making money back on your investment right away.

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗚𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗶𝘁 𝗮 𝗣𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗧𝗼𝘂𝗰𝗵
Another huge advantage of buying a house is that once you do, it's yours. This means that you don't have to ask permission to paint, change out the carpets, or completely update the landscaping. When you own your home, you're free to give it your own personal touch in any way you see fit.

𝗜𝘁'𝘀 𝗮 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗧𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗕𝘂𝘆
It's one thing to understand the advantages of buying a house. It's quite another to feel financially prepared to do so. Luckily, the current economic conditions are perfect for buying a house. Interest rates are at historic lows, so locking in a mortgage today can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your loan. There are also many programs available that can allow you to buy a home with little to no money down.

If you've been thinking about buying a home, now is a great time to do it. However, the inventory of homes for sale has also reached record lows. Since there are fewer houses on the market, it might take you longer to find your dream home. Starting the process of buying a house sooner, rather than later, will give you the best chance to take advantage of these optimal conditions and finally get out of that rental rut.

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

How to Bring the Outdoors in

Does the dark and cold of winter really bring you down? Is it hard to get out of bed in the morning, or do you change into jammies and crawl back under the covers as soon as work is over? That’s no way to spend several months of your life, every year! Try these tips to bring some of the outdoors in to your home, even in the middle of February.

𝗕𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝗻 𝗻𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗹 𝗹𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁
You still need your vitamin D fix, and it’s harder to get when you’re hardly outside at all. Do you have a wall where you could install windows, or make the windows bigger? Maybe a skylight works best for you. Even easier, choose a front door with windows in it to let the light find you.

𝗣𝗼𝘁 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝘁𝘀
With all that light coming in, you’ll be able to grow some lovely houseplants. When people are regularly exposed to nature, they not only feel better overall but also experience reduced stress levels, stronger immune responses, increased self-esteem.

𝗨𝘀𝗲 𝗻𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗹 𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗹𝘀
Start with wood, as it can be used everywhere: floors and furniture, cabinets and trim, and in your home décor. Stone looks beautiful when used for bath and kitchen counters, trimming the fireplace, and as part of a water feature. Shells, crystals, cork, bamboo, and dried flowers are also ways to get more exposure to nature when you’re stuck inside.

𝗨𝘀𝗲 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗵𝘆, 𝗼𝗿𝗴𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗰 𝘁𝗲𝘅𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲𝘀
Cotton, wool, wicker, raffia, flax, hemp, jute, silk — each has its own texture, and each is a natural fiber. Wicker baskets, wool rugs, and silk throw pillows are just some of the ways to incorporate these elements.

𝗡𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗹 𝘀𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱𝘀
Don’t forget the other senses! Natural smells such as those from sandalwood diffusers, oil sticks, incense, and live flowers (although many will be scentless as winter blooms are generally forced in a greenhouse; sniff strongly before purchase) may call you back to a pleasant outdoor experience. Sound can also evoke fond memories. A tabletop water fountain (or full-size if your home can handle it!); windchimes inside and out; rain sticks; and wave, rain, or whale sounds are also soothing and comforting.

𝗣𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗽𝗮𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲
Let nature inspire your home’s color scheme. Think of coastal blues and creams, woodsy browns and greens, and bold splashes of color inspired by your garden. (White kitchens and grey rooms are so last year!)
Blues, greens, and warm neutrals are the hot new colors for 2021.
Check out variations from Behr, Benjamin Moore, and, of course, Pantone (which threw in a bright yellow for good measure).

𝗘𝗺𝗯𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗻𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗹 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗽𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀
Big floral prints, art depicting landscapes and nature scenes, and decorative architectural flourishes inspired by flora and fauna are more ways to expose yourself to nature when you’re hunkering down at home. From fish-shaped guest soaps to palm leaf-shaped fan blades, arched doorways to wrought iron shaped into flowers and vines, there are so many ways to invite the outdoors in!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

     
 How To Negotiate Like a Pro

Couple at tableWhen you're looking for a new home, finding the one that meets your personal and financial goals can be a challenge. Even if you find your dream home, negotiating a price with the seller may present obstacles that prevent you from moving forward.

Motivated sellers may be less difficult to deal with during price negotiations, but they still have a bottom line. One tiny concession may translate to a big profit loss and a longer closing process that delays the move. Although most sellers expect buyers to negotiate, knowing the right negotiation skills can put you ahead of other interested buyers and move you into the home of your dreams.

𝟭. 𝗨𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗲𝘁
When a seller puts a home on the market, they have already researched current market conditions that impact home values, interest rates, and inventory. If you're a buyer, you should do the same. While a seller's market is characterized by low inventory, low mortgage rates, and high home prices, a buyer's market is characterized by more houses for sale than buyers. Knowing which market you're in will help with successful negotiations.

𝟮. 𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗢𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿
Sellers want qualified buyers so they don't experience unnecessary loan problems that delay or cancel out a sale. Getting your finances in order and getting pre-approved by a lender can help significantly with price negotiations. This is especially important in a seller's market when a seller may receive multiple offers on a home with some offers exceeding the listing price. As a buyer, you must be prepared to compete and negotiate to close the sale.

𝟯. 𝗡𝗲𝗴𝗼𝘁𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗖𝗹𝗼𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗖𝗼𝘀𝘁𝘀
During every real estate transaction, the seller and the buyer must deal with closing costs that impact the sale. By negotiating closing costs, both parties can benefit. Typically, each party is responsible for certain fees:

𝗦𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗿'𝘀 𝗥𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 — Buyer's repair credits; Buyer's title insurance premium; Commission to the listing agent and buyer's agent; Loan payoff; Transfer taxes and recording fees; and Unpaid HOA dues or fees.

𝗕𝘂𝘆𝗲𝗿'𝘀 𝗥𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 — All fees and expenses for Appraisals; Credit reports; Home inspections; Loan applications; and Lender's title insurance and title search.

When doing a final review, check with your realtor or real estate attorney to make sure all fees are in the correct columns of the seller's settlement statement.

𝟰. 𝗣𝘂𝘁 𝗗𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗮 𝗦𝗶𝘇𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁
After an offer is accepted and a purchase agreement is signed, the buyer must put down an earnest money deposit to show a commitment to move forward. The average deposit ranges from 1-3% of the purchase price, but a seller can demand more, especially in a seller's market. Putting down a sizable deposit is a good negotiation tactic that lets the seller know you're a serious buyer. It can motivate the seller to ignore other back-up offers on the table.

𝟱. 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗸 𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗤𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗲𝗱 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗼𝗿
Viewing hundreds of homes for sale doesn't make you an expert on local market trends and price negotiations. Licensed real estate professionals know how to guide you through the entire process of buying a home. Your realtor will act on your behalf by communicating and negotiating with the seller about important issues like home inspections, appraisals, closing costs, and items that remain on the property. Working with a qualified realtor can increase your chances of closing the sale.

If you're looking for a new home, negotiating with the seller can reduce your overall costs and close the deal. You may not be the only interested buyer, but you can be first in line!

I can help you with answers to these and the many other questions you may have when you are ready to consider buying a home please call me, Susan Klement at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy life.

How Much Insurance Do You Really Need

When you're buying a home, it's easy to focus on shopping for fun things, like furniture and décor for your new space. However, another item to add to your shopping list is a homeowner's insurance policy. Homeowner's insurance is a type of insurance that protects your home and its contents, so it's important to know how it works and what exactly you're getting. Here's what you need to know about homeowner's insurance, including guidelines to help you select the correct level of coverage.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗜𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗢𝘂𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗼𝘄𝗻𝗲𝗿'𝘀 𝗜𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲
If your home is damaged or entirely destroyed due to a natural disaster, theft, or other incident covered by your policy, your homeowner's insurance will help you pay for the repairs. Homeowner's insurance typically covers your home, any structures on your property (like a storage shed or garage), and your possessions.

Note that some events may be excluded from your insurance policy. Some of the most common excluded events include damage from floods and earthquakes. To ensure your home is protected from these excluded events, you'll need to purchase a separate insurance policy specifically intended for these incidents.

When you make a claim on your homeowner's insurance, you must pay your deductible. The amount of your deductible will decrease the amount of money you receive. For example, assume a storm causes $10,000 in damage to your home. If you have a $2,000 deductible, you'll receive $8,000 for the incident.

While a higher deductible will lower the cost of your homeowner's insurance policy, make sure that it's an amount that you're comfortable paying in an emergency.

𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗖𝗮𝗹𝗰𝘂𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗟𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗜𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗣𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗰𝘆
It's imperative to purchase the correct amount of homeowner's insurance to make sure you're properly protected. Your insurance company will not pay more than your selected coverage level, even if your costs wind up exceeding this amount. When selecting your coverage levels, you'll want to consider how much it would actually cost to rebuild your home in the event of a major disaster.

This figure may be significantly more than the actual value of your home, especially if your home has high-end features or details that required special skills to build or create them. Consult with your insurance agent for guidance regarding the replacement costs for homes in your area. The costs for building materials and construction labor tend to increase over time, so make sure you periodically revisit your coverage levels.

Survey the contents of your home, and check that the coverage for your belongings will replace them if they're lost or stolen. If you own expensive items (like jewelry, rare collectibles, or musical instruments), you may need to purchase additional coverage to cover the replacement costs of these pricier possessions.

𝗢𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗗𝗲𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗹𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗞𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝗶𝗻 𝗠𝗶𝗻𝗱
When buying your policy, there are other policy coverage limits that you'll need to select. In addition to coverage for your home and belongings, your homeowner's insurance policy provides liability coverage if someone is injured on your property. You should check that your liability coverage is enough to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit. If you have extensive financial assets, you may want to consider an umbrella insurance policy in addition to homeowner's insurance to make sure you're properly protected.

Worried that your insurance coverage is too low? Contact your insurance agent today to review the details of your policy!

For all your Real Estate needs call me, Susan Klement, Realtor at 941-720-4107 or email me. I look forward to helping you enjoy.

                 How Long does it Really
                   Take to Buy a House

Picture of miniature house and clockAre you ready to buy a house? Then it's time to start planning. The more that you plan ahead, the easier that the process will be in the long run. Part of that planning includes knowing exactly how long each step will take, so you know what to expect with each milestone in the purchasing process. Let's take a closer look at what it takes — and how long it takes — to buy a house.

𝗗𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗪𝗵𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗡𝗼𝘄 𝗜𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗕𝘂𝘆
Before you get serious about buying a house, it's smart to make sure that now is the right time. Having savings set aside will make it easier to put together a strong offer, and a good credit score is key to getting a mortgage.

𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗘𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗔𝗴𝗲𝗻𝘁 (𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗪𝗲𝗲𝗸)
The right real estate agent will make life so much easier as you navigate the purchasing process, so it's worth taking the time to interview a few agents and find the right match. If you have some referrals from trusted sources, then you're already ahead of the game. This step can take anywhere from a few days to a week.

𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝗟𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗣𝗿𝗲-𝗔𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱 (𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗪𝗲𝗲𝗸)
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage doesn't mean you have final approval, but it does give you a strong idea of exactly how much you'll have available to spend on your home. Remember that you don't have to take the first mortgage offer. Shop around to find a lender that suits your unique needs.

𝗦𝗵𝗼𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 (𝗩𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗯𝘆 𝗜𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹)
Shopping for a home is the least predictable part of the process from a time perspective. Maybe you'll fall