Date Archives: December 2019

House Talk with Toria Home

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6 Ways to Make Your Staunton Home More Energy Efficient

Staunton Energy Efficient Homes
Whether you've fallen in love with one of our sprawling single-family homes or a quaint residential condo, there's one thing every buyer looking at Staunton homes for sale can agree on — low utility bills are a must. Even in the largest homes, it's possible to significantly reduce your monthly electrical bill with a few simple decisions. Our REALTORS® have found that many homeowners in the area use these six tips to decrease their utility bills and run a more energy-efficient home.  

  1. Purchase Energy-Efficient Appliances
    Regardless if you've just purchased your home or if you're considering selling in the near future, purchasing energy-efficient appliances is an effective way to curb energy consumption. Refrigerators, ovens, washers, and dryers are all available but don't feel like you're limited to the kitchen and laundry room. Smart technology has integrated into nearly every room of the home, with many products also enhancing energy efficiency. Smart HVAC systems can learn your heating and cooling patterns, smart faucets can control water flow and smart exterior lighting can keep your property safe without draining energy.

  2. Invest in Insulation & Air Sealing
    Another great investment in your home is to air seal and insulate spaces where heat transfers. Attics are an especially significant area where heat transfer causes your HVAC usage to skyrocket during every season of the year. Along with those found in your windows and doors, there are many other small cracks and holes throughout your interior and exterior that allow air to flow freely. By air sealing and insulating your home, you can keep your home comfortable without overtaxing your HVAC systems.

  3. Limit Electricity Use
    This may sound obvious, but most homeowners don't realize that even leaving phone chargers or monitor chords plugged in throughout the day draws a lot of power. Get in the habit of unplugging items that aren't in use and limiting which lights you keep on throughout the house. If possible, use daylight as much as you can and make a point to unplug small appliances throughout the house before you go to bed.

  4. Replace Your Bulbs
    You can lower your energy consumption without turning off your lights, too. In fact, simply switching your old lightbulbs for energy-efficient LED lighting can dramatically decrease your energy bill and limit the amount of heat these light sources produce.

  5. Consider Solar Panels
    Solar panels are rising in popularity. These resources convert the sun's rays to energy that you can use to power systems such as your hot water tanks. Solar panels can be a pricey investment, however, they may be a practical tool that helps you save money now and increases your home's value during a future sale.

  6. Perform an Energy Audit
    Do you know where your home is wasting energy? A professional energy audit will tell you exactly which areas of your home are consuming the most energy. We recommend that all Staunton homeowners who are serious about energy efficiency schedule an audit before taking any other steps. Based on your results, you'll know whether or not you need to invest in new appliances, replace your windows, or tend to other aspects of your home.

For assistance buying and selling homes in Staunton, contact us today!


Here's What to Do When You're Inheriting a House

Homeowner Help Inheriting a Home
Inheriting a home is a unique experience, often carrying a mix of sorrow for the loss of a loved one and excitement for the property that they cared enough to leave to you. Whether you're planning to live in the home yourself, rent it out, or get it prepared for sale, following a proven process is the best way to accomplish your goals. Inheriting a house is quite different from shopping for Harrisonburg homes for sale in the traditional way, and there will be big decisions to make regardless of what you choose to do with the home. Our REALTORS® are here to help, with our guide for what to do when inheriting a house.

  • Make a Plan for Utilities
    Regardless of what you ultimately decide to do with a home you inherit, you'll want to keep the property in good shape while you decide. Start by making sure that necessary utilities remain turned on while canceling any utilities you won't need while the home's status is in flux. It's often wise to keep the lights and water on since you'll be spending time getting the house prepared.

  • Decide What to Do with the Stuff in the Home
    When inheriting a house from a loved one, deciding what to do with all of the stuff that they left behind is often one of the most emotional steps in the process. While it may be tempting to delay, finding a solution for the stuff in the home – whether you buy, sell, store, or donate it – is a crucial step in moving forward regardless of what you ultimately do with the home.

  • Decide Whether to Sell, Rent, or Move In
    Once you handle the initial details of inheriting a home, it's time to decide whether you plan to sell it, rent it out, or move in yourself. What you choose to do with the home naturally plays a big role in how you prepare, so take your time, think it through, and make the decision that works best for your needs.

  • Key Steps for Selling an Inherited Home
    When selling an inherited home, you'll want to take the same steps for preparation as you would with any property. Make sure maintenance issues have been addressed, the home is sparkly clean, and that you have the right real estate agent for your needs. Ask your agent whether it's worth considering renovations to increase the home's value, or your best bet is selling the property as-is.

  • What to Do When Becoming a Landlord
    If you plan to rent the home out, start by making sure you get a home inspection to reveal any potential issues. Make necessary repairs to the property, and read up on local regulations for landlords. If you want to make life as a landlord easier, consider a property manager to keep an eye on your investment.

  • Considerations for Turning an Inherited Home into Your Own Dwelling
    Planning to move into the home yourself? You'll still want to start with a home inspection so that you get an idea of exactly what needs to be done for the home. Take care of any maintenance issues, and get the home move-in ready. Read up on property taxes in your location, and expect those taxes to rise when the home is reassessed.

Whether you're looking to sell an inherited home or purchase the home of your dreams, our experienced real estate team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout the Harrisonburg, VA area.


7 Steps to Picture Perfect Listing Photos in the Winter

Sell Home Listing Photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to listing your home there's only one word you want to hear — sold! Our REALTORS® are here to help you showcase your home with stunning photography. Here are our seven simple steps to capturing picture-perfect listing photos of your home during the winter.

  1. Hire a Professional Photographer
    No matter the size or prospective value of your property, we always encourage every homeowner to invest in professional photography for the listing. Many prospective homebuyers will discover your home online and base their decision to schedule a viewing on the photos listed. By hiring professional photography, you'll have an experienced resource who knows how to showcase a property brilliantly even on the dreariest of winter days.

  2. Maintain Your Exterior Landscaping
    Before you have photos taken, you'll need to get your exterior in shape. Trim away any dead branches hanging from your trees, rake up debris and clean your gutters. If snow has fallen, shovel your driveway and sidewalk, and remove any icicles that may have formed around the exterior. Creating a presentable appearance even in the worst conditions will make a positive difference in your photographs.

  3. Enhance Curb Appeal
    Aside from lawn care, you'll need to ensure your curb appeal is as alluring as possible. Consider repainting your exterior walls or front door. Replace your garage door if it's damaged and pressure wash the exterior elements like siding or shingles if they're dirty or discolored. Don't neglect the side and rear of the home either — a great curb appeal will draw buyers in but they'll expect that the other areas surrounding the property look just as impressive.

  4. Light Your Interior Correctly
    In photography, lighting can make or break an image. Choose a time of the day that you can use natural lighting to showcase the interior. If you need to rely on artificial lighting sources, install smart bulbs that allow you to adjust the lighting intensity. You want each room to be well-lit with a soft light that isn't too harsh or creates distracting shadows.

  5. Stage, Don't Decorate
    Selling your home during the winter can be challenging, especially if you're a homeowner who likes to go all-out with holiday decorations. Before you put up any decorations, you need to professionally clean and stage your home. Remove clutter from the interior and exterior, and depersonalize each room. If you must decorate, choose subtle décor that's seasonal, not religious. For instance, keep the giant Santa lawn ornament stored and consider a nice winter wreath for the front door instead. By limiting your religious or cultural-based decorations, you ensure that you won't mistakenly offend buyers who do not celebrate these customs.

  6. Include Photos From Other Seasons
    This may be difficult if you've only recently made the decision to sell your home, but you should always include photographs from the greener months when listing your home in the winter. This is especially important if your home features amenities like a big back yard, garden, pool or patio. Make arrangements in the warmer months to have a few exterior shots taken or use previous photographs that showcase how the property looks when the snow melts away.

  7. Consider Drone or VR Inclusion
    New capabilities in photography and videography allow you to create a listing that is much more elaborate than a few simple snapshots. High-quality photographs taken by a drone can showcase the entire property in one shot while giving a glimpse at what the surrounding neighborhood offers. You can also enable your prospective buyers to "walk" your property from their own homes by including a virtual walk-through on the listing.

Photography is key for all Harrisonburg homes for sale in the wintertime. Contact us today for assistance in creating an unforgettable listing with dynamic photography.

Sell Your Home with Old Dominion Realty


How Early Is Too Early for Home Loan Pre-Approval?

Home Loan Pre-Approval
When it comes to buying a home, the process can seem quite overwhelming — especially if you're a first-time home buyer investigating finance options. If you're like many prospective home buyers, you'll be working with a mortgage lender to secure a rate that works well with your budget and lifestyle. Our REALTORS® recommend that most prospective homeowners get pre-approved for a loan before they put an offer in on a home.

Everything You Need to Know About Mortgage Pre-Approvals

When searching for Harrisonburg homes for sale, you should already have an approximate budget in mind. This range can be frugal, sliding only by $10,000 to $20,000, or it can be a little more flexible by stretching between $25,000 to $50,000. Once you've determined this amount, you'll be ready to enlist the help of a mortgage lender through your preferred financial institution.

When you make an offer on a home, you'll need to either show that you're pre-approved for a mortgage or you'll need to secure financing from a lender in order to move forward with the sale. Although you can wait until after you've made an offer on a home, we recommend that you get a mortgage pre-approval first. A pre-approval involves a bank or broker examining your loan application to determine if you'll qualify for your desired mortgage. This is based on factors like:

  • Employment History
  • Income
  • Debt-to-Credit Ratio
  • Credit Score

One reason we recommend a pre-approval is because some lenders may offer you less than what you need depending on those factors. If you're pre-approved without issue, this gives the home seller reassurance that you're serious about your offer.

However, your pre-approval won't exist indefinitely. In fact, there is a shelf life for all mortgage pre-approvals, albeit one that takes into account that real estate transactions aren't finalized overnight. How long do pre-approvals last? Unfortunately, there is no single set duration that your pre-approval will be valid for, but a 90-180 day time period is common in the real estate industry.

Three months can fly by in the blink of an eye, especially if you're searching for a home in a hot market — which means you don't want to secure a pre-approval too early. Of course, you could find the home of your dreams next month and need an immediate loan approval so you also can't wait too long into your search. When is the best time to get pre-approved? We recommend that you first get prequalified with your lender when you're ready to begin your home search. Pre-qualification isn't as set in stone as a pre-approval, but it allows a lender to assess your finances and tell you how much you will likely be approved for based on your current finances. This will provide you with an idea of where your financial position sits in the eyes of a lender.

If your pre-qualification is sufficient and doesn't require you to raise your credit score or decrease your debt, we then suggest that you identify the neighborhood and specific home features you desire. Knowing the price range, location and must-haves will help you narrow your focus to specific homes. Now that you know exactly what you're looking for, you're in a great position to seek pre-approval for a loan and continue your search.

Would you like assistance with your pre-approval and homebuying process? Contact us today to get started!

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