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August
15

What to Know When Buying Farmland

Farmland Tips

If you've dreamed of growing your own food or raising livestock, purchasing farmland can help you turn your dream into a reality. Our real estate agents know that purchasing farmland is a little different than purchasing a more conventional piece of property. Here's what you need to keep in mind when buying farmland. 

Plant Types

  • You Should Determine What You're Hoping to Accomplish by Purchasing Farmland
    Before you can start searching for farmland, you should have some idea of what you want to do with the land. Having a plan for your farmland will help you find properties that are suited to your needs. If you just want the ability to own animals that aren't allowed within the city limits (like chickens and a few goats), your land needs are different than those of someone who wants to grow and raise most of their own foods. 
  • There May Be Regulations That Impact Your Ability to Use the Land
    Even though farmland is usually subject to fewer laws and regulations than other types of land, there may still be restrictions that dictate how you can use the land. For example, you may only be allowed to use a certain amount of water. This will affect the types and quantity of any crops that you grow. Zoning laws can also impact your ability to use the farmland. If the land parcel is on a conservation easement, any activities on the land will need to follow the easement's guidelines. 

Soil Type

  • The Soil May Not Fit Your Plans
    Before you decide to purchase one of the Augusta County homes for sale, make sure that you obtain information about the soil's history, including details about what crops have been successfully grown on the land in the past. This will help you decide if it's a good fit for the crops that you want to grow or if it's best to continue searching for a different property. While some soil problems can be fixed, this process is usually expensive and time-consuming. 

Building Types

  • Some Buildings May Not Be Usable
    It's common for a farm to have multiple buildings and structures, including barns, garages, tool sheds, and spaces for storing crops. However, there may be some buildings on the property that aren't usable. If a property has unusable buildings, you need to review the financial implications of restoring the space's functionality. Some buildings may need extensive repairs; you may be better off tearing these structures down. Even if you decide to tear down a building, this project will add multiple expenses to your budget. Should the property have buildings that require extensive repairs or demolition, make sure to factor in these costs when making an offer on the farmland.

 Location

  • The Farmland's Location Can Impact Your Plans for the Land
    Where the farmland is located should be considered when deciding if it's right for your needs. Maybe you envision setting up a booth at the local farmers market to sell your crops, eggs, or other goods. If the local farmers market is a lengthy distance from your farm, this will affect your ability to earn an income from your farmland. Or, if the farmland is so remote that you'll have trouble finding buyers or will spend a lot of time and gas driving to potential buyers, you may want to consider other options that are more centrally located. You should also think about how the land is situated from major roadways and bodies of water. For example, if your farmland is low-lying and near a river, it may be at risk of flooding and destroying your crops or livestock. Farmland that's close to busy roads may experience pollution from vehicle exhaust; it's also more likely to face theft or vandalism. 

Purchasing farmland has unique considerations that you should explore to help you confirm that a property is a good fit for your needs. Ready to start looking for your next property? Contact us today to get started!

July
25

What to Know When Buying a Historic Home

Historic Home

If you envision yourself owning a home that stands out from other properties or boasts design details that are rare in modern properties, a historic home is a terrific option to consider.

There are a few things our real estate agents want buyers to know when considering historic homes to help them confirm that the property is right for their lifestyle and property needs. Here's what you need to know. 

  • A Property Must Meet Certain Criteria to Receive a Historic Classification
    The historic home designation isn't arbitrarily used. Instead, the home must meet certain criteria to receive the historical classification. A home isn't a historic home just because it's old. To be called a historic home, the property must be a minimum of 50 years old. The overall structure must look the same as when the property was first constructed. It must also meet a qualification that proves the property is historically significant, like playing a role in a historical event, housing an important person or group, or using an architectural style that's historically significant. 
  • Historic Homes Often Experience Higher Than Average Appreciation
    When compared to other homes in the area, historic homes usually appreciate in value at faster rates than other properties. This increase is driven in part by the limited stock of historic homes. Historic homes aren't as widely available as other home types, and this limited supply helps support higher home prices. People who purchase historic homes tend to hold onto them for years, a fact that further drives steady increases in the value of historic homes. If your home is located in a historic district, this may further boost your home's appreciation. Historic districts contain multiple historic properties that create a neighborhood with properties that are required to maintain a certain standard of appearance. 

remodeling plans

  • Remodeling Plans Should Maintain the Home's Structural Integrity
    Any remodeling that you complete must support the home's original design and structure. In many towns, renovations to historic homes must be approved by a local review board. It's usually fine to repair or even replace materials that are original to the home when necessary, but these repairs must support the property's historical appearance and, whenever possible, use materials that are original to the home. While massive renovations inside a historic home usually aren't permitted, enlarging the home by building an addition may be permitted as long as the addition adheres to the home's architectural style. Any existing details in the original portion of the home should be reflected in the addition.

Financing Options

  • The Process of Acquiring Financing and Insurance for the Home is a Little Different
    Before you start looking at Rockingham County homes for sale, you'll want to obtain mortgage preapproval so you know how much you can borrow. However, you need to know that the process for acquiring financing for a historic home is a little different than securing financing for a traditional property. Some mortgage programs can't be used for historic homes that require a lot of repairs; the lender is likely going to want to know how you're going to pay for these repairs. There are programs available, including the Limited 203(K) loan and Title 1 Property Improvement Loan, that provide homeowners with affordable loans to repair their historic homes. You'll also want to shop around for your home insurance, as some home insurance companies may be reluctant to insure properties that they feel will be expensive to repair or replace. 

Tax Incentives

  • You May Qualify for Tax Incentives
    There are tax incentives available for homeowners who need to rehabilitate a historic property. The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program is one tax credit you may qualify for; there are also tax deductions available if your property is eligible for a historic preservation easement. 
  • Properly Maintaining a Historic Home Requires More Resources Than the Average Home
    While historic homes have long lifespans thanks to their quality construction and durable materials, they do occasionally need maintenance. Maintenance for a historic home is usually a little more expensive and time-consuming than maintenance for a conventional property. Historic homes may require specialized materials and labor to ensure that the repairs are in line with the home's original design. 

Architecture

  • Historic Homes are Valued for Their Distinctive Details
    Historic homes contain details that are often only found in this type of property. Your windows or other details might not be perfectly centered, or your floors may creak and appear a bit uneven. These aren't issues that need to be fixed; instead, they should be viewed as details that are unique to a historic home's distinctive style and architecture. 

A historic home is a terrific option for anyone who wants to own a property that's a part of history and features a one-of-a-kind design. Ready to start the search for your historic home? Contact us today to get started!

July
6

Creative Uses for a Detached Garage

Detached Garage

If you recently bought a home with a detached garage, you basically have a whole extra building on your property. While you could use the detached garage to house your vehicle, there are plenty of more creative ways to take advantage of the space. Our real estate agents have seen homeowners using their detached garages in all sorts of unique ways over the years. Today, we have a few suggestions to share with you.

Space for Toys

  • Create a Place for Your Kids' Toys
    Are you tired of your living room floor always being covered with Legos? Perhaps your kids' rooms are messy because they have more toys than they have spots for those toys. Creating a playroom in the garage is the perfect way to solve these problems.

    To give the garage playroom a soft floor, purchase some removable carpet squares. They'll add enough padding for little knees, and if someone spills a drink on one of the squares, you can easily pull it up and replace it. Totes on a rack along one wall provide a quick and easy toy storage solution. You can also set up a plastic table where the kids can play with smaller toys or do some arts and crafts.

Home Gym

  • Home Gym
    The cost of a gym membership has increased pretty dramatically in recent years. Instead of paying for a membership month after month, consider spending that money on gym equipment for your detached garage. We've seen lots of Waynesboro homes for sale with gyms in the garage, and the setup works really well.

    You don't need a lot of equipment to get started. A treadmill and a basic set of free weights with a bench will allow you to get a decent workout. In the coming years, you can add some additional equipment such as an exercise bike, a rowing machine, or some resistance machines. A few yoga mats and a television are good additions, too — especially if you enjoy yoga or Pilates.

  • TV Room
    Turning your detached garage into a TV room serves a few different purposes. If you find that you and your family members are spending too much time watching TV, moving the TV to the garage can help curb that habit. You'll physically need to walk to a different building to watch TV, so it will become something you don't do quite as often.

    Creating a TV room in the garage also works well if your family can't always agree on what to watch. Some family members can watch sports in the living room, and others can go out to the garage to watch a favorite sitcom.

    You can make your garage TV room as fancy or as minimal as you desire. All you really need is a TV and a few couches. Add a small refrigerator, a microwave, and some movie posters on the walls for good measure.

In-Law Suite

  • In-Law Suite
    If you often have family members come to stay with you, having a separate place for them to stay can be nice. Convert your detached garage to an in-law suite, and you'll all have more privacy. We've seen Harrisonburg homes for sale with in-law suites in detached garages, and many look like comfy, cozy cottages.

    Since there are a lot of building codes that need to be adhered to if you turn a garage into a living space, it's best to work with professional contractors on this project. Still, it can be done quite affordably if you stick with an open floor plan. You can convert most of the garage to an open living space with a kitchenette and living room-style seating. Build a little loft bedroom, a bathroom in one corner, and you're set to go.

Hobby Space

  • Hobby Space
    If you have a specific hobby, you could always convert your detached garage into a space dedicated to that hobby. For instance, some model train collectors use their detached garage as a place to paint and set up their trains. We've also seen cyclists who use their garage as a place to store and work on their many bikes. Florists have even made garages into greenhouses.

    Using your detached garage as a hobby space helps reduce the hobby-related clutter that builds up in your main home. It also helps you get into the right mindset when engaging in the hobbies you love. You can retreat to the garage, leave the worries of the day at home, and focus solely on your hobbies whenever you're in the garage.

If you're not using your detached garage to park a car, don't let that space go to waste. Your garage could elevate your life if you turn it into a TV room, home gym, or hobby space. If you're still on the hunt for the perfect home with a detached garage, contact us. We'll help you navigate the buying process.

November
29

National Mason Jar Day: 7 Ways to Use Them in Your Home

Mason Jar Tips

What was originally designed for canning and pickling vegetables has since become one of the most versatile household items. The mason jar and its unique screw-top was created by John Landis Mason in 1858 in order to improve the safety of food storage. However, they are now the quintessential multi-purpose container. If you're thinking about ways to make good use of extra mason jars around your house, the opportunities are endless.

With National Mason Jar Day coming up on November 30, our real estate agents thought it'd be appropriate to pull together a list of our favorite and most creative ways to use mason jars around the house. Here are some of their best ideas:

Smoothie Storage

  1. Store Your Smoothies
    If smoothies are part of your daily diet, you can actually use a mason jar as a container for both blending and storage. This works if you have an upright blender, in which case you won't have to worry about dirtying a pitcher every time you make a smoothie.

    If you don't have an upright blender, mason jars can still serve as convenient storage containers. Prep your smoothies for the week, store them in mason jars and grab them on the go. Mason jars make prepping smoothies and cleanup easy.

  2. Mix Some Cocktails For Your Party
    If you're planning a house party, pre-portioning cocktail ingredients into individual mason jars will make it easy for guests to grab a drink of their choice. Choose your favorite cocktails (mojitos, margaritas, or vodka lemonade work great) and mix the ingredients into jars. Then, when a guest is ready for a beverage, all they need to do is grab one, add ice, secure the lid, and shake! This way, your guests won't have to worry about mixing their own drinks.

Toothbrush Holder

  1. Make A Toothbrush Holder
    If you're going for a rustic vibe in your home or bathroom, top it off by using a mason jar as a toothbrush holder. Simply cut one or more circles in the lid, and you're done. Or you can even use chicken wire to create a grid across the top of the jar. If you're short on storage space around your sink, secure the mason jar to a wood plank and hang it on the wall.

  2. Gift Some Yummy Treats
    Looking for the perfect gift idea? Packing your favorite treats, mixes, or sauces into mason jars, decorate them, and now you have gifts for all the special people in your life. Cookies, candy, baking mixes are all great ideas for the holidays. Or you can do salsas, jams, or BBQ sauce. Whatever goodies you decide to give away this season, your mason jars will keep them fresh.

Lunch Storage

  1. Take Your Lunch To Work
    Mason jars make for a convenient lunch storage container. Soups, salads, or leftover pasta can be easily transported to work and kept fresh all day long. With mason jars, it's also easy to prep your lunches ahead of time. Being able to simply grab a jar from the refrigerator and head out the door will make your morning routine a breeze. The best part is -- mason jars are microwave safe.

  2. Store Your Herbs
    If you grow your own herbs and want to keep them nearby for easy access while cooking, you can actually store them indoors in mason jars. Just add an inch of water, cover your herbs with plastic wrap, and place them in the jar. This works especially well for parsley or cilantro. Keep them by the window sill for direct sun exposure
    Spice Storage 
  3. Create A Seasoning Shaker
    If you like to create or mix your own seasonings, mason jars can really come in handy. You can easily transform them into a shaker or dispenser by repurposing a spout from a salt container and creating your own circle lid. Secure the lid, and then use the mason jar to store and dispense salt, herbs, or garlic, or your favorite mixed seasonings. Since mason jars always look great, you can line them up on your counter for easy access.

From food storage to crafts and decor, the versatility of mason jars has made them popular for over a century. Contact us today for more information on home decorating tips or to check out some of these beautiful Luray homes for sale.

October
18

How to Warm Up Your Home's Entryway

Entryway tips

So many of the beautiful Rockingham County homes for sale have impressive entryways. Often, this is one of the features that captivates potential buyers. However, if your entryway is cold and sterile, it can have the opposite effect - detracting from your home's overall appeal. 

Luckily, it's easy to make your entryway warm and welcoming. Whether it's drafty and freezing or just needs some TLC, the following tips will help turn your entryway into one of the best features of your home. 

Entryway Lighting

  1. Keep the Cold Air Out
    If your entryway is physically cold, you'll want to take care of that first. You may need to add some additional insulation and put weatherstripping around your windows and under the door. This will help stop cold drafts, keeping the heat indoors and the chilly weather out. In extreme cases, you may even consider adding a small space heater to your entryway. Just make sure you pay attention to safety concerns and only use it when someone is home to keep an eye on it.

Home Entryway

  1. Add a Rug
    Placing a rug in your entryway will add some softness and bring a splash of color and texture to the space. It can also help define the space, giving the area its own unique sense of style. While the look and feel of a rug is certainly important, you'll also need to make sure the carpet you choose is durable enough to stand up to this high-traffic area. If it's close to the door, also make sure the rug is low enough so it won't interfere with your ability to open and close it. When adding a rug to your entryway, it's also important to make sure you have a doormat on the outside. This will help keep guests from ruining your rug by tracking in dirt and moisture from the outdoors.  

Entryway

  1. Layer the Lighting
    The right lighting can go a long way towards making a space feel welcoming. Most entryways have an overhead light, but this usually isn't enough. If you want to warm up the space, you'll need to layer in some lighting. Try adding a table lamp, some wall sconces, or even some lanterns to help give your space a warm glow. You can also make a statement by choosing an attention-grabbing chandelier or pendant light. Just make sure the combination you choose sufficiently lights up the entire space. 

  2. Keep it Clutter-Free
    Your entryway is the first impression of your home, so make sure it's not a mess. The best way to do this is to add a chest of drawers, a storage bench, or a console table to the space. This will give you a place to stash mail, keys, and other essentials so they're handy when you need them but still neatly out of sight.

    Entryway Style
  3. Give it a Sense of Style
    Our real estate agents love showing homes that have entryways with a big, bold style. Whether you chose a piece of statement art, a large mirror, or some plush stools, adding interesting decor to your entryway is the perfect way to set the tone and give guests an idea of what they can expect from the rest of your home. Don't be afraid to add bright colors to the walls, paint the inside of your front door, or experiment with wallpaper. All of these things can add style and make the space more inviting. You can also use your entryway decor to ease the transition between the outdoors and the inside of your home. Adding elements like large plants, rich wood, and stone accents can help turn the space into a transitional area.  
  1. Pay Attention to Scale
    Whether you have a large, grand entryway or one that's small and quaint, it's important to choose pieces that match. A tiny table will look strange in a huge foyer, and pieces that are too large will make a small entryway feel claustrophobic. Make sure you get the scale right, then add some accent pieces to pull it all together. 

Entryway Tips

  1. Add a Personal Touch
    To give your entryway even more warmth, be sure to incorporate your unique personality. Consider adding a vase of your favorite flowers, a piece of art you truly love, or a framed photo of people who mean a lot to you. This will make the area feel homey and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling every time you walk in the front door. 

Are you looking for your dream home? There are many beautiful Rockingham and Shenandoah County homes for sale, and the experts at Old Dominion Realty are here to help! Contact us today to discuss your goals and learn how to get started. 

August
16

7 Ways a Real Estate Agent Can Help You in a Hot Market

Real Estate Agent Tips

A combination of low-interest rates, limited nationwide inventory, and pent-up demand has made this year's real estate market one of the hottest in history. In a competitive seller's market, buyers often lose some negotiating leverage and are forced to enter into bidding wars.  

However, if you're looking for a home in today's real estate market, all hope isn't lost. The key to finding the right home for the right price is a combination of patience, dedication, and working with an experienced real estate agent. 

Our real estate agents are working with clients to help them navigate the complexities of today's hot market. Below are some ways we can help you:

closing tips

  1. Agents Can Help Minimize Issues During Closing
    After putting weeks of work into looking for the right house, securing financing, and negotiating terms, the last thing you want is for the deal to fall apart at closing. Title problems and financing issues are the things that most commonly delay closings. An experienced real estate agent can establish a realistic closing timeline and knows how to spot problems before they arise.

  2. Agents Are Expert Negotiators
    Buyers can lose some negotiating leverage in a hot seller's market, which is why is the expertise of your agent is more important than ever. As a consumer, negotiating with a home seller can be an emotional process. Agents are able to remove emotion from the equation entirely. They also don't have any issue with being persistent and aggressive when asking for contingencies. Buying a new home is an emotional process, which is why it's important to have a good agent negotiating on your behalf.

competitive offer

  1. Agents Can Help You Make A Competitive Offer
    In a hot market, the key to winning a bid is making your offer as competitive as possible. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help your offer stand out without drastically exceeding the asking price. For example, you may consider waiving the appraisal contingency, putting down a higher earnest money deposit, and making your offer as straightforward as possible in order to increase the chance of your offer being accepted. The bottom line, your agent can work with you to create a compelling offer.

Market Tips

  1. Agents Know The Market
    Not only can your agent help you find homes that meet all of your criteria, but they're also familiar with current market trends as well as specific neighborhoods in your area. If you're considering one of these beautiful Shenandoah County homes for sale, your agent can provide you with insights about homes and locations that you may not be able to find on your own. They can also help you gauge whether a particular property is over or underpriced.

  2. Agents Can Act Quickly
    Buyers need to act fast when looking for a home in a seller's market, especially if you're considering one of these great Augusta County homes for sale. If you find a property you absolutely love, a good agent will be willing to turn around an offer in a matter of hours. 
    real estate paperwork

  1. Agents Can Handle The Paperwork
    A real estate transaction requires an immense amount of paperwork, which an average consumer likely can't handle on their own. Between the offer, counteroffer, and contingencies, there is a lot riding on the accuracy and completeness of the paperwork. Your agent will not only ensure everything is documented correctly, but that all pages are signed and initialed.

real estate resources

  1. An Agent Can Connect You To Resources
    A standard real estate transaction often involves several third parties who perform various services throughout the process. If you need a mortgage broker, home inspector, or notary public, your real estate agent likely has a wide network of trusted resources. Real estate agents often manage multiple closings each week, so chances are, they've had ample opportunity to vet the efficiency of the service providers in their network. Since your agent can connect you with the services you need to ensure a smooth transaction, you can avoid a lot of stress and headaches along the way.

While a hot seller's market can present a number of challenges for buyers, working with a good agent is the best way to mitigate risks and secure the home of your dreams. For more tips on how to make a competitive offer, contact us today.

August
26

Buying a House? 6 Steps to Increase Your Credit Score

Increase Credit Score
Your credit score is a golden key that can unlock the best interest rates and loan options for your new home.

It's a simple equation: A higher credit score = A lower interest rate = Your home costs you less money. 

Before you apply for a loan you want to make sure that your number is as polished as possible. To help you attain the most advantageous loan, our real estate agents share the following steps to take before you begin your home search.

  1. What's in a Number? 
    Your FICO score is a reflection of your debts, loan repayment history, and monthly financial obligations. Ideally, you want to push your score up as high as possible. If you have a score in the "exceptional" range of 800-850, or "Very Good" range of 740-799, you'll generally qualify for the best interest rates.

    If you have a "Good" score of between 670-739, or "Fair" score of 580-669, you can qualify for most loans. However, you may need a larger down payment and could shoulder the burden of a higher interest rate.

  2. Examination and Disputes
    Credit scores take time to grow and you will want to start the process of improving your score long before you start submitting loan applications. One of the first things you should do is pull a copy of your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. This is critical as not all creditors report information to all three bureaus.

    Once you have your reports, examine them for errors. Check current balances, make sure payments are credited, and look for stale information that should be removed. You should dispute any incorrect information and actively pursue the removal of bad data from your credit reports. It is a common problem and more than 40 million Americans have at least one error on their reports and you want to make sure that you are not one of them.

  3. Paying Down Balances
    It is always advisable to pay off as much debt as possible prior to requesting a new loan. This is especially important regarding credit cards with high-interest rates. Pay these balances down as much as possible, but don't pay them off and close the account as this can reduce your average credit length which can drop your score. 

  4. Raise Your Credit Limit
    It's not advisable to open new accounts prior to requesting a loan. However, if you have a good history with a creditor, you may be able to request a credit increase. Raising your available credit limits reduces your debt-to-credit utilization ratio which is approximately 30% of your FICO score.

  5. Diversify Your Credit
    If you have limited or poor credit, you may want to consider getting a short-term, secured loan from your current bank. Your credit mix accounts for 10% of your score and this can give you a slight boost once you pay the loan off. 

  6. Establish Good Habits
    Credit scores are ultimately a reflection of how well you manage your finances. Before you purchase a home, you want to establish good financial habits which your score will reflect. These include making payments on time and not "maxing" cards out. Towards your goal of homeownership, one of the best ways to make sure you keep your score rising is to establish a monthly budget and avoid spending any more than you plan in any given month. 

Our preferred mortgage, F&M Mortgage, can help you better understand your options when it comes to qualifying for and obtaining a home loan.

Contact us when you're ready to start your search for the right home for you.

March
11

Budget Your Way into Buying Your First Home

Budget to Buy Your First Home
Our REALTORS®
at Old Dominion Realty WORK to help you find a home where you will be truly happy. A lot of factors go into that: The community, the amenities, and your finances.

The financial decisions you make when you're first looking for a home will stick with you for years to come. With that in mind, you have to go into the process with accurate information.

Your real estate agent will help you make the right choices in the market. Only you, however, can figure out the facts about your own household finances that you're sure to need.

Every major investment or purchase starts with one thing: A budget.

And buying a home is no exception.

A budget is a very useful tool for maintaining your financial health. However, most people get by with a simple budget. To get ready for buying a home, you should dive deep into the details.

That's the best way to prevent surprises later!

Let's look at how to build a budget that will support your home buying goals.

  • Start With Your Income
    The first thing you need to understand in any budget is how much income you have. For most buyers, this is simple: Add up the total take-home pay each person receives each month. If you have a variable income, such as from freelance work, an average figure derived from your last twelve months of income can give you a good fix on what to expect.
  • Capture Your Expenses
    A budget can only be accurate if you capture your expenses in detail. Rent and utilities are two basic expenses that rarely change. Food, too, is relatively fixed. Others may be harder to pin down: such as transportation, medical costs, recreation, and monthly savings. Try recording some of these transient costs for 2-3 months to see where you really stand.
  • Calculate Homeownership Costs
    Ideally, your monthly home costs should be no more than 25% of your total take-home pay. For a budget of $6,000 per month, that's $1,500. In addition to your mortgage, including the costs of maintenance and repair, HOA fees, landscaping, and housewares. Remember that higher square footage can translate to more expensive utilities. Also, recalculate your daily commute.
  • Look Ahead to Your Next Milestone
    If you've been saving vigorously for a down payment, then the day you move into your home will transform your budget. Before you pop the champagne, however, consider what future milestones you may be saving for next. For example, is it time to expand your retirement investments, save for a new car, or even plan for a new member of the family?
  • Adjust Your Budget Where Necessary
    If income and expenses are balanced at the 25% mark, then the way is clear for you to move forward with your home buying plans. If things are still tight, the first thing to look at is whether a plan of 20% makes more sense. From there, you may be able to save a few dollars if you look at the cost of recreation (nights out) or food (more cost-effective groceries and meals.)
  • Keep an Eye on Future Opportunities
    When you choose to buy a home, you'll have to work with the conditions that exist at the time. Sometimes, however, future improvements in the market can help you. If the housing market gets better after you buy, contact your lender. They may be able to help you reduce your monthly payments by refinancing your mortgage loan at a better interest rate.

To learn about local real estate opportunities, contact us at Old Dominion Realty today.

August
29

Avoid These Home Buying Errors to Prevent Striking Out

Home Buying Errors to Avoid

Real estate and baseball have a lot in common.  Scouting a new right fielder for your team is like house hunting.  Playing each game is like attending open houses.  And winning your league's championship is like having a seller accept your offer.  

What many home buyers don't understand is that the 30 to 45 days before closing day is like the home stretch of a baseball game.  Errors that happen during this time could get your closing day delayed for rain or even thrown out at third.  

Okay, enough with baseball.  In the real estate world, there are mistakes home buyers can make during the time prior to closing day that can jeopardize closing on their new home.

Our real estate agents are ready to be by your side during the home buying process.  Here are the five mistakes to avoid so your home buying experience is a "home run!"

  1. Switching Jobs
    One of the biggest mistakes you can make during the final closing process is to quit or switch jobs. Lenders always re-check your employment status and income before they finalize the closing. Changing jobs will require lenders to repeat the underwriting process, which results in a delay that can last anywhere between several days to weeks. Even staying with the same company but switching between a salary position to an hourly rate will have an impact on the closing process. Instead of making any drastic changes, it is best to wait until you sign the mortgage papers before you make any changes in employment.

  2. Low Home Appraisal
    A mortgage is always contingent on the home appraisal, and a lower than expected evaluation can pose problems. For example, you and the seller must renegotiate the price if the home appraisal is lower than the original selling price. Depending on the seller, this may be an easy process or a somewhat difficult one. If the seller is unwilling to negotiate, you will need to decide between making a larger down payment or walking away from the deal.

  3. Title Issues
    Various title issues can also delay the purchase of your home or even completely ruin the deal. These title issues are wide-ranging, whether it is errors in the public record, missing heirs, boundary disagreements, or liens. Purchasing title insurance can protect you from most of these scenarios, but it will still potentially cause delays in the purchase of a home.

  4. Expensive Purchases
    Spending too much money at once can also cause significant issues during the final closing stage and make it more difficult to buy a house. Mortgage lenders will always check the bank statements of a borrower during the approval process, and it is never a good idea to spend a large sum of money on home furnishings before you sign the final papers. While banks will provide you with an estimate of the closing costs, it is typically always higher than expected and not having enough extra cash in the bank can jeopardize you purchasing a home.

  5. Contract Disagreements
    Contract disagreements can arrive at the worst times and derail the final closing. These disagreements can be the result of many scenarios, whether the seller doesn't want to include the entire contents of the home in the transaction or if the seller refuses to pay for any additional repairs in the house. Discussing these issues with your real estate agent can help you work through these issues and try to find a resolution that satisfies both parties.

Before you buy a house, it is essential to understand how to avoid these common mistakes to save you time and stress. Old Dominion Realty has been helping clients buy and sell homes since 1962.  One of our local REALTORS® is always close by to guide you through the buying and selling process.  Contact an Old Dominion Realty office near you to start your search for the perfect home. 

Contact Old Dominion Realty

May
7

Use Your Tax Refund to Buy Your First Home

Tax Refund for Down Payment
Use Your Tax Refund for Your Down Payment

If your tax return is burning a hole in your pocket, there are endless ways you could spend it. Sure, you could go on vacation, or splurge on that latest gadget you've had your eye on, but there's a better option.

If you've been dreaming of finally becoming a homeowner, your tax refund could offer a real opportunity. Our REALTORS® have a few ideas on how you could use your refund to make home ownership a reality once and for all.

Put it toward your deposit

The more you are able to put down as a down payment for your new home, the less you'll end up paying in interest in the long run. You'll also be less likely to have to pay for private mortgage insurance if you're able to put down the recommended 20 percent down payment. When you get your tax refund, create a separate savings account for it so that you won't be as tempted to spend it. You may even gather a little interest if you let it sit for a while.

Pay off your debts

Debt makes it hard to qualify for a mortgage, especially credit card debt. Using your tax refund to work on paying off your credit cards and other debts will help boost your credit rating, which will make it easier to qualify for a mortgage with a rate and terms that you can live with.

Apply it to closing costs

Some new homeowners are shocked to learn that closing costs, including attorney fees, appraisal and inspection fees, title insurance and escrow costs, often add up to a substantial chunk of change. In a lot of cases, these costs must be paid upfront rather than being rolled into your monthly mortgage payments. Your tax refund can be a great way to take care of closing costs.

Put it toward taxes and insurance

Once you own your home, there's still property taxes and homeowners insurance to think about. Putting your tax refund toward these future costs is a great way to ease the financial burden of homeownership.

Build your emergency fund

The costs of owning a home don't end when you're handed the keys and open the door. There are ongoing expenses, many of them unforeseen, that often catch first-time homeowners by surprise. It's important to have a nest egg saved up to deal with the continuing costs of homeownership, and your tax refund can really help out. From monthly mortgage payments and utility bills to unexpected hardships, such as the loss of your job or a sudden and expensive home repair, you'll be glad you had some money tucked away.

Contact Old Dominion Realty today to learn more about how you can put your tax refund to good use. Whether you're planning on buying or selling a home, we're here to help!

Contact Old Dominion Realty

April
30

5 Signs It's Time to Stop Renting and Buy Your First Home

Step Renting Buy Home
You probably never made a conscious decision to stay a renter forever. Sometimes it just happens. You lease a nice apartment and settle into a renter's lifestyle. You pay your bills and build your savings along the way. But then what? Do you stay a renter forever or take the homeownership plunge? 

Our REALTORS® work with many first-time home buyers. We believe there are lifestyle, financial, and personal signs that tell you when the time is right to buy a home. Here are five situations to consider. 

  1. Your Rent Is Enough to Make a Mortgage Payment
    If you're renting an apartment in a nice neighborhood, you are more than likely paying at least $1,000 per month. While $1,000 a month won't pay for a big beautiful dream home, it's enough to pay the mortgage on a cozy little place of your own.

  2. You Have a Cash Cushion
    Of course, the mortgage payment is just a part of it. But you're in great shape if you have cash enough for a down payment, closing costs, packing, and moving. Once you're settled into your home, you must also pay property taxes, higher utility bills, furnishing costs, maintenance expenses and more.

    If you qualify for a loan backed by FHA, VA, USDA, or other special home-buying programs, their lower down payments and interest rates may allow you to hang onto some of your money.

  3. Your Neighbors Push Your Buttons
    When you live in close quarters with so many other families, you get used to conditions you don't like. You learn to tolerate heavy feet upstairs, babies screaming downstairs, loud music next door, and smokers in the hallway. When all that neighborly activity begins to irritate you, at some point you'll want peace and quiet and a space of your own.

  4. You're Tired of White Walls
    When you rent, you make a phone call and a maintenance crew fixes the plumbing or shovels the snow. Your landlord does these things because the space you rent doesn't belong to you.

    That means you can't necessarily remodel the kitchen or install designer bathroom fixtures. And if you dare to paint the living room walls, you might lose your security deposit. When you get tired of these restrictions it could be a sign that homeownership is a better idea.

  5. You Want to Build Equity
    As you work hard to earn a living, you're not thinking about enriching your landlord. But that's exactly what you do each time you pay rent. When you own instead of rent, you build your own net worth.

    A recent Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in Family Finances, cites a rise in home equity as a factor for families that saw an increase in net worth. While homeowner's wealth increased 15 percent over the past several years, renter's net worth fell by 5 percent.

If you're a renter, we can help you decide if homeownership is the right option for you. Contact Old Dominion Realty if you plan to buy or sell a home or if you want more information about the communities we serve.

Contact Old Dominion Realty

December
19

6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying Your First Home

First-time buyer questions
Buying your first home is a big step—think you're ready for it? We certainly hope so, but we also want to make sure that you buy your dream home at the right moment.

At a certain point, every renter gets to a place in their life where they just don't feel like they can do it anymore. Whether it's the noisy neighbors, the overbearing landlord, or the feeling of powerlessness that comes from continuously paying for a living space you'll never own, you just have to get out. Homeownership is the next logical step.  Here are six questions our REALTORS® want you to ask yourself before you decide to go for it.

  1. Do you plan on living here for the long haul? Some folks look for a new home out of restlessness, but restlessness and homeownership are not a good combination. If you really want to buy a house, make sure it's in an area where you can see yourself living for many years to come. If you think you'd like to move again within five years or less, it might be better to put off owning your home until then.

  2. Are your finances in order? At a risk of stating the obvious, before buying a home it's essential that you now you can afford it. And you don't just have to convince yourself, you also have to convince a home mortgage lender, which means proving that you have a good credit score, income stability, and minimal debts. But don't bankrupt yourself by putting all your savings into buying a home. It's smarter to wait until you have enough of a nest egg to live comfortably even after you've made the down payment, or else you could find yourself in a very precarious financial situation.

  3. Are you ready for the responsibility? The costs of homeownership don't end with your down payment or even your monthly mortgage payments. What if the furnace breaks down? Or the roof has to be repaired? It's important to make sure you're personally and financially able to take on that responsibility.

  4. What if you get a new job? For better or worse, the model used by previous generations—get a job, keep it forever, buy a house and retire—doesn't really apply anymore, which makes job stability a crucial consideration before you buy a home. You should be fairly confident that your job is secure, and that if you do end up taking a new job, it will be in the same area for an equal or greater salary.

  5. Are you okay with making the monthly payments? Nobody enjoys being in debt, and your home mortgage is almost certainly the biggest loan you will ever have to repay. Make sure you're comfortable with the prospect of paying off your mortgage one month at a time for many years to come.

  6. Why are you buying a home? It's an honest question that you need to ask yourself. It's tempting to see buying a home as hitting the reset button on your life, but if you're thinking about buying a home when you've recently gone through a break-up, divorce, job shake-up, or a death in the family, it's smart to take a step back and re-evaluate the decision at a later time.

Still think you're ready to buy your first home? If so, we're here to help. Contact us today at Old Dominion Realty to learn more about how to get started on the path to homeownership.

Contact Old Dominion Realty

October
10

5 Reasons to Go to an Open House--Even If You're Not Ready to Buy

5 Reasons to Attend an Open House
Anyone who has shopped for a home knows what it's like to spend countless hours dreaming about your ideal home, scouring every online listing in your area, and attending open houses to get an up-close look at your favorite properties.

These can all be fun activities when you're working to buy a house, and they also present valuable learning opportunities that will help you find the right deal for your needs. But is it still worth it to attend an open house, even if you're not ready to purchase? Our REALTORS® are here to explain why with five reasons to attend an open house even if you're not planning to buy.

  1. Learn More about Your Likes, Needs, and Wants
    Looking at homes online is fun, but it's hard to make decisions on what you want just by looking at photos or video of the home. Attending an open house allows you to see the features of a home up close and personal, so you can get a better idea of what you'll want when the time is right for you to buy a house. Be sure to take notes as you go, so that you'll have something to look back on when you're ready to shop for a home. 

  2. Get to Know Listing Agents
    Even if you're not ready to buy, getting to know local listing agents will serve you well when you do decide to enter the market. An open house is an excellent chance to see listing agents in action, ask questions, and see if the agent is someone you'd like to work with in the future. Finding the right real estate agent makes it so much easier to find the right home, and attending open houses will put you in touch with a diverse group of real estate agents in your area.

  3. Discover Design Ideas for Your Current Home
    Perhaps you own a home that you love, and don't see yourself leaving anytime soon. You can still benefit by attending an open house! Visiting different homes in your area is a fun, easy way to pick up interior design ideas, gauge the latest decorating trends, and learn more about landscaping. Attending open houses is also an excellent way to find staging ideas, in case you ever do decide to sell.

  4. Market Research
    Whether you're buying, selling, or browsing, attending open houses can tell you quite a bit about the real estate market in your area. If you find yourself visiting crowded open houses in the same neighborhoods, then there's a good chance homes are pretty hot in that area. Open houses also provide opportunities to trade intel with other shoppers, and discuss the market with listing agents.

  5. Dreaming of the Future
    There are plenty of practical reasons for visiting open houses when you don't plan to buy, but there's also nothing wrong with visiting an open house just to dream on your own future home. Dream of your favorite features, your ideal neighborhood, or the perfect home for your family. While you're there, you can still learn plenty of valuable tidbits for when you're ready to buy a house.

Are you ready to shop for your dream home, find the best open houses, or stage an open house of your own? Contact Old Dominion Realty to learn more about how our experienced, local team can help with all of your real estate needs.

Contact Old Dominion Realty

September
25

Should Your Next Move Be to a Smart Home?

Buying a House That's Smarter

Should You Buy a Smart Home
A growing number of homes for sale seem to include smart home technology.  CNBC.com reported in 2016 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide...a 64 percent increase from 2015.  Analysts predict despite the industry's growth last year, 2017 will be the year of the smart home because the companies behind the technology will be smarter about educating their consumers.

In a smart home, wireless technology allows you to control various systems and appliances easily using your smartphone, computer, or even voice commands.  There is no standard definition of what makes a smart home complete. Exciting new features are hitting the market regularly.

Our REALTORS® have compiled this list of some of the most common smart home features:

  • Lighting
    A smart home can automatically adjust lighting throughout the day. Your lights may brighten as evening comes on or turn on completely during the night while you're away. In some systems, lights automatically adjust based on occupancy of the room.
  • Thermostat
    If your thermostat is tied into your smart home system, you never need to worry about being too hot or cold. The system learns from your preferences and adjusts automatically. In advanced smart homes, each room has individualized temperature control.
  • Security
    Many smart homes are tied into your security system. They automatically lock your doors when you exit the house. You may benefit from advanced access control, such as finger or retina scan. And, of course, they can sound alarms and summon help against intruders.
  • Appliances
    Dozens of kitchen appliances are empowered with advanced smart features. There are refrigerators that can alert you when your favorite staples are low or tell you when something starts to go bad. You can control everything with a single interface.
  • Home Media System
    Those who love the home media experience will enjoy the benefits of a smart home. There are smart home systems that can automatically adjust picture settings and sound based on what you are watching--not to mention completely control your DVR.

Is a Smart Home Right for You?

The idea to buy a home with smart technology is an exciting one. Still, it's important to make sure you are getting what you want from your new system. Here are some of the most important considerations when picking out a smart home:

  • Cost
    If smart systems are already deployed in a home, they really shouldn't add much to the bottom line price. However, there can be some elements that operate as a subscription service. This is common with security system features. Keep your ongoing cost of ownership in mind.
  • Convenience
    Once you fully understand how everything works, there is nothing more convenient than a well-run smart home. However, there is a learning curve. If you don't enjoy dealing with technology, the first few weeks could be off-putting.
  • Information Security
    Since your smart devices are wireless and Internet-enabled, some of them may be vulnerable to hackers. The risk is very low, however, as long as you are willing to implement basic security habits into your day-to-day life--just like you do when you use your computer.

Whether you are looking for a modern smart home, a colonial classic, or a fixer-upper, our real estate agents are ready to help. Contact Old Dominion Realty today.

Contact Old Dominion Realty

September
12

7 Home Buying Secrets from the Pros

Home Buying Secrets from the Pros
Are you getting ready to buy a home? Whether it's your first or your fifth, you need to make sure you are ready. Here are seven secrets from our real estate pros that will make buying a home just a little bit easier.

  1. Make Sure You Can (Easily) Afford It
    It's easy to get sucked in to finding your dream home and shopping at the very top of your budget, but remember, your home is going to cost you, and more than just the mortgage amount. Make sure you aren't risking foreclosure  by buying a home you can't easily afford.

  2. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
    The home's exterior and its "bones" are the most important thing. If it has ugly wallpaper or stained carpet, those are easy to fix. Often homes with aesthetic issues are more affordable than those in move-in ready condition, and you can get a true gem this way. As you're looking, make sure the home is one of the worst in the neighborhood, because you can improve it, but not the homes of your neighbors. The neighborhood around will add value when you're ready to sell. The best home in the neighborhood will have its value brought down by the surrounding properties.

  3. Go for Fixed
    Research mortgages with a "fixed" interest rate. The market is constantly changing, and most likely not in your favor, so keep that rate tied down. Adjustable rates can be tempting, especially because they seem more affordable, but remember they can (and probably will) go up.

  4. Keep Your Emotions in Check
    Your home isn't a boyfriend or girlfriend. Don't "fall in love." Until you sign on the dotted line and the home is officially yours, don't become emotionally invested. Something can go wrong, and if you are emotionally invested you can make poor buying decisions.

  5. Don't Skip the Inspection
    Even if you don't have to have one for your mortgage provider, you need an inspection. The home inspection helps you see beyond what you can typically see at a showing, so you get an unbiased opinion about the home and its inner workings. Take the information the inspector finds seriously, and don't buy a home with serious issues.

  6. Check out the Neighborhood
    Sort of like checking the medicine cabinet or meeting the family when dating, you want to stalk the neighborhood of the home you're considering. Visit at different times of day to see if there are any concerns, like neighbors who like to party well into the night or a neighborhood void of happy children for yours to play with on the weekend. Make sure the community, not just the home, fits your family.

  7. Forget Timing the Market
    Timing the market is nearly impossible. The best time to buy is when you can financially afford to and the right home comes along. The market will change, and waiting to time your purchase is going to make you crazy, and also cause you to miss a home that really fits you well.

Before you hit the market in earnest searching for your home, have the right real estate team on your side. Contact Old Dominion Realty to get more home buying information from our expert agents.

Contact Old Dominion Realty

 

March
28

Beginner's Guide for Buying a Home in Staunton

First-time Home Buyers

Beginner's Guide for Buying a Home

Staunton, Virginia is a vibrant community with many attractive attributes, and a great place to settle down in your first home. There are a wide variety of cultural and social opportunities in the area including outdoor exploration of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. Deciding to buy a home can be intimidating, though, no matter how much you like the community. Here's some helpful information for anyone considering buying a house for the first time.

Make the Most Important Decision

It's perfectly natural to feel some anxiety about buying a house for the first time. However, if you're feeling anxious because you're unsure whether you want to own a home at all, it's extremely important to make the decision of whether you really want to own a home, or if it's just what you're "supposed to do" when you're an adult. It's much better to explore your options before getting involved in securing a mortgage and becoming a homeowner than to go through the process and be unhappy with your choice.

Get Ready for a Mortgage

Once you've decided home ownership is right for you, start looking at your finances. They should be well organized before you start talking to lenders about a mortgage. Getting ready for a mortgage might include:

  • Paying down credit card debts and keeping the balances low.
  • Gathering two years' worth of bank statements, pay stubs, salary verification and income tax information.
  • Refraining from doing anything that requires a credit inquiry, such as buying a car or furniture, or opening a new line of credit.

Before shopping for a specific loan, ask various lenders about any available first-time homebuyer programs, government-backed loans that you might be able to use, and their fees for financing your mortgage. It's your right to ask questions about anything you don't understand. Remember, just because you talk to a lender doesn't mean you're obligated to go through them for your loan.

Look to Your Future

Buying a house means being fairly certain of your plans over the next several years. You should know whether kids will be coming into the picture, which amenities might be most important over the long term and if there's enough room for your future growth, both personally and professionally. A list of things you might want in your new home can help you narrow your choices to properties that fit your needs now and into the future.

Be Open to Different Situations

When you're looking into buying a house, it's best to consider a lot of different properties that are offered for sale due to foreclosure, short sales or as part of a real estate auction, especially if you're willing to make some investments in the home. Many of these situations will have different requirements than a traditional "fair market listing" sale, so it's best to work with a local real estate agent to understand different sale options and find the right property for your needs.

Work with an Experienced REALTOR®

At Old Dominion Realty, we have a lot of useful information about relocating to Staunton, VA. You can even view our listings for gorgeous homes in Staunton easily from your computer. Contact Old Dominion Realty when you're considering buying a house in Virginia. Our REALTORS® in Staunton have all the experience and information you'll need to find your perfect new home.

Contact Old Dominion Realty

April
14

5 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Helpful Hints When Buying Your First Home

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Congratulations! You've bought your first home. Home ownership brings a lot of freedom, but also many new things to think about. If you're just learning to navigate owning versus renting, here are a 5 First-Time Home Buyer Tips to get you started.

1. Get Fully Insured

Maybe the contents of your home weren't all that important, and you didn't care about rental insurance. Homeowners insurance isn't to be taken lightly. You now own the home, its content, and the property. Losing it could be catastrophic. Do your research and make sure you are fully covering your entire property against any possible scenario. Don't forget to focus on what specific issues you may face in your region.

2. Don't Overspend on New Home Perks

It's your first home.  You'll be tempted to fill that beautiful new home with all your visions. That may include remodels, renovations, or new furniture. It's best to hold off for a while--unless it's a critical maintenance item. At this point in the game, establishing a solid savings is most important. Unexpected costs lurk around the corner when you own a home, and savings help you prepare for unforeseen events or expenses. Making home improvements and decorating is a good thing, just research, budget, and save before implementing your ideas.

3. Don't Avoid Maintenance

True, you may not want to take care of that clogged drain today, but tomorrow it may be an overflow that floods and damages the floor and creates the perfect moist conditions for mold. Small issues have a way of snowballing into much bigger ones, so it pays not to put off fixing things. If you're confident you can handle things yourself, go for it. However, never attempt something major or unfamiliar without the help of a professional. Again, it can turn a small problem into something much bigger.

4. Get Help with Taxes

Even if you have to reach deep into your pockets, investing in an accountant is a smart choice. Buying your first home has some tax intricacies that you don't want to mess up. An experienced tax professional will identify any deductions or nuances correctly, making sure you maximize your return.

5. Start a File Box and Spreadsheet for House Records

You'll want to have a place for receipts, maintenance records, home improvement projects, appliance instructions, and any and everything pertaining to your home. The file will serve multiple purposes, from having proof for your taxes to being able to look up the last time you had the furnace serviced. Those records can also assist in designing an annual maintenance plan, or with facilitating a house sale—people feel more confident making a purchase on a home that was well-cared for and has the records to prove it.

Contact Old Dominion Realty
Whether you're ready to buy your first home, or have a house to sell, contact our team of REALTORS® Old Dominion Realty.

Old Dominion Realty is a locally owned real estate broker with offices in the West Virginia and Virginia real estate areas (Harrisonburg, Crossroads Plaza, Augusta County, Moorefield and Franklin) and a proud Member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (www.LeadingRE.com).

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