Category: Real Estate

Essential Fall Maintenance Checklist

Maui real estate
The nip of the first chill in the air. The colorful foliage. The pumpkin spice everything. Oh yeah, and the long list of home maintenance tasks awaiting you at the start of the season.

The postsummer months are a critical time for knocking out routine home maintenance to keep your household running smoothly into winter. Luckily, many of these tasks are easy DIY projects.

Check windows and doors

Lower temperatures mean higher thermostat settings, and anyone in a cold climate knows the pain of opening a gas bill in the dead of winter. To keep cold air out and utility bills in check, check all of your windows and doors for air leaks. If your issues are minor, a few low-budget options to fix leaky doors and windows include caulking around gaps, adding or updating the weatherstripping, and using foam sealant.

Clean the chimney

If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection. Maintaining a clean fireplace is the simplest and best way to remove creosote, a byproduct of wood combustion that contains tar and toxins. Eliminating this from the chimney liner and the smoke box reduces the risk of a fire. If you’ve been keeping up with cleaning your chimney on a yearly basis, you can handle this task on your own, as long as you feel capable of using an extension ladder to get to the roof and scrub the chimney.

Run ceiling fans in reverse

The hot, humid days of summer are officially in the rear-view mirror (in most parts of the country, at least). That’s why now is the perfect time to start thinking about reversing the direction of fans in the home to make the space warmer. Reversing the direction of your ceiling fans helps circulate warm air near the ceiling back into your living space. All you need is a ladder or stool for this task—and make sure the fan is off. Then simply flip the switch that is commonly found on the side of the motor to change the fan’s direction.

Clean the gutters

Throughout the year, your gutters fill up with leaves, sticks, and other debris. Failing to clear this gunk from your gutters can mean rain and melting snow won’t be able to drain easily—potentially causing seepage and leaks into your home. If you’re comfortable climbing on a ladder to clean your gutters, this is a DIY-friendly task. Using a bucket, gutter scoop, and heavy-duty gloves, you can remove any debris found in your gutters. Use a hose to wash away any remaining debris and to make sure the downspouts are working properly.

5 Moving Mistakes to Avoid

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Moving can be a long and difficult process. It’s no surprise that many people experience hiccups along the way. These tips may alleviate the pain and frustration that comes with making those mistakes. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common moving mistakes, as well as how to fix them.

Not scheduling your Maui move

One of the biggest moving mistakes is people who think they can just go with the flow when it comes to packing and moving. This leads to packing at the last minute, throwing things in boxes with little sense of organization and an overall unpleasant moving experience.

Solution: Make a schedule. Before you start packing a single box, write out a schedule of when you will pack and move the items in your home. Start a few weeks out from your final moving day in order to give yourself plenty of time. Then, break the task out into organized chunks. Tackle storage areas first, as they’re often the trickiest things to pack. Then go room-by-room to keep the process organized.

Not asking questions before hiring movers in Maui

Did you know that most moving companies will only insure items that they pack themselves? Important information like that often goes unsaid during the moving process, leaving homeowners in the lurch when something goes awry. Unfortunately, in the craziness of moving, sometimes you make assumptions about a moving company’s process without anyone stopping to check the facts.

Solution: Ask questions before you hire a moving company – and keep asking them until you’re sure you know the full story. Ask how their process works, if they’re insured, what’s covered under their insurance and what’s not, what excess fees you could incur and what their procedure is in the event of a lost or broken item. Then, once you have a contract in hand, read it over in full so that you know what you’re agreeing to before you sign on the dotted line.

Forgoing the in-home estimates

The majority of moving companies will offer you an estimate. However, they usually do these over the over the phone and vary widely. If you forget to mention a large or difficult-to-move item in your initial consultation, your estimate could end up well over the figure that was originally quoted to you. This is one of the more expensive moving mistakes.

Solution: Ask for an in-home estimate. That way, someone from the moving company can see exactly how much stuff needs to be moved. They’ll also know if any particular items require special consideration. Armed with that information, they should be able to give you an accurate quote. To make sure you’re getting the best possible deal, aim to get estimates from at least three different companies in your area.

Packing boxes too heavily

There is the impulse to load boxes until they’re chalk-full. After all, fewer boxes means fewer trips to and from the moving van. However, overloading boxes is one of the moving mistakes that isn’t good for you or your belongings. On one hand, it could be an injury risk. On the other, the weight of your items could cause the box to break.

Solution: Conventional wisdom states that, for your safety and the safety of your items, moving boxes should never exceed 50 pounds. Keep that figure in mind as you pack up your home. Additionally, pack heavier items – especially things like books – in smaller boxes. That way, you’ll have a built-in stop gap.

Not checking your inventory sheet

At the end of a long moving day, it’s only natural to want to send the movers away as fast as possible so that you can get started on the unpacking process. This impulse often leads to people signing off on their final inventory sheet – a list of everything that the movers moved into your new home – without checking to see that all their items are accounted for.

Solution: Check and double-check to make sure all of your belongings have arrived safely before signing off on your inventory sheet. If something is missing, make sure that it’s found before signing anything. Your signature releases the moving company of responsibility for lost or damaged items so make sure you have everything you need first.

Safeguarding Your Real Estate Investment

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Your home is likely the largest investment you’ll ever make, and something you’ll obviously want to preserve. Preventative home maintenance will not only protect your home and maintain its value, but it will also help you save money in the long run. You will also ensure that your home is a safe and comfortable place for you and your family to live for as long as you desire. Here are some tips to protect and maintain your home.

Preventative Maintenance

Your home requires regular upkeep and care to prevent any issues from getting out of hand. A good first step is to create a property maintenance checklist where you break down all of the tasks and projects that need to be completed throughout the year (for example, complete HVAC maintenance before the cold winter or hot summer months). Decide which tasks you can complete on your own and which tasks you’ll need to hire a professional to help with.

Items related to the roof, structure, HVAC systems and plumbing should be top priorities, no matter what time of the year, as these are critical to the infrastructure of your home. Preventative maintenance is key to avoid causing bigger problems down the road, so it’s wise to schedule things like HVAC maintenance and roof inspections to reduce your risk of breakdown.

Emergency Fund

Regardless of age, location or condition, all homes will inevitably need some form of unexpected or emergency repair—it comes with the territory of being a homeowner. It’s better to set up a savings account now that you can contribute to over time and pull from as needed.

Depending on the scope of the issue, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in repairs or equipment replacement costs. Some tasks can wait, but problems with the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical or HVAC systems generally need to be assessed immediately. Being a homeowner isn’t cheap, but you can set yourself up for sustained success with a little foresight.

Small Stuff

Don’t let a small issue snowball into a big problem—when you notice something is wrong, deal with it right away to save yourself time and money down the road. Something like a small faucet drip can quickly turn into a major water problem if ignored for too long. A leak in the water heater may not seem like an immediate problem, but this can often be a warning sign of tank failure. Be wary of seemingly small problems and look into them right away to avoid having to dip into your emergency fund.

HOA Pros & Cons

Maui real estate

Across the U.S., homeowners’ associations are on the ascent. So, what’s the draw of homeowners’ associations? By the same token, what are the drawbacks? A well-run and managed HOA can be a blessing, and a poorly managed HOA can be a curse. Here are some of the blessings, and the curses, of homeowners’ associations (HOAs).

Pros

1. Neighborhood maintenance

Generally, an HOA establishes rules to ensure the neighborhood looks sharp. These include strict guidelines about keeping lawns manicured, restrictions on parking boats and other large vehicles on the street, and limitations on exterior paint colors. This type of oversight eliminates issues with one or two properties weighing down all property values due to an unpleasant exterior.

2. Access to amenities

An HOA can offer community amenities such as a pool, a fitness center, parks or common areas, children’s play areas, and even neighborhood security gates.

3. Shared costs

HOA dues are earmarked for maintenance of shared spaces. This includes community lawn care (but not for your own yard), community snow removal (but not for your own property) and upkeep of common areas like the pool or the fitness center.

Cons

1. Dues

When buying a home in a community with an HOA, you’ve got to add HOA dues to your budget. These dues will vary depending on the shared costs required to maintain the neighborhood elements the HOA is responsible for.

2. Rules

When you live in a community governed by a HOA, you’ll have to follow its rules, even if you think they’re ridiculous. If someone buys a home in an HOA community and wants to make changes to the property, such as the addition of an enclosed patio, it normally must be approved by the HOA’s board. It’s possible that an HOA could prevent certain updates on a home. You do, however, have the option of petitioning the homeowners’ association to change any rule you don’t agree with. But if you lose, you may have to live with it.

3. Poor Management

If an HOA is facing financial problems, is being mis-managed, or is ensnared in a lawsuit, it could harm your ability to obtain a loan for a home and could hurt resale prices of homes in the community.

Do You Have Enough Saved For A Down Payment?

Maui real estate
How big of a down payment do you need for a house? That’s going to depend entirely on the type of mortgage you choose. For some, it could be literally nothing — not a dime. Most will need at least 3% or 3.5% of the purchase price. The down payment amount you’ll need depends on what type of mortgage loan you choose. Here are the minimum down payments for different home loans:

VA loans ($0 down)

To get a zero-down VA loan (backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs), you need a Certificate of Eligibility. And the VA has strict rules about those. Veterans, active-duty service members, members of the National Guard, and reservists typically qualify — along with some surviving spouses. You’ll need an “acceptable” credit history as well. Some mortgage lenders are happy with a credit score of 580, but many want 620-660 or higher.

USDA loans ($0 down)

USDA mortgages are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of its rural development program. Like the VA loan program, USDA allows a 0% down payment (though you still need to pay closing costs out of pocket). You’ll have to buy in an eligible rural area to qualify. However, your occupation doesn’t have to be connected to agriculture in any way.

Conforming loans (3% down)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the agencies that set rules for conforming mortgages) require a down payment of only 3% of the purchase price. If you can qualify, conforming loans may be better than those from the FHA. That’s because they let you stop paying mortgage insurance once your equity (the amount by which your home’s market value exceeds your mortgage balance) reaches 20%. FHA makes you keep paying mortgage insurance premiums until you sell, refinance, or finish paying down your loan.

FHA loans (3.5% down)

The smallest down payment you can make on an FHA loan is 3.5%. That’s a bit higher than for conforming loans. And, as we mentioned, FHA loans have you paying mortgage insurance premiums until you sell, refinance to a different type of mortgage, or simply pay off the loan, usually after 30 years. Often, an FHA loan can be a shortcut to homeownership. And if you’ll move or refinance within the next few years, those mortgage insurance payments aren’t as big of a deal.

Conventional loans (5-20% down)

Most conventional loans fall into the ‘conforming loan’ category regulated by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The least you can put down with these is 3 percent. The next step up for a conventional loan is 5% down on a single-family primary residence. But with 5% down, you’ll be paying mortgage insurance until your equity rises to 20 percent. And you may find other types of mortgages more attractive if you’re in that situation. If cash isn’t an issue, you can go ahead and put 20% down right away. This will earn you the lowest mortgage rate and help reduce your monthly mortgage payments as well as your total interest cost.

Saving Money On Homeowners Insurance

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If you’re buying a home, you’ll definitely want to buy home insurance to protect this valuable asset in the event of unforeseen problems, from damaging hailstorms to theft and beyond. So how much does home insurance cost? Here’s a few things you should know about home insurance rates, and how to find the best plan and price.

How much does homeowners insurance cost?

The average annual homeowners insurance premium runs about $1,445. However, it can be much higher or lower based on numerous factors. Here’s a full rundown of what can affect homeowners insurance costs.

  • Condition: This plays a big role in your homeowners insurance rate, and can include everything from the roof to the pipes, heating system, electrical wiring, and age. Your insurer may ask you to provide detailed information about your home; it may also gather information from public records and documents filed with your city and county.
  • Price: Another big factor is the price per square foot to rebuild in your area, based on current construction rates. Why does this matter? Because if your house is damaged or completely destroyed and you need to rebuild, your insurer will be footing the bill.
  • Natural disasters: The cost of your homeowners insurance also depends heavily on the likelihood of destructive natural disasters or other incidents. In other words, the more known risk there is to your home, the stiffer the homeowners insurance premium.
  • Personal information: Your credit score, age, and other personal factors also play a role in your home insurance costs. A higher credit score and few or no insurance claims usually result in a lower rate for home insurance. Generally speaking, the older you are, the lower your premiums. Why? Because older people are less risky for insurers to cover—they tend to spend more time at home, particularly if they’re retired, which means they’ll catch a house fire before it gets out of control.
  • High-risk features: Your homeowners insurance company will also factor in high-risk home features, including swimming pools, trampolines, and even your dog. (Certain breeds have a reputation for being more aggressive, which could lead to expensive insurance claims if your dog bites someone.) Similarly, adding safety features such as a home security system or fire sprinklers can help lower your home insurance rates.

How to find the best price

To determine how much you’ll pay for home insurance, contact a few insurance companies by calling to chat with an agent or by filling out a form on their website. After you share some information about you and your home, they’ll run this information through their own algorithms to come up with a quote on how much your insurance will cost. But here’s the thing: Since each insurance company uses its own formulas to determine a property’s risk levels, each may offer different rates. To get the best price and policy, it pays to shop around.

Many homeowners go with the first homeowners insurance policy quote they get in order to cross one more thing off their list during a move or the home-purchasing process. And that could be a big, costly mistake because you may pay more. But the cheapest home insurance option isn’t always the best, either.

Ask the agent to explain why the homeowners insurance premiums are different and what the trade-offs are in liability coverage and deductibles. And this isn’t just something you should do when you first buy a home. Every year, you should review your homeowners insurance, including your liability coverage, premium, and deductible.

Misconceptions About Purchasing A Home

Maui real estate

Making the leap from being a renter to homeowner is a process that includes taking stock of your financial situation. For most people, the primary question is affordability. Do you have enough cash in the bank to fund a down payment, or do you have a credit score high enough to qualify you for a home loan? But there are other considerations, and plenty of misconceptions and myths that could keep you from making that first step.

You’ll need to put 20% down

Contrary to popular belief, a 20% down payment is not required to purchase a home. There are several low down payment options available to all types of buyers. These are as low as 0% down for VA loans to 5% for conventional loans. One of the main reasons buyers assume they must put down 20% is that without a 20% down payment, buyers typically face private mortgage insurance payments that add to the monthly loan payment. The good news is once 20% equity is reached in a home, the buyer can eliminate PMI. This is usually accomplished by refinancing their loan, ultimately lowering their original payment that included PMI.

You need perfect credit

Having a credit score at or above 660 looks great to mortgage lenders, but if yours is lagging, there’s still hope. Credit score and history play a significant role in a buyer’s ability to obtain a home loan, but it doesn’t mean a buyer needs squeaky-clean credit. There are many loan solutions for buyers who have a lower than the ideal credit score. Government-backed loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration have lower credit and income requirements than most conventional loans. A lower down payment is also a benefit of FHA loans. Lenders often work with home buyers upfront to discuss how to improve their credit to obtain a loan most suitable for their needs and financial situation.

It’s a bad time to buy

Buying a home at the right time, during a buyer’s market or when interest rates are low, is considered a smart money move. But don’t let the fear of buying at the “wrong time” stop you from moving forward. If you feel like you’ve found a good deal, there is truly no bad time to buy a home. The famous saying in real estate is ‘I don’t have a crystal ball,’ meaning no one can predict exactly where the market will be at a given time. If a buyer stays within their means and has a financial contingency plan in place if the market adjusts over time, it is the right time to buy.

You’ll be stuck

Some people may be hesitant to buy because it means staying put in the same location. Plan to stay in a newly purchased home for a minimum of three years. You can ride out most market swings if they happen, and it also gives you a sense of connection to your new space. In a healthy market, homeowners will likely be able to sell the home within a year or two if they need to move, or they can consider renting out the property. There is always a way out of a real estate asset; knowing how and when to exit is the key.

How to Make a Winning Offer on a Home

Maui real estate

Homebuyers today are faced with a strong sellers’ market…a lot of active buyers competing for a relatively low number of available homes. As a result, it’s essential to understand how to make a confident and competitive offer on your new home. Here are some tips for success in this stage of the homebuying process.

Listen to Your Real Estate Advisor

Trusted professionals can help you stay focused on the most important things, especially at times when this process can get emotional for buyers. Remember to let your homebuying team, not your emotions, guide you on your journey. Their support and expertise will keep you from compromising on your must-haves and future financial stability.

Understand Your Finances

Having a complete understanding of your budget and how much house you can afford is essential. The best way to know this is to get pre-approved for a loan early in the homebuying process. Doing so makes it clear to sellers you’re a serious and qualified buyer, and it can give you a competitive edge in a bidding war.

Be Prepared to Move Quickly

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average property sold today receives 3.7 offers and is on the market for just 21 days. These are both results of today’s competitive market, showing how important it is to stay agile and alert in your search. As soon as you find the right home for your needs, be prepared to submit an offer as quickly as possible.

Make a Fair Offer

It’s only natural to want the best deal you can get on a home. However, submitting an offer that’s too low can lead sellers to doubt how serious you are as a buyer. Don’t make an offer that will be tossed out as soon as it’s received. The expertise your agent brings to this part of the process will help you stay competitive

Stay Flexible in Negotiations

After submitting an offer, the seller may accept it, reject it, or counter it with their own changes. In a competitive market, it’s important to stay nimble throughout the negotiation process. You can strengthen your position with an offer that includes flexible move-in dates, a higher price, or minimal contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized).

Moving Tips Part #3 – Unpacking & Getting Settled

Maui real estate

Unpacking can be almost as stressful as packing if you don’t do it right. After all, you just want to lay down at the end of a long day of moving. Relieve some of that stress with some unpacking tips for moving.

Put Every Box In The Right Room

Don’t stack all of the boxes in the kitchen or living room when you put them in the house. Take them directly to the room they go in. If you have color-coded the boxes then you will be able to do this with ease, even with a team.

Assign Rooms

Don’t let anyone do their room first. Instead, assign every person a common area. Someone unpacks the bathroom, someone the living room, and another the kitchen. This can relieve stress from whoever feels most responsible.

Relax

Whether it be music or some candles, find something to help you relax while still getting the work done. TVs can work as long as you don’t get distracted. Most people prefer music, just make sure you get to pick the genre.

Fold Boxes

Fold boxes as you go. Don’t let them stack up or it will feel overwhelming. Fold them up and put them outside or at least out of sight as you go. You can have one of the younger kids gather them up, as you go, in each room.

Order Pizza

Or something to look forward to at the end of the day, or even during a small break. Just don’t cook or stress about dinner. Call ahead of time so everyone knows what they have to look forward to.

Take Things Slow

It doesn’t matter how long it takes. If you start early enough, it really doesn’t matter. So take things as slowly as you want to, and then a little slower. As long as you’re not a procrastinator, then things will go smoothly this way.

Final Thoughts

Moving doesn’t have to be hard. It can be a day full of memories rather than one full of stress. Make the most out of the day by enjoying as much of it as you can as a family. Do the work together and lighten the load by asking for help. It’s amazing how much you can get done with a little planning beforehand and teamwork as you do it. So plan together, work together, and make moving day a memory. It doesn’t have to be fun, but it can be a good one.

Moving Tips Part #2 – Packing

Maui real estate

When it’s time to pack, you want to make it as easy as possible. This is true for vacationing, camping, and of course, moving to a new house. Follow these packing tips for moving to make things run smoothly.

Wrap Drawers

Instead of cleaning out drawers, utilize that space by keeping the things you’re taking in the drawers. Fill in any empty space with other stuff and wrap it in plastic wrap. Stack the drawers in the van. You can even put the drawers back in the dresser when you put them in the moving van.

Don’t Fold Clothes

Instead of folding your hang-up clothes, leave them on hangers. You can put them in trash bags with the top of the hangers sticking out the top. This will prevent wrinkles in clothes you don’t want wrinkled and will keep things tidy.

Use What You Have

Instead of struggling with boxes and bubble wrap, use what you have. Wrap breakables in sheets and towels. Put them in pots, pans, and baskets you have lying around the house. This will save money and space.

Get A Carry-On

You don’t want to dig through boxes when you want toothpaste, so get a carry-on for each person. Put everything you need for at least a day in it, even a change of clothes and a few snacks. This will make things easier.

Colored Duct Tape

Find a way to color-code everything. Use a different color of duct tape for each room or each person. Whatever system works for you. This makes things a whole lot easier on the other end and will make packing go smoothly.

Take Pictures

Whether it be the way you have your spices organized or the way the TV is set up, take pictures of anything that isn’t obvious. Then, anyone can put it back the way it was. You can even take pictures of each box on the inside.