Sign up to get new listings emailed daily! JOIN SIGN IN
Stephanie Villani
REALTOR®, GRI, ABR, SRS
Facebook Icon LinkedIn Icon Instagram Icon 

Articles Tagged "Buy a Home"

Stephanie Villani Blog Home

Subscribe and receive email notifications of new blog posts.




rss logo RSS Feed
Community Guides | 50 Posts
Home Tips | 6 Posts
September
16

Budget-Friendly Ways to Update Your Kitchen

Kitchen

If you're looking to update your kitchen but think it would be costly and time-consuming, it may be easier than you think. There are several budget-friendly ways to update your kitchen that will not take long to achieve. They'll help quickly transform the room, so it's more attractive and pleasant to work in.

Our Realtors® suggest the following kitchen updates that won't break the bank:

  • Add a Rug 
    Bring in a rug from another room to give your kitchen a nice dose of color, pattern, and texture. Neutral colors in just one or two variations create a subtle look, while using more colors in more vibrant hues creates a bolder look. This update couldn't be easier, and if you'd like a change, you can always choose another rug from your home or buy one.

  • Paint Your Cabinets
    Giving your kitchen cabinets a new coat of paint gives them a fresh, clean look. Remove the hardware (making sure to number them, so you'll know where everything goes) and clean and sand the cabinets' surfaces. Use two or three coats of self-priming paint, and if you'd like some variation, paint your upper and lower cabinets in contrasting colors.

  • Add Character With Artwork
    Use a poster, painting, or photo to add some color and character to your kitchen. This can be achieved with a large single piece, or you can add some smaller pieces on open shelves or above the kitchen cabinets.

  • Update Your Backsplash
    A dated, dingy tile backsplash can be easily addressed to help modernize and brighten your kitchen. Tile can be painted a bright color and then sealed. Or you can also use peel-and-stick tiles, which can be applied over your existing tile. It's simple to install and can help give your kitchen a more expensive appearance.

  • Swap Out Your Hardware
    Your kitchen hardware may be showing its age, so why not replace it for an easy update? Metal and glass are two popular options, but if you choose metal, use just one finish for everything. You can find a wide variety at a home improvement store, but if you want something more unique, try looking for handles, knobs, and pulls at a flea market.

  • Install New Lighting Fixtures
    New lighting fixtures can make your kitchen more attractive as well as more functional. Swap out your older lighting for brighter hanging lights in an interesting shape, size, and/or style to add more personality to your kitchen. You can also add lower hanging lights, sconces, and other types of lighting to brighten up dark areas of your kitchen, making meal prep easier.

  • Hang New Window Treatments
    A fresh window treatment can add style to your kitchen for under $100. Consider woven shades that can, if you'd like, be layered with drapery panels. Don't cover too much of the window, however, since you'll still want to let natural light shine in.

  • Add Molding
    If your kitchen lacks molding, adding it can add architectural interest to the room. It doesn't have to be complicated or fussy-looking since a simple piece of molding with a single shape, and single depth will achieve what you're looking for.

Contact us if you're ready to find a new home and would like to see Lafayette homes for sale and visit Lafayette open houses. Our firm is the top real estate company in the Gulf South, and we have over a century of proven results. We'd be happy to help you find your new home in the area! 

July
20

Your Guide to the Closing Process

closing process tips

Before you officially become a homeowner, the closing process is one of the last steps in the purchase process. Our real estate agents recommend that homebuyers understand what the closing process consists of so that they know what to expect. Here's what you need to know. 

  • Closing is When the Property Officially Becomes Your New Home
    Closing is the portion of the home purchasing process where ownership of the property transfers from the seller to the buyer. After checking out Baton Rouge homes for sale, you'll make an offer to the seller. While you'll likely include earnest money with your offer to purchase the home, the home isn't officially yours until you close on the property. It usually takes between four to six weeks to close on the purchase of a home, though the process can take longer if an issue arises. For example, if the property doesn't appraise for the necessary amount, this may slow the purchase down. Or, if the home inspection returns with a lot of issues, it may take time for the buyer and seller to resolve this problem. 
  • Your Closing Date is Included in Your Home Offer
    A property's closing date is included in the home offer that the buyer and seller ultimately agree to. It's customary for the buyer to propose the initial closing date, but the seller can propose a different closing date if desired. Some sellers may prefer a quick or prolonged period before they close on the home to better suit their own homebuying needs. During Baton Rouge open houses, home sellers may advertise their willingness to agree to a fast or extended closing period. 
  • You Need to Complete Certain Tasks to Close on a Home
    Before your closing date, you need to confirm that certain tasks have been completed. Your mortgage lender will require an appraisal to confirm that they can fund the mortgage for the home. If the property's appraisal falls short, you'll need to renegotiate the deal with the seller or potentially make a larger down payment. A home inspection is highly recommended to make sure that the home doesn't have any expensive problems. Your lender will require you to submit forms verifying your assets and income to approve and fund your home loan. You'll also need to purchase homeowner's insurance for the property. Before your closing date, you'll complete a final walkthrough to confirm that the property is in the expected condition before your actual closing appointment. If you notice any issue with the home, you'll need to let your real estate agent know immediately. 
  • Closing Requires a Lot of Paperwork
    There's a lot of paperwork required to purchase a home; you can expect to sign between 50 and 100 pages during your closing session. Take the time to go through each document so that you understand what you're signing and that the forms are consistent with what you're expecting. You'll also bring money to the closing appointment (usually in the form of a certified check or a wire transfer) to cover your down payment and closing costs. About three business days before your closing appointment, you'll receive a Closing Disclosure that details your closing costs and states who is paying for each item. 

Ready to begin your home search? Contact us today to get started!

July
8

Tips for Buying a Historic Home

Historic Home Tips

If you're searching for a home with character and historical significance, a historic home is an excellent option.

A historic home is a property that retains a significant amount of the original construction and design, is at least 50 years old (potentially less if an event of historical significance happened on the property), and is connected to events that are historically important. 

However, there are a few things that make owning a historic home different from owning a typical home. Our real estate agents suggest following these tips when buying a historic home to ensure it's a great fit for your needs and budget. 

  • Realize That Historic Homes are Ideal for Buyers Interested in Preserving the Home
    If you want a home that you can modernize or make a lot of structural changes to, a historic home isn't the right fit for your design preferences. When you purchase a historic home, there are typically guidelines that specify what changes you can make to the property. As the owner, you're expected to maintain the original charm and design of the home. There are countless properties that you can renovate or redesign, but a historic home should be accepted as is. When you're checking out Lafayette homes for sale, look for a property that has a layout and design that meets your family's needs. For example, historic homes tend to have multiple small rooms rather than an open floor plan. If you want space for gathering with your family, you might look for a layout with multiple small rooms in close proximity to one another. You can then use each room for a specific function. 
  • Embrace the Uniquely Distinct Architecture and Charm of a Historic Home
    Purchasing a historic home often ensures that your home has a style and design that stands out from other homes in your area. This historic, authentic charm simply can't be replicated by more modern homes; many historic homes even experience higher than average appreciation in their property values thanks to the distinctiveness of the craftsmanship and features. 
  • Know That Updates to the Home Will be More Expensive
    You'll need to make occasional updates and maintenance repairs to the home that adhere to the original design. This means that you might spend more money on home maintenance and renovation than you would on a newer home. A historic home often requires specific materials and specialized labor to ensure that the repairs are as authentic as possible. To help cover the cost of the repairs, you can utilize a federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. There are also state programs that assist with defraying the expenses associated with maintaining a historic property. 
  • Explore Financing Programs Designed for Historic Homes
    A historic home can be a terrific investment, but it can also be difficult to procure financing through traditional mortgage programs. This is especially common if the home requires a lot of repairs or has structural problems. Fortunately, there are programs available that offer financial resources for restoring and caring for historic homes.

Ready to check out historic homes that you can call your home? Contact us today to get started!

July
6

Long-Distance House Hunting Tips

house hunting

Looking for a house can be challenging under any circumstances. It's even more difficult when you're looking somewhere far away from the city where you currently live. There are plenty of Baton Rouge homes for sale, but how do you know which one is right for you when you're that far away? Here are a few tips for long-distance house hunting.

  • Plan Ahead
    When you're looking locally, you have the time to browse casually and get a feel for what's available before you commit to anything. When you're hunting long-distance, you don't have that luxury. Make a comprehensive list of everything you're looking for in a house, including both your wants and your must-haves.

  • Be Flexible
    Keep in mind that your new area might not be like your old one. You may have your heart set on a particular style, but that style might not be as popular or widely available in your new city as it is in your current one. This is where your list comes in handy. It's important to know which features you absolutely need in your new home, and which ones you can compromise on.

  • Browse Home Listing Sites
    Looking at house listings online is no substitute for actually being there in person, but they can still provide helpful insight into the area where you're searching. Online listings can give you an idea of what's available in the area and how much you can expect to pay for it. This will help you as you plan your budget, and allow you to house hunt more efficiently.

  • Get a Good Agent
    This is important no matter where you're looking. But especially long-distance house hunting is something you shouldn't do alone. An agent who knows both the area and your needs can guide you through the process, helping you find places that meet your standards and fit your budget. That way, if you do manage to plan a brief trip to Baton Rouge, you can make the most of your time there.

  • Plan a Trip
    Carve out at least a couple of days to experience the new area for yourself. Find out from your real estate agent what Baton Rouge open houses are going on, and see if you can visit a few of them while you're there. However, the trip is important, not just for the houses themselves, but for the neighborhoods. Where are the schools, grocery stores, and other amenities, and how easy are they to get to? What's the traffic like? These are the sorts of things you can only find out by visiting a place in person. Be sure to go in with a clear plan and a clear objective, to make efficient use of your limited time there.

  • Understand What You're Doing
    Moving to a new city is a big step. It can also be a rewarding one, but make sure you're ready to do it before taking the plunge.

These are your first steps toward finding a new home in a new city. It's not an easy ordeal, but our real estate agents can help you through it. Contact us to get started.

June
6

National Homeownership Month: 5 Reasons to Celebrate Homeownership

homeownership

National Homeownership Month, which is recognized every year in June, is the perfect time to reflect on the meaning of owning a home and the benefits of this investment. Our real estate agents appreciate the value of homeownership, and we've put together 5 reasons to celebrate homeownership this June. Whether you're shopping for New Orleans homes for sale for the first time or are transitioning to a new home, here are a couple of the many reasons to celebrate homeownership.

  1. A Valuable Long-Term Investment
    For so many homeowners, owning a home is one of the most valuable financial investments that you can make in life. While not every home follows the same template, in many cases, a home is an asset that only increases in value over time. That's true because real estate in many markets tends to increase in value over time and also because you continue to build increased equity in your home as you pay down your mortgage. Add it all up, and it's no surprise that so many homeowners are happy with the investment that they've made in their home.

  2. The Freedom to Customize Your Living Space
    When you rent from a landlord or larger company, you typically have very few options for customizing your living space. Sure, you can hang new pictures or purchase new furniture, but making any substantial changes to your living space won't be allowed. Homeownership features no such drawbacks and allows you to unlock your creativity. Whether that means building a new addition to the home to accommodate a growing family, renovating your kitchen, customizing your yard, or just changing paint colors, it's great to have the freedom to customize your home.

  3. Simplifying Your Financial Planning
    For the vast majority of homeowners, owning a home means making a monthly mortgage payment. However, when your rate is locked in, your mortgage payment is the same every month, which makes it much easier to create a consistent budget and plan for your financial future. Compare that to renting a home or apartment, when rent payments can rise at the end of every lease term. Financial planning is simplified when you don't have to factor in the ever-present possibility of increased rent costs.

  4. A Hybrid Home and Workplace
    More than ever, employees in nearly every industry are working from home or working a hybrid schedule. When you own a home, it's so much easier to create a workspace where you can be productive and enjoy your working hours. If you've always dreamed of having your own dedicated office for working from home, homeownership helps you accomplish that goal.

  5. Create Memories That Last a Lifetime
    While the financial benefits of owning a home are important, they're far from the only factor. Owning a home means having a place where you can create the sort of memories that last a lifetime, from decorating a room for your first child to the many family dinners, social gatherings, and fun experiences that follow. Think of the home you grew up in and all of the memories that are tied to that specific place. For many of us, no place holds more personal or emotional significance than home.

Find your next home at our New Orleans open houses, or get in touch with our team to learn all of the ways that we can help you sell your current home. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout the New Orleans, LA area.

March
2

5 Tips for Moving a Collection

Moving Tips

Have you contacted our real estate agents, reviewed Alexandria homes for sale, and found yourself a new home? Moving is stressful, and it gets even more stressful when you have a valuable collection you need to move.

In an ideal world, after identifying a suitable home, you would move in and begin buying new things. However, in the real world, you get attached to your belongings and collections. So, you need to ensure your collection moves safely from your old to your new home. Here are helpful tips for moving your collection.

  1. Prepare for the Move
    The most important part of moving a collection is preparing for the move. What needs to be moved? While you're likely attached to many of the items in your collection, take the time to see if there are any items you can part with. The fewer items you have to move, the easier your move. Plus selling some items from your collection might help with moving costs.

  2. Create an Inventory List
    Before contacting a moving company, you should begin by taking an inventory of your collection. The list should include the item's name, description, and value. An inventory list helps appraise your collection's value and verify that every item in the collection reaches the intended destination. It's also important to take pictures of your collection when taking the inventory. Your insurer may ask for the photos for verification. Additionally, you can send a copy of these pictures to experts to help value your collection.

  3. Get Collectibles Insurance
    If the collection you intend to move is of high value or sentimental value, you must safeguard it in every way possible. You can protect your collection by taking collectibles insurance.

  4. Pack Your Collection
    What type of collection do you intend to move? Different types of collections have different packing procedures. For example, if you are moving a record collection, you will need a plastic sleeve for each record. Since records are sensitive to heat, you need to avoid excess heat during the move. When moving a wine collection, box corked wines upside down to ensure the corks remain wet. You shouldn't pack any open wine bottles. Also, since wine is sensitive to temperature, consider hiring a refrigerated truck to move your collection. If you are moving a vintage toy collection, use bubble wrap and different zip lock bags to seal each toy. It's better if you can access the original toy packaging and gently wrap each item before storing them in the box. Correctly packing your collection means accounting for fragile items and goods sensitive to temperature or humidity. Remember to evaluate the unique concerns of your collection before packing to identify which packing supplies you need.

  5. Hire a Moving Company
    The best way to ensure your collection remains safe during the move is by seeking the services of professional movers. Before contracting a company, inquire if they have experience moving special collections. If they do, you can ask them about various measures they take to ensure your treasured belongings safely arrive in your new home. Remember to disclose the number of boxes you will be moving to help them determine the right vehicle to use during the day of the move. Professional movers have the experience, tools, and workforce to help move your collection.

Are you looking to relocate? Contact us today to view our listing and buy your dream home!

February
9

How to Create a Pet-Friendly Home

Pet Home Tips

If you have a beloved four-legged friend in your house, you know that it's not really your house. It's their house. You just live there... and pay the mortgage. 

Our real estate agents know what it's like to share space with a canine or feline companion. We understand the rewards and also the challenges. It's not always easy to create a pet-friendly home that offers everything your pets require. 

One of the most common things our clients always ask for when they're looking for Baton Rouge homes for sale is a place that's pet-friendly. Here's what to look for in a pet-friendly home and how you can make your place more accommodating. 

  • Consider the Stairs. Some pets take stairs like a champ. Others, not so much. If you have a senior dog, for example, maybe a 5th-floor apartment with no elevator isn't for you. A single-family home where your pooch can live like a queen on the first floor might be more your speed. 

  • Color Code Your Space. Interior designers use colors in countless creative ways. Pet owners use them to disguise their pets' constant shedding. When it comes to furniture and flooring, choose colors that are close to the tone of your pets' fur. If you have dark floors and a white dog, you're going to see little white tumbleweeds everywhere. 

  • Don't Overlook Wall Texture. Furry walls are a real thing, and many homeowners fail to consider them. Highly textured walls are like fur magnets, so paint with a satin or semi-gloss finish that repels fur instead of attracting it. 

  • Give Them a Boost. Some pets have a hard time getting up on beds and couches. Assuming yours are allowed up there, arrange the room with a smaller piece of furniture, like an ottoman, nearby that they can use to make the leap more easily.

  • Choose Hardwood Floors. Hardwood is infinitely easier to clean compared to carpet, and it doesn't absorb pet odors the way carpet does. Tile and linoleum are pretty good too. If you do get carpets or area rugs, look for colors that match your pets' fur.

  • Create a Pet Storage Space. Pet toys, treats, and accessories have a way of ending up... well, everywhere. Cleaning them up and keeping them organized is a never-ending battle, but a smart storage solution can help. A ground-level basket for toys, an out-of-reach bin for treats, and hooks for hanging leashes and collars will help keep the mess in check. 

  • Offer a Place to Rest. A plush, comfortable dog bed is a staple of any canine household. Look for one that's well-made, comfy, and matches the overall decor in your home. 

  • Stow Bowls and Litter Boxes. Choose a litter box location where you don't have to see (or smell) it. Laundry rooms and garages are perfect. If you don't want to always see your pet's food bowls, they too can be placed out of sight or even designed to slide in and out of your kitchen cabinets at mealtime. 

Explore Pet-Friendly Homes in Baton Rouge

Check out these exciting upcoming Baton Rouge open houses to explore your next pet-friendly paradise in Louisiana. Baton Rouge also has a reputation as an amazingly pet-friendly city, with numerous dog parks, doggy daycares, pet-friendly restaurants, and top-notch veterinarians. 

Contact us today to learn more about life in Baton Rouge, and be sure to ask out real estate agents about how we can find your pet's next great home. Don't worry, you can live there too. 

December
17

How Our Team Can Help With Your 2022 Real Estate Goals

2022 Louisiana

If your 2022 plans include buying a home, our real estate agents know that working with an experienced agent will make a positive difference in your buying experience.

Here are a few of the ways our team can help with your 2022 real estate goals. 

  • We'll Negotiate a Deal with Better Terms
    We'll negotiate with the seller to get the best possible terms for your new home. Our team knows when a home isn't priced fairly, and we'll advocate on your behalf for a better price. Price isn't the only detail of your purchase. Other items that need to be negotiated include your closing date, any contingencies for your deal, and what items remain with the home. Our real estate agents will work to secure the terms that you need. 
  • Our Agents Have Access to the MLS Listings
    The MLS is a comprehensive collection of homes for sale, regardless of what realtor or agency is handling the property. It's much more efficient to use MLS listings to search for Lafayette homes for sale than trying to monitor multiple real estate businesses for potential homes. Access to MLS listings can reduce the amount of time that it takes you to find your ideal home and provide early notifications about open houses, new listings, and price reductions.
  • Our Team Knows How to Make Tactful Requests
    There's a good chance that your home inspection report will include a few items that need repairs. Some sellers balk at doing any repairs, and it can be tricky trying to save the deal. Our agents know what repairs are important and which ones aren't necessarily worth losing the home over. We can make a tactful request for the seller to complete the repairs that are necessary for you to purchase the home. Or, if there's a disagreement about what repairs should be completed, we'll help you come to a resolution with the seller. 
  • We'll Work to Get Everything Done Before Your Closing Date
    For the deal to close, there are a few things that have to be done, like an appraisal and property inspection. There is a lot of paperwork going back and forth, and it's easy for a document to be misplaced by the various companies involved in your purchase. We know how to locate missing documents and what to do if something has to be replaced. We'll also assist with scheduling the necessary appointments for your closing to happen. Or, if a problem arises (such as an issue with the title search or the home not appraising for the needed amount), we have the experience to efficiently deal with these problems. We also know when a problem is a minor roadblock and when it's a potential dealbreaker.
  • We Know A Lot About Neighborhoods and Communities
    When you're purchasing a home, you're buying more than the structure. You're also buying the neighborhood and community where the home is located. Our agents have a lot of market knowledge about potential neighborhoods and communities. We'll help you locate a home in an area that's perfect for your lifestyle and preferences.

Ready to start working on your 2022 goals? Contact us today!

October
18

7 Tips for Adding Personality to Your Home

Home Decor Tips

When you first move into your new house, you might find it beautiful, but it may not quite feel like "home" yet. In order to make it feel like home, you need to give it some personality! Here are some fun and easy ways our real estate agents recommend bringing your own personality into your new space.

  1. Display Your Souvenirs
    Do you have souvenirs from vacations you've taken? Perhaps you have a collection of shot glasses from different cities, or maybe you have a few prints you've bought at key destinations. Work these into your decor. They are part of your story, and they're great conversation pieces that will prompt visitors to ask you about your travels.

  2. Add Meaningful Decor
    Not every piece in your space needs to have a story or call lots of attention to itself. In fact, if every piece is a conversation piece, the space might feel overwhelming. A good strategy is to choose mostly "plain" items to decorate with and then work in a few key, meaningful pieces that speak to your interests and personality. These key pieces will then hold your attention more readily.

  3. Avoid Clutter While Decorating
    Clutter has a way of getting in the way of a room's personality. It distracts from the decorations you've chosen. So, as you decorate your new home, make sure you don't allow clutter to accumulate. Include lots of storage so you can hide away things like keys, note pads, and pencils. Make sure every item in the room has a home.

  4. Purchase Some Custom Artwork
    Decorating your whole home with custom artwork can get expensive, but including a few custom pieces is pretty manageable. Work with an artist to have a large painting created for your living room and perhaps one for the dining room. Make sure this painting depicts something you love. For example, if you are an equestrian, you may wish to have a custom painting of horses made for your home. 

  5. Choose Colors You Love
    Different colors evoke different feelings. Red is energetic and exciting. Blue is cool and calm. Think about your personality and the colors that best represent it. If you're a really quiet person, for example, including a lot of blue and green in your home can help give off that personality. If you're an energetic person, you may want to decorate with orange and yellow.

  6. Design Areas for Your Hobbies
    Throughout your home, aim to create spaces where you can comfortably engage in the activities you love most. For example, if you love reading, you might want to create a reading nook in your living room. If you enjoy cooking, you might want to deck out your kitchen with the latest cookware, displaying it on your shelves. Don't forget the yard, either. You can put it in a garden or a grill area if those things suit your personality.

  7. Decorate the Entryway
    Sometimes there is a tendency to dismiss the entryway as a purely functional part of the home where you keep your coats and shoes. But this is the first place guests see when they come over! Make sure you decorate it with a few personal items, like family photos or souvenirs.

Remember, you don't have to decorate your home in one day. Work on it slowly, using the tips above to add personality along the way. If you're still looking for New Orleans homes for sale, don't hesitate to contact us. Our helpful real estate agents can guide you every step of the way.

September
17

What to Ask When Interviewing Real Estate Agents

Interview Real Estate Agents

When you're listing your home for sale, you'll have your choice of many real estate agents to do business with. Before signing a contract, take the time to interview a few, so you understand exactly what they'll be doing to sell your home and to ensure you have a good rapport with them.
  
Our real estate agents suggest asking the following questions when you're interviewing agents:

  • What's included in your services?  
    Real estate agents typically list your home on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), complete with an accurate listing description and appealing photos. They should also help you price your home based on a comparative market analysis of similar homes in your area. 

  • How would you market my home?
    A real estate agent should be able to explain how your home will be marketed. How will photographs and videos of your home be handled? Will other marketing strategies, like direct mail, be used?

  • What steps will be taken to prepare your home for sale?
    You'll need to know what to do to prepare your home before it goes on the market, and a real estate agent's experience and expertise should be able to guide you. They may, for example, suggest improvements that will make your home more attractive to prospective buyers. If that's the case, the agent should be able to tell you what improvements are most popular with buyers in your area and which are likely to earn the highest return on your investment.

  • What type of experience do you have?
    Ideally, an agent will have experience in selling homes that are in the same neighborhood or area as yours. They should also have experience in selling the type of home you have, such as a starter home, home with acreage, or a historic home.

  • Can you help connect me with other professionals? 
    Selling your home often requires the help of professionals such as home inspectors and title companies. And if you're making repairs and improvements to your home, you may need recommendations for painters, plumbers, and other similar tradespeople. A real estate agent should have good relationships with these contacts and be able to recommend those who perform their jobs with honesty and skill.

  • What sets you apart from other agents?  
    Marketing your home is important, but an agent also needs to be able to successfully market themselves to you. Do they pride themselves on their experience or a successful track record? Are they particularly good at being available when you need them? They should be able to answer this question in a way that makes you want to do business with them.

  • How well do you know the area?
    Although agents who are new to the area can often do a great job, it's an extra advantage to have an agent who has lived around the area for a long time. That way, they'll understand the local market, know what's important to buyers in the area, be aware of all the amenities near your home, and more.  

Contact us today to put your home on the market with other Lafayette homes for sale or to visit homes for sale in the area. Our agents pride themselves on knowing the local market and making your real estate transaction experience an easy and pleasant one. 

August
18

7 Tips for Picking the Right Real Estate Agent

Real Estate Agent Tips

Choosing a real estate agent is an important part of ensuring your next real estate transaction is successful and as stress-free as possible. Before you consider buying or selling a home in the area, you want to make sure you find the right person to help you every step of the way. Our real estate agents suggest these 7 tips for finding the perfect fit.

  1. Ask for Recommendations
    The best place to start is to ask for recommendations from your friends, family, neighbors, and others you know personally. It's an easy way to launch your search and it's a good way to find local, trustworthy agents with a positive track record.

  2. Look for Local Specialists
    Especially if you are buying or selling in a hot neighborhood, it's important to look for an agent who specializes in your neighborhood. This agent will be knowledgeable of sales in your neighborhood, which for a seller means a better listing and pricing. For a buyer, it means they'll be able to alert you faster to new listings.

  3. Visit Open Houses in your Area
    One of the best ways to find an agent who specializes in your area is to visit an open house in the same neighborhood. Check listings of Lafayette homes for sale close to your home or in the neighborhood where you wish to move, and find out when their open houses will be. Dropping in during the open house will give you an opportunity to chat with the agent face-to-face, so you can get a feel for their approach, their experience with your neighborhood, and how well your personalities click.

  4. Check Reviews
    It can't be overlooked that online reviews are an excellent way to research an agent. Look for reviews that provide lots of detail and feedback about things like how effectively an agent markets a home, how skilled they are at negotiation, and how easy they are to get in touch with. 

  5. Interview Multiple Agents
    Every agent isn't going to be right for you, even if they were recommended by someone you know and trust. That's why it's important to interview a number of agents before signing with one. Meeting with agents takes a lot of time, though, so do your research first and narrow your list down to three or so agents to interview.

  6. Discuss Marketing Strategy
    One of the most important things you'll want to discuss with a potential agent when you interview them is their marketing strategy. Some agents might not want to do an open house, for example, while others don't give a lot of guidance for staging your home. Use this opportunity to ask about the agent's marketing strategies, discuss your communication preferences, ask about contract terms, and mention anything else you are hoping to get from this partnership.

  7. Trust Your Instincts
    If you find yourself particularly drawn to one agent, there's probably a good reason for it. Chemistry is an important consideration when choosing a real estate agent because you're more likely to work well with someone with whom you just click. If one agent appeals to you more than the others, go with your gut!

We understand that choosing an agent is a big decision! To set up a time to chat with one of our agents, contact us today.

August
13

Build or Buy a Home?

Build or Buy a Home

If you're purchasing your first home or ready to upgrade your existing residence, you're likely wondering if it's better to buy or build a home. Our real estate agents know that there is no "correct" answer to this quandary; the final answer depends on your specific needs and situation. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision. 

  1. Your Moving Timeline
    While it takes an average of 7.7 months to build a new home, it isn't uncommon for the process to take more than a year. When you buy a home, once you locate a property that fits your needs and the seller accepts your offer, it takes an average of 56 days to officially close the deal. If your goal is to complete your move as quickly as possible, buying a home is definitely the quicker alternative. However, if you're not on a strict schedule and are more interested in having a home that's created specifically for your preferences, building a home may be the better option. 
  1. Your Budget for the Home and Overall Financial Situation
    In general, it's cheaper to purchase an existing home than it is to build a comparable property. It's often difficult to precisely estimate the exact cost of building a home, as the prices for labor and building materials can quickly change. Running utilities to land without the infrastructure in place is often expensive. The financing process for building a home is a little different than when you buy a home. First, you have to procure approval for a land loan to purchase the land for the home. Securing approval for a land loan requires excellent credit and available funds for a down payment. Then, you need to take out a construction loan to build your property. Once the property is complete, you'll consolidate both the land loan and construction loan into a traditional mortgage. If you don't have a ton of extra cash or stellar credit, you may have trouble securing the required financing to build a house.
  1. Your List of Must-Haves
    When you purchase a home, it's tricky finding everything that you like in a single property. A lot of Lafayette homes for sale will have most of the characteristics you want, and you can always renovate your home so that it's a better fit for your wants. However, if you have a specific floorplan in mind or want your home to have your ideal aesthetic from the day you move in, building a home lets, you accomplish these goals. When you build a home, you can customize every single detail about the property. Some homebuyers find the number of decisions overwhelming, while others value the opportunity to make a home completely their own. You even have the ability to personalize the setup and details of your home's landscaping and yard structures. 
  1. Your Tolerance for Stress
    Due to the longer timeline and many decisions to make and tasks to complete, building a home is typically viewed as more stressful than purchasing a home. There's a lot of time, effort, and money involved with building a home. You'll also have to manage the details to make sure everything is completed according to your wishes.

Ready to start the homebuying process? Contact us to begin your search!

June
30

Bidding War Tips: What to do

Bidding War

As the housing market continues to be competitive due to high demand and low inventory, many buyers are forced to act quickly and pay top dollar to secure the house of their dreams. As sellers continue to select the highest and best offer, it's all too common for bidding wars to break out between prospective buyers.

If you're in the market for a new home, it's important to prepare yourself for a potential bidding war when making an offer. Our real estate agents have extensive experience when it comes to creating compelling offers, and we've compiled some things to know if you're trying to secure a new home in this market.

  • Get Your Preapproval Letter First
    Depending on your lender, getting preapproved for a mortgage can often take a couple of days, which is precious time in this market. To be competitive, you'll need to be ready to make an offer as quickly as possible. Talk to your lender about getting preapproved before you start shopping. Your lender will ask for bank statements, W-2 forms, pay stubs and will also pull your credit report. After reviewing your financial documents, your lender will issue a preapproved letter that serves as a signal that you're in the market and prepared to make an offer.

  • Determine Your Maximum Purchase Price
    Before making an offer, you need to determine the maximum amount you're comfortable paying for the home. You can then work with your real estate agent to include an escalation clause in your offer that essentially increases your bid by a specific amount over the highest bid but not to exceed a defined limit.

  • Forget About Adding Contingencies
    Under normal market conditions, buyers have more leverage and can often request that their offer be contingent on certain conditions, such as leaving certain furniture and appliances or making repairs. In a seller's market, it's best to forget about contingencies. When you're in a bidding war with other buyers, dropping all contingencies is a smart way to make your offer stronger.

  • Work With An Experienced Agent
    The key to winning a bidding war without exceeding your budget is to work with an experienced real estate agent. A good agent can get the inside scoop on the number of offers a seller has received. He or she should also know the proper way to execute an escalation clause and can advise you on the best strategies for putting forward a compelling offer. Because homes are going quickly, your agent should be a good communicator and available to draft an offer letter when you're ready to do so.

If you're thinking about purchasing one of these beautiful Alexandria homes for sale, make sure you're working with an agent who can help you create a compelling offer. Contact us today. 

    June
    9

    When Should You Go Over Asking Price?

    Asking Price

    You looked at Baton Rouge homes for sale and found the perfect house for your family. You're getting ready to make your offer and are considering going over the asking price. Should you? Our real estate agents encourage you to consider these things. 

    1. Multiple Offers
      Your agent can discuss with the seller's agent whether there are other offers on the table or if more offers are anticipated in the near future. If that's the case, you'll have to make a better offer to compete for the property.
       
    2. Below Fair Market Value Price
      The seller may have intentionally priced the property at an attractive price to attract multiple buyers initiating a bidding war. By looking at recent home sales in the area, you can see whether the property is underpriced. This process will help you calculate a reasonable offer. 

    3. Unmotivated Seller
      Change is difficult, and sometimes, even if they know it is the right decision for them, sellers will drag their feet. They may have listed the home, not really anticipating buyers so quickly. You can sweeten the pot by offering them more than they thought the house was worth. Just be careful that you don't overpay for the property. 

    4. It's Your Dream House
      You made your list of everything you wanted in a new home, from location to architecture. It even has some awesome features you hadn't even considered. When you absolutely have your heart set on the property, your willingness to pay a little extra can ensure that it's yours. 

    5. The Market Belongs to the Sellers
      This is a simple matter of supply and demand. In a buyer's market, there are more homes available for sale than buyers to fill them. But when real estate inventory drops, prices rise. The subsequent bidding wars can drive prices far above fair market value. When you find the house you want in a seller's market, it is important to act fast. This is not to say, settle for something less than you want, but when you do find it, don't hesitate. 

    6. The Buyer Can Afford a Higher Price
      It's important to remember that when a buyer must acquire a mortgage, the lender sets the maximum loan amount based on the appraisal. Any amount over and above that comes from the buyer's pocket. Cash buyers don't have to concern themselves with these limits, which is a definite advantage. Even if a mortgage is still necessary, a sizable down payment can mean the loan is well within the limits of the appraisal. Older sellers who are trading a large family home for a condominium or townhouse often have the liquidity to pay cash.

    7. The Cash Buyer Advantage
      As previously mentioned, buyers who are downsizing to a smaller home often have a significant financial advantage over first-time buyers. Companies that offer immediate cash with no showings also often snatch up properties quickly. But they tend to buy at a high discount. A buyer who can afford to compete with a slightly higher offer will often secure the property. 

    Contact us for expert guidance in the real estate market and start your search for the perfect home. 

    May
    17

    What You Need to Know When Buying a Historic Home

    Historic Homes

    Historic homes offer a step back in time to an era where houses had huge front porches, hand-carved details, and picturesque features. They have cozy rooms filled with charm and character, but they're not for everyone. Purchasing a historic home often comes with upkeep, maintenance, and repairs that can put a dent in your bank account.

    Historic homes are not ordinary financial investments in the real estate market. At Latter & Blum, our real estate agents know that historic homes are also emotional investments. When searching for New Orleans homes for sale, clients want to invest in historic properties because they're buying a piece of history. We help them to understand some important factors before they invest.

    What is a Historic Home?

    In the United States, old homes don't automatically qualify to be historic homes. Since historic homes are placed on the National Register of Historic Places, they must be at least 50 years old and meet certain criteria determined and monitored by the National Park Service. To qualify, homes must meet one out of four criteria:

    • Connection to significant historical events

    • Connection to lives of significant people

    • Representation of a historic style or master craftsman

    • Provision of important historical information

    Currently, there are more than 26,000 homes and buildings listed on the National Register. States and municipalities can also designate historical districts, many found in areas of New Orleans.

    If a home is located within a historic district, owners are restricted to making certain changes to the property. Districts with historic properties must preserve certain features, so permits are required before any work can occur on the home's exterior. In some cases, ordinary homes located in historic districts may face certain renovation restrictions as well.

    Purchasing a Historic Home

    Before purchasing a historic home or a home in a historic district, you should know the advantages and disadvantages. You should be prepared to deal with special circumstances that may impact your lifestyle and budget.

    Advantages

    1. A Good Return on Your Investment
      Buyers looking for historic properties are willing to spend a significant amount on their investment. In many areas of New Orleans, homes in historic districts are in demand, and buyers are spending big money to live in historic homes.
    2. Financial Assistance for Renovations
      Many historic homes provide loans or grants to first-time homebuyers for renovation costs. Available through the State Historic Preservation Office in Louisiana, homebuyers in New Orleans can get special assistance through the state for home renovations.
    3. Community Preservation
      Homeowners who live in historic districts join together to form groups that maintain the history, character, and culture of the district. 

    Disadvantages

    1. Strict Regulations
      In some historic districts, properties are closely monitored and reviewed for historic appeal and compatible architectural features. Some restrictions can be even more confining than restrictions by homeowners' associations. If you're interested in a historic home, do your research on restrictions.
    2. Costly Renovations
      Homeowners in historic districts are required to get permits for any additions, alterations, and renovations. If you're required to use authentic materials, you may be looking at costly products that put a dent in your renovation budget.
    3. Difficult Financing
      In some cases, it can be more difficult to schedule an appraisal and get through the loan process. Lenders and insurance companies sometimes back away from historic homes because renovations and upgrades can be very costly.

    If you're interested in buying or selling a New Orleans home, contact us for more information and help with properties in the area.

    May
    5

    5 Reasons You Shouldn't Skip a Home Inspection

    Home Inspection Baton Rouge

    When you've scrimped and saved to buy a house you may be tempted to forgo that three to five hundred dollars for a home inspection. But missing critical flaws in the property can cost you thousands in the long run. Our real estate agents will assure you that a trained observer can spot some of these pitfalls when you might not see them.

    1. Neglected Roofing
      Inspectors will look for broken shingles and evidence of leaks that could mean the roof is nearing the end of its life. Replacement costs can be more than $10,000, and the damages resulting from leaking could cost even more to repair. If an inspector believes roofing problems exist, and you still want to buy the house, a reputable roofer will generally be happy to provide a detailed evaluation to help you negotiate the sale price of the home to allow for roof repair. Some things you can spot yourself that indicate roof deterioration include black spots on the roof and coarse granules in the gutters or on the ground along the edge of the exterior walls. 

    2. Improper Grading
      The ground should slope away from all structures at a rate of one inch per foot. Otherwise, standing water can create mildew problems and worse. Spongy soil beneath the foundation can cause it to shift, leading to cracks in the walls and sloping floors. Once these problems arise, they may cost more than $10,000 to correct. Adding topsoil to grade the ground, plus the addition of gutters and downspouts, can address drainage issues before they create serious damages. The ground should never slope toward the house.

    3. Outdated Plumbing
      Cracked pipes, backed-up sewage, and leaking water heaters all spell expensive repairs ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands for the unsuspecting homeowner. Polybutylene pipes and other outdated materials are indications to a home inspector that problems may arise in the near future. At the very minimum, any visible leaks and clogs should be corrected immediately. Reseating toilets and replacing wax rings can also help avoid extensive plumbing issues.

    4. Mold Infestation
      Mycotoxins cause serious health problems which are far worse than financial damages. Before you can smell it, some obvious signs of a potential problem are watermarks on the base of walls or near windows and plumbing fixtures. Most home inspections do not include mold in order to avoid liability for missing a hidden problem, but seasoned inspectors will certainly point out warning signs they observe. Small cracks and separations around the windows should be addressed immediately upon discovery to prevent water from entering the walls and creating an environment ripe for mold growth.
       
    5. Inferior Wiring
      The age of the house can signal aluminum wiring, used frequently in house construction between 1965 and 1973. Aluminum expands and contracts more quickly than copper, leading to loose connections. Also, connections between copper and aluminum can cause oxidation, heat, and ultimately, a fire. Inspectors will check for damaged receptacles, missing junction boxes, and reversed polarity. Polarity is measured with a hand-held tester. Improperly connected wiring can mean electricity continuously flowing through appliances that appear to be off. At best, this means burning out appliances. At worst, it can mean the possibility of a severe electrical shock.

            Armed with your newfound knowledge of things to consider when buying a home, are you ready to go house shopping? Contact us today to arrange a tour of our stunning Baton Rouge homes for sale.

            April
            9

            Best Paint Color Options for Your Home Office

            Home Office

            Choosing paint colors for your home office is about more than just aesthetics and interior decor. The colors you choose can actually have an impact on your work habits. Whether you spend just a few hours a week in your home office or work from home regularly, set yourself up for success with the right decor. Here are a few common home office colors we see in Lafayette homes for sale and how they can benefit your work habits.

            1. Blue 
              Blue is famous for being a soothing color, so if you struggle with anxiety during your workday, try combating that with lots of blue. The shade of blue you choose can range from a low-distraction blue-gray to an intensely introspective dark blue. Choose a shade that works well with your goals when you work from home.

            2. Pinks and Reds
              You may have heard that red is an energizing color, but the truth goes somewhat deeper than that. They may seem like an unlikely choice for your office walls, but shades of pink, coral, peach, and red can boost creativity. If you work at a creative job from your home office, painting your walls in one of these shades may lend energy and inspiration to your day.

            3. Yellow 
              Another color that seems unlikely due to how bright it is, yellow can actually help you work by energizing you. Yellow is a cheerful color that may help to brighten a difficult workday or invigorate your work mood. Yellow also comes in various shades, from colors so pale that they're almost cream to bright, bold tones.

            4. Gray
              If staying focused is your struggle, opt for a soft neutral such as gray. Grays can lean toward bluish tones, which will also help to soothe, or brighter grays for energy, depending on the mood you want to strike in your home office. Gray is also a great neutral color, which our real estate agents recommend if you are planning on selling the house soon.

            5. White
              While it might seem overly sterile in the rest of the house, white can actually create a better workspace by minimizing distractions around you while you work. It also mimics the feel of a corporate office, helping you stay focused and providing a place to put whiteboards and other tools to aid you in your work. This is also a good neutral tone to use if you're planning to sell the house soon.

            The color you paint your home office walls can impact how you work, but it can also affect how your house sells, so it's important to know your goals before picking up a paintbrush. Buyers tend to gravitate toward neutral tones because they can more easily imagine themselves living in a home that isn't decorated with someone else's favorite colors. For painting tips and other easy ideas for making your house stand out, contact us today.

            April
            7

            Baton Rouge a Top City of First-Time Homebuyers

            first time homebuyersFor several years running now, Baton Rouge has distinguished itself as one of the top places to move. Baton Rouge homes for sale are especially popular among first-time homebuyers. In fact, it was recently named one of the Top 10 Metros for First-Time Homeowners.

            What's the secret that makes Baton Rouge so attractive? Our real estate agents love the Baton Rouge area because of the following features that make it truly one of a kind:

            1. Baton Rouge Is Amazingly Affordable
              If you want to be surrounded by world-class amenities that don't demand a premium price, Baton Rouge is the place to be. Many of its dozens of museums offer free days, the public libraries are bustling with free programs for kids and adults, and there are nearly 200 parks, many along the 4.31-mile Mississippi River Levee Path.

            2. A City on the Grow
              Over the last decade, the area along the Mississippi River has been revitalized to make it walkable and family-friendly. Downtown is a blend of historic properties and all-new construction totaling millions of dollars in very recent investment. The Shaw Center for the Arts is just one example of fresh, state-of-the-art facilities.

            3. Unbeatable Cajun Cuisine
              Inspired by New Orleans but spiced by vibrant immigrant communities originating from all over the world, the Baton Rouge dining scene presents you with a mouth-watering blend of classic and contemporary cuisine. You'll always be close to ribs, gumbo, and soul food, but also Honduran, Vietnamese, and fusion restaurants.

            4. Birthplace of the Blues
              The unique blues tradition of Baton Rouge reaches even further back than modern jazz and has influenced that style at many points. True to this history, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival is one of the oldest anywhere in the country and completely free of charge. And, of course, countless blues clubs dot the city.

            5. A Busy Social Calendar
              The blues aren't the only thing to celebrate in Baton Rouge. There's always something new to discover – all you have to do is look. LSU is the tailgate party capital of the world, and there are frequent free festivals. You won't want to miss out on the Louisiana International Film Festival, Crawfish King Cookoff, or Spanish Town Mardi Gras.

            6. The Best of a Big City and a Small Town
              Baton Rouge has many of the perks you would expect from the biggest cities, such as a thriving startup scene and numerous universities that pump out groundbreaking research. Despite it all, though, it remains a close-knit community with small-town charm. In Baton Rouge, you can really get to know your neighbors.

            7. Kids Love Baton Rouge
              This is a city where young minds can soar. The new Knock Knock Children's Museum is just one of the many interactive learning experiences that can help children embrace imagination and develop a love of learning. The region also boasts top-ranked public and private schools catering to students of all ages.

            8. Diverse Home Options to Suit Any Lifestyle
              Baton Rouge neighborhoods each have their own character. You'll find historic buildings dating all the way back to the 1880s in one area with modern, luxury high-rise condos in another. Younger neighborhoods like Perkins Rowe and Longfarm Village are known for convenient access to work and retail spaces.

            Ready to own your first home in the Baton Rouge area? Contact us today at Latter & Blum to find out more about real estate opportunities in the Baton Rouge area.

            February
            3

            Using a VA Loan this Year? 2021 Changes to Know About

            VA Loan Louisiana

            If you're thinking about buying one of the beautiful Baton Rouge homes for sale, a VA loan is a great option! These loans come with excellent benefits. They offer flexible credit underwriting and low-interest rates. In addition, buyers using a VA loan won't have to come up with a down payment or carry mortgage insurance (PMI).

            A portion of these loans is guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA). However, the loans are issued by mortgage lenders and banks. Our real estate agents regularly meet with lenders to learn more about any updates to loan programs and how they could impact their clients. 

            There have been some changes to VA loans that go into effect in 2021. Here's what you need to know. 

            Benefits for National Guard Members

            The biggest change affects National Guard members. Previously, VA loans were not available to members who did not have at least 90 days of active service.

            Beginning in 2021, all Guard and Reserve members who have at least 90 days of service are eligible for a VA home loan, even if the service wasn't active. However, there is one caveat. At least 30 of the days of the service must be consecutive. 

            Increased Loan Limits

            As of 2020, service members with "full entitlement" are not subject to a VA loan limit. You'll have full entitlement if you've never used a VA loan benefit, have paid off a VA loan and then sold the property, or had a foreclosure or short sale and repaid the VA in full.

            However, if you have "remaining entitlement," you are subject to a limit. This can occur for several different reasons. The most common is that you have an active VA loan, they're still paying back.

            The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that the upper limit for their loans was increasing in 2021. VA loans follow these guidelines, so all VA loans closing after January 1st, 2021 also have increased loan limits. The new limit for a single-family home located in the lower 48 states is $548,250. This is an increase of 7.4% compared to 2020. 

            In Alaska or Hawaii, the upper limit is now $822,375. If you're buying a home in a high-cost county, you might also have some extra wiggle room. These areas will have their own limits, which are set on a local basis. This limit may be anywhere from $548,250 and $822,375. 

            Explore Baton Rouge Homes Today! 

            Whether you're planning on using a VA loan or another type of financing, now is a great time to buy a new home. There are many beautiful options on the market, and we would love to help you find the perfect one. Contact us today to get started! 

            January
            7

            7 Tips for Getting Your Home Sparkling Clean

            Home Cleaning Latter

            With the holidays behind us, now is the perfect time to start the New Year off with a sparkling clean home. Our real estate agents suggest that homeowners create a four-seasons checklist to keep the home clean and maintained year-round. Here are seven simple tips for getting your home as clean as possible this winter.

            1. Make a list, check it twice
              It may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many homeowners don't create and follow a cleaning checklist. With so much to get done, even in a single room, creating and maintaining a checklist is vital. You'll likely add items to the list as you move from room to room, too. We suggest breaking the chores down by room so you can finish a space before moving to the next area.


            2. Beware of bugs
              As you dig out warm clothing and holiday decorations, don't be surprised to find a few insects making their way into your home as well. While you should always be detailed in your cleaning routine, we recommend being proactive in your defense against bugs. Call a pest control specialist to spray your interior and exterior, warding off intruders before they become unwanted guests.


            3. Focus on indoor living spaces
              Granted, you always spend time inside, but many homeowners tend to enjoy the indoors more during the colder months. That means that everything from couches and kitchens get used more frequently. Make sure you're cleaning these spaces a little deeper. For example, remove and wash pillowcases or couch cushions, empty and wash your refrigerator, and use a carpet cleaner to wash your rugs and carpets thoroughly.


            4. Clean around heat sources
              Even if you'll only use them a handful of times in the winter, it's vital that you keep the areas in and around your fireplace, furnace, radiator, or other heating sources clean. Even something as small as lint from clothing can ignite and potentially cause a fire. Keeping all heating sources clean, as well as professionally serviced and maintained, is essential for homeowners.


            5. Wash interior window panes
              There are many areas of the home that are easy to neglect, and interior windows are among the easiest. Homeowners often make sure the window panes' exterior side is washed, but forget that the interior panes also collect dust and fingerprints. Add washing your interior window panes to your cleaning list in the winter to help the sun's rays naturally warm your home (and lower your heating bill).


            6. Don't neglect seasonal spaces
              Although you may not be using certain areas of your home like patios or pools, don't neglect these spaces. They may not need a thorough cleaning, but it's wise to give them a quick once over so that any areas that need to be addressed don't linger until the warm weather arrives.


            7. Consider ditching clutter
              People and possessions often start to pile up in your home during the holiday season. Consider taking this opportunity to declutter your home so that it's easier to keep clean. Throw away, sell, or donate old items to make room for new ones. This includes any holiday decorations that never seem to get much use year after year.

            Are you cleaning up in hopes of selling your house? Let us help you find a new place to live. Contact us today to tour our Baton Rouge homes for sale.

            December
            30

            A New Year's Eve Home Makeover, Straight From The Pros

            After a year of uncertainty and wide-swinging emotions, the arrival of New Year's Eve means all sorts of good things: Celebration, Closure, the distinctive Clink of Champagne glasses. Although it's been hard to find a silver lining this year, if there's one good thing that's come from being quarantined, it's the fact that we are being forced to slow down, reflect and get reacquainted with our homes. With that in mind, Latter & Blum Realtors share the hottest home decorating trends to ring in the New Year.

            High Style Accessories
            For living rooms, we are seeing comfortable, plush seating with rich tones and layered styling. Thanks to all of the virtual meetings while working from home, your home background is now more important than ever and accessorizing and styling are finally getting the credit they deserve. We see accessorizing becoming bolder, more artful and more personal in 2021. 
            Cindy Bailey, Latter & Blum Realtor 

            Multifunctional Spaces
            Workspaces have drastically changed this year and more people are opting to take back wasted space in their home offices. A closet can easily be combined with an office, since both spaces are able to disappear behind doors when not in use. A flexible workspace and fashion-forward decor help to blend these two functions seamlessly into a space that is both inspiring and productive.
            Erynn Patania, Latter & Blum Realtor

            Biophilia
            Biophilia first hit the headlines back in 2018 and is one trend that's here to stay, especially when more people are inclined to stay home in 2021. Propelled by the sustainable living movement, homeowners have been upping their eco-credentials by filling their homes with an eclectic assortment of trailers, climbers and bloomers. From macramé pot holders to vertical gardens, biophilia is one trend that's here to stay. If you don't have time for watering, go faux.
            Lisa Thomas, Latter & Blum Realtor


            Bold Colors Mixed With Neutrals
            While neutral tones are still popular, bold colors are on the rise in 2021. In fact, Pantone Color chose not just one but two colors of the year for 2021 – the neutral "Ultimate Grey" paired with a lovely yellow called "Illuminating". This marriage of bold and neutral colors conveys a message of strength, warmth and hopefulness that is uplifting during these times.
            Vickie Karamales, Latter & Blum Realtor

            Wellness Spaces
            Let's be honest, it's been a rough year, and we could all use a little light relief from the stresses of 2020. Little wonder then that one of this year's top trends is wellness spaces – rooms designed with comfort and relaxation in mind. From soothing neutral palettes to cozy bouclé blankets, this trend has got you covered even in the most stressful of times.
            Team Right Side, Latter & Blum 


            Looking to buy or sell a home in 2021? Visit www.latter-blum.com for all your real estate needs.

            December
            22

            Pay Attention to These Things During a Final Walkthrough

            Final Walkthrough TipsDuring your final walk-through, a million things will be racing through your mind, and you may find yourself distracted. But this is your last important task before you become a homeowner! Consider making a checklist before sealing the deal on the house you've chosen among Lake Charles homes for sale. You don't want to overlook anything.  

            Here are some of the important points to keep in mind during your walk-through.

            1. Verify repairs.
              You've specified a number of repairs to be made before you buy your home, and they should all be listed on the inspection summary. The seller should furnish warranties and receipts for all work. This is important because if the repairs don't hold up, you'll have to consult the person or company that made the repairs. Also, make sure that debris from repairs has been removed. 

            2. Items included in the sale.
              The seller should be moved out, with nothing left in the home that hasn't been included in the sale. Check your list carefully to make sure that everything agreed upon in the sale is in the home. From window blinds to appliances, it should all be in place and in the condition that it was when you agreed to include it in the same.

            3. Try all the appliances.
              The appliances aren't much use to you if they do not work. It may not be possible to know if they work well, but at least you can turn them on to ensure they are operable. It's a good idea to turn the dishwasher on to ensure it goes a full cycle. A gas oven should heat up without evidence of a gas smell. Make sure that all appliances drain properly.

            4. Check the bathroom.
              Look for signs of mold or plumbing leaks. There should be no damp places or standing water. Flush the toilet; make sure it drains and fills up properly and does not leak at the base or run after it should have turned off. Turn on the faucets and the showerhead to ensure they have hot water and no leaks. Tubs and sinks should drain properly.

            5. Inspect the kitchen.
              Just as you checked the bathroom for mold. Leaks and damp spots, check the kitchen. If you have exhaust ventilation, check for signs of mold around it; also look under the sink, the dishwasher, and the refrigerator.

            6. Inspect windows and doors.
              The windows and doors should be in good condition, opening and closing properly. Window locks should work and be easy to lock. The window and door glass should be in good shape. Window screens should be in place and be in good repair.

            7. Test the HVAC system.
              During a walk-through, all you can do with the HVAC is turn it on or off to make sure the heating and the air conditioning come on. An HVAC system is expensive to replace, so ask for the history of the equipment -- how old, any significant repairs, and if it is due for replacement due to using the discontinued refrigerant Freon. You might want to pay for an inspection before the walk-through, so you know what shape the HVAC is really in. Other major areas to check out: the electrical system (turn on all switches and test your phone charger in all plugs) and outside the home.

            Our real estate agents can help with more tips for your walk-through. Contact us today. 

            December
            18

            How to Maintain Your Sanity During a Move

            New Orleans Moving Tips

            Moving is a very stressful event as you struggle to get everything done in time, make sure nothing falls through the cracks, and manage the physical demands of the task. Good thing all it takes is a bit of planning to make the process go smoothly. 
              
            Our real estate agents suggest the following ways to help you maintain your sanity during a move:  

            • Decide whether you need professional movers  
              Consider how much time and effort it will take to move your belongings and how far away they'll need to be moved. Based on these answers, decide to either ask friends for help or hire professional movers. If you ask friends, go ahead and firm up a date with them, and if you need professional movers, get written estimates from three different companies.
                
            • Keep good records
              Get a binder or notebook to keep track of your moving timeline as well as your paperwork. Check items off your timeline as you complete them and keep paperwork such as your contract with the movers and your lease agreement or documents related to the sale of your home.
                
            • Budget for your move  
              It may be tempting to prioritize saving for furnishings or other items for your new home, but that's not what should come first. Instead, make sure you've budgeted for the costs of your move, including any supplies you may need to buy, renting a moving truck, or the cost of a professional mover.
                
            • Go through your belongings and purge what you don't need  
              There's no need to move items you no longer want into your home, so before you start to pack your belongings, sort through them and keep only what you truly need or enjoy or what holds sentimental value.
                
            • Start to pack – but do it in the right order  
              Start packing the belongings you don't frequently use, such as seasonal clothing and décor. The very last things to pack include your personal documents, any pet-related items, and essentials such as toiletries. Label each box with a description of its contents as well as the room you'll be putting it in at your new home.
                
            • Transfer your insurance and utilities   
              Make sure you have insurance arranged for your new home and set a cut-off date for utilities at your current home. Also, arrange for utilities to be turned on at your new home before your arrival.
                
            • Have your address changed  
              Fill out change of address forms at the Post Office to have your mail forwarded to your new home. You'll also need to change your address with agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the IRS.
                
            • Arrive at your new home before the movers   
              Get to your new home before the movers arrive so you can make sure all your belongings are accounted for. This also lets you direct the movers to ensure that boxes are put in the correct rooms, which makes it much easier to unpack and organize your belongings.  

            Contact us at Latter & Blum if you're interested in looking at New Orleans homes for sale. We'd be happy to help you find your dream home! 

            December
            14

            7 Tips for Applying for a Mortgage When You're Self Employed

            Self Employed Mortgage Tips

            Have you been looking at beautiful New Orleans homes for sale and dreaming of calling one your own? Homeownership is a wonderful thing! However, if you're self-employed, you may find the mortgage approval process to be a maze.

            Luckily, though, it's not impossible. In fact, our real estate agents work with self-employed buyers all the time! Here are a few of the smartest tips they've learned along the way.

            1. Manage Your Credit Score
              Regardless of whether you're a W-2 employee or you're self-employed, your credit history and credit score will play a major role in whether you're approved for a mortgage. When you first start thinking about buying a home, pull copies of your credit reports, and make sure they're accurate. If you find mistakes, initiate the process of correcting them right away. Make sure you pay all your bills on time! If possible, pay down some of your debts, so you have a more favorable credit utilization ratio. Also, try not to request any new credit before you apply for a mortgage, as doing so can lower your score.
            1. Organize Your Your Information
              Your lender will need to examine your financial records before they're willing to approve you for a mortgage loan. You'll have an easier time with your application if you gather all your information ahead of time. Some of the things you'll need include:
            • Personal and business federal tax returns (past 2 years)
            • Personal and business bank statements (2-3 most recent)
            • Year-to-date profit and loss statement including revenue, expenses, and net income
            • Copy of your business registration/license
            • Proof that you've been in business for at least 2 years
            1. Save Some Extra Cash
              Sometimes, if a lender is on the fence about approving your loan, having a larger-than-required down payment can tip the scales in your favor. It's a great idea to save as much cash as you can before applying for your loan. If you don't need it for the down payment, you can use it to create an emergency fund.
            1. Keep Your Books Clean
              Mixing business and pleasure is a big mistake when it comes to your credit cards. Many business owners use their personal credit cards to cover business expenses. However, if this causes you to carry high balances, it can hurt your credit score. You'll have the best chances of being approved for a loan if you keep your personal income and expenses completely separate from your business.
            1. Show Steady Income
              This is easier said than done, but if you can keep your business income fairly steady, you'll have a better chance of being approved for a mortgage loan. You'll need to show at least two years of business income and may also need to provide a list of your assets and debts. Ideally, you'll want to show that your business income is increasing or at least staying steady year-over-year. If your business is fairly new, some lenders will accept one year of business income and one year of W2 income. In this case, though, you'll want to show that your business is making as much or more than you were making when working for your previous employer.
            1. Explore Your Options
              You should be eligible for all types of mortgage loans as long as you meet the requirements above. However, you may find that some loan options are better for your circumstances than others. If you're having trouble getting approved for a traditional mortgage, you may also want to try applying for a non-conforming loan or even a personal loan.
            1. Don't Give Up
              If your loan application is denied, don't give up! The first thing you'll want to do is find out the reason for your denial. In most cases, you can take some steps to resolve the problem and apply again after you do.

            Start Your Home Search Today! 

            Taking these simple steps will help you set yourself up for success when applying for a mortgage. Now that you know how to prepare, you're ready to start exploring some of the great homes for sale. We would love to show you around and help you find your dream home. Contact us today to get started! 

            November
            9

            Buying a Home with Student Loan Debt: What You Need to Know

            Student Loan Debt

            Did your college diploma come with a healthy portion of debt? If so, you're not alone. According to Forbes, approximately 45 million Americans are paying on student loans, for a cumulative debt total higher than that of credit cards and auto loans.

            Fortunately, student loans don't mean you have to give up your dream of homeownership. Use these valuable tips from our real estate agents to buy one of the great New Orleans homes for sale, even if you have student loan debt.

            1. Optimize Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
              When evaluating mortgage applications, lenders look for the ability to pay above all other considerations. The actual amount of your student loan debt is less significant than its proportion to your total income. Reducing overall debt is important, but you can also improve your DTI (debt-to-income) score by increasing your income, whether it's by asking for a raise, taking a second job, or doing freelance work.

            2. Polish Your Credit Score
              A high credit score pays off in two ways. Not only does it make you an attractive borrower overall, but it can help you qualify for better interest rates. Payment history accounts for a full third of your score, so be sure you're making payments on time. Avoid applying for additional credit cards or loans during this time, as each request can ding your score.

            3. Change Your Payment Plan
              New student loan programs, such as extended repayment and income-driven plans, can create a more manageable monthly payment and improve your DTI ratio. But stay away from deferments, which are agreements to repay your loan at a later date. Your monthly payments will be temporarily eliminated, but lenders see deferments as red flags signifying trouble.

            4. Research First-Time Homebuyer Programs
              Buying a home has become harder for today's twenty-somethings than it was for previous generations. For that reason, several federal and state agencies offer assistance to first-time homebuyers in the form of favorable interest rates, lower down payments, and other benefits.

            5. Ask for Help
              If you have parents or other close relatives who are in a comfortable financial position, they may be able to contribute to a down payment or serve as co-signers on a mortgage application. Even if that's not possible, you may qualify for a second mortgage, matched savings program, or other assistance with down payments and closing costs.

            6. Understand Loan Types
              Mortgages generally fall under one of two categories. Conventional loans are issued by banks, credit unions, and other private lenders. Government loans, such as FHA and VA, are insured by the federal government. Since they carry less risk, government loans are easier to obtain if you have a higher DTI ratio or less money to put toward a down payment.

            7. Get Pre-Approved
              When buying a home, especially when it's your first one, anything you do to demonstrate stability and serious intent will work in your favor. Getting pre-approved involves submitting much of the same information that will be required for the final mortgage application. As a result, you'll have a solid idea of how much you can afford, and sellers will know you're serious about buying.

            Whether you're shopping for your first home or looking for a retirement nest, our cheerful and experienced real estate agents at Latter & Blum can guide you every step of the way. Contact us to learn more.

            October
            23

            What to Know When Buying a Home in a Different State

            Buying a Home in a New State

            Whether you're moving for a great new job, picking the perfect place for your family, or simply making a long-distance move to a city you've always dreamed of calling home, there are many good reasons to move to a different state. There are also some challenges with long-distance home shopping, but technology, research, and the right real estate agent can help you overcome those obstacles. Our real estate agents know what it takes to find the perfect home from a distance, and we've got some tips to help you get started.

            1. Take Advantage of Technology to Tour Homes from Afar
              So you're shopping for Lafayette homes for sale, but your current location is nowhere near the city... no problem! Virtual tours and virtual open houses are now available in nearly every market where you might be shopping. Take advantage of these technological tools to get a detailed impression of any home that catches your eye, no matter where you're currently located.

            2. Invest Time in Researching Neighborhoods 
              Loving your new home for the long haul is much easier when you also love the neighborhood where the home is located. Invest some research time in learning everything you can about neighborhoods in your target markets, focusing on the factors that matter most to you.

            3. Choose a Real Estate Agent Who Understands Long-Distance Purchases
              The right buyer's agent can take so much of the guesswork out of shopping for a home in a different state and help you handle the logistical details of a long-distance purchase. Look for a real estate agent who has experience with out of state purchases.

            4. Learn the Real Estate Rules in Your Target Markets
              Different states and communities have different regulations for real estate purchases, so make sure you understand the rules in the places where you're shopping. There may be different requirements for earnest money deposits, closing time-frames, home inspections, and more, so it helps to be prepared.

            5. Research Real Estate Markets to See How Much Home You Can Purchase
              Every real estate market is different, so you might find that your real estate budget stretches much farther in some communities than others. The right real estate agent can give you a detailed impression of your target markets, so you know exactly how much home you'll be able to afford and how the asking prices for homes that catch your eye fit within the local market.

            6. Consider the Cost of Living When Choosing a Community
              While the cost of the home is a key factor, the cost of living in your target markets will also have a major impact on your budget. Researching the cost of living will help you decide whether a neighborhood is the right fit for your budget.

            7. Try to Attend the Home Inspection If Possible
              If you can only attend one thing in person, the home inspection is a great choice. The home inspector can answer questions, tell you about smaller issues that won't affect the sale, and give you a deeper impression of the home's condition.

            8. Can't Close in Person? No Problem
              Attending the closing in person is a good thing if you can manage it, but it's certainly not a requirement. Remote closings are more popular than ever, and technology makes it possible to close on a home no matter where you're currently located.

            Whether you're shopping from across the city or across the country, our team is here to help you find your next home. Contact us today.

            October
            9

            5 Tips for Picking Out a Kitchen Backsplash

            New Orleans Kitchen Backsplash

            According to our real estate agents, kitchen updates are one of the top renovations you can do. A kitchen backsplash is, in many ways, the piece that ties together all of your hard-planned renovations. If the kitchen backsplash is too boring or too jarring, it can destroy the entire look. Here are a few tips for picking out a kitchen backsplash that will give your updates the most mileage.

            1. Do Your Research
              Updating or renovating is all about doing your research. Choosing a backsplash is no different. There is a variety of different materials to choose from, and each one is different in terms of durability and care requirements. For instance, ceramic and porcelain may seem like the same thing, but they are made differently in a way that makes porcelain much denser and more durable. Some materials will also require more care, such as natural stone and marble, that need to be sealed once a year.
            2. Try Out Your Options
              You can't tile your entire backsplash before deciding whether it's going to work for you, but you can bring home samples. Hang them up in your kitchen, where you can see them as you go about your day. Sometimes materials or colors can look one way in the store or catalog and completely different when you have them in your home. Watch what happens as the light changes throughout the day, for instance. It's also not a bad idea to surround them with samples of other options you're considering, such as countertops, so that you can also think about what looks best together.
            3. Mix, Not Match
              When it comes to backsplashes, remember what this is supposed to do: make a splash. While it might be very tempting to match everything perfectly, a backsplash should be coordinating but also noteworthy, something that goes but will also stand out. That might mean a splash of color, but it also might mean different lines, such as tile set on the diagonal.
            4. Highlight Focal Points
              Like with any other form of art, you can also use a backsplash as an accent to draw attention to the kitchen's focal parts. For instance, the area over the sink and over the range are often enhanced with something special, an accent within the overall theme of the backsplash. This might be a special material or color, or a change in the tile pattern.
            5. Budget Wisely
              If you have to make your choices carefully to ensure your kitchen updates stay within your budget, that's understandable. Just be smart about where and how you cut corners. For instance, you might opt for ceramic tile, which is more affordable yet still a perfectly respectable choice for a backsplash. But it's not wise to skimp on the grout's quality, which is literally the glue that holds your renovations together. High-quality grout will last longer and look better.

            The kitchen is one of the most central rooms of a home, so having one you love is important. If you're in the market for a home, contact us today to discuss what you're looking for and to tour Baton Rouge homes for sale.

            October
            12

            How to Save Money for a Down Payment

             

            How to Save Money for a Down Payment   

            Saving money is an important life skill to practice, especially if you are thinking of buying a home. In observance of National Savings Day, take a second and think of a reason for why you would enjoy homeownership. Is it for decorative freedom? Investment purposes? More space for your family? To have a backyard for your dog? 

            Whatever the reason may be, we all start this process the same way – by saving money. Questions that immediately may pop into your head are, "How do I save money? How much do I save? How much house can I even afford?" Overwhelmed? Don't be. We have answers to these questions and quick tips for you to learn how to save up for a down payment in no time.

             

            1. Set Goals

            Creating a goal gives you a target to reach for your savings and setting benchmarks toward your main goal keeps you motivated. The most common range for a down payment is 5-20% of the home's purchase price. Most people aim to put down 20% because then you won't have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is an additional insurance fee a lender adds to your monthly payment. Use this down payment savings plan spreadsheet to help you visualize your savings plan. 

             

            2. Trim Your Spending

            Sure - a coffee from Starbucks or a scrumptious pizza delivery may not sound like a splurge, but added up over time can equal a sizable amount of money. For example, buying a $5 coffee each morning adds up to $35 per week which turns into $140 per month, which turns into $1,680 per year. That equates to most people's monthly mortgage payment! So what can you do to cut down on spending? Start with these most common money saving practices: 

              • Cook meals at home   
              • Use discount codes or coupons 
              • Cancel memberships you aren't using
              • Reduce your cable bill 
              • Buy generic where you can

             

            3. Open a Savings Account

            Perhaps one of the best strategies to help you save money is to set up a savings account. Putting your money in a separate account makes it easier to shield those funds from everyday expenses. You can also set up an auto-draft feature that will automatically transfer a certain amount of money to your savings account each month. 

             

            4. Boost Your Income

            If you have the time, starting a side hustle can help you save extra cash fast! Offer to babysit, take dogs on a walk, spend some time tutoring, etc. Earning just an extra $100 per week adds up to $9,600 in two years. That's almost half of the average down payment.  

             

            5. Talk to a Lender

            Even if you have no money saved for a down payment or if you aren't planning on buying for another year or two, it's always beneficial to speak with a lender to get familiar with the home loan process. Don't know what to ask? Use this worksheet that has questions you should ask your lender. Don't know a lender? You're in luck because Latter & Blum also offers mortgage services through Essential Mortgage. Get in touch with a lender here.

             

            Fast forward a bit and voilà, you've made it! All of your hard work paid off and now you can start searching for the home of your dreams. But before you dive into the home buying game, make sure you find the right person to help you. Purchasing a home is your biggest financial investment. You'll want to be represented by a trusted real estate professional that has your best interest at heart. Latter & Blum Realtors are the best agents in the state and they are ready to make your homeownership goals come true.

            September
            23

            5 Ways to Make Your Move More Organized

            Organized Move

            Being organized takes time and effort. But does it pay off? You bet, and nowhere more than when preparing for a move. 

            If you've listed your house among Baton Rouge homes for sale, you've probably already thought about your move and how to minimize the stress. Take it from our real estate agents good organization is the way to get there.

            To start you off, here are five excellent ways to organize your move.

            1. Make a Moving Schedule
              Create a moving schedule, on a printed document, or on the calendar feature of your phone or computer. This will give you the big picture of your move, as your schedule when you want to hire movers; create a packing schedule (schedule a couple of hours a day to pack, if you're going to do it yourself); note deadlines for getting rid of stuff; note dates for contacting utilities; mark known dates for events pertaining to the sale of your current home or the acquisition of your destination home, and note details about the move itself.

            2. Declutter
              You will be amazed at how much of your stuff you will not want once you move it to your new home. Save money by saying goodbye to a quarter of your stuff before you move. Hold a garage sale; sell items through the app LetGo, on eBay, or on Facebook Marketplace. Offer what you can't sell to friends or co-workers, or give it away. You may have to leave some things on the curb for pickup. 

            3. Create a System
              Make your move organized by using a color-coding system, so you know what box goes in what room. Apply circular, different-colored stickers to boxes; create color-coded cards to match the stickers. Cards should be hung in the doorways to rooms where boxes go. Create a master copy of your moving legend, complete with color codes and instructions. Make more than one copy, to be dispersed throughout the destination home. Finally, create or buy self-adhesive moving labels, on which you list the contents of each box. Stick the stickers on the label and on top of the box.

            4. Gather Packing Supplies
              Get packing supplies from the home store or a moving store. Get boxes in different sizes, but mostly the smaller size boxes where you can pack fewer but heavier items such as books. Get packing tape and a dispenser, wide felt markers and packing material such as bubble wrap.

            5. Be Careful with Fragile Items
              You don't want to show up at your new home with boxes of broken items! Boxes should be full, but weigh no more than 50 pounds per box. If packed items don't fill up the box, fill the space with newspaper or bubble wrap or air pillows, so they don't shift around when moved. Mark boxes that contain fragile items. Use arrows on boxes if it's important they stay upright.

            Whether you're leaving Baton Rouge or joining us, our team can help! Contact us today. 

            September
            17

            What to Know Before Buying a House Virtually

            When the global pandemic first started, Christopher and Sarra were living in Ohio and had just given birth to their first newborn daughter. Offered a new career opportunity in New Orleans, they had to quickly find a house and move. 

            Because of COVID-19 and their new baby, they didn't feel comfortable traveling to New Orleans and touring multiple homes in person. Instead, they reached out to Latter & Blum Realtor, Stephanie Burkett, who is highly experienced in virtual showings and selling of homes due to her experience working with military clients. 

            After several virtual tours, Christopher and Sarra finally found a place to call home in New Orleans without ever touring it in person. The family's experience of finding a home essentially "sight unseen" is not an uncommon one, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. Below are some tips for prospective home buyers that are considering buying a home virtually. 

             

            1. Learn how to read about a listing online

            Before you reach out to an agent and start an online search for your home, watch out for these red flags as you click through pictures:

            • Are there more photos of the home's exterior than the interior? If so, the inside might need work.
            • Photos with closed curtains or blinds could potentially be hiding an unfavorable view.
            • If a picture of a bathroom focuses on a sink, it can mean the bathroom is very small.
            • Photos that appear stretched may be smaller than it appears online.
            • Be aware of listing terms. A "fixer-upper" can mean an investment opportunity or require updating.

             

            2. Pick the right real estate agent 

            Like Christopher and Sarra, choosing an agent that is experienced in helping families relocate is a major plus when shopping for a home virtually. After all, your agent will be your eyes and ears during the entire touring process. Agents that specialize in relocation may understand more of the challenges that come along with buying a home sight unseen, especially since there are a lot more unknown factors and hand-holding involved. 

            Pro Tip: Don't hesitate to ask your agent the following questions: Can you help schedule movers and get different moving options and quotes? Can your agent help set up services at the home or at least provide contact information for water, gas, garbage, electrical, etc.? 

             Looking for a qualified Realtor? Visit here to help you find the right agent for your needs. 

            3. Request an in-depth video tour 

            Before going on a virtual tour, have the floor plan of the space handy to help with determining how big a room is or how high the ceilings are. Ideally, your agent should start the tour while driving up to the house, in order to give you a better sense of the neighborhood and local amenities. If you're a parent, you may also want to request that the agent drive to the nearby schools to give a sense of how long it would take the kids to get to school each morning. From there, the agent should show you every part of the home from every possible angle. 

            Pro Tip: Ask as many questions as possible — particularly about the things you can't learn just from looking at a home. Is the neighbor's dog barking all day? Can you hear planes overhead? Is there a fire station nearby? Does the house have a certain odor?

             

            Visit our website to start your virtual home search today!

            September
            8

            5 Things to Know Before Going House Shopping

              

            Buying a house can be an exciting process, but it can also be nerve-racking! Before you start your home search, here are five things you should know that will help you make decisions that are the best for you, your peace of mind and your wallet.

            1. Know how much house you can afford. One of the biggest roadblocks for prospective home buyers is not calculating beforehand what kind of home you can afford and coming up with enough money for a down payment. Use these calculators as a guide to calculate how much you can afford in a monthly mortgage payment. 

             

            2. Know your credit history. The better your credit history, the better the chances you'll have of securing the best financing rates and terms. A good score can help save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. See how to raise your credit score to get better loan terms. 

             

            3. Have a lender pre-approve you before house shopping. These days, houses can go off the market fast. In order to be ahead of the competition, you need to make sure you're prepared to make a strong offer and having a pre-approval in hand will position you as a serious buyer. "Buyers should feel comfortable with their budget before heading out the door with their Realtor to look at houses. Most of my buyers qualify for much more than they want to spend on monthly mortgage notes. I always have a lender walk my buyers through all of the costs of buying a home and together they will decide the purchase price range to fit the buyer's lifestyle!" - Penny Stettinius, Latter & Blum agent. 

             

            4. Make a checklist of your needs, must-haves and wants. Making a list of all your wants and needs is essential. Seeing many homes at once can be overwhelming and a checklist can serve as a guide to remind you what you're looking for. It also serves as a helpful reference for your Realtor. Not sure what you are looking for in a home? Download our Wants & Needs Worksheet. If you already know your wants and needs, tell one of our agents and start shopping today!

             

            5. Choose a Realtor that best fits your needs. One thing most people don't realize is that you can meet with several Realtors to discuss your needs and see who is the best fit for you. An experienced agent can save you time and money by helping you find your dream home and negotiate with the seller on your behalf. "I tell my clients to hire a Realtor who is full-time and answers the phone when you call! Nothing is more important than being represented by an experienced agent who you can easily communicate with. I also tell my clients to look up Realtors online and read their customer reviews." - Cindy Bailey, Latter & Blum agent. 

             

            Ready to go house shopping? Buying a home is easy with Latter & Blum! Visit latter-blum.com for all the resources you'll need to help you find your dream home!

            September
            2

            What You Can Expect From a Home Inspection

            Home Inspection

            If you're considering purchasing a home, a home inspection will give you better insight regarding the condition of the home. A home inspection is an examination of the property's interior, exterior, and major systems.

            Our real estate agents know that a home inspection can provide invaluable information regarding repairs that a property needs now or will require in the near future. Here's what you can expect from a home inspection. 

            1. A Home Inspection Examines Items That are Readily Visible
              During the home inspection, the inspector can only examine things that are already visible or are easily visible by opening a door, cabinet, or drawer (something that's fairly accessible). The inspector can't pull up flooring or smash walls, nor will they move furniture. That's not to say that a home inspection only looks for surface-level problems. Your inspector will look for problems that may not be obvious to the average homebuyer, such as grading problems, foundation issues, and leaks in the plumbing system. As long as the home's roof isn't extremely steep, your inspector will likely inspect the roof, gutters, shingles, and any skylights. Some items that a home inspection won't look for or check include:
              • Termites and other household pests
              • Chimney condition
              • Radon levels
              • Well condition
              • Water quality
            1. A Home Inspection Will Take at Least a Couple of Hours
              On average, a home inspection takes anywhere from two to four hours. The length of time the inspection takes depends on the size of the home. Your inspector will examine any structure that's physically connected to the home; this includes the garage, basement, attic, and bonus room. Sheds or barns not attached to the home aren't included in the inspection. It's allowed and even encouraged for the buyer to attend the home inspection. This will give you a chance to learn how the systems in various Alexandria homes for sale work. You can also ask questions about any items that the inspector thinks are potentially a major issue.
            1. A Home Inspector Will Provide You With a Report After the Inspection
              After the inspection, your inspector will provide you with a comprehensive report that details their findings. This report is an extensive document that will go over everything that the home inspector examined during their inspection. The report will state the inspector's findings for the item examined, including the condition for the item and the anticipated additional lifespan for major systems and appliances. Your report will also include a section that states which items the inspector recommends be immediately repaired or replaced. Many homeowners are overwhelmed when they receive a report that lists dozens of defects. Remember, many of these defects are likely to be relatively minor. Focus on the items that are a potential safety hazard or that will be expensive or time consuming to repair or replace. You may be able to get the seller to adjust the price if the inspection shows that the home needs a lot of costly, unexpected repairs.

            Regardless of the outcome of your negotiations, an inspection will help you better understand the true condition of the home that you're considering purchasing. 

            Ready to start shopping for homes? Contact us today to get started!

            August
            21

            Thinking of Buying Your First Home? Why Now is the Perfect Time!

            Buying a First Home

            2020 has been an unprecedented year in so many ways, and the current real estate market has created unique opportunities for many buyers shopping as a first-time buyer. A combination of low-interest rates and motivated sellers means that now is the perfect time to shop for a home in many markets! Our real estate agents are here to help with more info on the current market and some tips to help you prepare for purchasing your first home.

            • Mortgage Interest Rates Are at All-Time Lows
              The interest rate on your mortgage is a crucial factor in how much home you can afford, and how much of your budget that mortgage payments will take up over time. At the time of publication, mortgage rates are at an all-time low of 2.98 percent. The Fed drops rates to stimulate the economy so that these low rates won't last forever. That's why now is the time to capitalize on this unique opportunity.

            • Motivated Sellers Are Ready to Make Deals
              With social distancing measures and other restrictions in place in many markets across the country during 2020, sellers have had some unusual obstacles in their path when trying to find a buyer. Mix in an unsettled economy, and many sellers are more motivated than ever to make a deal. While the competition for homes is often still strong, motivated sellers make it easier for you to find the best deals as a first-time buyer.

            Tips for Preparing to Purchase Your First Home

            • Check Your Credit and Pay Down Debts
              Before you get serious about shopping for Lafayette homes for sale, it's wise to make sure that you're ready to secure a mortgage. Start by requesting your free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus, and looking for every opportunity to improve your credit score. Paying down as many outstanding debts as possible before applying for a mortgage will help you get the best rates, and increase your purchasing power. Once your credit score is looking great, avoid making large purchases and opening new lines of credit until after purchasing your home.

            • Save for Your Down Payment and Closing Costs
              The largest up-front costs in purchasing your first home will typically be your down payment and closing costs. Overall, you can expect these payments to be about 8 to 10 percent of the total cost of the home, at a minimum. 

            • Get Pre-Approved to Discover Your Purchasing Power
              Once your finances are looking strong, you'll be ready to get pre-approved for your mortgage. Pre-approval will give you an idea of exactly how much purchasing power you have as you shop for homes and shows sellers that you're a serious buyer with the funds to close the deal.

            • Find the Right Real Estate Agent
              There are so many little details that go into purchasing your first home, and the process can be challenging to navigate when you haven't done it before. The right real estate agent will make your life easier in so many ways, from identifying homes that match your needs to negotiating the best possible deal with sellers.

            Ready to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity and find your first home? Our team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout the Lafayette, LA area.

            July
            27

            5 Things to Consider When Picking a Neighborhood

            New Neighborhood

            There are whimsical stories of people randomly choosing vacation spots by throwing a dart at a map. While that might make for some interesting trips, this method is not recommended for finding a top neighborhood with Lake Charles homes for sale

            Picking a new neighborhood for your family requires a bit more planning than just throwing a dart at a map!

            So how do you go about deciding on a neighborhood to settle in? Our real estate agents share five features to consider when planning a move to a new neighborhood.

            1. Commuting Time
              If you're one of the 4.7 million people who work from home at least part of the time, commuting time may not be relevant. But if you travel to the workplace, you'll want a reasonable commute. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average daily commute time is just under one hour. Take a trial run from your potential neighborhood to your workplace, preferably during rush hour. The availability of public transportation options can help mitigate commuting issues.

            2. Cost of Living
              Whether you are moving across the country, state, or just a neighborhood over the cost of living can change. Even if it's only a little bit higher, your family will feel this change in your wallet. Do your research and see what your essentials cost in the neighborhood you are planning on moving to. Better yet, if you can, do your grocery shopping around the neighborhood so you can scope out prices firsthand. 

            3. Urban or Suburban
              Your general lifestyle helps determine which type of environment you're likely to prefer. Urban areas offer a density of shops, services, and entertainment options, while they may be lacking in terms of quiet and privacy. On the other hand, suburban areas may require some effort to visit grocery stores, doctors' offices, and other amenities, but the trade-off is more space and a greater degree of tranquility. Whether you choose an urban or a suburban area, keep in mind what amenities are important to your family and make sure your new neighborhood offers them. 

            4. Crime and Safety
              Chances are this is one of the first things you thought to research when looking at potential neighborhoods. After all, everyone wants to feel safe in their neighborhood. Websites such as U.S. News & World Report, AreaVibes, and BestPlaces provide safety ratings for most cities and neighborhoods. In some cases, you can drill down to the zip code level. Visit the local police station or contact neighborhood watch groups for firsthand information.

            5. Housing Market
              The number one consideration in finding a home is locating that sweet spot where desirability meets affordability. But a home is more than just a place to live. As the biggest-ticket item most people will ever purchase, a house is also an investment. Take a look at the change in a neighborhood's housing values over the last few years. Have they appreciated at a higher rate than homes in comparable neighborhoods? The length of time on the market is another sign of a robust or stagnant market. 

            As the largest independently-owned residential real estate company in Louisiana, Latter & Blum offers an elite level of knowledge and experience. Whether you're buying or selling a home around Lake Charles, contact us for cheerful and dedicated assistance with your needs. 

            May
            26

            Study Up On These Real Estate Terms

            Real Estate Terms

            The home buying process can be daunting. Understanding basic terms and concepts associated with real estate can help make the process less stressful, help you identify red flags, and save you money. Our real estate agents recommend that homebuyers and those with Lake Charles homes for sale familiarize themselves with a few common terms that often pop up during the process.

            1. Mortgage
              Although most people know that a mortgage is a loan to buy a home, there are many different types. Conventional fixed-rate mortgages have a set interest rate for the life of the loan, which is usually 30 years for non-commercial properties. Adjustable-rate mortgages have a variable interest rate, and the duration of the loan can vary. The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA) offer loans that make it easier for those with a low or no-down-payment to purchase a home.
            2. Pre-Approval Letter
              Getting a pre-approval letter before you start your home search shows sellers and real estate agents that you're serious about buying. It's important to keep in mind that a pre-approval letter is not the same as a pre-qualification letter. Before issuing a pre-approval, the lender checks a potential buyer's credit, verifies their income, and employment. A pre-qualification letter merely states the estimated amount a borrower may be entitled to obtain in a mortgage loan.   
            3. Real Estate Agent
              There are usually two agents involved in a real estate transaction – the listing agent, who represents the seller, and the buyer's agent, who represents the homebuyer. When a real estate agent represents both the buyer and the seller, this is known as dual agency.  
            4. Offer
              When you find a home you'd like to buy, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent or attorney can help you write up an offer, but it's always a good idea to include a cover letter that summarizes why you want to purchase the home. The seller may counter your original offer because they want a higher asking price or would like to close sooner. 
            5. Contingency
              When you put in an offer on a home, you can include contingencies, which require that certain conditions are met before the deal is done. An offer may be contingent upon financing, home inspection, appraisal value, or other conditions.
            6. Earnest Money
              Typically 1% - 5% of the purchase price, earnest money is a deposit a buyer puts down to show that they are serious about purchasing a home. It is not part of the down payment and can be lost if a buyer backs out after signing a real estate sales agreement. 
            7. Escrow
              Escrow is an arrangement in which a third party temporarily holds the money until a particular condition has been met. In addition to earnest money, seller proceeds are often held in escrow, which is known as an escrow holdback. This is sometimes done when there are title issues or to motivate a seller to complete repairs.
            8. Closing Costs
              There's really no getting around it – financing and buying a home involves a lot of fees. Closing costs often include loan processing, excise tax, appraisal, title insurance, homeowner's insurance, settlement fees, and other expenses. When you're shopping for a mortgage, compare a few lenders' closing costs or consider negotiating some of the fees with the lender you choose.

            Need assistance with buying or selling a Louisiana home? Our experienced real estate professionals can help. Contact us today to get started.

            April
            27

            9 Signs You've Found the Home of Your Dreams

            Dream Home

            If you've been visiting some of the Lake Charles homes for sale, you know just how many great options there are on the market right now. Buying a home is a big commitment, so how do you know when you've found the perfect one? 

            Sometimes, your heart will skip a beat, and you'll feel a little flutter. Our REALTORS® love it when this happens! Other times, the decision will be a bit more challenging. You may be torn between several homes, or you might just feel unsure. In this case, you'll be looking for a sign that the home you're considering is the right one for you. 

            Don't worry! We've created the following list of the top nine signs that you've found your dream home. 

            1. You Feel Overjoyed
              The number one sign that you've found your dream home is when you feel a pure sense of joy. Remember those flutters we mentioned? This is it! If you leave the house feeling excited and euphoric, this is an excellent sign. 
            2. It Meets All of Your "Must Haves"
              It's rare to find a home that checks off every box on your list of "must-have" features. If you find one that does (or comes really close), then you may want to jump on it.
            3. The Location is Perfect
              As they say, the most important things about real estate are location, location, and location. If a home has come on the market in the exact area you were hoping for, it just might be your dream home.
            4. You Don't Want to Look at Any More Homes
              When you've found the perfect home, you'll often lose your desire to keep looking. In this case, it's probably a good idea to listen to your gut and put in an offer.
            5. Small Flaws Don't Bother You
              Sometimes, your perfect home isn't actually perfect. If you're in love with a house and willing to overlook small flaws, this is an excellent sign. As long as the upgrades or repairs won't take too much time or money, go ahead and listen to your intuition.
            6. You're Already Thinking About Decorating
              Are you already picking out paint colors and decor in your mind? Picturing yourself living in the home is an excellent sign that it's the one for you. 
            7. You Can't Wait to Share the News
              Did you leave the house and immediately want to call your family and friends? Go ahead and share the news, because you've just found your dream home!
            8. You Can See Yourself Living There for the Foreseeable Future
              A home you can see yourself living in for the long-term is always an excellent option. Is there room to grow and accommodate life changes like marriage or children? If you think you could comfortably stay in the home for at least five years, it's worth considering. 
            9. It Already Feels Like Your Home
              When you've found the right home, those initial feelings of excitement can turn into feelings of possessiveness. When you've found your dream home, you'll start to think of it as yours well before you sign the closing paperwork and receive your keys. 

            If you haven't found your dream home yet, don't give up! Instead, contact us. We'll show you some of the best houses on the market and keep working until you're sure you've found the right one. Reach out to us today!

            April
            24

            How to Virtually Tour Homes in Lafayette

            Virtually Tour Lafayette

            Open-houses and private showings are often the most exciting parts of your home search. Of course, many buyers don't always find their dream homes during the first few tours, especially if they're visiting from out of town. Thankfully, modern technology has revolutionized many aspects of the home buying process, including showings.

            Prospective buyers can now virtually tour homes in Lafayette, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge from anywhere in the world without leaving their own house. Our real estate agents are excited to offer virtual tours of our many amazing Lafayette homes for sale — helping you find your Louisiana dream home from the comfort of your couch!

            What is a Virtual Home Tour?

            A home showing allows a prospective buyer to walk through a property they're interested in buying. Instead of walking the home in-person, a virtual home tour allows a prospective buyer to view the full interior and exterior of the property via the internet. There are two types of virtual home tours.

            The first is a 3D walk-through. This function allows a viewer to explore a home through a first-person point of view with 360-degree angles. Imagine the same technology as Google Street View, only this time you're navigating your way around the interior of a home.

            The second type is a custom virtual tour. Unlike standard video tours that are prerecorded and uploaded for a buyer to view at any time, a custom virtual tour employs video chatting apps to give buyers a real-time tour of the property. Real estate agents use convenient apps like FaceTime to walk each buyer through the home virtually. This allows the buyer to dictate which areas they want a closer look at and enables the agent to explain every element of the home to the buyer in exceptional detail.

            Touring Lafayette Homes Virtually With Latter & Blum

            Virtual tours are innovative and interactive ways for buyers to tour homes from anywhere at any time. Touring Lafayette homes for sale virtually with Latter & Blum is effortless:

            • First, select the listing you wish to tour virtually.

            • Then, click the "Tour This Home" button.

            • Next, select "Tour via Video Chat" and choose your preferred video chat app. Options include FaceTime, Goggle Duo, Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp.

            • Enter your contact information, including your name, email address, and phone number.

            • Select a date and time that best fits your schedule.

            • Finally, tell us whether email or text messaging is the best way to contact you and click "Send Request". Our agents will call you shortly to schedule a virtual tour of this specific property.

            If you don't have either of those applications, they're simple to download via these links:

            Contact us today to schedule a virtual tour of our Lafayette homes for sale.  

            March
            3

            Kim Miller & Kar Gary - Million in a Month February 2020

            February
            24

            Home Improvement Tips for Beginners & New Homeowners

            Home Improvement Tips

            Even with all the home improvement shows out there, getting started on your own home improvement project for the first time can be intimidating. 

            Our REALTORS® know home improvement can be especially frightening for new homeowners! Make sure to follow these six tips if you are working on your first-ever home improvement project. 

            1. Start with a Plan
              You should take the time to go around your new house to make a note of any potential improvements you wish to complete. Consider what order these items should be completed in and a potential timeline. For example, you may decide you want to replace windows before you paint a room to make sure you like that color with your new style of windows. 

              Also, make sure you are realistic with your timeline. It's always best to assume a project will run over on time or money. 

            2. Consider a Budget
              Speaking of money, a budget will help you visualize your finances so you don't overspend. Once you have a plan for improving your home, a budget will help you account for the specific items and supplies you'll need to complete your tasks. Keep in mind what projects you want to allocate more of your budget for. Maybe you'd like to save money on painting your rooms by DIYing but would like to splurge on smart appliances. It's completely up to you and your budget! 

            3. Do One Part of the Home at a Time
              Simple, right? Pick one part of your home that is on your plan and work on it to your satisfaction. If you are planning on a bathroom and kitchen remodel, wait until the one is completed to start the other project. You don't want to overwhelm yourself and bite off more than you can chew physically and financially. 

            4. Always Look for Inspiration
              Remember those home improvement shows we mentioned? Watching them can serve as great inspiration for your bathroom or kitchen remodel. Seeing how nice dark cabinets look after a remodel of someone's home on TV might be one of the reasons you opt for a darker hue for your new cabinets.

              Plus there are many ideas you can find online on sites such as Pinterest. Most of them will even provide tips for completing the project.  

              Another good source of inspiration could be your family and friend's homes. If you've had a friend recently complete a remodel in their home ask them for tips, what they DIYed, and if they used a contractor for certain aspects of their project. 

            5. Improve to Increase Value
              If you just moved in, you might not be thinking of your resale value at the moment. But, if you work on home improvement projects that are known to increase value, you'll thank yourself later if you end up listing it among the other Baton Rouge homes for sale. Projects that are known for increasing value are energy-efficient updates, new windows, or adding a bathroom. 

            Looking for more home improvement tips or help finding your first home in the Baton Rouge area? Contact us today! 

            February
            17

            7 Tips for Moving to a New State

            Moving to a New StateAny move - even if it's just down the street - requires a great deal of time and organization. But when you're moving to a new state, your list of things to do becomes longer and more complicated.

            Our REALTORS® suggest the following seven tips to help you make your move to another state as smooth as possible:

            1. Start with a Checklist
              Keep an ongoing checklist of what needs to be done and give each item a deadline. Add to your list as you think of additional tasks, so you'll stay organized and focused on what you need to do and when you need to do it by.

            2. Do Your Research
              Find out everything you can about your new home before you move. You'll be able to learn what the average high and low temperatures are, how much in taxes you'll pay, the quality of local schools, and places you may frequent, such as shops and restaurants. This research will help you feel at home more quickly after you make your move.

            3. Find a New Home
              A real estate agent in your new state can help you find a home before you make your big move. He or she will know the area well and have inside knowledge of its housing market. This can help your home search go more quickly and will leave you more time to take care of all your other moving tasks. Also, when you make your move, you'll get to know your neighbors and will get to explore what your new community has to offer.

            4. Secure a New Job
              If you don't already have a job lined up out of state, search job sites and contact any friends and family already in the area to try to secure employment. This can take a massive weight off your shoulders and give you a way to quickly meet people and become a part of your new state. It can also make your finances more stable after you move.

            5. Let Your Friends Know
              Send an email to your friends sharing news of your move, also including your new address. You can also post your plans on social media, text them, or go old school and mail cards containing the pertinent information.

            6. Understand New Requirements
              States often give you a certain amount of time after you become a new resident to get a new driver's license and license plate. The requirements vary by state, so you'll need to check their Department of Motor Vehicles website or give them a call to see what documentation you'll need and how much time you'll have to get your new license and car tag.

            7. Hire a Reputable Moving Company
              Ask friends, co-workers, and family members for moving company recommendations. Depending on your budget and on how much of the move you'd like to take care of yourself, you can hire help for large items or for everything in your home. 

            Contact us if you're moving to Louisiana and are looking for Baton Rouge homes for sale. Our knowledge and experience can help make your move go as smoothly as possible as you become a Louisiana resident. 

            February
            10

            What You Need to Know About Using a VA Loan in 2020

            VA Loan

            Will you be relying on a VA loan to purchase a home this year?

            Many individuals are eligible to finance their homes using the VA loan program. This immensely helpful assistance program helps our veterans secure a home that meets their lifestyle and financial needs. Our team has experience helping our active and retired military members, which is why we've created this quick guide informing all veterans of the changes to VA loans occurring in 2020.

            These programs will enable you to secure financing without requiring a down payment or mortgage insurance. It's common for VA loan program rules to be adjusted slightly due to new legislation or modifications to the program based on industry changes.

            Changes Taking Effect on January 1st, 2020

            On January 1st, 2020, a new law will go into effect that expands VA disability benefits and impacts home loan limits.

            The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 became law in June and will go into effect immediately in 2020. This law was created to provide relief to veterans who served in the Vietnam War, specifically those who suffered medical complications that were presumably caused via exposure to herbicides or "Agent Orange." These individuals can provide financial compensation from the VA to treat their conditions.

            How Does this Impact VA Loan Benefits?

            The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 addresses many other issues, along with Agent Orange medical compensation. This law affects a variety of factors that those serving during the Vietnam-era, Korean-era, and Gulf War-eras can benefit from, including removing restrictions on VA loan limits.

            Currently, if you wanted to purchase a home using a VA loan that costs more than the FHA limit, you would have to contribute a down payment that covers roughly 25 percent of the difference. Luckily, this new law removes the loan limit veterans are eligible for, allowing them to purchase homes of higher value without requiring a down payment.

            Also, there are loan fee changes associated with this new law. When receiving a VA loan, many veterans are subject to a "funding fee" unless they are receiving disability benefits from the VA. As the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 goes into effect, it will eliminate this fee for Purple Heart recipients as well. However, all other veterans will see a funding fee increase from 2.15 percent of the loan amount to 2.30 percent. Fees for those who are not first-time homebuyers with the VA loan will see fee increases from 3.3 percent to 3.6 percent.

            The removal of loan caps and the small increase in funding fees is believed to make homeownership more accessible for veterans while funding the medical coverage for those who were injured during the Vietnam, Korean, and Gulf Wars.

            For veteran assistance buying Baton Rouge homes for sale, contact us today! Our REALTORS® will help you navigate the VA loan changes and secure the home of your dreams. 

            December
            16

            7 Helpful Tips for Buying Your First Home in 2020

            Buying a Home in 2020

            2020 is nearly here, and there's no time like the present to start planning for your first home. Amazing Lafayette homes for sale are waiting!

            There are lots of reasons people put off buying their first home. Our REALTORS® have the advice to give you a leg up in the new year.

            These seven tips will clear the path to a home in 2020:

            1. Start Saving for a Down Payment Early
              If you only save for a few months, it's better than nothing! A more significant down payment offers all kinds of benefits. It may net better rates on your mortgage loan, and it will give you more flexibility about the amount you borrow. If your down payment is around 20%, you may even be able to skip certain types of mortgage insurance.

            2. Pay Off Any Debts You Can
              The debt you carry has a big impact on how lenders view your loan. As a rule, housing expenses should not cost more than about 30% of your income. Even a few small debts – a $35 credit payment here or there – can change the equation in your favor. Don't take on new loans or mortgages, but don't close credit card accounts: Your total credit eligibility works in your favor.

            3. Determine How Much You Can Afford
              Deciding how much house you can afford is a multi-step process. It not only includes the cost of buying and maintaining your home but also your other obligations and any income fluctuation. A holistic view of your finances is essential. It's a good idea to set up a detailed budget and have everyone who will contribute money to the household review and comment.

            4. Get Preapproval From a Lender
              Preapproval is an essential step toward securing your mortgage loan. This is when you submit documentation of your finances and learn the loan amount you're qualified for. Although this isn't a formal loan agreement – that comes after you select a home – it is close enough that you can bid on homes without delay.

            5. Connect With a Great Real Estate Agent
              A real estate agent will help you navigate all the best neighborhoods in your area of choice. Take your time with the decision of which agent to work with. Asking plenty of questions will leave you with a better sense of an agent's knowledge and whether you feel comfortable.

            6. Stick To Your Budget (Or a Little Less!)
              Once you have preapproval, you have a reasonably good idea about your price range. However, always leave extra in the budget for closing costs. Closing costs can range from 2% to 5% of the property's sale price. It is crucial to leave room for closing, so you don't have to scramble for last-minute financing.
               
            7. If An Opportunity Arises, Negotiate
              There are times when negotiation can save you thousands of dollars. For example, a home inspection may turn up issues that need to be fixed immediately. Or, you may discover the other party is motivated to sell and will trim the price to accelerate the process. Your real estate agent can help you choose the right approach.

            We've supported hundreds of first-time buyers throughout Lafayette, Acadiana, and the Gulf South. To get started, contact us.

            November
            25

            Guide to Closing Costs for New Home Buyers

            Guide to Closing Costs

            We make it our duty to support and educate our clients. Our real estate agents are true experts helping people buy and sell homes!

            One area that raises a lot of questions for buyers is closing costs. Closing costs consist of a variety of administrative fees involved in turning legal ownership of a home over from one person to another. Most of the professionals whose work supports the transaction, such as attorneys and tax experts, are paid from this amount.

            Other matters are settled by your closing costs, too: For example, insurance payments.

            Closing costs can add anywhere from 2% to 5% to the total cost of your transaction. Many buyers seek to shift the costs to the seller or add them to the mortgage package. That requires savvy negotiating and clarity on your goals. No matter how you approach them, some closing costs are unavoidable.

            Below are the categories of closing costs you'll find in all transactions:

            1. Lender Fees
              This can be expressed as a single "origination fee" or include an itemized list with processing fees, a credit check, taxes related to title transfer, flood certification as needed, courier fees, appraisal costs, administrative fees, and others. All of these represent different costs incurred by the mortgage loan provider that is recovered from the homeowner.
            2. Title Company Fees
              The vast majority of your closing fees are related to the title, the legal document that proves ownership of a property. You can reduce these costs by comparing different title services in your area. The title company is responsible for issues like title search, title insurance, and settling. In effect, they ensure that nobody else can claim to own the property later.
            3. Prepaid Costs
              Insurance obligations related to buying a home are usually set up through an escrow account. Prepaid costs include homeowners insurance and property taxes. One year of your homeowners insurance must be paid upfront along with about two months of premiums. You may also be required to pay anywhere up to six months of property taxes, which can be prorated.
            4. Discount Points
              Discount points are an optional expense equal to 1% of the loan amount. You can choose to buy them when you are settling your closing costs. The discount points you purchase are converted to lower your interest rate. Buyers with strong cash flow may wish to pay more upfront to maintain a lower cost of ownership, but it is entirely up to you.

            In general, the more cash you can bring to a transaction, the less you'll ultimately pay in closing costs. In addition to discount points, it's possible to get exemptions from some prepaid costs if you make a down payment, usually 20%.

            You should discuss your financing and negotiation options with your real estate agent. Your agent can maximize your leverage in reducing certain costs or shifting them to the other party in the transaction. By comparing several different lenders, you're more likely to get the best deal.

            Contact us today to find out more. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

            November
            11

            What to Look for in a Starter Home

            Starter Home in Baton RougeFirst-time home-buying can be stressful and confusing if you aren't prepared ahead of time. However, just because you're looking for a starter home doesn't mean you should sacrifice all of what you hope to gain in return. Baton Rouge homes for sale offer a wide variety of possible options to get you into your first home without needing to compromise your expectations. When you're ready to get the ball rolling, there are a few things you should look for in a starter home.

            Starter Home Limitations

            You may have a vision of what your first home will look like, but that vision may not align with financial and other considerations. You don't necessarily have to lower your expectations and settle for something less., but you should be aware of what your confined limits are in terms of lot size, mortgage payments, and what you are financially and physically able to keep up with. Buying a home is a huge commitment. While you may not be able to get everything you want right away, you can always upgrade or remodel. That's the beauty of owning your own home – it's yours to do with as you please! Knowing your limits also includes:

            • Being flexible to negotiate with what you're looking for
            • Ensuring all your financial obligations are in order
            • Not getting carried away with adding things you don't necessarily need

            The home-buying process has to make sense for your specific needs and wants, but you don't need to compromise what you are willing to accept. You must be realistic in terms of what is best for you in the short and long term.

            Benefits of Starter Homes

            Starter homes are widely available and, in most cases, they cost less due to the size and limitations of the home itself. This is not to say you can't find something to your liking, but these homes are for people looking to establish themselves as homeowners. Along with affordability and other financial obligations, some things to consider include:

            • The convenience of location and commuting to work/school
            • Selecting a property that's easy to maintain
            • Consideration of future plans, such as growing your family
            • Possible exit strategy if you need to relocate in the future

            When considering an exit strategy, you may not necessarily need to resell your home, but instead, you could rent it out and keep it as an investment property.

            Buying a starter home is a great way to get you and your family into a place you can call your own. Our REALTORS® can help you find the perfect location for you while keeping you within the limitations of what you're looking for and able to afford. When you're ready to take that first step, contact us and we'll get you started on the right path to finding your new starter home.

            November
            4

            10 Tips for Saving up for a Down Payment

            Saving for a Down Payment

            Saving up for a down payment can seem like a daunting challenge at first. However, with a little planning and some adjustments in your spending patterns, you can save up for a down payment using these tips from our REALTORS®.

            1. Set a Savings Goal & Benchmarks to Reach
              You will want to save between 5-20% for your down payment. Creating a goal gives you a target for your savings. Plus, having benchmarks along the way will help you track your progress and motivate you to continue saving.
            2. Set up a Separate Account
              Setting up a separate account for your down payment savings makes it easier to shield those funds from everyday expenses. Another suggestion is to have money automatically deposited into this account each month.
            3. Trim Your Spending
              It is vital to cut unnecessary spending from your budget. Cutting down on that daily coffee shop trip, cutting the cord on your cable, turning the thermostat down, etc. generates substantial savings. Saving a few hundred dollars a month on discretionary spending may not seem like much, but it can add up to thousands of dollars per year.
            4. Investigate Home Buying Programs
              There are numerous programs available for first-time homebuyers. These programs vary by state and county. Many offer housing discounts, low-interest loans, and grants that you can use to save a bundle.
            5. Take on Side Gigs
              Doing a little extra work on the side can boost your savings. Freelancing, taking a second job, or renting a room out can increase your income from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars more per month.
            6. Research the Market
              While you are saving, you will want to watch the market closely. You will want to keep a close eye on real estate values in the area. This will help you narrow your search to properties that fit within your budget.
            7. Pay off Credit Cards
              Credit cards can have extremely high interest rates that can sap your ability to save money. Pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first, and then chip away at the rest until the balances you carry are as low as possible. This will also help boost your credit score and lower your debt-to-income ratio, which will help you qualify for a better loan package.
            8. Ask for Cash
              Instead of coffee makers and clothing, ask family members to give cash gifts for birthdays, Christmas, weddings, etc. Deposit these gifts directly into your down payment savings account. If applicable, you can also ask for an advance on any inheritance, distributions from life insurance policies, etc.
            9. Shop Strategically for Food
              Food is one of the most significant expenses each month, and you can cut your spending by shopping strategically. Cutting coupons, buying in bulk, and buying food when it's on sale can add up.
            10. Reward Yourself
              It is easy to start saving; it is much harder to keep saving. Reward yourself when you achieve savings benchmarks. For every milestone reached, set a small reward to help keep you motivated towards your goal.

            Contact us to learn more about real estate trends and saving up for Baton Rouge homes for sale

            October
            21

            Rent No More: Signs It's Time to Buy a Home

            Rent no More

            There comes a time in most people's lives when they consider trading a lease for a mortgage. As the deadline for signing your next rental contract approaches, you may be wondering if now is the right time to buy a home.

            Our REALTORS® know this is not a decision you can make overnight. However, most people who choose to invest in a home often have spotted the signs it's the right time. If any of the following signs have popped up in, it may be your golden opportunity for homeownership.

            1. You believe you're wasting money renting…
              Are you paying a high sum each month approximately similar to mortgage payments in your area? Does your rent pay for amenities you don't need or use? If you keep signing monthly checks yet feel like you're not getting your money's worth, it may be time to invest in the space with features you desire.
            2. …Especially if your rent keeps increasing.
              No matter where you live, monthly rental prices will likely continue to climb. Some will only rise a few dollars each cycle while others jump astronomically with your renewal contract. If you're not getting the most out of your complex and your increasing rent is costing you hundreds, purchasing a home becomes a more financially sound option.
            3. You move every few years to find cheaper or larger apartments.
              Of course, you can always try to find a complex with specials or incentives to reduce your payments, but that involves moving. Even if you're moving solely to increase your space, too many moves can wear on your family and finances.
            4. Your family is growing.
              If your family is growing, you'll need space to accommodate these new needs.
            5. Your financial situation is secure…
              Purchasing a home takes significant financial planning. However, if you've increased your credit score, paid down your debts and saved up for a down payment and closing costs, you may be in the best financial position to make an offer.
            6. …As well as your career.
              If you've been at your office for years and plan on staying, you've undeniably developed roots in your career. Now it's time to consider planting those same roots in a house.
            7. You are at a transitional period in your life…
              There are milestones in life that open up ideal opportunities to make a significant life decision like buying a home - like graduating or getting married. Either way, it might be time to take a step toward homeownership.
            8. …And so are your kids.
              Moving can be tough on children, but it can be made easier by moving them as their school years come to a close. By moving before the start of elementary, middle, or high school, you allow your kids to adjust to new surroundings and make new friends.
            9. The market is in your favor.
              The real estate market is in favor of the buyer, presenting opportunities to match your dream home to your budget. If the market looks promising, now may be the time to score a deal.
            10. It feels like the right time to settle down.
              Sometimes, it feels like the right time in your life to settle down and have a home to call your own. 

            If now is the right time for you to stop renting and start owning, contact us. We'll show you Lafayette homes for sale that cater perfectly to your unique needs!

            October
            14

            8 Tools Every First-time Buyer Needs

            Tools for New Home BuyersYour offer on a house just got accepted! Before you know it, you will be moving in! As a first-time homebuyer, you are probably anxious to start making changes and decorating your new home! Customizing your home is great, but it is easy to let your excitement and eagerness get the best of you and could leave you potentially underprepared. That's why our REALTORS® are here to help!

            Let's talk about tools. Specifically, which tools you're going to need after purchasing your first home. All of the "to-do's" on your list, whether they involve maintenance, repairs, installations, or decorating, can only be completed with the help of certain essential resources. Here are eight tools we believe every first-time homebuyer needs:

            1. Hammer
              A hammer is more than meets the eye. There are different sized hammers like the small ball-peen hammer and different style hammers such as sledgehammers and brush hammers. We recommend a claw hammer, which is the typical standard hammer. Find one made from a reliable manufacturer with high durability and shock absorption.
            2. Screwdriver Set
              Next, you need to think about getting a screwdriver. You'll need both flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers in varying sizes. Some manufacturers make screwdrivers with interchangeable heads so you can get a bang for your buck.
            3. Level
              If you don't use a level while you're hanging your décor, don't be surprised if you're tilting your head to see your wall art. A level will give you the perfect line every time so you'll never have to eyeball and keep pivoting picture frames.
            4. Stud Finder
              Always try to hang items securely in the beams behind your wall. Most pieces of drywall aren't strong enough to hold heavy items, which means your frames may come crashing down if they're not in a beam. A stud finder will easily show you where these beams are so you can hang with confidence.
            5. Tape Measure
              The space in an empty home can be deceiving, making it difficult to determine whether or not a particular piece of furniture will fit in a room without trying to move it in first. This is why a tape measure is an essential tool to have. Not only can you measure furniture before you move it all around the house, but you can also take it with you to measure items before you buy them.
            6. Cordless Drill
              A screwdriver set is resourceful, but some jobs require a cordless drill. Buy a cordless drill set with a handful of different sized drill bits and a second rechargeable battery so you'll never have to cut your project short.
            7. Pliers
              A set of pliers are a convenient resource to have for a variety of uses. They can cut and skin wires, tighten or loosen nuts and bolts, and pick up objects in places where it's not safe or practical.
            8. Extra Screws, Nails & Anchors
              You've got a whole set of tools that can complete a series of projects around your home — but your hammer, screwdriver, and drill won't get anything done without screws, nails, and anchors. When you head to the hardware store to pick up your tools, grab a few packs of wood screws, drywall anchors and nails.

            Ready to pick out a fixer-upper and transform a Lafayette house into your dream home? Contact us today!

            October
            21

            Factoring in Commute Time for Your New Home

            Commute Time in Baton Rouge

            When browsing homes in Baton Rouge, it's easy to focus your attention on the aesthetic of the home, the amenities of the neighborhood, and other important features. However, there's one important factor some hopeful buyers don't consider soon enough — the commute time to work.

            Our REALTORS® believe your commute time should be one of the most important factors you weigh in your home buying decision. Your commute time to work will impact your life almost every day, which is why it should always be factored into the home-buying process.

            Consider Your Current Commute Time

            Think about your current commute time to work. How many miles do you travel roundtrip? Does the commute time fluctuate if you're traveling at different times of the day? Are you a parent who needs to drop a child off at school or an employee who needs to make frequent stops before arriving at the office? Consider all of these factors:

            • Your stress level and ways of commuting impact your health.
            • Your time spent commuting on average.
            • The cost of commuting, including vehicle wear and tear.
            • How flexible your employer is in regards to your arrival and departure time each day.

            Time Investment
            Your time is an important factor to consider. Even if your drive doesn't stress you out, does it cut into the time you need after-hours to live your life fully? If being stuck in daily rush hour traffic forces you to miss out on important moments in your life, you should reconsider a long commute. Remember, you aren't getting paid extra for a longer commute, and you won't be able to regain that time spent.

            Financial Investment
            You should consider the monetary investment your commute requires. This includes gas, tolls, transportation passes, car maintenance, and other costs that will only subtract from your gross take-home pay. If you find that you're spending thousands of dollars each year commuting, you're effectively lowering your salary.

            Career Flexibility
            Depending on your role or employer, commuting long distances may put you in a pickle. If you need to be at work on the dot, a long commute with heavy traffic could cause you to be late. Similarly, if you're an employee that's on-call or may have to travel around town at a moment's notice, living far from this area could be a huge inconvenience.

            Your Health
            Before you consider all other factors, remember your health is always your number one priority. Some studies have shown that extended commuting times can contribute to several physical and psychological health issues, which increases if you have a career with high levels of stress. If you believe a shorter commute would positively impact your health, you should look for homes for sale closer to your office.

            A long commute is not always an inconvenience or a stressful occurrence. Many people choose to live in the suburbs and commute into a city regardless of time commitment. If you believe that your health, career, family, or finances will be negatively impacted by an extensive commute to work, we suggest looking closer to your office.

            Find Baton Rouge homes for sale with a convenient commute to work. Contact us to get started!

            October
            7

            Moving Tips for Seniors and Retirees

            Retiree Moving Tips

            As your lifestyle needs change over time, so too will your housing needs. Many older adults discover their larger family homes are a little too big to maintain after children move out. If you're enjoying retirement or looking to retire soon, you may consider moving into a smaller, more manageable home. Our REALTORS® understand downsizing to a new space is easier said than done, which is why we've gathered a list of moving tips for retirees and older adults.

            • It's Never Too Early to Start Planning
              Chances are the decision to retire didn't just pop up out of the blue. Most adults have an approximate timetable of when they plan to retire, which is why it's wise to begin considering relocating or downsizing as you near this date. This involves assessing retirement finances to see what you can afford comfortably, evaluating your changing lifestyle needs, and engaging family members to communicate your plans. With their help and support, you can create an effective plan you'll be able to manage smoothly.

            • Go Through Your Belonging Over Time
              Moving is quite a feat, especially when you're deciding what to keep and what to discard. Instead of making all of these decisions at once, utilize your timetable to start periodically going through your possessions. You can begin with easy sections of your home, such as clothing, spare furniture, and holiday decorations. Sentimental items you find should be either placed in a dedicated space or written down on a list, so you know that you'll need room for them. Any other items can be marked for donation or sale.

            • Budget for the Physical Move
              Moving requires time, effort, and money — thankfully, you can control how much of each you spend if you plan accordingly. If you want to hire movers, plan on adding that into your budget. If you're going to pack and move on your own, determine how much time you'll need and who might be able to assist you.

            • Shop for Homes that Cater to Future Needs
              When you downsize, you must choose a home that will accommodate your lifestyle changes for the next few years. Consider how much physical space you need, whether or not you want to navigate stairs, and if you require certain amenities close by. Ideally, you should choose a space allowing you to enjoy your retirement without inconveniencing you or your health.

            • Understand the Emotional Impact
              Whether you're moving from your newer dream home or the house your children grew up in when you relocate you should be prepared for the unavoidable emotions. These are all-natural, and it's perfectly normal to feel slightly sad closing this chapter of your life. Rest easy knowing that this decision is best for your lifestyle needs and this next chapter will allow you to make more happy memories.

            • Be Ready With Essential Supplies
              It may be a while until you unpack, which is why you should pack a few boxes or suitcases with your essentials you can unpack immediately. This includes clothing, pots and pans, dishes, toiletries, and any other personal items you may need right away.

            Don't be afraid to ask for advice. Contact us today, and we'll help you find Baton Rouge homes for sale that cater to your needs. 

            September
            23

            How to Buy a House While Selling Your Current Home

            How to Buy a HouseBuying a home is a huge decision. Selling a home is an equally important endeavor. Buying a home and selling a home at the same time? Now that's an impressive feat! It may sound overwhelming, but believe our REALTORS® when they say you can buy a new home while selling your current home. We've gathered our years of knowledge and experience with Lafayette homes for sale to help you buy a house while selling your existing home.

            1. Ask For & Accept Help 
              Before you list or make an offer, you probably already realize that dual real estate transactions will leave you with your hands full. The best first step you can make in this process is to request and accept assistance from a qualified REALTOR®. You don't want to be stuck with two mortgages, and you don't want to chance jeopardizing either sale. Enlist the help of a trusted REALTOR® who will go above and beyond to help you navigate these separate real estate transactions.
            2. Decide Whether to Buy or Sell First
              This decision is up to you. If you can reasonably afford the cost of two homes, then locking in your dream home before you sell your current home may be the right move. If you decide to sell your home first, you can negotiate with your buyer to allow you to rent back your former home until you close on your new home. This will enable you to complete the sale of your old home while still buying you time for finding and securing your new home. Alternatively, when you sell your home, you can delay the closing if the buyer agrees to give you a month or so to purchase a new home.
            3. Prepare for Buying & Selling
              Depending on which option you choose, you're now ready to either make an offer on a new home or list your current home. To reduce the gap time between the two, you should immediately prepare your home for buyer offers. Have the home inspected professionally and stage it appropriately so it's ready for the market and no surprises will pop up later during an inspection. Price your home reasonably and get ready to consider diverse offers. To prepare to buy a home, you should have your finances in order. Get pre-approved for a mortgage and identify what funds you'll use as the down payment.
            4. Let Your REALTOR® Help You Facilitate Both Transactions 
              As you venture further into the buying and selling process, you may be juggling a lot of paperwork, deadlines, and requests. Thankfully, an experienced REALTOR® can help you navigate each of these transactions, ensuring everything goes according to plan. They'll guide you through the process, step by step, communicating with all parties fluidly. Most importantly, they'll be there for you through thick and thin, resolving any hurdles and celebrating both successful sales with you!

            Are you interested in selling your current home and purchasing one of the fabulous Lafayette homes for sale at the same time? Contact us today, and we'll help you accomplish all of your real estate goals!

            September
            30

            7 Habits of Successful Home Buyers

            Successful Home Buyers

            Our REALTORS® work to ensure every transaction is a success for their clients. But did you know showing Baton Rouge homes for sale is only part of what we do?

            We also provide clients with strategies to get to closing day faster and easier.

            Buying a home can seem complicated, and it's an exceptionally tall order for those who've never done it before. Luckily, we have some steps to improve your odds of buying your dream home.

            Here are seven habits of highly successful home buyers:

            1. Clarify Your Goals Early On
              What are the most important features you want in a home? What about surrounding amenities? Make a list of 3-5 "must-have" items. Your partner and any older children should do the same. This way, you can find areas of commonality and focus on properties that satisfy everyone.
            2. Find an Amazing Real Estate Agent
              Even if you don't choose us, make sure to select your real estate agent carefully. Find someone with plenty of local experience which provides prompt attention and answers all your questions. If you're not entirely comfortable with an agent, keep looking.
            3. Get Organized
              The early stages of getting a mortgage loan to involve paperwork. This is an uphill slog at first, but you only have to do it once. You'll need 3-6 months of recent pay stubs and 2-3 years of tax filing paperwork for most lenders to evaluate your financial health.
            4. Comparison Shop on Everything
              When buying a home, absolutely everything is up for negotiation. Start by making sure you talk to several real estate agents before picking the right one for you. Then, do the same with lenders, neighborhoods, and finally, homes. This is what puts the power in your hands.
            5. Be Proactive About Credit
              Most people have imperfect credit, but even if your credit is stellar, you can make tweaks that may improve your loan. Pay off any credit cards or other debts you can. Avoid closing or opening any credit accounts. And check your credit report for inaccurate info you could get removed.
            6. Know What You Can Afford
              Many home buyers find themselves with a range of loan options. Some discover their maximum loan offer is much more than planned! To choose a sustainable loan, start with a detailed household budget, including all your mortgage and other home expenses. Home expenses should be less than 30% of your take-home pay.
            7. Be Ready to Walk
              Even if you find the perfect home, it's crucial to be ready and willing to walk away during your negotiations. Combined with your real estate agent's negotiation skills, this mindset will protect your interests. Remember, there are many homes out there you'll love to call your own.

            No Matter What Stage of Buying You're In, Expert Advice is Essential

            For first-time buyers, navigating real estate can be like wandering a hall of mirrors.

            Even if you're months away from being ready to make an offer on a home, don't hesitate to reach out to your friendly local real estate agents. Expert advice can get you on track, dispel worrisome real estate myths, and save you time in the long run.

            Contact us to find out more. 

            August
            5

            You Can Buy a Home with Student Loan Debt

            Home Buying and Student Loan Debt
            Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. And if you're one of the 44 million Americans still trying to pay off their student loans, you've probably wondered how it will affect your ability to own your own home. 

            Buying a house – especially if it's your first house – is stressful enough without having to worry about whether your student loan debt will squash your dreams of homeownership. Our REALTORS® are here to help, and to let you know that yes, it is still possible to become a homeowner if you have outstanding student loans.

            • Know where you stand with student loans
              As surprising as it may sound, many people don't know what's going on with their student loans. It's essential that you know exactly how much you owe, whom you owe it to, and what your payment options are. Keeping track of these important points will make it easier to stay on top of your loans and manage your finances well. 
            • Keep an eye on your credit score
              Your credit score is one of the main factors that lenders use to determine whether they will be willing to offer you a home loan. The good news is that your student loan debt probably won't have any adverse effect on your credit score, as long as you've been keeping up with your payments. To maintain a good credit score, remember to pay your bills on time, diversify the types of credit you use, and work on improving your credit utilization (the ratio between the amount you owe, and the amount of available credit you have). 
            • Talk to a lender
              Before you start looking at houses, it's a good idea to talk to a mortgage lender about your options. Most lenders will be perfectly willing to give you advice based on your current situation without any obligation to apply for a loan. Doing this early on will give you a more accurate picture of how you can work on your finances, and what your price range may be for a new home. 
            • Work on your debt-to-income ratio
              Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio reflects your monthly debt payments as a percentage of your monthly income. Lenders will use this ratio to determine if you would have enough income left over, after all, your other payments, to pay back a home loan. Many lenders use what is known as the "28/36 qualifying ratio," which essentially means that you should spend no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on housing, and no more than 36 percent on debt. Because your DTI has two components – debt and income – you can improve it in two ways: pay back existing debt, earn more money, or both.
            • Look for down payment assistance
              A number of down payment assistance programs are acceptable to lenders, and many are available even to first-time homebuyers with student loan debt. You may be able to qualify for federal programs like an FHA Loan through the Federal Housing Authority, which would mean a down payment of as little as 3.5 percent. You could also qualify for a VA loan if you have served in the military, or a USDA loan if you're buying a home in a rural area. 

            If you're trying to buy a home with student loan debt, we're here to help. Contact us today to learn more about your options. We've helped countless families find Lafayette homes for sale that match their needs and budget. We can get you on the right track on your road to homeownership.

            August
            19

            A Final Walk-Through Checklist for Home Buyers

            Final Walkthrough Checklist
            Buying a home seems like a process with an endless number of steps. But if you've made it far enough for your final walk-through, then congratulations are in order. You're really in the home stretch now, and our REALTORS® are here to make sure that your final walk-through is a success. Here's what you need to know:

            Have Your REALTOR® With You

            The main purpose of a final walk-through is to make sure that the house is in the condition you agreed to buy it in, and it's always best to have your REALTOR® with you. Doing your final walk-through alongside a professional will make this crucial step much easier, bringing an added understanding of the home buying process and a seasoned eye for detail.

            Bring the Essentials

            Don't arrive at your final walk-through empty-handed! Make sure you have all these essential items so you can ensure that your future home is in good shape:

            • Your final contract, so you know what should and should not be in the house when you buy it.
            • Notepad and pen, so you can quickly jot down any questions or observations as you walk through the house. 
            • Your phone, so you can take pictures of anything you need to make a record of.
            • Phone charger, in case your phone dies, but also so that you can make sure the electrical outlets are functional.
            • Inspection summary, to double-check that all necessary repairs have been completed.

            Be Thorough

            You have a lot of items to check as you perform your final walk-through, so leave no stone unturned. This is one of the reasons it's great to have your REALTOR® with you – they can help keep you on track and make sure everything gets checked. Be sure to include these important items on your final walk-through checklist: 

            • Verify repairs. If the seller was required to make any repairs, carefully check that they have all been made. 
            • Check items included in the sale. Home sales can include anything from appliances and furniture to carpets and window blinds. Make sure everything is there that's supposed to be. 
            • Test windows and doors. Make sure all the windows and doors open and close without sticking, and also that all the screens are present and the locks work properly. 
            • Inspect bathrooms thoroughly. Inspect for mold and water damage. Make sure all toilets run and flush properly without leaking. Check all faucets and showerheads, and make sure all drains flow freely. 
            • Check the condition of the kitchen. Mold and water damage can be issues in kitchens too; be sure to check under sinks, inside cabinets, and behind the fridge.
            • Make sure all the appliances work. Any appliances included in the house should be in good working order, from microwaves and stoves to washers and dryers.
            • Try out the heating and A/C. Turn on the furnace to make sure it works, even if it's the middle of summer; same goes for the air conditioning. 
            • Test the electricity. Plug a phone charger into each outlet to make sure it works.
            • Look for signs of pests. Check every room in the house, but especially the attic and basement, for signs of mice, insects and other pests. 
            • Tour the property. Make sure the landscape looks like you remember it, and check all hoses and irrigation to make sure they're functional. 

            Contact us today to learn more about the final steps you need to take before your dream home becomes your own! From finding the perfect Lafayette home for sale to your final walk-through, our team is with you every step of the way. 

            August
            5

            Boosting Your Credit Score to Buy a Home

            Baton Rouge Credit Score

            If you're planning on becoming a homeowner, you're probably well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Countless factors can either open the door to homeownership or close it. For better or worse, your credit score is one of those factors, and our REALTORS® are here to help make sure that little number doesn't hold you back. Here's what you need to know about how to improve your credit score to buy a house. 

            Why does a credit score matter when you're buying a house?
            A credit score is certainly not the only consideration that will determine your ability to get a mortgage, but it's a big one. Lenders look at credit scores as a measure of financial trustworthiness – a reflection of how reliably you pay off your debts. If your credit score is low, a lender might worry about your ability to pay back a home loan. 

            Buying a house with bad credit isn't impossible, but it can be a whole lot harder. Even if you are able to get a loan, it probably won't have the terms and conditions you'd prefer. Buyers with low credit typically only qualify for subprime loans, which come with much higher interest rates, so it pays to work on your credit before you start shopping around for a lender. 

            What is good credit?
            So, what makes a good credit score, and what makes a bad credit score? There isn't always an easy answer to that question. Each lender will have her own idea of what score is acceptable, so if your score is somewhere in the middle of the range between good and not-so-good, your results will likely vary depending on where you seek out a loan. But in general, credit scores break down as follows: 

            • Exceptional: 800-850
            • Very good: 740-799
            • Good: 670-739
            • Fair: 580-669
            • Poor: 300-579

            How can you improve your credit score?
            If your credit score is in the mid 700s or higher, you probably don't have to worry too much about whether or not you can get a mortgage. But if you're anywhere south of that range, it's worthwhile to try to boost your credit score before trying to get a loan. Luckily, there are several ways you can accomplish that goal: 

            • Get a credit report. You can get a free credit report online, so it's important that you do so. Look over your report to identify problem areas, and keep an eye out for mistakes that might be dragging down your score. 
            • Pay down your debts. Paying off your debts will have the biggest and fastest effect of your credit score. Most importantly, pay off any bills that are past due, and keep them current. Paying your bills on time can show real improvements on your credit score in as little as 30 days.
            • Improve credit utilization. The amount you can borrow versus the amount of debt you're carrying is known as credit utilization, and it makes up 30% of your credit score. The more available credit you have, the better, so work on paying credit card bills to free up credit. 
            • Open up a secured credit account. If you have bad credit or no credit, apply for a secured credit card (which usually requires a small deposit). Use it to pay small, recurring bills each month and keep your payments current. 

            If you're in the market for Baton Rouge homes for sale, our team is here to help you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about how you can improve your credit score to make your dreams of homeownership a reality. 

            August
            19

            New to Baton Rouge? 9 Ways to Meet Your Neighbors

            Baton Rouge Neighbors

            Once you move into one of the wonderful Baton Rouge homes for sale, meeting your neighbors is the next step in putting down your roots. Mister Rogers greeted his "neighbors" with a musical invitation, but in real life, the singing ability is not required.

            Use these simple but effective tips to meet your new neighbors and begin establishing a positive presence.

            1. Smile
              A genuine smile is one of the most basic yet powerful tools of personal interaction. Smiling demonstrates that you're warm and approachable, and it instantly brightens the other person's day. Be sure to smile and say hi with everyone you encounter.
            2. Scope Out the Neighborhood
              If you observe carefully, patterns regarding your neighbors begin to emerge. Which homes include kids? Who spends a lot of time on gardening and yard work? Any cycling enthusiasts? Not only does this give you an opening for conversation, but you'll quickly determine if you have any common interests.
            3. Hit the Streets
              Walking is the best way to explore your new neighborhood. As you encounter others, ask relevant questions such as where to find the best pizza joint. People generally appreciate a chance to be helpful and share their opinions. Getting out and about also helps turn you into a familiar face in the neighborhood.
            4. Keep It Short and Sweet
              Few things turn people off as much as someone who doesn't know when to quit. No need to share your life story when first meeting your neighbors. Also, stay away from intrusive personal questions which could mark you as a nosy neighbor. Keep initial conversations brief and let relationships develop at their own natural pace.
            5. Pay Attention to the Little Things
              So it's late in the evening on trash pickup day and your empty bins are still sitting at the curb. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but those are the kinds of things that can grate on neighbors' nerves. Take your cues from others in the neighborhood and learn the "unwritten rules."
            6. Leverage Social Media
              Many neighborhoods are using sites such as Nextdoor and Facebook to create online groups for information sharing. Find out which groups are established in your area. Once you join, don't be a "lurker." Membership is more valuable when you participate.
            7. Take an Active Role
              Show your commitment to making the neighborhood a great place to live. Sign up for neighborhood watch, join a carpool group, or take part in local Meetup events.
            8. Lend a Helping Hand
              Seemingly minor tasks such as helping a neighbor unload groceries can pay big dividends in goodwill points. Conversely, ask a neighbor for a small favor, whether it's the loan of a tool or the classic cup of sugar. When thanking them, make sure to express your willingness to respond in kind.
            9. Throw a Party
              Inviting neighbors into your home is a nice way to get to know them without the pressure of one-to-one conversations. It doesn't have to be a big, formal blowout. Select a few people to come by for a casual get-together. Post-move is a good time because no one will expect you to go all out. You can even get away with asking guests to bring extra chairs or snacks.

            Our REALTORS® go the extra mile to make sure you're comfortable in your new home. For friendly and experienced help with your Baton Rouge real estate needs, contact us.

            July
            22

            7 Habits of Successful Home Buyers

            Successful Home Buyers

            Buying a home for the first time is definitely a learning experience. There are a lot of details, new terminology and plenty of decision making. Many first-time buyers find the whole thing can be overwhelming at times. But it doesn't have to be. Remember you have control and can take actions that will greatly increase your chances of successfully purchasing one of the Lafayette homes for sale you've been dreaming of. 

            Start incorporating these seven home-buying habits today, and you'll be on your way to changing your house hunt from aggravating into awesome.

            1. Look at the financial big picture. Take the steps necessary to financially prepare to purchase a home. Check your credit report, get educated about the types of financing and interest rates available, and figure out your budget. These steps all lead up to getting a mortgage pre-approval before you shop.
            2. Educate yourself about the process. There are a lot of steps to buying a home and a lot of new terminology and concepts to learn about. Familiarizing yourself with them before you start will help you know what to expect, when to ask questions, and when to make changes.
            3. Have the right team behind you. There are several professionals you'll need so it is important to take the time to find the right ones. Our REALTORS®, your lender, a home inspector, insurance agent, an attorney can save you time and headaches with their expertise. They can give recommendations and advice, and confirm that everything is correct.
            4. Be methodical and organized. Have a plan. Think about your wants and needs in a home before you shop. Have financial paperwork in order and available when you need it. Plan out when you will be able to look at homes and meet with your agent. The structure will keep you accountable and allow the process to move forward as quickly as possible.
            5. Have realistic expectations. Expecting to find a pristine mansion in an exclusive neighborhood, far under the price you'd pay for something much smaller will set you up for disappointment. When you start house hunting, it can seem like everyone has some incredible story about an amazing deal. There are exceptions, but keep in mind most people end up with a great home that meets most of their needs for a fair price. Knowing what kinds of homes and amenities are available in your price range and what a reasonable asking price is will ultimately help you reach your goal of purchasing a home. It will also help you recognize a good deal and a good investment when you see one.
            6. Flexibility is key. It's important to remember that you may have to give up something to get something else. Know ahead of time where you're willing to compromise. Many buyers change their minds about their wants and needs after seeing several houses, and that's okay. Be willing to negotiate on price, inclusions or repairs. Being flexible will help you find win-win situations that can make the deal happen.
            7. Be proactive. Being focused and engaged during all parts of the process and realizing that you will have to make a consistent effort to achieve your goal. You will routinely need to communicate with your real estate agent and other professionals, schedule appointments and showings, gather information, express opinions, and ask questions. Consistently moving forward and taking the next step will help you tremendously.

            Buying a home is a big decision and it takes some effort to get there. But there is a lot you can do to help ensure your success. Contact us today to get started your home-buying journey.

            July
            15

            Move-in Ready vs. New Construction Homes in Lafayette?

            Move in Ready

            Our REALTORS® spend much of their time showing prospective buyers new home developments around Lafayette. One of the first decisions many buyers make is whether to pursue new construction or move-in ready Lafayette homes for sale.

            There are pros and cons to each approach, but no wrong way to go. Your decision will depend in large part on your goals and the lifestyle you plan to lead here in Louisiana. Either way, a local real estate expert is an essential ally in finding the right home with the best price and timeline.

            Here are the four significant differences between new construction and move-in ready:

            1. Time
              The question of time is the biggest one since it affects all of the others.

              Purchasing an existing home is by far the faster of the two options. If you're in a time crunch – for example, starting a new job soon – you'll usually want the option that leaves you with solid, reliable housing faster. Moving into an existing home should take no longer than 60 days.

              Building a home from scratch, on the other hand, is something of an undertaking. With the right home building company, a lot of the hard work will go on behind the scenes with no extra worries for you. Still, you should expect to wait somewhere between four and six months.

            2. Budget
              On average, custom homes will cost more per square foot than prebuilt ones. If you're willing to compare builders, however, you can find deals that may reduce costs to nearly the same levels. For example, builders working within their own subdivision can control costs better.

              On your own parcel of land, there's a unique environment for builders to contend with.

              Prebuilt homes are less expensive overall because the structure and amenities are all in place. Still, you should factor into your decision in the quality of the house and the land. Get a professional home inspection before you commit to bidding on any home.

            3. Location
              When building, you have the option of purchasing your own lot or building in a new construction community. The latter tends to be easier, with a streamlined buying process that can take the sting out of both the wait and the expense.

              The location also affects the available housing. For example, building your own home is common in small towns since properties for sale may be few and far between. On the other hand, finding undeveloped land in urban centers is difficult, but older homes are placed on the market regularly.

            4. Complexity
              Buying a prebuilt home is a more straightforward choice. In most cases, you can get much of what you want without having to grapple with decision fatigue. This is crucial for people who have busy, hectic schedules – raising a family, dealing with a challenging career, or both.

              Yes, there's a lot to think about when you buy any home. That said, a real estate agent can highlight prebuilt homes that meet your needs. On the other hand, complexity is part of what you're investing in when you choose new construction. You have control over the floor plan, colors, and finishes.

              Either option can be fulfilling, so your priorities determine what matters most.

            When you get started buying a home, the options can seem limitless. Narrowing them down is the first step in deciding on an approach that will satisfy your needs best. A real estate agent with deep insight into the local market can get you started on the right foot.

            Contact us today to learn more.

            July
            8

            You Can Buy a Home with Student Loan Debt

            Baton Rouge Student

            The media, financial advisors, and even real estate experts are calling the current $1.5 trillion national student loan debt anything from a "crisis" to an outright national emergency.  While there's certainly cause for concern, living a normal life, having a family, and even owning a home isn't out of the picture even if you have student loans.

            Our REALTORS® are plenty familiar with the challenges that student loan borrowers face as they enter into the workforce including homeownership.  The bottom line is, you can buy a home with student loan debt, and here's how.

            Monitor Your Credit and Improve It
            If you're a first-time homebuyer, chances are you haven't looked too deeply into your credit and perhaps have never had to.  This is a great place to start if you're looking to buy a home with student debt on the books.  

            It's estimated that on average, student loan borrowers owe somewhere in the neighborhood of $35,000 each.  This sort of debt obligation can hurt your credit, but it can also show that you're worthy of credit if you make timely, regular payments on your loan note.  Additionally, if there are places you can improve your credit such as reducing or eliminating credit card debt, then you can improve your credit score relatively easily.

            Your Debt May Be An Asset
            Depending on your view of your student loan debt, it may actually be one of your greatest assets.  Assuming you put that debt to good use and earned a college degree, chances are that your earnings are higher at your age than they were when your parents joined the workforce.

            What this means is that the return on your investment may very well be worth the extra debt and additional payments you have each month.  You're likely to be in a better financial situation with your income than the Baby Boomer generation which means you can likely afford to buy a home sooner.  All of that to say, leverage the added income you have and put it towards homeownership.

            Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
            Provided you've done your homework thus far by monitoring and improving your credit and paying down any debts that are holding you back, then you should seriously consider applying for a mortgage and getting pre-approved.  Pre-approval simply means that based on the snapshot of your personal finances, a lender is willing to give you a certain amount of money for a mortgage.

            This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be a major boost to your home search because you have a better idea of how much you can spend on a home and allow you to understand what payments you can make.  Additionally, pre-approval will likely lock you into a favorable interest rate that will be protected from rising in the future.

            Getting approved for a mortgage along with mapping out your future student loan payment options can give you a very firm grasp on exactly what you can expect from likely your two biggest monthly expenses.  From there, you can shop for a home within a fixed price window.

            If you're looking for Baton Rouge homes for sale, then contact us to see our current inventory and get started with one of our local real estate pros who can help you find the home you want!

            June
            10

            9 Tips for New Home Buyers in Lafayette

            New Home Buyers in Lafayette
            It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding the perfect property. This can distract you from the crucial details you should focus on before making your first home purchase. Our REALTORS® are here with nine tips to making your dreams of homeownership come true.

            1. Start Saving Early.
              The more you save, the less you will pay in interest and private mortgage insurance throughout the life of your mortgage. Depending on the type of loan you want, you will need to save between 3% to 20% as a down payment. In addition to saving, research your loan options to determine whether a VA, FHA or conventional mortgage is best suited for your purchase.
            2. Polish Your Credit
              Cleaning up your credit takes time, and it is advisable to start this process long before you start looking at listings for Lafayette homes for saleYou should dispute errors and pay down balances on credit cards and installment loans. It is also recommended to hold off on applying for new credit until after you have purchased your home.
            3. Calculate Your Budget
              You don't want all of your income going towards your home. Most people spend between 25-30% of their monthly budget on housing expenses. Any more than this can make it difficult for you to enjoy your home and address any emergency expenses that may pop up in the future.
            4. Get Preapproved
              Securing a mortgage pre-approval can help you determine "how much home" you can afford to purchase. It also helps give you leverage during the negotiations because home sellers will know you are capable of buying the property or walking away from the deal.
            5. Research the Market
              You should thoroughly review real estate trends so that you know what neighborhoods are increasing in value, what features/amenities are popular in the region, and what developments are occurring in the community that will affect home prices in the future. 
            6. Attend Open Houses.
              Attending open houses lets you take a peek at the types of properties on the market that fall within your budget. It allows you to pick up ideas regarding landscaping, and interior design to incorporate into your new home.
            7. Save for Settling in.
              There are always expenses that arise when you start to move into a new home. In addition to setting up utilities and conducting minor repairs, you will want to budget for rugs, appliances, furniture, etc. so that you can make the home your own.
            8. Focus on the Future.
              Find a home that fits not only your present lifestyle but also your future needs. Will your home be large enough if you're planning to start a family or if an elderly family member moves in with you. Make sure the home has sufficient space and is in the right proximity to schools, shopping, healthcare facilities, and other amenities.
            9. Protect Yourself
              Shop for the best homeowners insurance policy. Make sure that you are protected against fires, "Acts of God," and other disasters that can unfold like floods, tornadoes or infestations, 

            It is essential to find a real estate agent with experience helping first-time homebuyers. Contact us for help taking the steps towards buying a home in Lafayette.

            April
            8

            Budgeting The Way to Your First Home

            Budgeting for First Home

            As a first-time homebuyer, you can streamline the purchasing process significantly by taking the right steps to prepare for the costs of buying a home, especially if you enlist the help of a trusted real estate agent. Saving for your first home is so much easier when you have a clear budget and a strong understanding of exactly what your expenses will be. Our real estate agents are here to help, with a step-by-step guide for budgeting your way to buying your first home.

            Turn Dreams into a Home-Buying Reality

            1. Evaluate Current Housing Budget and Key Expenses
              It's critical to have a clear overall picture of your current budget and expenses to understand what you can spend on your future home. Knowing your expenses, and how comfortable you are with that number, will give you a better grasp on the type of budget that will work for your first home. Look at all of your current housing expenses, and compare them to the costs of owning a home.

            2. Track What You Spend
              If your current budget isn't leaving enough money to save for your first home, then it may be time to take a closer look at how you can cut down expenses. That starts with tracking what you spend, both on necessities and recreation. Eliminating unnecessary expenses should be a priority for first-time buyers because doing so will make it easier to land the right home for your budget.

            3. Analyze Costs of Target Homes and Neighborhoods
              Now that you have a better idea of your current expenses, how much you spend, and how much you can save, it's time to start looking at what type of home will be right for you. Lafayette homes for sale – like homes in any city – vary in price based on neighborhood, amenities, local attractions, schools, and more. Assess what you want from your neighborhood, what you need, and how much it will cost to purchase a home in your target destinations.

            4. Save for Your Down Payment
              With an idea of your expenses, a head-start on saving money, and a sense of what homes in your target neighborhoods will cost, it's time to start saving for a down payment. It's never too early to start saving for your down payment. Speaking with a mortgage lender will help you understand what it will take to buy a home, and getting pre-approved makes it easier to plan for your future mortgage payments.

            5. Prepare for Your Mortgage Payment
              If possible, it can be helpful to do a "trial run," and set aside the amount that you would be paying for a mortgage for a few months into a savings account. It will give you an idea of the monthly payment that you can handle, and you can later use put the money you set aside toward your down payment.

            6. Additional Expenses when Buying Your First Home
              Budgeting for your mortgage payments and a down payment is crucial, but don't forget about the other expenses that come with purchasing a home. Things like moving, closing, buying new furnishings, and maintenance all come with a cost. Your real estate agent can help you plan for the added expenses that come with purchasing your first home. 

            Are you still searching for the right real estate agent to help you? Our REALTORS® are here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout the Lafayette, LA area.

            Latter & Blum
            430 Notre Dame St.
            New Orleans, LA 70130
            (866) 794-1022
            Disclaimer: All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. All properties are subject to prior sale, change or withdrawal. Neither listing broker(s) or information provider(s) shall be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, misprints and shall be held totally harmless. Listing(s) information is provided for consumers personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing. Information on this site was last updated 12/04/2022. The listing information on this page last changed on 12/04/2022. The data relating to real estate for sale on this website comes in part from the Internet Data Exchange program of Houston Association of Realtors (last updated Sun 12/04/2022 12:32:26 AM EST) or Fort Polk MLS (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:30:06 PM EST) or Greater Southern MLS (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:35:12 PM EST) or Greater Baton Rouge MLS (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:30:40 PM EST) or GSREIN MLS (last updated Sun 12/04/2022 1:09:58 AM EST) or Bayou MLS (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:20:45 PM EST) or Pearl River MLS (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:24:17 PM EST) or GCLAR MLS (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:12:09 PM EST) or MGCMLS (last updated Mon 10/04/2021 9:31:53 AM EST) or Realtor Association of Acadiana (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:22:29 PM EST) or Southwest Mississippi MLS (last updated Sat 12/03/2022 11:15:23 PM EST) or MLS United (last updated Sun 12/04/2022 1:36:09 AM EST). Real estate listings held by brokerage firms other than Latter & Blum may be marked with the Internet Data Exchange logo and detailed information about those properties will include the name of the listing broker(s) when required by the MLS. All rights reserved. --

            Privacy Policy / DMCA Notice / ADA Accessibility

            Agency License Information: Latter & Blum is licensed in Louisiana by the Louisiana Real Estate Commission. Latter & Blum is also licensed in Texas and Mississippi.


            Login to My Homefinder

            Login to My Homefinder