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Stephanie Villani
REALTOR®, GRI, ABR, SRS
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Articles Tagged "First-time buyers"

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Community Guides | 50 Posts
Home Tips | 6 Posts
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
9

Home Improvement Tips: 7 Projects You Can Do This Weekend

Home Improvement

When you think of home improvement projects, stressful renovations that cost lots of time and money may come to mind. But many projects that can improve the look and/or function of your home can be completed in just a weekend. You might be surprised at the number of easy projects that can make a big impact with a relatively small investment of time.

Whether you're planning on staying in your home for a while or are planning on listing it soon, our real estate agents suggest the following weekend home improvement projects:

  1. Create an inviting entrance to your home.
    A spruced-up entrance can boost your home's curb appeal and make it more inviting for guests. Paint your front door a bold color like one from the red family and add some spiffy new hardware. Add some potted plants near the entrance for a touch of color and greenery, and replace your welcome mat with one you've painted yourself or buy a new one that makes a statement.

  2. Add crown molding.
    Almost any room can look better with the addition of crown molding, but this is especially true for rooms that have high ceilings. The molding creates a unifying effect that makes the ceiling feel like part of the room's overall design. And if you have just a few hours, adding crown molding is a good project, even if you don't have any woodworking experience.

  3. Replace the light fixture in your eating area.
    A fresh light fixture can create a new look in your eating area. Choose one that has the look you want and emits the right amount of light, so you have the right combination of design and function. To replace your existing lighting, turn off the power at your home's breaker box and connect the wires.

  4. Add a window box.
    Add a window box to your home's exterior and fill it with colorful annuals, perennials, or succulents. Best of all, you can enjoy the flowers outside or inside your home, since the tops of plants and flowers will be visible above the window frame. Buy a window box ready-made and add plants, or make your own. Some home improvement stores sell materials in pre-cut sizes, but if not, most will cut the materials for you, so you don't have to.

  5. Replace your cabinet hardware.
    Choose hardware for your cabinets and drawers that reflects your personal taste. Simple metallic hardware is also a good choice, but if you're looking for a unique hardware, check antique shops.

  6. Install a new showerhead.
    If you don't have a low-flow showerhead, install one to save money on your water bill. Even if you already have one, it may not have the features you want. Many new versions are more efficient than previous ones and have features like multiple spray styles, pivoting angles, and temperature settings.

  7. Update your walls with paint or wallpaper.
    Paint and wallpaper are easy ways to transform the look of a room. You can use both if you'd like and freshen your walls with paint while using wallpaper on a single feature or accent wall. You'll also find paintable wallpaper available, with raised details and a wide variety of texture effects and designs.

Looking for Baton Rouge homes for sale? Stop by one of our Baton Rouge open houses or contact us to get the help you need.

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!

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. 

    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! 

    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! 

    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
    16

    Don't Do These 5 Things During the Closing Process

    Closing Process Tips

    When you're ready to close on your home, you probably feel as though you're near the finish line. Although this is true, you'll need to be careful not to make a mistake that could delay closing or put your loan approval in jeopardy.

    Our real estate agents warn against doing these 5 things during the closing process.

    1. Make a Big-Ticket Purchase  
      When you're buying a home, you may have your eye on some large purchases, such as new furnishings, appliances, or other items for your new dwelling. You might be tempted by a furniture store line of credit or think it won't hurt to add some new purchases on your credit card. After all, your mortgage has already been approved, and you're about to close on your home, so what harm could it do? As it turns out, your credit is still being monitored. Any large purchases could change the ratio of your income to debt, putting your mortgage loan in danger or causing you to pay a higher home loan interest rate for years to come.

    2. Change Jobs   
      Changing jobs during the closing process can complicate matters greatly. Your mortgage lender has agreed to your loan based on your employment history as well as your current job and income. If you have a new job, this may cause issues since your lender may call the employer you originally listed on your loan application in order to re-confirm your employment. In addition, if you take a lower-paying job, your lender may not be able to offer you the same loan amount.

    3. Open or Close a Line of Credit
      Your credit report and score play a large part in your ability to get a mortgage as well as in determining what interest rate your pay. Until the closing process is completed, you should keep your credit stable by not opening or closing new lines of credit. Opening a new line can make a lender think you could easily max out your card and have trouble paying your mortgage. And although closing an existing line of credit may sound like a good financial move, it can cause trouble with your mortgage loan since it removes that credit history and affects your length of credit. This can negatively impact your credit score.

    4. Make a Large Deposit 
      If your lender sees a large amount of money deposited into your banking account without an obvious explanation (such as a tax refund), this can be a cause for concern. That's because your lender may view it as a loan that has to be repaid and require proof – through a bill of sale, pay stub or letter from a person who gifted you the money – that this isn't the case.

    5. Check your Credit Report   
      Leave your credit report alone as you prepare to close on your home. Even if you find a mistake in it, don't try to correct it before you close on your home. Disputing an error can cause another inquiry and report to be generated, which could delay your closing.

    Contact us today at Latter & Blum if you're interested in looking at Baton Rouge homes for sale. We can guide you through the entire process, from pre-approval to closing, so it proceeds as smoothly as possible.

    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
    11

    7 Things You Need to do After Buying a Home

    Buying a Home Lafayette

    Our real estate agents know buying a house can consume a lot of energy. Expert advice helps, but when you get to closing day, you probably just want to relax. It's time to celebrate, but don't overlook the vital things you need to do now!

    Whether you've been hunting for Lafayette homes for sale or houses elsewhere in Louisiana, the basics are the same. A few quick tasks help you get the most from your place.

    Here are the most crucial things:

    1. Secure Your Home
      As soon as you move into your new home, it's time to make sure it's secure: Change the locks on the front and back door and the locks or codes on the garage. If you have a security system, be sure the account has passed to you and call the help desk to update codes there, too.
    2. Purchase or Review Your Home Warranty
      A home warranty is completely separate from your homeowner's insurance. Instead of covering damage to your home, it covers the cost of repairs for major appliances. Depending on what you have and how old it is, this can be a good deal, but it needs to be completed within a month or so of moving in.
    3. Check Your Smoke and CO Detectors
      Your smoke detectors are your first line of defense in the event of a kitchen fire or other accident. And although carbon monoxide leaks are very rare, the gas is colorless and odorless – so a CO alarm is a must. Both of them usually operate on small, inexpensive batteries that can last for years.
    4. Prioritize the Most Important Maintenance
      Odds are good that the process of buying your house included paying for a home inspection. If there are any urgent priorities on the list, be sure to start thinking about them. Write down what you want to do in the coming month, three months, six months, and a year.
    5. Find the Circuit Box
      Before you start to hook up all your electronics and appliances, find the circuit box, and test each breaker to see where it goes. You may need it in an emergency. Likewise, sometimes you can counteract power outages by flipping affected breakers.
    6. Forward Your Old Mail
      The United States Postal Service enables you to quickly update your address online so that your mail can be forwarded. Also, consider updating your address with the IRS and update all of your accounts, such as credit cards and membership subscriptions.
    7. Clean and Paint
      Even with the best of intentions, the old owners may leave your new home in need of cleaning – such as a carpet deep clean. Give yourself a week off, then break out the cleaning supplies. Consider the current state of your paint and decide whether you need a fresh coat, inside or out.

    There are many stages of "moving." These simple tasks are easy to get done, but they'll help you make your house a home. To learn more about local real estate, contact us today.

    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.

    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
    8

    Baton Rouge a Top Metro Area for Gen Z Buyers

    Gen Z Buyers

    Recent data indicates that the Baton Rouge metropolitan area is a hit with Gen Z homebuyers. Though exact date ranges vary, the Gen Z label usually refers to someone born between the years of 1995 and 2010. Those early Gen Zers are the ones starting to emerge in the Baton Rouge market with purchase power.

    Besides the obvious factor of age, there are several other noticeable differences between Gen Z and other types of buyers. This includes the prices of the homes they purchase and what attracts them to a potential property. 

    A Look at the Gen Z Buyer

    The average purchase price for a property bought by a Gen Z buyer is $160,600. This is significantly less than the $256,500 average purchase price of a property purchased by a millennial homebuyer. On average, listing prices for homes that Gen Z buyers purchase are 25 percent less than the national median asking price. Gen Zers are forgoing the conventional 20 percent downpayment; instead, the average downpayment for a Gen Z homebuyer is only five percent of the home's purchase price. 

    Understanding Gen Z's Buying Preferences

    The markets that Gen Zers are attracted to tend to have affordable housing options that make the dream of homeownership an attainable reality.

    Most Gen Z homebuyers are early in their careers and don't have the purchasing power of other generations who have had time to grow their salaries. They're drawn to affordable housing markets in part due to necessity. 

    Since it appears Gen Z homebuyers are comfortable making smaller down payments, this enables them to become homeowners sooner rather than later. As a whole, Gen Z tends to value individual expression. They are willing to purchase a more affordable home that allows them to customize the property to their unique needs and stylistic preferences.

    The Appeal of Baton Rouge to Gen Z Buyers

    The Baton Rouge metropolitan area ranks as the tenth top housing market for Gen Z buyers. Baton Rouge is a growing area that has a median age of 36. Approximately 46.52 percent of people who reside in the Baton Rouge area are under 34 years of age. Baton Rouge boasts a median home value of $156,400, making it a top choice for budget-conscious Gen Zers. 

    There are a lot of other traits that make Baton Rouge homes for sale a hit with Gen Zers. Baton Rouge has a lot of fantastic restaurants and attractions, and it's a highly walkable city. Gen Zers looking to live an eco-conscious lifestyle or lower their vehicle-related expenses appreciate housing that enables them to walk to their job and favorite hangouts. 

    Ready to make the move to Baton Rouge? Our REALTORS® can help clients find great homes that span a variety of price points. Contact us today to learn more about homes that fit your budget and have the traits that you're searching for.

    August
    6

    Home Buying for Multigenerational Families

    Multigenerational Home
    Multigenerational homes have become increasingly popular in the last decade, and the trend doesn't look like it's slowing down anytime soon. The configurations vary, with grandparents coming to live with their children, or parents shopping for a home with their adult children. While there are several advantages to a multigenerational home, it's important to know what to shop for to find a home that can accommodate everyone under one roof. Our REALTORS® love helping you find the right home, and we've got some home-buying tips for all the members of your family.

    • Decide Who Will Be Living Under One Roof
      Buyers shop for multigenerational homes for many reasons, and sometimes the pressure is on to find a multigenerational home quickly because a member of the family had a significant life change. Whenever possible, sit down to consider who will be living in the home, how long they'll be staying, and what they will need from the home.
    • Consider the Needs of Each Generation
      Let's say you're shopping for New Orleans homes for sale to find a multigenerational home. The first step is figuring out what each generation will need, and that usually starts with privacy. That may mean private living spaces, a separate apartment-style dwelling within the home, or another dwelling attached to the home. Think about which parts of the house each generation will share, and where everyone will go when they need time for themselves.
    • Separate Living Spaces for Privacy and Comfort
      Separate living areas are often key to keeping everyone happy in a multigenerational home. People usually spend a lot of time in the common areas, but even the most tight-knit families probably don't want to spend every minute together. Private spaces can be as simple as separate master suites for sleeping, or provide entirely separate spaces for cooking, eating, relaxing, and resting.
    • Find an Experienced Real Estate Agent
      Shopping for a multigenerational home is different than shopping for a single-family home, and the right real estate agent can make the process much easier for you. The right agent will already have an idea of the types of multigenerational homes available in the area. They can help you identify a home that suits the unique needs of your family.
    • Research Popular Home Types in Target Markets
      The types of multigenerational homes available to you will depend in part on the market where you're shopping, and the home designs popular in that area. In some communities, duplexes or split houses are very common, while in others you'll find homes with dedicated guest spaces that can double as living spaces. Your real estate agent should be a big help in discovering what's available, and deciding what layout will work best for your multigenerational family.
    • To Buy or to Build
      It's possible to find the perfect multigenerational home without building one from scratch, but it doesn't hurt to consider all of your options. If you need a specific layout for your multigenerational home, or you can't find a fit in your target neighborhood, there are plenty of custom builders who can assist. Your real estate agent can help you find the right lot, in the right neighborhood, if you're planning to build your own home.

    Searching for a real estate team that can help you find a home that will make every generation happy? We can help. Contact us at Latter & Blum REALTORS® to buy and sell homes throughout the New Orleans, 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. --

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


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