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YOUR REAL ESTATE MARKET WATCH

Welcome to Episode 1!

 

Here is where you can find some of the "inside" info as to what is happening in the real estate market, tips for preparing your home for sale, new financing tools, and more.

 

A little background first, as we start our new real estate blog. NW Oregon Realty Group has been in business in Silverton, OR since 1994. We started in Ginni Stensland's Victorian home at the corner of 2nd and Main. We then moved to our current location when we purchased the building at 119 N Water St . Most of the original agents are still with us (a few have retired), and we have added additional agents for a current total of 15. They are all full time professionals dedicated to aiding their Sellers and Buyers through the process of either Selling or Buying.

 

We have been fortunate to have attained the Number 1 market share position in the Silverton, Mt. Angel market for many years.

 

We have kept up with the use of current tech tools: website/mobile website/QR Codes/Instant 24/7 Hotlines/Virtual Tours, and more in order to better serve our Sellers and Buyers.

 

Tune in to our Market Watch (now that introductions are over) for some up to date real estate info. We might even throw in a "true life" real estate story from time to time for your amusement.

 

Thanks to all of our past, and current clients and customers. We so appreciate your business and on going referrals!

 

Till the next time,

 

Connie Hinsdale
Principal Broker/Owner
Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group

MAYBE THE TIME IS NOW

Many folks were severely impacted by the market crash in 2008 +. One of the major impacts was on those folks who owed more on their homes than the market would pay. Some did "short sales" (bank settles for less than owed), some went in to foreclosure, and many just "rode it out".

 

With our current market moving from a Buyer's market to a Seller's market, as well as a shortage of inventory, values are increasing. Now is a good time to contact our office, and ask for a no cost or obligation market analysis to determine the value of your property. You may now be in a position to finally "get out" of the home your in, and into your dream home, or even downsize if that is your game changing plan.

 

Remember please--there is NO COST OR OBLIGATION to get the information you are seeking. We look forward to helping you!

Four Tips for Financing Your First Home

Buying a new home for the first time can be somewhat intimidating, but it’s also very exciting. Thankfully you aren’t the first home buyer to ever go through the process, and there are plenty of tips you can brush up on to make the process simpler and more efficient.

1. Check Your Credit

Like it or not, your credit score is one of the most important factors in qualifying for a home loan. The days of having to pay for your credit report seem to be over. There are plenty of sites that will allow you to review and monitor your credit report and score for free.

Check for mistakes and report them if you find any. Learn more about how to make positive changes to your credit score and implement them. Allow yourself plenty of time before you are actually ready to buy so your credit score can go up which will save you money.

2. Have Documents Ready

When you apply for a mortgage you’ll need documentation of your income and taxes. Many lenders require two recent paycheck stubs as well as your W-2s for the last two years and your tax returns and past two months’ worth of bank statements. Having these ready to go can save you time and avoid having to come back later.

3. Get Pre-Qualified

Decide how much you can afford to spend even before a mortgage lender lets you know how much you qualify for. You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio and add in your down payment to see where you stand as far as what you can afford. A mortgage lender can pre-qualify you which means you won’t have to do it individually for each house you are interested in.

4. Determine Your Down Payment

It can be difficult to come up with a significant down payment. Many states allow you to take out an assistance loan which is both interest and payment free and forgivable after five years. These are actually more like grants and can be a great help to first-time homebuyers. Speak with your lender for more information.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer in the Silverton, Oregon area, contact Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group at 503-663-8423.

How to Find the Best Neighborhood for You When Moving

When it comes to what’s important when buying a home, one of the age-old phrases you hear is “location, location, location”. That old adage still holds true today. Unless you’re buying a multi-million-dollar custom built home chances are you can find a home with a layout and design comparable to something you’ve seen in another area.

 

Whether you want to be located close to work, school, certain attractions, nightlife, dining, shopping, or any other number of things, location is one of the most important considerations when buying a new home. So how do you go about finding the best neighborhood for you and your family?

 

One of the first things you should do is make a list of which qualities you want and don’t want in a neighborhood. This includes factors like noise, the age of the neighborhood, the average age of the residents who live there, and much more.

 

Be sure to visit each neighborhood you are considering both during the day and at night. Make sure there aren’t any unexpected surprises or that you don’t feel uneasy. Don’t be afraid to cross neighborhoods off your list and start from scratch; you don’t want to settle for something you won’t be comfortable living in.

 

Talk to other people who live in the neighborhood and ask the local police department for crime statistics. Check out test scores for the nearby schools and be sure the area will work for you for at least five to seven years. Check out the home values in the area and the commute times for private or public transportation. Look into the local property tax rates and evaluate other cost of living factors.

 

Once you’ve narrowed it down to one of two neighborhoods you’ll be ready to start looking at individual homes. Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group at 503-455-4050. We can help you find the right home in the right neighborhood.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Home

Buying a home is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. Between the time you decide to buy a home and the time you actually make the purchase, ask yourself the following questions so you can find the perfect home for you.

 

  1. How’s my credit score?  Buying a home is the most expensive purchase you’ll likely ever make. Paying interest on your mortgage payment is a necessary evil, but a good credit score can lower that amount. Luckily there are plenty of things you can do to increase your credit score including being current on all payments and improving your debt-to-income ratio. You might find that taking a few months to raise your credit score will end up saving you a lot of money over the course of your mortgage.
  2. How long do I want to stay in this area?  Buying a home is a big commitment, and you can’t just pick up your house and move it to another area. Many experts recommend not purchasing a home unless you plan on staying in it for at least five years. During that time your home may increase in value, so you’ll be able to sell it and move somewhere else if that better suits your needs.
  3. Can I afford all the costs associated with owning a home?  That’s great that you can afford your mortgage payment, but there are plenty of other costs associated with home ownership. Don’t forget about taxes and insurance in addition to utilities, repairs, and maintenance costs. You’ll need to take care of your lawn or backyard and unexpected expenses can actually be quite common.

 

If you’re looking for a new home in the Willamette Valley area, call Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group at 503-455-4050.

What to Look for When Looking at a House

 

If you’re shopping for a new home, you’ll certainly want to see it in person. Many first time homebuyers are under the impression that they’ll “know it when they see it”. Sometimes that does happen, but not always. Unfortunately, your dream home might be out of your price range, but chances are you can find something you still love if you know what to look for.

 

Going to look at homes without a plan can be a waste of time. The following tips can give you a better idea of what to look for or what questions to ask when you start checking out potential properties.

 

Start the tour on the way to the home. Drive slowly and take note of what types of businesses, schools, churches, or any other places you’ll want to visit are nearby. See if you observe public transportation, potentially noise areas, airplanes overhead, and any other possible negatives.

 

Check out the outside first. While the inside of the home is the most important, spend a couple minutes looking at the home’s curb appeal. Consider whether or not you’ll have to put a lot of money into paint, windows, roofing, fencing, etc. Think about whether or not there is enough parking for your family and if the home feels safe and secure.

 

Take notes. If you’re visiting multiple homes, it becomes easy to get them confused with each other. Take notes on paper or on your smartphone, and take plenty of pictures while you’re at it. You can go back later and reconsider your options. 

 

Test out or ask about various systems. This includes the water pressure, the condition of the pipes, the furnace and water heater, electrical outlets, and more. If the power is on feel free to test out all the lights and outlets. You can purchase an inexpensive receptacle tester at your local hardware store.

 

To schedule a tour of homes for sale in the Willamette Valley area, call Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group at 503-455-4050.

Benefits of Working with an Experienced Agent

We live in an era of “do-it-yourself” projects. Whether you’re remodeling your bathroom or crafting a centerpiece, all you have to do is surf the net, do a little research, and voila! You’ve found a tutorial for doing it on your own. When you’re selling a house, though, you might want to rethink this approach. While self-reliance is admirable, there are many benefits to be gained by working with an experienced agent.

  • Selling your home is too important to leave to amateurs. Yes, there’s plenty of information on the web about how to sell your own home. On the other hand, this is the agents’ job, as well as being their area of expertise. Do you really want to manage the sale of your most important asset, relying on your own experience and know-how? Something this important should be handled by someone who knows what to do, and has done it many times before.
  • You’ve got other things to do. Our lives are hectic, and there’s much to do. If you’re selling a home, you’ve already probably got extra tasks on your plate, as you get the home ready to sell and keep it in “showing” condition. Do you really want to be fielding phone calls and talking to people who see the “for sale by owner” sign and decide to drop in? Leave all that to an agent, and spend your time on the other important things in your life.
  • Experienced agents have the inside scoop. Realty agents have access to the most reliable, up-to-the-minute information about properties in your area. They know how much homes are selling for, and they know how long they stay on the market. All this information gives them an edge in finding the right price for your home so that you can find the right buyer quickly.
  • An agent has connections. Just as they have access to a wider range of information than you do, realty agents know exactly who to call for all things related to selling homes. For a first time seller, it may be astonishing to learn how many people are involved in the sale of a home! Home inspectors, contractors, and closing attorneys are just a few of the people you may need to hire, and an experienced agent can cut out the guesswork when it’s time to find the right people.
  • Agents know how to market. In addition to having connections and access to more buyers, realty agents have marketing resources far beyond yours. They can help you prepare your home for the market, by making simple repairs, increasing curb appeal, and staging it exactly right to attract buyers in your area. They know exactly who to hire to get the right photos and videos, how to get the best results from an open house, and how to spread the word about your house so that you have plenty of offers when it’s time to pick a buyer.
  • The red tape on a home sale can be overwhelming. You might save money on closing costs by sidestepping a realty agent. On the other hand, there’s so much paperwork and so many legalities involved in selling a home that it may be worth it to turn that over to a professional. Not only can realty agents handle the negotiation of the sale, but they are also well versed in contracts, conditions, and everything else that goes along with selling a home. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that this very important financial transaction is being handled by a professional may be worth the cost of the agent in and of itself.

Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group has been in business in Silverton, Oregon since 1994. Our agents are full-time, experienced professionals who provide our clients with exemplary service, building relationships instead of just collecting paychecks. We’d love to help you sell your home, but we’re also happy to answer any questions you may have, or offer you a free market analysis, to help determine your home’s value. If you have a home to sell in Northwest Oregon, contact us at 503-663-8423.

How to save money for a down payment

If you’re thinking about buying a house, you may be unsure of how you’ll come up with a down payment. You typically need anywhere between three and twenty percent of the sale price as a down payment in order to qualify for a loan, and that can amount to a hefty chunk of change. With the right strategy, though, you can get together the money you need.

  • First, determine how much you’ll need, and in what timeframe. You’ll need to estimate the desired amount, and set a goal for when you want to purchase your home, in order to make a plan to save for it. Once you know the basic facts, you can start to restructure your budget.
  • Next, look for ways to cut down on your spending. How can you shave a few dollars off each week? Can you go out to eat less, forego your morning latte, or reduce your clothing allowance? Every penny counts when you’re saving for a goal, so take a hard look at where your money is going. You might also consider selling some items, to bring in a little extra cash. Furniture and other household goods can be sold on eBay or Craigslist with minimal hassle.
  • Pay down debt, to make room for savings. If you hold a lot of credit card debt, it can really cut into your budget. Begin paying it off, starting with the highest interest card first. Once you have eliminated that one, apply its monthly payment to the next highest, and so on. You may find that paying off your credit cards frees up several hundred dollars each month, which can go into your down payment account.
  • Automate your process. Unless you’re really good at not spending money, you may need to set things up so that money goes straight from your paycheck into your savings account automatically. Sometimes, the money you don’t even see is money that you don’t miss spending.
  • Make use of your retirement account. First time home buyers are allowed to take up to $10,000 from an IRA to use as a down payment. Are you married? You can each take $10,000, making you $20,000 closer to your goal.
  • Consider laddering CDs. When you get some money saved, think about investing it so that it will grow, and a good way to do this is by purchasing CDs. “Laddering” means spreading your money across different CDs with varied dates of maturity, so that you have flexibility and can adjust your investment in order to get the highest yield.
  • Ask for a gift from a friend or relative. If you know someone who would be willing to help, make the most of that resource. The tax law allows gifts of thousands of dollars to be given with no tax consequences for the giver or the giftee. In 2017 the cap was $14,000 in a year, but it goes up every year to allow for inflation.
  • Look into special programs. There are programs to help first time home buyers purchase a home with little to no down payment. You can look into this on your own, or talk to a mortgage lender, who can point you in the right direction.

When you’re ready to buy a home, consider Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group. Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group has been in business in Silverton, Oregon since 1994. Our agents are full-time, experienced professionals who provide our clients with exemplary service, building relationships instead of just collecting paychecks. We’d love to help you buy a home, and can even put you in touch with trustworthy mortgage brokers, who can help you decide how much you need and how to achieve your home buying goals. If you’re looking for a home in the Willamette Valley, contact us at 503-663-8423.

Mortgages Made Easy

If you’re buying a home, you’re probably going to need a mortgage. The largest loans most people will ever acquire, mortgages are a big deal - but many people don’t really understand how they work. Fortunately, legislation in recent years has cleared away some of the mystery that used to cloak these important loans, making them easier to understand. If you’re taking out a mortgage, here are some things you need to know.

  • Credit matters. It’s hard to get a mortgage when you have poor credit, and if you do manage to get one, you’ll face some consequences due to your credit rating. Get a copy of your credit score before you apply for a mortgage, and see what you can fix ahead of time in order to get a better rate. If your credit is weak, and you don’t have time to fix it, you may need to find someone to co-sign for you, or come up with a larger deposit, in order to qualify for a mortgage.
  • Know whether you want a fixed or adjustable rate for your mortgage. Fixed rate mortgages (FRM) have the same interest rate and monthly payment for the life of the loan. This is great if you don’t like surprises, but the downside is that the interest rate may be higher than the rate you’ll start with on an adjustable rate mortgage. Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) fluctuate with the market, starting out low, and then going up later. The low initial rates are appealing, but it’s important to ask plenty of questions about how high your ARM may go, to determine whether you’ll be able to afford it when it does.
  • Determine the length of time you want to carry a mortgage. Typically, mortgages are either for 15 or 30 years. If you spread the cost over 30 years, you’ll have a lower monthly payment, but if you can afford a higher payment, the 15-year mortgage will save you money in the long run. Of course, the shorter mortgage also means you’ll own your home outright sooner.
  • Understand the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval. Pre-qualification is simply what the lender believes you will be able to borrow, based on information you give during an informal conversation. Pre-approval requires documented information about your finances and gives you a conditional written commitment with a specific dollar amount for which you are approved. It’s a good idea to go through both of these processes before you start house shopping so that you don’t look for properties you can’t afford.
  • Know your rights as a consumer. The CFPB, or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has put some protections in place for borrowers so that they know exactly what they’ll be paying, and what they’ll get for their money. Lenders are now required to present documents three days before closing that detail:
    •  The loan estimate, including the monthly payment, closing costs, total amount of interest you’ll pay, and any prepayment penalty.
    • A five-year comparison of loans, so that you can clearly see how different loans compare before you make your decision.
    • Interest rate lock, if applicable, so that you’ll be able to see if you’re locked into an interest rate and for how long.
    • Closing disclosure, letting borrowers know how much they’ll have to pay at the closure, and where that money goes.

When you’re ready to buy a home, Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group can help. Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group has been in business in Silverton, Oregon since 1994. Our agents are full-time, experienced professionals who provide our clients with exemplary service, building relationships instead of just collecting paychecks. We’d love to help you find the perfect home, and we can also help you find a reputable lender when you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. If you are looking for a home in Oregon, contact us at 503-455-4050.

5 things you should know before making an offer on a property

So, you’re ready to buy a house! Once you’ve found a house you love, it’s easy to get emotional about the process and rush to make an offer, so that no one buys it out from under you. It’s important, though, to take a step back and look at the property rationally, making sure you know what you’re doing before you jump right in. Make sure you know as much as possible about the house, the area, and the process before you sign anything or put down any money.

  1. Get to know the area. The house may be perfect, but how is the neighborhood? You can learn many things online, like the crime rate, local amenities, and reputation of area schools. Some things you’ll have to research in person, though. Take a walk through the neighborhood to see if it feels like a good fit. Talk to neighbors, if possible, both to meet potential friends and to learn of their experiences. Visit the house at more than one time of day and note things like traffic, noise, and activity levels in the neighborhood.
  2. Look beneath the surface. Schedule a home inspection, to rule out any potential problems with the house. In addition to this, find out all you can about the property online, like square footage and sales history. Ask questions of the homeowners, to learn all you can about the house, including why they’re selling, and do a walkthrough, even if you’ve seen the house before, so that you can look at it again with a critical eye and make sure it’s the right place for you.
  3. Make sure you can afford it. The house may be priced fairly, but have you looked into other costs? Ask about utility costs, homeowner’s association fees, and taxes, to get a clearer picture of how it fits into your budget. Once you’ve got a handle on all that, secure financing before making your offer.
  4. Check your commute. You may love your home, but if you spend all your time in traffic to and from work, that love may fade quickly. Map your route, estimating traffic at different times of day, and then actually drive the route, to see how it works in real life.
  5. Have a backup plan. It’s easy to have your heart broken if you commit to one house too quickly. Even if you think you’ve found the house that’s perfect for you, and you’ve got everything under control on your end, there are some things you can’t control. You have to wait for the seller’s response, and even if the offer is accepted, you’ve only just begun the process of negotiating terms. It’s a good idea to have a second and possibly even third option in mind, in case something doesn’t work out with your first choice.

Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group has been in business in Silverton, Oregon since 1994. Our agents are full-time, experienced professionals who provide our clients with exemplary service, building relationships instead of just collecting paychecks. We’d love to help you through the process of finding the right home, in the right area, for you. If you are looking for a home in Oregon, contact us at 503-663-8423.

How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent for You

When you’re looking for a new home, you’ll certainly need an experienced real estate agent to assist you throughout the process. With so many agents out there it can be difficult to determine who to work with. You’ve surely seen lots of yard signs and online advertisements, but how do you know who the best real estate agent for you is?

 

As with many other professionals, one of the first ways you can find a real estate agent is by asking family and friends for referrals. It’s recommended that you briefly interview at least three potential real estate agents to determine which would be best for you. Many experts say you should look for an agent with at least five years of experience, but less experienced agents are sometimes just as talented.

 

Find out if your potential agent is licensed by the state. While doing this you can see if there have been any complaints or disciplinary actions against the agent. You should also look for a real estate agent that does the job full time and not just on the side. It’s often best to go with an agent who is a designated Realtor, meaning they belong to the National Association of Realtors and abide by their strong code of ethics.

 

As well as being a Realtor, there are other specialized certifications you might want to look for which include CRS (Certified Residential Specialist), ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative), and SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist). You can look up your potential agent’s current listings online. Check to see that they don’t have too many to focus on or too few. You can also see how closely their current listings match up with the property you are trying to buy or sell.

 

To learn more about the real estate agents at Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group, give us a call at 503-455-4050.

Useful Moving Tips and Tricks

Moving is usually exciting, but it’s also a lot of work that many people don’t enjoy. From packing up all your belongings to transporting them and then arranging them in your new home, there’s a lot involved. Luckily the millions of people who have moved before you have come up with plenty of nifty moving tips and tricks to make your experience easier and more efficient.

 

  • Make a pile of all the clothing and other items you don’t want or need and donate them to charity.
  • Use up all the frozen food, half open containers, and perishable items in your kitchen so you don’t have to bring them with you.
  • Put in a change of address and update your information with utility companies and other accounts ahead of time.
  • Measure everything to make sure all of your furniture fits so you can be prepared if you need to sell/donate something and buy a new piece.
  • Use newspaper and magazines to pack fragile items but beware of the ink.
  • Never transport empty containers; use trash cans, laundry baskets, and suitcases like boxes.
  • If you need to disassemble furniture be sure to keep all hardware and screws in a labeled plastic bag.
  • Label all boxes with contents and which room they belong in. Also do this on the side in case the boxes are stacked.
  • Take pictures of the back of your TV and other devices so you remember exactly how they should be hooked up when you get to your new home.
  • Create handles for your boxes using a box cutter.
  • Keep your moving day essentials packed in an overnight bag so you don’t have to go through boxes to find what you need.

 

If you’re looking for a new home in the Northwest, call Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group at 503-663-8423.

Why You Should Move to Silverton, Oregon

Whether you’re moving from across the country or across the state, Silverton, Oregon, has something to offer everyone. A growing economy, good schools, and plenty of things to see and do make Silverton an attractive place to call home. If you are thinking about moving to Silverton, Oregon, consider calling Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group at 503-663-8423. Our team of experts know the Silverton area and can help you find your perfect home.

 

Things to Do in Silverton

If you want an interesting place to live, Silverton is an ideal choice. Outside of the peaceful neighborhoods await a bevy of interesting things to see and experience. Nature lovers are particularly in for a treat, thanks to the lush surroundings and well-kept state parks. One of the most popular attractions is Silver Falls State Park. The falls themselves are located a short drive from downtown Silverton, and many locals make the most of this natural attraction by hiking, biking, and more.

If you prefer the urban life, Silverton has you covered. The charming downtown area teams with life, and residents love exploring cafes, restaurants, and more. One of the more distinct features of Silverton hide on the sides of many of these buildings: murals. The murals in Silverton celebrate local heroes and folklore figures, including astronaut Donald Pettit and Bobbie the Wonder Dog, who both called Silverton home.

 

A Nice Place to Live

On top of the charming restaurants and interesting things to do, residents appreciate the variety of places to live. Whether looking to own or rent, you can find something that fits your lifestyle. Nearby schools provide a great education for families, and plenty of businesses in the area mean that Silverton enjoys a low unemployment rate. To top it all off, gardens dot the city—Silverton is called “Oregon’s Garden City” for a reason!

Locals take part in plenty of Silverton traditions, including Homer Davenport Days, named after the famous political cartoonist who lived in Silverton. The event includes couch races, music, and more. For a more common celebration, locals dine at trendy restaurants or grab a drink at Seven Brides Brewing, which has become a staple in the Willamette Valley.

 

If you think Silverton is the right place for you, take the first step in moving to the area by calling Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group at 503-663-8423. Named Silverton, Oregon’s Business of the Year by the Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce, we are happy to be the first people to welcome you to Silverton. With our expertise, we will find you the ideal place to live for your needs. Contact us today and become a resident in one of Oregon’s best kept secrets!

13 Genius Moving Hacks

The secret to moving is planning. A little bit of planning can go a long way when it comes to alleviating some of the stress associated with moving. Our team at Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group has seen a lot of moves, since we’ve helped plenty of individuals and families find homes through the Northwest Oregon region. Over the years, we’ve assembled some tips that will help you in your move. Here are 13 genius moving hacks to make your move a breeze!

  1. As you pack, make a pile of clothing that you can donate. Clothing takes up a lot of room in moving and hanging clothes can be cumbersome to move around.
  2. If you do end up moving with a lot of hanging clothes, use a trash bag to bundle large amounts of hanging clothes together to make them easier to manage.
  3. Plan your last few meals in your old home around remaining food that won’t transport well. Alternatively, check with local groups to donate food!
  4. If you were renting a place, review the conditions of your rental agreement so you know how to get your deposit back. Losing out on a deposit can be costly.
  5. Save newspapers to pack fragile items, although be sure to crumple up the paper so that ink does not come directly in contact (you don’t want to transfer the ink to your belongings!).
  6. A lot of businesses have stopped giving away boxes for free, but there are quite a few that hold on to them. Contact businesses ahead of time, as some will offer up boxes, particularly after receiving inventory.
  7. If you need boxes, consider using suitcases to pack things, particularly clothes. Suitcases are bulky and take up lots of room on a moving truck, so make the most of them.
  8. Pack rooms together. If you keep boxes that go into the same space together, when you unpack, it’ll be much faster to get a room in order.
  9. Instead of using markers to write on boxes, use brightly covered tape instead. Color-coding with bright colored tape makes it much easier to identify which boxes go where.
  10. When packing your kitchen, put kitchen knives inside of oven mitts. This will reduce the risk of injury when unpacking and also help protect your blades from damage.
  11.  Wrap wires around cardboard similarly to how you would wrap Christmas lights, or feed wires through paper towel rolls to keep them from tangling.
  12. Repurpose disposable picnic plates by putting them in between stacks of plates. Styrofoam plates work best for this, but you could double- or triple-up on paper plates.
  13. If you’re traveling with pets, try to set them up in your new home quickly and in a similar spot as your old home. This will help pets feel less stressed about their new home and adapt quicker.

If you’re ready to make your move, call Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group today at 503-455-4050.

6 Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent

Home buying and selling are the single largest transactions most people ever make. It’s also a process you only go through a handful of times in your life. Don’t go through this overwhelming, time-consuming, life-changing process alone – team up with a knowledgeable real estate agent to handle the nitty-gritty details and help you strike the best deal.

 

To ensure you find the best realtor to help you buy or sell your home, ask these six questions during the interview process.

 

What experience do you have?

Aim to find out more than just how many years the realtor has been in the business – dig deeper to discover the types and number of listings he or she has handled in recent years. Ask about the list-price-to-selling-price ratio with the goal of choosing an agent with a rate as close to 100 as possible, meaning the final home sale prices have been close to the listing prices.

 

Can I see a list of references?

Reading reviews is a great place to start, but it’s also worthwhile to call references for answers to personalized questions regarding what it’s like to work with this realtor from day to day.

 

Can you give me more information about the housing market in my area?

Request a comparative market analysis (CMA) to learn more about the homes for sale where you live. Also, ask whether the market is trending upward or downward so you can determine if now is the right time to buy or sell in your area.

 

How many clients are you currently representing?

The answer to this question tells you a lot. If the realtor is working with a staggeringly high number of clients – like 40 sellers or 15 buyers – this could mean that his or her time will be spread too thin to ensure all your needs are met. Then again, too few clients could indicate the agent is inexperienced or doesn’t come highly recommended.

 

How will you market my home?

One of the biggest advantages of working with a real estate agent is gaining access to vast resources for marketing your home. After placing a for-sale sign in the front yard, your agent should post your house on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a system of online databases that gives your home broad exposure to potential buyers. Other marketing methods include print advertising and open houses.

 

What do you charge for your services?

Most agents take a percentage of the home’s final selling price. This rate may or may not be negotiable, depending on the market. You might also strike a better deal if you use the same agent for buying a new home and selling your old one.

 

Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group has served the Silverton area since 1994. Our realtors are full-time, experienced professionals focused on building relationships with clients and offering exemplary services rather than merely collecting paychecks. We would love to help you buy or sell your home in Willamette Valley! To learn more, please contact us at 503-455-4050.

Understanding Mortgages as a First-Time Homebuyer

If you’ve been an apartment dweller all your life, figuring out what you can afford to pay for rent is pretty straightforward. The generally accepted recommendation is to spend no more than a third of your monthly income on rent. Therefore, if you earn $4,000 a month, you should look for a place that charges $1,300 or less per month.

 

But how does renting an apartment compare to owning a home? Determining what mortgage you can afford is a bit more complicated. Use this guide for first-time homebuyers to help you understand mortgages better.

 

Consider All the Costs of Owning a Home

 

Your monthly payments encompass more than just your mortgage. Remember that owning a home means you might also owe property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, HOA fees and private mortgage insurance (PMI).

 

Use Your Income as a Guide

 

The guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suggest spending no more than 35 percent of your pretax monthly income on housing costs, including mortgage, taxes and insurance. These organizations also recommend keeping your overall debt – including car loans, student loans, personal loans and credit card debt – below 45 percent of your pretax monthly income.

 

Therefore, if you carry higher debt in other areas, it’s wise to take out a smaller mortgage to prevent being “house poor.” Don’t assume that just because a bank approves you for a higher loan that you can actually afford it. Critically assess your income, debt and expenses to ensure you can comfortably afford the house you buy.

 

Consider Your Home Loan Options

 

Traditional mortgages require flawless credit and a down payment of at least 20 percent. However, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to make it easier for first-time homebuyers to get their foot in the door.

 

While FHA home loans are available with as little as 3.5 percent down, they require homebuyers to obtain private mortgage insurance, which increases your monthly premium payments. Once you pay down the balance to under 78 percent loan to value (LTV), you can cancel your PMI.

 

Improve Your Credit Score Before Applying for a Mortgage

 

No matter what type of home loan you apply for, we recommend getting your credit as high as possible first. For instance, if your credit score is below 580, you’ll need to pay at least 10 percent down to qualify for an FHA home loan. You can also qualify for lower interest rates with good credit. Follow these tips to increase your credit score in as little as 30 to 45 days:

  • Pay down your credit card balances.
  • Don’t apply for other lines of credit until you close on your house.
  • Seek a “pay for delete” deal if you have collection agencies hounding you for late payments.

 

When you’re ready to buy a home, Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group can help. We strive to build relationships with our clients as we help them track down the perfect home for their needs. To learn more, please call us at 503-455-4050.

How to increase your home's value before putting it on the market

What’s the best way to increase the value of your home before you put it on the market? Should you renovate or just redecorate? Do some areas of improvement yield a better return on investment than others? With a little bit of strategy, you can come up with a plan that will bring you a good price when it’s time to list the house.

 

  • Make a list and form a plan. On your list, put everything you’d like to do, with unlimited time and money. Then pare it down to meet your budget and needs, choosing projects that will increase your home’s value and offer the most bang for your buck. Try to start far enough ahead of when you’d like to sell to allow yourself time to make improvements slowly, and not have to come up with the renovation budget all at once.
  • Take stock, room by room. Look at your house with a critical eye, going from room to room and taking notes on what could be improved. Sometimes, a new coat of paint makes a huge difference, and sometimes minor repairs increase the value of a room. Making sure everything is spotlessly clean is a good way to show your home to its best advantage, so the first improvement you’ll want to make is a stringent declutter and deep cleaning.
  • Make necessary repairs before you think about improvements. You can have the most beautiful home on the market, and if the roof leaks it will be hard to sell. Maintain your home’s basic systems, and it will be worth more when it’s time to put it on the market.
  • Kitchens remodels provide the greatest return. Even a mini-remodel can often reap great rewards if done well. Consider updating the backsplash or resurfacing the cabinetry and swapping out the hardware. Stainless steel appliances are a big seller, and a rolling island is an easy way to add appeal.
  • Bathrooms are another likely candidate for an upgrade. Buyers are drawn to bathrooms that feel more like in-home spas, so an upgrade to a soaker tub, heated floors, better lighting or a granite countertop. Don’t have that much to invest? A fresh coat of paint and some new faucets can make a big difference. Another low-budget upgrade is fresh grout, which can make your bathroom look newer and cleaner.
  • Don’t forget the curb appeal. Making the outside of your home appealing is just as important as updating the inside. Landscaping should be neat, and the house, driveway, and walkways must be clean. Make sure house numbers are clean and easy to read, and consider a pop of color to draw the eye, whether it’s brightly colored flowers or a new coat of paint on the front door. Even if you only have a small front stoop, make it look inviting with a clean new welcome mat, and perhaps a small seating arrangement. You want everything about the front of your house to say, “Welcome home!” to prospective buyers.

 

When you’re ready to sell your house, you can trust Harcourts NW Oregon Realty to help you every step of the way. We’ve been in business in Silverton, Oregon since 1994, and our agents are full-time, experienced professionals who provide our clients with exemplary service, building relationships instead of just collecting paychecks. We’d love to help you sell your home, but we’re also happy to answer any questions you may have, or offer you a free market analysis, to help determine your home’s value. If you have a home to sell in the Portland or Silverton, Oregon area, contact us at 503-455-4050.

Staging your Home to Make it Fly off the Market

We all have the same goals when putting our homes on the market: sell them quickly and for the best possible price. What’s the best way to accomplish these objectives? Take some advice from the experts on preparing your home to sell.

 

  • Critically consider curb appeal. If the house doesn’t look inviting from the outside, buyers are not going to want to see the inside. Start by power-washing everything that needs it, and then look to the landscaping. Mow the lawn, prune the hedges, and use flowering plants to add color and interest. Your next area of focus should be the entrance, as you touch up paint or stain on the porch and front door as needed. You might also want to stage the entry area, putting a cozy seating area on the front porch, or adding planters with flowers on either side of the door. The key is to create a welcoming look that invites buyers to come and take a look.
  • Clear out the clutter. Even if you have to use storage at another location, it’s important to get all the clutter cleared away. Cleared counters and surfaces make for the clean lines of sight that make rooms seem larger and more appealing to buyers.
  • Cleanliness is next to… sold! When you’re trying to sell, a clean house is vital. Make your house shine from top to bottom, being especially aware of pet odors and anything else that can detract from the atmosphere of the home. It may be worth your while to hire a professional cleaning team to help you get this done. Don’t forget the closets: buyers will want to see the storage available in the house, so the closets will need to be clean and open.
  • Color with neutrals. If you’re going to repaint your rooms, stay away from bright colors or stark whites. Instead, go for the sophistication of mid-tone neutrals, for a look that’s warm but not distracting. With a neutral backdrop, it’s easy to make a room look pulled together.
  • Clean slates are appealing. Personal photos and knick-knacks can make a house cozy, but they’re distracting to buyers. While you typically want your home to be a reflection of you and your style, when you’re trying to sell it it’s more important to allow buyers to see themselves in the house. By removing yourself from the picture, you open it up for the buyers to imagine the house decorated in their own style. Be critical of your own things, leaving only the most pristine personal items out where people can see them.
  • Create the feel of a lifestyle. While prospective buyers are picturing their things in the house, you also want them to be able to picture themselves at home. A hammock in the backyard, a gender-neutral master bedroom, attractive patio furniture, or a basket of fresh produce on the counter can all invite buyers to imagine the pleasant and relaxing life they could live in the house.
  • Choose appealing decorative touches. Fresh flowers, a dining room table set for company, throw cushions artfully arranged- all of these little touches can make a big difference in the way buyers feel about your house. Consider the season, perhaps putting flowers on the table in spring or summer, but decorating with evergreen garlands and a fire in the fireplace during the holidays.

 

When you’re ready to sell your home, Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group can help. We’ve been in business in Silverton, Oregon since 1994, and our agents are full-time, experienced professionals who provide our clients with exemplary service. Our focus is on building relationships instead of just collecting paychecks. We’d love to help you sell your home, but we’re also happy to answer any questions you may have, or offer you a free market analysis, to help determine your home’s value. If you have a home to sell in Northwest Oregon, contact us at 503-455-4050.

Financial Reasons to Sell your Home

Is it time to sell your home? You may have heard that the market is in a good place, or you may be looking to get into a different house. While these are good reasons to sell, they may not be the most important factors to consider. Whether or not you should sell your house depends largely on whether it’s a smart move financially.

 

  • Do you have equity? When you have negative equity, selling your home is a bad idea. Selling your home when you’ll barely break even is not a good plan either unless you must do so to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure. The good news? The housing market has greatly improved in recent years, and that means that most homeowners have been building equity just by paying their mortgages. To find out how much equity you have, subtract the amount you still owe on your house from the amount your house would bring if you sold it. If your equity will allow you to pay off your current mortgage and have enough money left over to pay for moving expenses and put 20 percent or more down on a new home, it’s a good time to sell.
  • How’s the market, really? If you don’t understand the real estate market in your area, that’s ok. A real estate professional can help you find the answers you need to determine whether you should sell your home. The National Association of Realtors estimates the median home price will rise by about five percent in 2018, so now may be a good time to list your home.
  • Can your cash flow support a move? When you’re trying to determine whether it’s the right time to move, it’s important to figure out how much it will cost to get into a new home. Do you need to hire professional movers? Store furniture temporarily? Improve your current home to get it ready to sell? Make sure you have the cash on hand to pay for these expenses, or the sale of your home will cover them before you put your home on the market.
  • Will a smaller home better fit your lifestyle? Do you have an empty nest? Does your large home no longer make sense? If you can sell your home for a profit, you may be able to pay cash for a smaller home, freeing yourself from a mortgage.
  • Do you qualify for a tax break on the money you’d make from the sale? Did you know that the profit from most home sales is tax-free? If you have owned your home and used it as your primary residence for two of the five years before the sale, you don’t have to pay taxes on the first $250,000 of profit from the sale. If you’re married, the tax-free amount increases to $500,000. Even if you don’t meet the two in five years requirement, you may qualify for a reduced exclusion if you had to sell your house because of life changes due to unforeseen circumstances.

 

If you think it may be the right time to sell your home, it’s time to find a real estate professional who knows the market and understands your needs. Since 1994, the agents at NW Oregon Realty Group have been helping people in Silverton, Oregon buy and sell houses, helping them stay well-informed about the process every step of the way. We’d love to help you sell your home or find a new one, but we’re also happy to answer any questions you may have, or offer you a free market analysis, to help determine your home’s value. If you have a home to sell in the Portland or Silverton, Oregon area, contact us at 503-455-4050.

 

Downsizing: Should you do it?

These days, it seems like downsizing is the latest trend. From tiny homes to KonMari, everyone seems to be of the opinion that less is more. All this reduction can seem appealing; a simpler life can be less stressful and hectic. But is it a good move to downsize your home? Before you decide to downsize, consider these factors.

 

  • How emotionally invested are you in your home? For most people, a house is much more than a place of shelter. Our homes represent us and become an important part of our identity. Think carefully before you decide to give up a house that’s meant a great deal to you. Is downsizing worth the loss of that part of your family history?
  • What will you miss if you move to a smaller house? Do you love your cathedral ceilings? Do you host guests enough to warrant a spare guest room? Is it important to you to have a place to go and be alone in your home? Consider all of these factors, and weigh them against a smaller home’s advantages.
  • Could your circumstances change and require a larger home? You may be an empty nester, but is there a possibility that could change? Do you think one of your children might need to come back, or an elderly parent might need to move into your home? Before you downsize too drastically, decide whether your situation is likely to change in a way that will necessitate more space.
  • Will the sale of your home cover the cost of buying a new house and moving? Moving always costs more than you think it will. Sometimes, sellers get less than expected for their home and spend more than expected on the move and the new home. Carefully look at the financial aspects of moving, and decide whether now is the right time.
  • How costly will it be to reduce and replace your things? If you’re going to downsize, you’ll probably have to get rid of many things. If you can’t bear to part with family heirlooms, you’ll need to find a place to store them, and that will cost money. What’s more, when you’re moving to a smaller place and getting rid of your furniture, you’ll have to purchase new furniture to fit your new place.
  • What are the benefits of downsizing? Once you’ve considered all the factors that might keep you in your old home, ask yourself what you’d gain if you moved somewhere smaller. You might enjoy a house that’s easier to clean, less “stuff” to take care of, and a yard that requires less maintenance. Living in a smaller home might make for family togetherness, too: learning to share a tight space can promote bonding.

 

If you’ve asked yourself these questions and decided it’s time to downsize, the next step is finding a real estate professional who understands your needs. Since 1994, the agents at Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group have been helping people in Silverton, Oregon find the houses that fit them, meet their needs, and exceed their expectations. We’d love to help you sell your home or find a new one, but we’re also happy to answer any questions you may have, or offer you a free market analysis, to help determine your home’s value. If you have a home to sell in the Portland or Silverton, Oregon area, contact us at 503-455-4050.

Reasons to Buy Instead of Rent

If you currently rent a house or apartment, you may be tired of dealing with your landlord. Are you ready to pursue the American dream of becoming a homeowner? Buying a house is an exciting prospect. Just consider all the reasons to buy instead of rent:

 

  • You can do anything you want with the property. (within local ordinances) Have you always dreamed of having an indoor swimming pool? Do you want to build a treehouse in the yard for your kids? Maybe you want to reduce your energy bills by putting solar panels on the roof. These modifications are off-limits to most renters, but when you own your home, the changes you make are up to you!
  • Your money pours into an investment, not down the drain. Unlike cars that depreciate the moment you drive them off the lot, your house will appreciate in value the longer you live in it. A portion of your monthly payment goes toward paying off your mortgage so that you eventually own your house outright. If you continue renting, you’re doing nothing more than lining your landlord’s pockets.
  • A fixed-rate mortgage never rises, even if inflation does. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the most common type homeowners get. This means your mortgage payments will never change unless you refinance your loan. On the other hand, renters are at risk of having their rates go up every time they renew their contract.
  • You’ll never be kicked out. Renters are at the mercy of their landlords. If the property owner suddenly decides to sell, rent to someone else or refuse to renew the lease for another reason, there’s nothing the renter can do. Homeownership is different. As long as you keep up with your mortgage payments, no one can kick you out.
  • You can monetize your house. Rental contracts often prohibit subleasing, but as a homeowner, you have the freedom to create a second income for yourself. Convert the basement into an apartment you can rent out, or buy a second home and put the first one up for rent. You can even rent out your driveway to commuters or a small patch of your garden to neighbors who want to grow vegetables.
  • You qualify for new tax deductions. Yes, homeowners have to pay property taxes that don’t apply to renters, but these are tax deductible. Homeowners can also deduct mortgage interest payments. These savings can drive the after-tax housing payments lower than the cost of renting a similarly sized house in the same neighborhood.

 

If these reasons to buy instead of rent sound appealing to you, now could be the time to become a homebuyer. Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group can help! We have served the Silverton, OR area since 1994, and our Realtors will help you find a house that’s right for you. We offer expert advice you can count on as a first-time homebuyer. To learn more, please contact us at 503-455-4050.

How to Get a Better Mortgage Rate

If you’re serious about buying a home, one of the most important steps is to get approved for a mortgage. After all, you’ll most likely need a loan to buy a house in Silverton, OR where the average home value hovers around $300,000.

 

When you’re looking at borrowing this much money, even a percentage point or two makes a big difference in the amount of interest you pay over the next 30 years or more. That’s why you need to lower your rate as much as possible. Follow these tips to help you secure a better mortgage rate.

 

Improve Your Credit Score

The higher your credit score is, the more a bank will trust you to make your mortgage payments, which opens the door to lower interest rates. It takes time to improve your credit score, but effective methods include:

 

  • Spending no more than 20 to 30 percent of your available credit limit
  • Paying all your bills on time
  • Not carrying credit card debt from month to month

You should also avoid applying for other lines of credit, such as a car loan, when you’re trying to qualify for a mortgage.

 

Hold a Steady Job

You prove to banks that you’re less of a risk if you can show two or more years of steady employment and predictable earnings, especially if these come from a single employer. Self-employed people and freelancers may have a harder time.

 

Put More Money Down

In general, larger down payments qualify homebuyers for lower interest rates. The gold standard is 20 percent. If you don’t have that kind of money, lenders will accept a lot less, but you’ll probably need to obtain private mortgage insurance (PMI), which adds to your monthly payments.

 

Consider an ARM

If you plan on selling the house in five to seven years, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) with a low-interest introductory period may make more sense than a 30-year fixed mortgage with a higher interest rate.

 

Shop Around

There’s no reason to settle for getting a loan from the financial institution you normally bank with. Research different options and seek pre-approval from several different lenders. You might find that one bank is willing to offer a lower rate than the rest.

 

Lock in Your Pre-Approved Rate

Mortgage rates fluctuate daily. If you get approved for a low rate that you’re afraid might go up next week, you have the option to lock it in, protecting you from fluctuating rates as long as your mortgage closes by a specific date. This may come with a fee, but it could pay for itself if it helps you avoid a higher interest rate.

 

When you’re ready to buy a home in Northwest Oregon, turn to Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group for help. We have nearly 25 years of experience helping buyers find the home of their dreams with a mortgage rate they can afford. To learn more about our real estate services in Willamette Valley, please contact us at 503-455-4050.

Investing in Real Estate

Are you thinking about investing in real estate? It can be a tricky business, and difficult to navigate without experience, but can also be quite lucrative with the right approach. Here, we offer some useful information to help you get started.

First, what kind of real estate investment interests you? You can actively invest, buying properties to flip or rent. On the other hand, you can engage in passive real estate investing, through a private equity fund or another type of fund, like an opportunity fund or a REIT (real estate investment trust), which allow investors to share the risk. If you’re looking to actively invest, we have some tips from experts that can put you on the right track.

No matter what kind of active investing you’re looking to do, it’s smart to take your time before your first purchase, learning as much as you can about the market. Look into plans for new development, roads, and so on, and don’t try to do it on your own. Find an expert real estate agent to advise you, and tap into the expertise of people who have made the kind of investment that interests you.

If you’re interested in flipping:

  • Choose a stable property. Don’t speculate on something you think will yield a high return, but choose a good, solid property. Refrain from emotional investments, or getting into a bidding war. Keep a level head, and know when to walk away.
  • Don’t over-improve. Look at what has sold in the neighborhood, and plan accordingly. Remember, renovations are unlikely to yield a 100% return on investment, and improving the house far beyond the value of other houses in the neighborhood is likely to end up costing you.
  • Stick to your budget. Know how much you have to spend, and stay within your means. Take into account the after rehab value, and make sure you’ll still profit, even if you don’t get top dollar when you sell.

If you’re planning to rent out your property:

  • Talk to some experts. Seek the help of an advisor familiar with the area in which you’re interested, to ensure you’ll make a wise investment. It’s also a good idea to find a property manager to give you an honest appraisal of the property you’re considering.
  • Be aware of all the costs involved. A mistake first-time investors sometimes make is to simply plan for rent that covers the mortgage. It’s important to plan for property taxes, vacancy and maintenance costs, and other expenses you might incur.
  • Carefully screen your tenants. Obtain credit reports, criminal reports, and eviction histories, to make sure that the tenants you choose are likely to be reliable. Rent paying tenants are the key to a successful rental property.

If you’re interested in investing in real estate, it’s time to talk to a real estate professional who can help you make a good decision. Since 1994, the agents at NW Oregon Realty Group have been helping people in Silverton, Oregon buy and sell houses, helping them stay well-informed about the process every step of the way. We’d love to help you find your next investment, but we’re also happy to answer any questions you may have about buying or selling homes. If you’re looking to invest or you have property to sell in the Portland or Silverton, Oregon area, contact us at 503-455-4050.

Choosing a Listing Agent for your Property

When you’re ready to sell, there’s no shortage of agents with whom you could list your property. In fact, it probably seems like every third person you know is either a listing agent or knows one. How do you choose? It’s an important decision because the right agent can make selling a breeze, while the wrong one can leave you stuck in a bad situation. What should you look for when choosing a listing agent for your property?

 

  • Don’t be dazzled by hype. Anyone can give a good presentation, but the right agent for you is someone who can back up their claims, and with whom you feel comfortable. Trust your intuition: You may be in a relationship with this person for several months, so it’s important for you to have a rapport.
  • Look for experience and education. Be thorough, asking questions about how many houses the agent has sold in your area, and learning about his or her degrees and certification.
  • Don’t choose an agent based on high price and low commission. First, an agent should give you a range, not a high price to draw you in. Ask for comparable listings, to back up any sales price given. Then too, if an agent seems to have a much lower commission than other agents in the area, find out why. If it’s because the agent is unqualified or desperate, you may want to consider hiring someone who is a little more expensive but will do a better job.
  • Choose someone with expertise specific to what you need. You’ll want to select an agent who is familiar with your neighborhood, and who works with your kind of property. An agent who understands your neighborhood’s real estate landscape will know how best to price your home, and may even know some buyers in the area who are looking for a property like yours. Similarly, an agent who usually handles your type of property, in a similar price range, will have more expertise than one who usually works in a completely different arena.
  • Go for an honest agent with good people skills. You need to trust your agent, and your agent needs to know how to network. Real estate sales require someone who is skilled at working with other agents as well as bringing in potential buyers. 
  • Find an agent who is a good communicator and skilled at negotiation. Communication is key when you’re trying to sell a property, and you want someone who will be an aggressive negotiator on your behalf.

 

If you think it may be the right time to sell your home, it’s time to find a real estate professional who knows the market and understands your needs. Since 1994, the agents at Harcourts NW Oregon Realty Group have been helping people in and around Silverton, Oregon buy and sell houses, helping them stay well-informed about the process every step of the way. We’d love to help you sell your home or find a new one, but we’re also happy to answer any questions you may have, or offer you a free market analysis, to help determine your home’s value. If you have a home to sell in the Portland or Silverton, Oregon area, contact us at 503-455-4050.

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