April 2019 - Comey & Shepherd Realtors

Real estate ready: Smart tips for first-time homebuyers

(BPT) – Today’s first-time homebuyers face a variety of hurdles when trying to enter the real estate market. While interest rates have declined recently and there are signs that more inventory may be coming onto the market, many buyers continue to feel frustration in finding and financing a home.

Additionally, high levels of student loan debt and entry-level jobs that didn’t pay as much as expected have made homeownership financially difficult for millennials. Many have opted to move in with their parents, and since then have been saving money to purchase a home.

Although being a first-time homebuyer is exciting, it can also be overwhelming. Whether you’re purchasing a home for yourself, with your spouse, or because you’re growing your family, there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure a smooth process and happy outcome so you don’t have to delay your decision to buy a home.

Explore what you can afford
It’s important to purchase a home that is within your means, but it’s often difficult to know what you can actually afford. Start by using the Shop by Payment feature at Vylla (www.vylla.com.) If you know what you can afford for rent, use that as a guide for your search to see how it translates into monthly mortgage payments. Many renters are surprised to find out they can become homeowners for about the same monthly amount they’re currently paying their landlord.

Save for closing costs
There are some “hidden costs” associated with buying a home. Closing costs, or fees included at the closing of a real estate transaction, can include a number of charges such as appraisal and attorney fees, recording fees, title and escrow charges. Buyers and sellers often split closing costs, and buyers can typically expect to pay 3 to 4 percent of the cost of the home in closing costs. That means if you buy a $200,000 home, estimated closing costs will be between $6,000 and $8,000. Working with a transparent real estate and mortgage company will also help you manage costs to ensure there are no surprises along the way.

Manage debt and down payments
You may have heard that you need to eliminate debt and save 20 percent down to purchase a home. Although those are good goals, there are more flexible loan products available today for many types of borrowers. Many lenders have loan programs that make it possible for borrowers with some debt or less-than-perfect credit to qualify for mortgage loans, eliminating some of the barriers first-time homebuyers face. You may be able to qualify for a loan with a down payment of just 3.5 percent.

Research neighborhoods
Housing varies greatly from city to city, and even block to block. It’s important to research the areas you want to live in to ensure you’re happy and making a good investment. This will be unique to each homebuyer, but it may be important for you to consider school boundaries, population demographics, crime rates, access to resources like public transportation and commute times to work.

Streamline to reduce stress
Many homebuying steps are disconnected, which can cause a lot of stress. Consider a one-stop platform like Vylla.com that seamlessly integrates the mortgage process with home search and home purchasing steps to provide everything under one roof. Plus, you can work with a single point of contact who works with real estate agents, title and escrow services and more for a seamless experience.

Think long-term
Although your first home won’t likely be your last, it’s important to think long-term when making such a big investment. According to the National Association of Realtors®, the average amount of time a homeowner stays in a house is 10 years. You want something that you plan to live in for at least the next few years, as well as something that suits your future plans. Don’t just think about what you want now; try to visualize your life down the road and make sure this house fits the vision as much as possible.

A few smart steps can make the first-time homebuying experience easy and stress free. With a little proactive planning and a few good resources, you’ll have keys to your home in hand in no time.

Easy DIY projects to enhance your yard and garden

(BPT) – Itching for summer to arrive, when you can get out and enjoy your yard? Why not plan a DIY project to improve your outdoor space, while encouraging everyone in the family to get outside and have fun together?

Here are some projects to consider, and the prep work involved.

Check your deck

Does your existing deck need repair? Check for loose balusters, rocky railing or other issues needing attention. If you want to resurface your deck or build a new deck, measure the area and research how much decking you’ll need. Fortunately, there are free online deck plans and design tools available, especially on your favorite home improvement center’s website or at treatedwood.com. Many include cost calculators to help determine your expenses. Check with your local municipality for building codes and a building permit before beginning construction.

When choosing materials to create the deck of your dreams, not just any wood will do. Wood is now available that is treated with more environmentally-advanced preservatives, with stabilizers that can weather the elements while still retaining the beauty of real wood. Ecolife pressure-treated wood is ideal for decking, deck framing, railing, joists and beams. Ecolife’s advanced wood stabilizing preservative system makes wood look better longer and repels water for up to two years, providing maximum protection and enhanced performance for outdoor projects exposed to harsh sun, drenching rain and heavy snow.

For projects that come in contact with or are within 6 inches from the ground, such as support posts, stair stringers and ledger boards, a higher retention level of preservatives is required to fight against fungal decay and termite attack at ground level. Both Ecolife and ground contact wood are treated to required levels to protect against fungal decay and termite attack.

Enhance your garden

To increase your yard’s beauty while encouraging plant and flower growth, make simple wooden structures for your garden that can be completed in a weekend. The easiest project is a trellis, which can be any size latticework designed for climbing plants to grow up them. Similarly, an arbor combines two trellises with an overhead arch to create a passage or gateway. An arbor beautifully embellishes any path or walkway with flowering plants growing up and over it.

A pergola takes that idea one step further, creating a scaffolding of overhead wooden beams for your yard, patio or deck that can be used for installing a ceiling fan, hanging plants or flowers, or a sun shade.

The gazebo resembles a mini “house,” usually raised from the ground, which can be screened in if desired. Gazebos are wonderful little retreats to enjoy the outdoors while still feeling the comfort of seating and other furniture, along with a roof for keeping out the elements.

Raised gardens

For the green thumb in the family, raised planter beds decrease the back-breaking work of planting and weeding, while keeping out neighborhood critters. Attach chicken wire or other screening to discourage smaller animals from munching on your garden.

Outdoor furnishings

Love to grill and eat outdoors? Why not build your own benches or picnic table? They provide a wonderfully rustic look as well as being sturdy. You can add removable cushions for comfort.


Nothing could be more fun for kids than watching or helping to build a play set, sandbox or treehouse. If kids help, educate kids about safety rules that you follow, such as wearing gloves, goggles and a mask while working with wood.

Add privacy and beauty

A well-designed stained or painted fence can enhance the look of your garden, patio or deck while adding privacy and keeping out neighborhood animals. A variety of fence styles are available to serve many purposes. From containing pets to providing safety for your children, fences can help block wind and noise, enclose HVAC and trash bin areas and add curb appeal. All you need are posts, pickets and backer rails or fence panels to complete your project.

If you’re new to building, start with smaller projects like a trellis or sandbox. Once you’re more confident or have experience, consider larger, more complex projects you’re dreaming about. Engage the family in brainstorming ideas to make your yard and garden a great place to hang out together. For more information about Ecolife, visit treatedwood.com.