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Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 27

A Happy Thanksgiving for Marion and Cedar Rapids

by Heather Morris

I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love Thanksgiving. It’s one of those holidays where we can just be happy for our friends and families, and all of the wonderful things we enjoy here in Marion and Cedar Rapids. Did you know that there are also real estate benefits to the holiday? Simply by being thankful, and taking stock of all that we already have, we may just realize that our real estate situation is even better than we thought it was.

We sometimes apply the “grass is always greener” principle to our homes, comparing them to others without stopping to consider whether it’s really a fair appraisal. Idyllic renovations or over-the-top landscaping may be a good fit for celebrities or TV “reality” shows, but for the rest of us, they may turn out to be just food for frustration. Rather than fret that your home isn’t like Martha Stewart’s, stop to think about whether it fits not only your family’s needs and lifestyle, but your budget too. Chances are very good that it does. If it’s time to sell your home, this frame of mind will help you market it better because you’ll already know all the great features it has to offer.

Thanksgiving is also the starting gun for the shameless shopping season. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of buying, and the irrational need to spend more. Unfortunately, running up a holiday debt could affect your mortgage application in the months to come. What’s more, you may end up with more stuff that you don’t really need cluttering up your home. Not only is it more to clean and organize, it’s more to hide when it’s time to show your home to prospective buyers. If you’re shopping for a home, keep in mind the difference between what you need and what you want. You need a certain number of bathrooms or a garage, but you simply want an elaborate outdoor kitchen. What’s more, that “want” is probably something easy enough to add later on when the urge to spend has passed…if you still really, really want it.

Every year at this time I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to live here in Eastern Iowa, and what wonderful friends my clients have become. Know that I wish you all the best this Thanksgiving, and that I’m here to help you with any real estate questions you may have.

Heather Morris Realtor
Skogman Realty
341 8th Avenue
Marion, IA  52302
319-350-7653 (SOLD)
www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Is it the Season in Marion and Cedar Rapids?

by Heather Morris

Most of us in Marion and Cedar Rapids probably think of spring and summer as being the best times for real estate transactions. While it’s certainly true that those are our busy seasons, there’s much to be said for buying or selling a home during the not-so-nice weather months, too.

For one thing, it’s much less crowded, and you can really take your time to get to know both the home and the potential buyer. The process will be much less hectic, and therefore much less stressful for everyone. You’ll probably also be able to get the undivided attention of all professionals involved in the process making the entire transaction go much more smoothly.

Believe it or not, another great thing about this time of year is that it’s an excellent time to view property. Sellers get to use the holiday season to show off their homes dressed to the nines, with tantalizing aromas of holiday goodies. Sellers can also tap into the pre-holiday clean up for staging their homes. Buyers get an advantage, too, by getting to see the homes when the weather is at its most difficult. If you love it in the depths of winter, think how ecstatic you’ll be when the warm weather comes around.

Visiting the home on a cold day will also help both buyers and sellers. Homeowners can show off how cozy the home can be, and buyers can learn how well the furnace warms each of the rooms in the home, and whether there are any issues with it.

If you still need convincing, just give me a call. I can fill you in on more great reasons why now is a great time to buy. You still have time to take advantage of this year’s tax advantages, and today’s mortgage interest rates are some of the best we’ve seen in years. It’s an excellent time to buy!

 

Heather Morris
Skogman Realty
341 8th Avenue
Marion IA  52302
319-350-7653 (SOLD)
www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Feeling the Burn in Marion and Cedar Rapids

by Heather Morris

With the cooler weather arriving, many of us here in Marion and Cedar Rapids are getting less exercise than we did during the summer…or at least that’s how it may seem. Did you know that cleaning your home is a great way to get exercise? It can be just as physically beneficial as spending an hour at the gym. What’s more, if you know how hard you’re working out, you’ll benefit even more.

Apartment Therapy recently released the results of a study that followed 84 hotel housekeepers. Half of the group was told which muscle groups they were using and the number of calories they were burning, and the other half wasn’t given any of that information. A month later, the group in the know had lost more weight, and lowered their blood pressure and BMI more than the other group. Since they were all doing the same activities, the results seem to point to the workers’ state of mind while doing the chores. Those who knew what was at stake were more likely to take advantage of the health benefits on offer.

When you’re at work cleaning your own home, keep in mind the following health information. It may just help you get more out of the work than simply a clean home.

Scrubbing floors – 325/calories hour. To maximize stretching and toning, get on your hands and knees.

Stairs – 250 calories/hour. Switch it up and don’t clean one floor all at once. The more frequently you climb, the more you’ll get out of it.

Vacuuming/sweeping – 240 calories/hour. Put on some music and make it an aerobics session. Chances are you’ll move faster.

Giving the change in the season, don’t forget your outside chores, too. Raking leaves can burn up to 235 calories/hour, mowing the lawn (not on a riding mower) comes in at 325 calories/hour, and shoveling snow gets you a whopping 415 calories/hour. Just be careful not to overdo it, and use your knees to lift heavy shovels.

Heather Morris
Skogman Realty
341 8th Avenue
Marion IA 52302
319-350-7653 (SOLD)
www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Bad Reasons Not to Sell in Marion and Cedar Rapids

by Heather Morris

Most of us think of our homes not just as places to live, but places to safeguard our lifestyles. They are extensions of us as individuals and families, and they help us lead our lives. Here in Eastern Iowa, and anywhere else in the country for that matter, there are lots of good reasons to sell your current home and find one better suited to your lifestyle. Listed below are some of the wrong reasons for staying put.

I can’t afford the areas I really want, so I’m staying put. Given the enormous changes in the real estate market during the past year, odds are that this is no longer true. Most potential sellers actually don’t have a realistic idea of what their current home’s value truly is because most haven’t spoken to a real estate professional about it. Rather than approaching it from a deficit model, turn it around and think about how you can afford the home, or the area, that you really want.

I’m used to this area, so I’m staying put. There’s no such thing as a community that doesn’t change, especially now that the economy is turning around and development is picking up. If your neighborhood hasn’t already begun to evolve, you can count on it happening within the next few years. If you’re really into status quo, look for homes in the areas surrounding universities or natural features such as wetlands and preserves.

I can’t afford to move, so I’m staying put. There’s a difference between affordability and value, and it’s important to know what’s driving a statement like that. If your home meets all of your practical and aesthetic needs – and it fits nicely within your budget – then that’s an affordable home, and you should stay in it. On the other hand, if you’re putting off necessary upkeep and an occasional night out because you feel the strain on your budget, you should re-think your decision. There are lots of options from renting out a portion of your home to finding a more affordable option. A realtor with good experience in your community can help you determine what’s best for you.

With all of the changes in the real estate market at the moment, there’s no reason to feel trapped in a home that doesn’t suit your needs. I can help you uncover not only what you current home is worth to today’s buyers, but also what your options are for a new home. Take advantage of the unique opportunity this market offers. Give me a call today.

 

Heather Morris

Skogman Realty

341 8th Avenue

Marion, IA, 52302

319-350-7653 (SOLD)

www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Ready for Fall in Marion and Cedar Rapids

by Heather Morris

Just because the temperatures here in Marion and Cedar Rapids are dropping doesn’t mean that the gardening season is over. A little forethought and effort now will pay off big next spring, and may even help keep the days a little brighter as they grow shorter.

First of all, give everything in your yard a good watering, even the trees. They’ll need plenty of moisture to make it through the winter in good health. Also, this is an excellent time to plant shrubs and evergreens. Be sure to give any new plantings a good drink, too. If you need more information about how to plant trees and shrubs, have a look at this tutorial from This Old House.

Fall is also the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. If deer or rabbits are a problem in your area, choose pest-resistant bulbs such as daffodils, allium, grape hyacinth, or dog-toothed violets. Different types of bulbs have different needs, so be sure to follow planting instructions carefully.

The summer blooming season is over, but that doesn’t mean that your landscape needs to suffer. Garden stores are full of colorful fall annuals at the moment – mums, pansies, and ornamental kale, for example – that can keep your garden momentum going for a bit longer. A great front walkway or a snappy backyard can brighten up your day, and if you’re thinking of listing your home for sale, they can also help tip the scales in your favor with prospective buyers.

Autumn in Eastern Iowa is a fantastic time of year, and it’s also a great time to meet your real estate goals. Mortgage interest rates remain very attractive, and with the summer rush behind us, everyone has more time to dedicate to making the process as smooth as possible. Give me a call today, or stop by the office for a chat. With my local knowledge and professional expertise, this fall may just be the best time to meet your property goals.

 

Heather Morris

Skogman Realty

341 8th Avenue

Marion IA  52302

319-350-7653 (SOLD)

www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Tighter Requirements Coming for Marion and Cedar Rapids Mortgages

by Heather Morris

Beginning in January, new lending rules will limit Marion and Cedar Rapids homeowners and new buyers from taking out a new mortgage or refinancing an existing one that puts their overall household borrowing at more than 43 percent of their income. The figure for total debt will now include student loans, fees and points paid toward a home purchase, and even property taxes.

In addition to the change in the definition of debt, rules about mortgage documentation will also tighten up. This is aimed at lenders who may cut corners to give customers easier terms – they’ll now be open to consumer lawsuits if the loan goes bad. Sam Khater, senior economist at CoreLogic, thinks that the new rules will affect refinances more than new purchases because those refinancing are more likely to go for higher debt-to-income ratios than will new buyers.

If you’re considering purchasing or refinancing property within the next six months, it may be in your best interest to complete the process before the end of this year. While the new rules are not necessarily bad – in fact, they provide a larger measure of protection for consumers – they will make the process more complex, at least in the short term. While the spring is traditionally a strong time for real estate, the first half of 2014 may be more of a gamble than usual due to these changes.

At the moment, mortgage interest rates are still extremely attractive, and the Fed’s announcement last week that they will prolong their support by continuing to purchase $85 billion in bonds each month will keep them that way. This final quarter of 2013 should prove to be a great time to buy, and there’s no better place to call home than eastern Iowa. When you’re ready to make the move, give me a call or send me an email. Let’s make this fall your perfect property time.

 

Heather Morris
Skogman Realty
341 8th Avenue
Marion IA  52302
319-350-7653 (SOLD)
www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Zen and the Art of Selling Your Eastern Iowa Home

by Heather Morris

When you’ve made the decision to sell your Marion or Cedar Rapids home, there’s no denying that there will be stress involved. It’s a big deal both financially and emotionally. While the entire process can potentially raise your blood pressure, most agents and brokers agree that there are three primary times that may be particularly stressful – home inspections, appraisals, and showings. The secret here, as with so many things, is to be prepared.

Once you’ve decided to sell but before you’ve actually listed your home, get your home inspected by a certified home inspector. He or she will either give you a list of repairs you need to make, or give you the good news that you’re ready to list. If you do find yourself with a list of repairs, ask the inspector to note which ones are necessary and which are optional. Discuss your plans with your broker, and get estimates and timelines for the work.

The appraisal process determines whether the lender will agree to your selling price. The buyer is using the home as collateral for the mortgage, and the lender wants to be sure that it’s actually worth the price you’re asking. If you’ve done your homework with the inspector, and worked closely with your broker to set a fair market price, you should have no trouble with the appraisal.

Perhaps the most intrusive part of the process is letting people you don’t know into your home. Showing your home effectively is all a matter of being ready for it. Declutter and organize, and create a daily routine to keep it that way. Get your home sparkling clean in advance of the first showing, and then plan to stay ahead of it while it’s on the market.

The most important part of getting ready to sell your home is getting yourself into a good mindset for it. Put everything into perspective, take time for yourself, and if you’re faced with a situation in which you don’t know what to do – do nothing. It’s ok to take some time to decide and probe your intuition. Sometimes, too, laughter really is the best medicine. It releases endorphins, and reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Whether you’re selling your first home or you’re a seasoned investor, it’s great to have a real estate professional on your team to keep the process moving forward. You’ve made the big decision to sell, so I’ll take care of the details for you!

Great News for First-Time Homebuyers in Cedar Rapids

by Heather Morris

In order to support the rate of homeownership in the city, Cedar Rapids is once again providing $5000 in down payment and closing costs assistance to residents who qualify. This year the program has funding to assist 51 first-time homebuyers, and awards will be made on a first come, first served basis. So, if you’re even considering applying, don’t delay. 

Eligibility requirements include having an adjusted gross annual income at or below 80% of the median income of the city of Cedar Rapids, as well as having an accepted offer on an eligible home prior to making application to the program. Eligible homes must be located within the city limits with a sale price that does not exceed $135,000 and are currently owner-occupied. For complete details on program requirements for both you and the home you’d like to buy, please see the program website.

The program’s funding is actually a 0% loan, but there are no repayments required as long as the home remains your primary residence. If you sell the home within the first five years, change the names on the title, change its status from a single family residential, or rent it out, you’ll be required to repay the loan. However, if by the end of five years none of that has happened, the loan will be forgiven.

To apply for funding, go to the program website, and carefully follow all instructions regarding required documentation. There is also a downloadable FAQ sheet with more plain-language details about how the program works. You will be required to take a HUD-approved homebuyer education class, and you’ll be assigned an applicant code when you submit your application so that you can track your status via the program’s website.

If you’re ready to become a homeowner for the first time, or if you’re ready to make the move into a new home, I’m ready to help. Give me a call, send me an email, or stop by the office. The Marion and Cedar Rapids area is a great place to find your dream home, and the local knowledge and professional expertise I can offer will make the process that much easier.

Cedar Rapids First Time Homebuyer Program website:

http://www.cedar-rapids.org/government/departments/community-development/housing/pages/firsttimehomebuyerprogram.aspx

 

Heather Morris

Skogman Realty

341 8th Avenue

Marion IA  52302

319-350-7653 (SOLD)

www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

ESP for the Marion and Cedar Rapids Market

by Heather Morris

With all of the changes in the Marion and Cedar Rapids real estate markets in the recent past, it can be difficult to know what the other guys are thinking. If you’re a buyer, you may be wondering what’s on sellers’ minds, and vice versa. A study newly completed by Harris Interactive on behalf of Trulia came up with some interesting comparisons between real estate thinking now versus just a couple of years ago.

Prospective homebuyers worry most about getting a good mortgage interest rate. The next most worrisome issues come in a clump: finding a home before prices rise; not finding a suitable home at all; qualifying for a mortgage; and competing with other buyers for their dream home. Surprisingly, even after the experiences of the past six or seven years, homebuyers put the prospect of home prices falling after making a purchase near the bottom of their worries list.

To compensate for these concerns, buyers are willing to go to some fairly extreme measures. For example, two out of every three buyers say that they would use aggressive tactics such as bidding above the listed price, writing personal letters to the seller, paying seller closing costs, or removing contingencies to make sure they get the home they want.

The changing market environment of more stringent mortgage qualifications procedures coupled with lower prices and interest rates is turning out to be a double-edged sword. The share of Americans who say that homeownership is a personal goal has dropped from 72% in November 2012 to 67% in June 2013. Going along with that, the size of an ideal home has also shrunk.

However, Americans also think that homeownership is a much better investment now than it was two years ago. In September 2011, just 47% of consumers thought that a home would be a good long-term investment. Today, 60% of us do. In fact, owning a home ranks slightly ahead of maintaining retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, and far ahead of playing the stock market. In the 18-to-34 year-old sector, a whopping 59% think it’s one of the best investments you can make, up from 40% in 2011.

If your future includes real estate goals, let me help you reach them. It’s the best time in recent memory, and the future looks great for your investment!

 

Heather Morris

Skogman Realty

341 8th Avenue

Marion, IA 52302

319-350-7653 (SOLD)

www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Make Your Marion or Cedar Rapids Mortgage Work for You

by Heather Morris

Finding a great home in Marion or Cedar Rapids is the easy part – finding a mortgage that fits your needs may be more complicated. Navigating the mortgage muddle doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Listed below are some tips to help you find the perfect fit for your financial situation.

If you’re considering buying a home within the next six months, start the preapproval process now. Not only will you find out just how much you can afford, you’ll also discover any potential hassles and nip them in the bud before you fall in love with your dream home. If you’re a couple, file paperwork for both of you to give the lender a complete financial picture.

Fixed-rate mortgages are still the way to go. Rates remain near the historic lows we’ve seen in the recent past, and you’ll lock in that rate for the life of the loan. Adjustable-rate mortgages may seem like a better option, but after the initial low-rate honeymoon, they rise and lower along with changes in the economy.

For once, think in the short-term. Lenders like to push 30- and 40-year mortgages showing off their lower monthly payments. What they don’t highlight is how much more interest they’ll take from you over the life of the loan. For example, a $100,000 loan at 7% paid off over 20 years incurs $86,072 in interest. The same loan paid off over 30 years rakes in $139,509 in interest. Getting a lower monthly payment may be tempting, but realistically speaking, if you don’t think you’ll be able to pay off your new home in two decades, you should probably consider purchasing something less expensive.

The simplest way to make your mortgage work for you is to plan to make a down payment of at least 20%. You’ll most likely be exempt from private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lender in case you default and increases your monthly payments without decreasing the amount you owe. It can really add up over time. If your down payment is less than 20% on the home you’re considering, have a look at some less expensive options. The money you save now may help you customize that home over time, giving you just what you wanted a little further down the road.

Of course, the best way to make the most of your home buying options is to retain the services of a Real Estate professional. The team here at Heather Morris Realtor is a group of highly trained, experienced professionals ready to get to work for you. Give us a call, or stop by the office, and let’s get the ball rolling!

 

Heather Morris Realtor

Skogman Realty

341 8th Avenue

Marion IA  52302

319-350-7653 (SOLD)

 

www.heathermorrisrealtor.com

Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 27

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Heather Morris
Heather Morris Realty Consulting
341 8th Avenue
Marion IA 52302
(319)350-7653

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