Buying a Home in Lincoln, NE – 2019
With so many benefits for home and property owners, and a high quality of life for families, people are moving to Lincoln. As a result, more and more homes are being built and put up for sale. The local real estate market sees a number of new construction properties available each week, and more will continue to rise up in this growing city. Buying a home is a significant endeavor in life for any individual or family. As such, it takes careful consideration. As home buyers move closer to homeownership, they will work with realtors, lenders, and other professionals along the way.
So, what do home buyers need to know as they begin their home buying journey? Well, we asked the experts!
There are a number of steps to take when buying a home. The first is banking. It may seem obvious, but many buyers don’t give it enough thought. Especially in a seller’s market, it’s important for buyers to be prepared. Sellers are looking for a buyer who is ready to close. If you start looking at homes before you actually have the funds secured for a down payment, chances are it’ll get snatched up by someone else. So, the first thing to do is to visit a financial institution or two and become pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan.
“This is the first step in the process,” confirmed Kiann Ridgeway, mortgage loan officer at West Gate Bank. “Getting pre-approved for a loan shows the real estate agent and the seller that you are qualified and serious about making an offer.”
West Gate Bank can assist buyers with their credit pre-qualification, which will help determine how much of a home they can afford and which financing option is best suited for their current financial picture.
“One piece of advice I’d give is to NOT let a bank determine what you can afford,” Kiann shared. “Qualification ratios are liberal in nature with the idea of helping people buy homes. If money is tight and excess funds are not readily available to fix up a home, don’t buy the fixer-upper. Having to live through remodel projects that are a strain on the budget can be both slow and stressful. You are often better off buying a slightly more expensive home in good condition where minor improvements can be made versus full remodeling improvements. When using this as a guide, funds should be available for regular maintenance and upkeep to the home, which will allow the property to appreciate with the general market trends of the area.”
Kiann emphasized how important it is to ask questions and compare:
“I recently had a borrower that reached out to an internet lender prior to calling me and he thought that option was perfect; however, when we met, he soon discovered the internet lender’s costs were higher than expected and they weren’t giving him the full picture.”
According to Kiann, the current real estate market is very active, so homebuyers need to be prepared to make multiple offers. The first offer might not get accepted or you could get out bid. Make sure you know how much the property is worth before you make an offer, though.
Getting an appraisal is recommended to determine the worth or of a property. Lenders normally require an appraisal before they finalize the loan to the borrower after an offer has already been accepted, so getting an appraisal before an offer is not the typical approach; however, getting an appraisal on a home before making an offer on it can put you in a better negotiating position, because you know the market value of the home. Kubert Appraisal Group, led by Thomas W. Kubert, MAI, CCIM, brings over 27 years of appraisal experience into every assignment.
“Our clients benefit from our collective experience and professionalism in providing quality real estate appraisal services,” said Thomas. “In addition to general real estate appraisal service, we also provide specialized appraisal services such as appraisal review services, property tax assessment issues, eminent domain valuations, conservation easements, insurance values, estate planning; real estate market and feasibility analyses, and more. The appraisals we do for residential properties include subdivisions, single-family homes, multi-family housing, and apartments from 2 to 200+ units.”
An appraiser completes a written estimate of the property’s market value by considering sales prices of other properties in the area and several factors regarding the home, including its overall condition, square footage, location, age, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and architectural features.
When we spoke to Mike Barrett, vice president – mortgage lending, at Cornhusker Bank, he also stressed that buyers need to be pre-qualified and act fast in order to get the home they want.
“My best advice to be successful in purchasing a home would be to speak with a loan officer prior to going shopping,” offered Mike. “The pre-qualification process will benefit the potential home buyer in multiple ways and can be completed online in as little as 15 minutes. Once the application is completed, either online or in person, one of our experienced lenders will educate the applicant on the different mortgage products available through Cornhusker Bank. We will also introduce them to potential grants and loan programs that may be available for down payment assistance. Cornhusker Bank’s lenders will assist in matching the right type of mortgage. Home buyers will also find the amount of house payment that they can afford and the price range in which they should be looking. We will also inform the home buyer of any potential setbacks which could take place during the process. This helps ensure no surprises come up at the last minute. The entire home buying process can move seamlessly when the buyer has all the necessary information upfront.”
It is also important to get homeowners insurance quotes as soon as the offer is accepted. As the homeowner, you will be able to choose your deductible amount. The full amount of coverage is typically decided by the lender, based on their assessment (appraisal) of the home’s value. Paying the premium up front and before closing allows you to exclude the premium from your closing costs.
“There have been quite a few hail storms over the last number of years,” Mike noted. “With that in mind, it is important to know early on if the roof of the home you’re interested in is insurable. If it isn’t, that is something to address with the seller early in the process. Having a whole house inspection is a good idea to make sure that there are no issues with the property that could be costly down the road.”
Homeowners Insurance Spotlight: Shelter Insurance — Typical homeowners insurance policies offer coverage for the unexpected things life might throw at you, like damage caused by fires, lightning strikes, windstorms, hail, etc. With Shelter Insurance, their home insurance policy pays for restoration costs, which means after the work is done, they’ll pay to replace damaged items with new materials of comparable quality. Matthew J. Moorhead is your trusted, local Shelter Insurance agent. Matthew has been with Shelter since 2000. He makes customer service his top priority. Shelter Insurance consistently receives high ratings from A.M. Best Company (a national firm that rates the financial strength and operating performance of insurance companies). Shelter Insurance also gives a 25% discount on newly built homes!
“In regards to fixer uppers, getting an inspection is even more crucial,” added Mike. “Get bids from contractors to have a good understanding of what each project will end up costing you. Having the ability to do the work yourself can save you money on a fixer upper. There are loan programs available to assist in the financing of the improvements so make sure you ask your lender what options are available if you are considering buying a fixer upper.”
Home Inspector Spotlight: King’s Home Inspection — Randy King, an InterNACHI Certified Master Inspector who has inspected thousands of homes of all shapes and sizes in southeast Nebraska, has been the owner and operator of King’s Home Inspections for 21 years. King’s Home Inspection will do a comprehensive review of all aspects of your home—electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, structural, interior and exterior finish, roofing, and grounds/landscaping.
There are challenges in the current housing market which a loan officer will be able to help navigate. In a market where there is a limited inventory of houses for sale, local institutions like Cornhusker Bank can provide solutions that will get you into the home of your dreams.
According to Mike, shoppers who are in the $275,000 and below price range can expect to be going up against multiple potential buyers on the same house. With so much competition, it›s recommended to work with a REALTOR® who can dedicate the time to watch for new houses that go up for sale on the market—one that knows the city, neighborhoods, schools, parks, etc.
“Currently, in Lincoln, there is a shortage of homes for sale, which makes it a very good time to be selling a home or investment property,” stated Brad Hulse, vice president – broker at Lincoln First Realty. “However, mortgage loan rates are also incredibly low, which makes it still favorable to buy a home. This resulted in a lot of competition for homes that come on the market. My advice is to be prepared when you begin the home buying process. You’ll be forced to act quickly as the home you like is probably being seriously considered by several other buyers as well.”
Brad has been involved in the real estate business for almost 15 years. He began his career at one of Lincoln’s largest property management firms in their leasing division. Over his career, Brad has worked with a myriad of people in varying different circumstances including distressed homes, first time home buyers, investment properties, new construction homes, relocation, farm property, and acreage homes.
“Recently, I helped the nephew of a past client of mine buy a home,” Brad shared. “They purchased their home nearly 10 years ago. Their experience was vastly different than what their nephew went through today. Back then, they were able to pick between several potential homes that were for sale and they only competed with one other buyer for the home they ended up purchasing. Their nephew, on the other hand, had been in competition to purchase a home with upwards of 10 people making offers on the same property and that was after seeing several homes which were sold before he could even make an offer.”
People may underestimate how time-consuming and stressful the home buying process can be, especially if they don’t know what they are doing. A key advantage of trusting a realtor when buying a home is simply experience. A real estate agent is your advocate and sounding board, so you should feel comfortable directing any and all of your questions, concerns, and ideas to the one you choose to work with as a buyer or seller.
Russ Meyer, REALTOR®, associate broker, and team lead for Front Door Realty Group of Nebraska Homes Sales, is excited to help buyers find the right home in and around the Lincoln area!
“My job is to walk our buyers and sellers through the process of finding their next home or property,” Russ explained. “The hand-picked agents at Front Door Realty Group help our clients buy and sell the following types of real estate: residential, commercial, investment properties, and new construction. And I’m pleased to announced that we have some exciting housing developments coming to the Lincoln market in 2020!”
“The advice that we give to all our clients is vetted by years of personal experience in the local real estate business,” Russ continued. “We routinely offer strategies for finding quality homeowners insurance at great prices, and we have a short list of the top home repair and maintenance people in the area. We work with a group of mortgage lenders that offer fair terms and financing rates, whether they are working with a first-time buyer or preparing a jumbo loan. This team approach to helping our buyers and sellers makes for a great end result—houses and deals that work for everyone!”
When we asked Russ what someone can expect when buying a home in the current market, he noted that the Lincoln real estate market will be busy and robust in the second half of 2019.
“Homes are selling faster than ever, for full price and sometimes more!” Russ exclaimed. “It takes a team like Front Door Realty Group to bring it all together for our buyers and sellers. On a recent home purchase, a client of ours was in a time crunch to find her first home, so one of our realtors, Lynn Hartzell, showed her multiple properties while another agent from our team submitted a great offer on the buyer’s behalf and I negotiated the details with the seller. We were able to get a deal together quickly for our client, from a first showing to completed contract overnight! This might sound startling, but this quick work is what is required in our current market.”
Russ Meyer and his team at Front Door Realty Group ask a lot of questions in order to really get to know their buyers and sellers, and they want to start the home showing process right away to start finding out what will work for a particular buyer’s needs.
Russ Meyer is a lifetime Lincolnite and knows the houses and the neighborhoods here by heart! Russ has been in the real estate business for eight years, all with Nebraska Home Sales, and has consistently been in the top 100 agents working in the Lincoln area. Russ has been recognized amongst his realtor peers as a housing developer having proposed two housing initiatives with NeighborWorks Lincoln. Many buyers using the NeighborWorks program have benefitted from Russ’s insight at the Cooper Commons project, seven new homes at 9th and D. St, and the 24 townhomes at Antelope Square near 23rd and Q St.
NeighborWorks Lincoln is a local housing nonprofit with the mission of revitalizing neighborhoods and supporting homeownership, keeping Lincoln a safe and prosperous community.
We also spoke to Pat Ohmberger with HOME Real Estate to tap into her 25+ years of real estate experience. According to Pat, it is important that her clients know what to expect. This is why the first thing Pat does with a home buyer is set an appointment to meet and then she uses that time to explain the process of purchasing a home and set expectations.
“As a buyer’s agent, my fiduciary responsibility is to the buyer.” Pat stated. “I provide buyers with my expertise, taking them through a step-by-step process which includes educating them about the current market, assisting them to determine their purchase power, and negotiating the best offer possible. Communication and collaboration with all aspects of the process are ultimately the key to success.”
Although there are short-term fluctuations in the economy, housing markets are largely shaped by longer-term demographic trends. Over the next decade, two generations will dominate population growth—the millennials (born 1985–2004) and the baby boomers (born 1946–1964). Statistics show that millennials are renting more than ever before, opting for one monthly payment rather than mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, maintenance expenses, and any other cost associated with homeownership. Younger people today have greater student loan debt than previous generations. Buying a home may seem like something that is just too far out of the budget for most, but the thing about renting is you don’t get any of your money back when you move. Long-time homeowners build equity that can be useful later in life. A paid-off house is a valuable asset that can be tapped into for college, to start a business, or retirement, to name a few.
According to Ben Bleicher with Professional Realty Group of Woods Bros Realty, buying a home is one of the most rewarding things a person does in their lifetime.
“Money is a primary concern for most people when it comes to whether to rent or buy a home,” Ben addressed. “However, you can’t simply compare monthly payments to determine the better deal. Renting a home for $1,000 a month is not the same as buying a house with a $1,000 monthly mortgage payment. A home is the one thing in your life that you will spend the most money on, but it is also the one place where you will spend most of your time—making memories that will last forever! If you decide to buy, it’s good to make a list of what you need and want in a home.”
Ben emphasized the differences between needs and wants when looking at homes to buy: “There is nothing wrong with having a dream home in mind, but at the same time, be realistic. Know your price range and know what to expect. Keep the necessities on the top of your list, like number of rooms, location, size of yard, etc. These are the nonnegotiable things that your family needs to live comfortably. You might have to accept that you won’t get all the bells and whistles you had in mind for your dream home, but those can become fun remodeling projects down the road.”
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed after looking at multiple homes and not finding one that fits your needs, make sure you have a realtor who knows what you’re looking for. They can weed out the ones that don’t match your preferences.
“At Professional Realty Group of Woods Bros Realty, we know paperwork front to back and have the knowledge to get through the entire process stress free,” Ben said. “A good agent should be able to assist the buyer through all phases of the purchase with ease, which include the purchase agreement, title paperwork, inspections, etc. It is our job to protect our clients, the buyers, by doing things right.”
Ben also told us about a beautiful new residential development that will be located on 10 acres of land off of 84th and Van Dorn Street. The development will be called Lokahi at Wandering Creek and it will embody sustainable living, modern design, and smart home technology. The concept of Lokahi was birthed with the desire to bring Hawaiian architecture and island-style living here locally.
The homes at Lokahi, designed by Studio 951, will promote a contemporary mix of tropical and Scandinavian concepts, including spacious landscaping, high ceilings, and large windows. This $3.5-million subdivision will include 16 lots, each about .3 to .6 acres in size. Ben anticipates these lots will sell for $175,000–$240,000 each. Reach out to the Professional Realty Group team to learn more about buying a lot in this new development.
As you shop for a home that will fit your needs and your personality, you’ll likely attend a lot of open houses. We spoke to Mary McCombs with Essentials Home Care about what someone should look out for when touring different homes.
“It is easy to get distracted by how the seller has decorated the home,” admitted Mary. “Try to picture yourself and your family in the space. It is less about the furniture or color of the walls. Paint and wallpaper are relatively inexpensive to change and you’ll bring in your own decor, but major construction can be a deal breaker. Is the layout what you had in mind? Think about how your day-to-day will flow. Where will the most foot traffic be? Are the rooms large enough for your needs? What about closet and storage space?”
Mary also suggested paying close attention to the neighborhood: “Do the neighbors keep their yards clean and tidy, or are there old cars and trash around? Is the neighborhood safe enough for people to walk, run, or bike, and are there children playing in the yards?”
It is a good idea to try everything when you’re inside a home. Follow common courtesy but don’t be shy—open and shut the cupboards, flush the toilets, and whip out the measuring tape.
According to Mary, before even stepping out of the car, you should take a few minutes to look at the curb appeal of the home: “What are the sidewalks and entrances like? Will the home need to be painted soon or does it have permanent siding or brick façade? Do the roof and windows appear to be in good shape? Will the plantings require lots of maintenance or is there a steep slope that will be difficult to mow or drive up in the winter? These are all great questions to ask yourself when you go to different open houses.”
If you do buy a home that has everything you’re looking for on the inside, but the outside needs a little facelift, have the experts at Outdoor Solutions help. They offer an impressive assortment of decorative landscape rock, flagstones, borders, mulches, topsoil, retaining wall, pavers, and construction materials that can change the look of your home.
Whether it’s your first home or you’re looking for a new house that fits your needs better than your current one, buying a home is an exciting time. Make it a stress-free time too by working with a team of professionals who are committed to helping you find the right home for you!