Among the major milestones (and highlights) in life, buying a house is right at the top of the list. The current market conditions have made for a frenzy of activity, with houses being listed and sold within as little as one business day. Although widely considered a seller’s market, it’s still a great time to buy as long as you know exactly where you stand so you’re prepared to act quickly when you find your dream home!
Obtaining Pre-Approval and Establishing Your Budget
First thing’s first – you’ll want to get your finances in order before you even begin looking at houses because you’ll need to know the price range that you are pre-qualified for. With respect to mortgages, you’ll want to work with someone who you trust and who you are able to establish a good rapport with as your business relationship will extend over months from getting pre-qualified to closing, and even after that, many companies also service the loans for the additional convenience of having one source for all questions and future assistance.
“Being educated about loan options and prepared for purchase price variances are the most important things a buyer can do to avoid setbacks and surprises,” advises Wayne Kreikemeier, SVP, Residential Mortgage Manager for West Gate Bank®. “Through the mortgage loan pre-qualification process, a loan officer will explain detailed loan options in addition to a conversation about the payments and terms suitable to a customer’s budget. Having this information prior to starting the home search allows a buyer to be confident in the price ranges they are looking at and what that will look like for monthly payments and cash needed to close.
At West Gate Bank®, we start with an informational pre-qualification meeting with the customer. This meeting educates the customer on different loan types and options available to them given their individual circumstances. Upon completion, we’ll issue a pre-qualification letter to the borrower letting them and any other real estate professional know that they are qualified to purchase a home. We stress the importance of each individual loan and customer relationship by making ourselves available for ongoing ‘scenario’ questions from our borrower’s as they navigate the existing homes on the market. Once a decision has been made on a property, we confirm with the customer that our pre-qualification plans have not changed during the offer writing process, which is an important step to avoid any potential setbacks. From that point forward, our local team of processors, underwriters and closers communicate with the customer throughout the approval process keeping them informed and aware of their particular file and their status.”
He adds, “Try to understand the real estate market we’re in at this point. With a shortage of homes on the market, it’s important for a buyer to be educated about financing programs, purchase limits and payment options before looking at homes. With such a shortage, the perfect home may require quick action to get it under contract before a competing offer is submitted. Also, consider using a local real estate agent to assist in the home search. The shortage of homes has prompted some sellers to list homes without agents and the price is not always justified based on comparable sales. A realtor, if involved, may help to avoid overpaying for a property that could ultimately be a bad investment.
The buying process does not have to be difficult in today’s environment; it’s about the customer knowing what the expectations are and how the process will be handled. Our customers are provided that information very early on in the application or pre-qualification stages of the loan which opens our lines of communication between loan officers, processors and closers for a smooth real estate transaction.”
Andrew Essay, AVP/ Mortgage Lender at Cornhusker Bank, adds, “In the current housing market homes are moving extremely fast. The housing inventory is at an all-time low and buyers need to act fast in order to get the home they want. My best advice to help navigate the current market would be to talk to your loan officer before going out house shopping. It is more important than ever before to have your pre-qualification letter in hand when you are shopping for a home. You need to be able to act fast when you find the house of your dreams.
The pre-qualified process will benefit the potential home buyer in multiple ways. The home buyer will be educated on the different mortgage products the bank offers. Cornhusker Bank’s lenders will assist in matching up the right type mortgage with each customer’s situation. Home buyers will also find out the amount of house payment 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 last minute. The entire home buying process can move seamlessly when the buyer has all the necessary information upfront.
Cornhusker Bank has an experienced team of loan officers. We pride ourselves in customer service and helping the customers through every step of the process. The loan officers are involved with the customer from the prequalification process through closing, educating and guiding the customers through the entire process. Even after a loan closes, lenders are still there to assist every customer. Cornhusker Bank offers local servicing. This aspect really sets us apart from the competition and gives each customer great peace of mind.”
House Hunting in Today’s Market
Once your financing is in place you can get started with the fun part – shopping for your new house! While looking at houses is more fun for some then it is for others, it’s generally enjoyable to check out houses and imagine yourself living in them along with what you’d do to make them into a permanent home for you and your family. With the current market and houses selling at lightning speeds it can seem really stressful, but the key is to prepare so that you don’t have to panic.
“Never in the recent past has this market been in such a frenzy!” says Deb Wagner, a real estate agent with Woods Bros Realty. “There are fewer properties on the market than I have seen in my 13 years of working in the real estate industry. And the homes that go up for sale many times are selling in the same day — often at higher than the asking price because of multiple offers! It is more important than ever to contact your Realtor and come up with a game plan as to the steps you will take should the perfect home arrive on the market. Do you need to sell your existing home first? What will you do if your home isn’t sold? Is your current home “prepared” for sale? Will you move to temporary housing and wait till the right home comes along? All the pieces need to be thought out in order to act quickly!”
“The inventory of homes for sale in Lincoln has been very low this year,” agrees Matt Kirkland, Realtor and vice president of Realty Works. “The market for homes priced under $150,000 has been moving very fast. If a house is attractive, has a good location and is priced right it will sell fast! As a buyer, be sure you get pre-approved and are ready to buy when you find the house you are looking for. I was working with a couple different buyers this spring and summer who had homes they were interested in sell in a few hours with multiple bids. A delay of just a couple of hours at times and the house was gone.
When I work with a buyer, I do many things for them but probably the most important thing is to make sure that they pay the right price for their new house. As a Realtor, I have access to information that the general public does not have and I use this information to help my clients make informed decisions once they find the right home.
I highly recommend that buyers meet face to face with a reputable local lender. I have a list of preferred lenders that my clients have had excellent experiences with and I am happy to share these referrals with a buyer. I recently had a buyer get connected online with a lender from out of state and they could have cared less about a small sale in Lincoln, NE. I always recommend working with a local lender as they know the local market and are easily accessible.
Overall, although interest rates have climbed in the last few months, they are still pretty low and it is a good time to be a home buyer in Lincoln.”
As the majority of folks out there aren’t legitimate “buyer’s experts,” it stands to reason that you’ll want to work with someone who is. Consider a few examples. If you had complicated taxes to file, would you do them on your own? If you were being prosecuted in a complex case, would you defend yourself? While it is tempting to try to navigate the terrain of buying or selling your own home—especially selling in the current market where homes are desirable and sell quickly—it’s truly not in your best interest either way to go it alone unless you happen to be a professional yourself.
“Purchasing a home can be a very complex matter,” explains Alison Wick, a Realtor with HOME Real Estate. “Many buyers do not know what their rights are, what they can ask for in a sale and what the timeline/process includes. A Realtor brings a lot to the table for a buyer. Your Realtor will take care of providing lists of potential property matches, scheduling all showings, assist with analysis of the properties, write a contract to include all of the important criteria for the sale, negotiate on your behalf, coordinate all inspections and act as a sounding board for concerns and resource for questions.
For someone who is serious about making a home purchase in the current market, the best advice is to be as prepared as possible. Meet with your Realtor for a preliminary meeting to ensure you’re on the same page to expedite the search. Your Realtor can recommend lenders based on your situation and it is recommended to meet with more than one to evaluate different lending options as well as find a lender you’re comfortable with and confident in.
Moreover, it is essential for buyers to understand what is involved in owning and caring for a home. This includes understanding what a total house payment is as opposed to just the principle payment, what could cause that total to change even after the sale closes, being educated on factors that may affect a property’s value, and knowing what resources are available to homeowners when future questions arise. It is also important to note that it is impossible to avoid all potential setbacks and future problems, so homeowners should continue to stay in touch with their Realtors throughout the sales process and after the sale closes as we (Realtors) have access to a vast network of professionals in various fields that we can connect our clients to. Align with the professionals you trust and ask lots of questions.”
She continues, “The market is still moving relatively quickly but will slow down somewhat as we get into the fall and winter months. Even though the market is moving fast right now, slow down and pay careful attention to inspecting the property(ies) you’re most interested in. With the necessary preparation and legwork ahead of time, you’ll be ready to make a quick offer if it comes to that.
Each price range poses its own unique set of challenges and items to look out for but there are certain things to always inspect. Pay close attention to the structure itself and look for signs or settling or distress, inspect the roof and ceiling for signs of leaking and look closely at the windows to determine if they are performing well. Don’t be afraid to run the water at all faucets and flush all toilets to inspect water pressure and fixture condition. Be sure to go outside and look as closely at the exterior as you do the interior. There are so many details to pay attention to and a Realtor will be able to help you look past the fresh paint and new carpet.
Remember, a Realtor is literally a professional house buyer so we are the best resource to rely on. We continually seek education on various topics affecting our industry so that we can better assist our clients. Many Realtors are involved with a dozen or more sales each year so we are experienced with the process and see firsthand how rapidly that process changes. Your Realtor is the person you will depend on to answer all of your questions, help get you in touch with other professionals you may need and ease concerns as they arise throughout the process. For more information on various real estate topics, visit my blog at homerealestate.com/alisonwick.”
Pat Ohmberger, Associate Broker, CRS, GRI, LTG, PMN, CSP with Home Real Estate, further explains current trends as well as how the market has evolved over the years:
“I have experienced most phases of real estate, from being an investor in the 1980’s when the interest rates were 18+ percent, buying and selling my first home, moving up to accommodate my children’s schools, again with various life changes, and most recently building our empty nester home. I have been a builder’s representative for many years, helping my clients to understand that there is no perfect house and no perfect transactions.
Today, 90% of buyers have done their research in the Internet and come to the table ready to go. Since the market is very limited, you must be a savvy buyer. Ask the experts, building industry craftsmen, financial professionals, and those whose opinions you value. A Realtor can provide you with all of the steps necessary to make these things happen. I call it ‘connecting the dots.’
It is no secret that it is a seller’s market right now, and it is not uncommon to make a hasty decision. There are various options for buying a home today, like For Sale by Owner (FSBO) and Short Sales (homes that have been turned back to the bank). I caution everyone to stop and consider this very carefully…use a Realtor! Buying a home is one of the major five life stressors, including deaths, loss of a job, marriage and divorce so don’t add more stress to your life by living in a home where you are not happy.
Approximately 90% of my business comes from referrals, meaning a lot of my clients are already savvy buyers. However, they still rely on me to guide them through the low inventories, the bumps in the road, the anxiety, and the ups and downs of buying a home. My relationships are very important to me; I have multi-generational clients, family and friends, clients near and far.
In 1991, when I started in real estate, I reflected on my past transactions, making a mental note of what a good Realtor does. Armed with this experience, I chose to conduct my business in a relationship environment by starting with a ‘soft get to know you interview.’ After I obtain all of their personal information, I ask the Cinderella question: ‘Please describe the type of home that meets your current lifestyle.’ Once we have that established, we ‘mesh’ their finances with their wants. I then ask my clients, ‘How can I meet your expectations?’
I fancy myself a therapist, doctor, mediator, bartender, orchestrator, and by setting the stage and strongly negotiating on your behalf with a solid offer as well as delivering more than what I say. With me, you will breathe deeply, laugh and cry, and hug when it is done. All of this is accomplished with longevity, experience and education driven by servant leadership.”
The home buying process certainly can be overwhelming, but finding the right Realtor is crucial to alleviating a great deal of that stress in addition to ensuring that you are making an educated, sound investment. BancWise Realty is a locally owned company specializing in residential real estate sales, and differs from traditional real estate companies because they are able to offer commission options without sacrificing service. Joe Courtney, a Realty Specialist with BancWise Realty, has helped numerous buyers and sellers in the Lincoln area and offers several tips for home buyers:
Tips for the “First Time Buyer”:
• Be sure to interview a few Realtors before committing to one. Select someone that is knowledgeable of the market and experienced with contracts and negotiations. Remember, this person will be in your life for 3-6 months and take care of you every step of the way. Make sure they are someone you can effectively communicate with and trust. Ask your friends and family for a Realtor referral. Chances are if they had a good experience, then so will you.
• Get pre-approved for financing right away. It is important to know all the costs involved with buying a home before you get too far in the process. It’s hard to shop if you don’t know what you can afford!
• Ask questions! You aren’t expected to know everything and that’s what we (Realtors) are here for. Remember, your agent is working for you!
• Make sure the house is right! It is easy to get excited about buying your first home and jump on the first house that gives you the “warm fuzzy feeling”. Due diligence will help you get a feel of the market as you look at other homes in your price range. You will get to understand what you get for the money and where. This will make you feel more comfortable about “pulling the trigger” when you find the right one.
• Always have a home inspection. For a small fee it is more than worth the peace of mind. You aren’t an expert, so hire one to work on your behalf.
Tips for the “Move Up Buyer”:
• This process can be a challenge if you need to sell your current home before you can purchase your new home. Your first priority should be to sell your current home. Remember, that is the only thing holding you back from buying a new one. Get your home listed with a Realtor and priced right. Trying to sell and buy at the same time is a lot to take on, and having a professional in your corner to guide you is essential.
• Search for properties on your own in addition to what your Realtor sends you. I find when buyers look on their own, they adjust criteria more often to “see what else is out there.” That is good. You may come across properties you might not have considered before. You will also get a “big picture” view of what is on the market so that once your home sells you know where you want to be.
• Everyone wants to sync up the closing of their existing home with the purchase of their new home. This can happen most of the time although you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. If your home sells and you can’t find another home in time or negotiate a closing to sync up with your existing home sale then you will need to look into some type of temporary living situation. It isn’t fun to move twice but look at the bright side; your home is now sold and you are a ready to pull the trigger when you do find the right one. Remember, it is only temporary!
Tips for the “Downsizing Buyer”:
• The kids are gone and you just don’t need 4,000 sq. ft. for the two of you. This process can be frustrating as a lot of times you will be changing the style of living that you are accustomed to.
• Have the conversation with your Realtor up front to see if your needs and wants for the new home are realistic
• De-clutter, sell, or donate those items you don’t use. Chances are there won’t be the same amount of storage as your last home.
Derek Kats, Realtor and owner of Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage, LLC, also offers some information about how Realtors can be of assistance to home buyers:
“Realtors assist in many ways during the home buying process in many ways:
We can set up the initial home search for the client so they do not have to bounce from website to website to see all homes available for sale.
We assist with the showing process by scheduling the showing tours and accessing the home with our Realtor eKey.
The contract writing component of the transaction is one of the most important parts of the process, and what sets a Realtor transaction apart from a self-represented or For Sale By Owner transaction. Realtors are trained and knowledgeable in their respective fields and have the required forms readily available, allowing them to provide a safer transaction for the buyer and a smoother negotiation for all parties involved. Once the offer on the home is accepted, the Realtor’s work really begins.
We will coordinate the under contract process from start to finish. We will order title and coordinate with the Buyer’s lender, as well as arranging the home inspection and appraisal and of course, the Realtor will be there with you at the closing table to ensure you have a smooth close and get the keys to your new home!
Choosing the correct Buyer’s Agent Realtor is essential when you’re considering buying a home. The key is selecting a full-time Buyer’s Agent that is not only professional and experienced, but also a good fit for your personality. Buying a home with the help of a Realtor should not only provide you with a professional advisor to keep you from pitfalls, but it should also be an enjoyable experience for you as the buyer. No one Realtor is right for every buyer, so be sure to screen your Realtor with the standard questions such as:
• Professional experience
• Prior sales history
• Area(s) of expertise
• Hours of availability
• Personal questions that will indicate if your personalities will mix well
Additionally, for many buyers, the decision to purchase an existing home or new construction is very important:
• Existing homes tend to be more economically priced, but as with any pre-owned items, they typically include shortcomings such as wear and tear or aging mechanicals.
• New construction homes can give the buyer an option to customize the floor plan or finish materials, but typically are less negotiable on price. Our new construction homes built by Third Generation Builder feature quality materials and workmanship with a modern design, and are built to last with a woman’s touch. This combination is perfect for the more selective homebuyer that wants more personalization and a completely new home to move into.
When making your home buying decision, always keep resale value in mind. As the owner of Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage, LLC, I always try to take a bottom-line business approach to real estate purchases and sales. Many buyers can get emotionally caught up in customizing their home in ways they feel will suit their lifestyle, but more often than not the home you are purchasing will be the home you are selling in years to come. By keeping resale in mind, you will always be able to continue climbing up the property ladder.
I urge all potential home buyers to consider contacting a Buyer’s Agent Realtor to represent you rather than contacting the Listing Agent who works for the seller. With my prior sales history I would make an excellent candidate to assist you on your home buying journey–please give me a call at (402) 770-5021 to discuss your home buying goals and to see what homes are currently available for sale.”
Many buyers will choose to purchase a newly construction home or will opt to go through the process of building their very own home, which is an entirely different process than purchasing an existing home although there are many similarities.
“With the current markets low inventory creating a lack of options for buyers; building new construction is a great alternative,” emphasizes Holly Thoene, the Realtor for Legacy Homes in Lincoln. “You get to choose your homes features and we at Legacy will customize our floor plans so you get to design the home that’s perfect for your family. Our dedicated people in the sales, design, and production areas are here to assist you through the entire home building process. We will walk you through the build from finding a floor plan, and designing your home, to selecting the perfect lot and beyond. Because of our office location in Lincoln we are always accessible to customers. At Legacy we offer customizable floor plans with base pricing ranging from $143,500 to $229,000, so there’s essentially a new home option for every budget.
Legacy Homes has three furnished model homes in Lincoln for home buyers to view along with seven furnished models in Omaha with more on the way. Our model home locations are open every Wednesday and Thursday from 1-6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 12-4 p.m. Please come visit us soon!”
Closing The Deal
The closing process, including working with the title company to get everything in order, is another major aspect of buying/selling.
“It is important for homeowners to understand the process of buying and selling a home as far as the actual financial transaction and legal process are concerned,” explains Marina Konovalchuk of Nebraska Title Company. “The first step is to sign a purchase agreement that includes all of the terms of the purchase and sale, including the purchase price, deposit, closing date, any personal property included in the sale, inspections, contingencies, and any other terms agreed to by both parties. Buyers need to contact their lender as soon as a purchase agreement is signed so that the lender is ready to close on the set closing date and any inspections should to be ordered by the buyers right away to avoid any potential delays. As soon as we receive the purchase agreement, we prepare a title commitment and work with all parties to clear any title requirements and prepare for the closing. If there are any changes, sellers or buyers should notify us as soon as possible.
From our title professionals to our escrow closers and processors, at Nebraska Title Company we all work together to make it the smoothest transaction possible for both the seller and the buyer. Our title department takes care of searching the property records to make sure there are no title issues. If there are issues, our team of professionals work together to clear all title requirements. We also prepare all of the paperwork necessary to transfer ownership to the property. Our role is to work with the seller, buyer, realtors and lenders to make sure that all parties are happy with the sale and the purchase.”
She adds, “Homeownership is a wonderful thing, and there are many experts available to help with the process. Ask a lot of questions and be very clear as to what matters to you. Buying a home is a big decision and it is important to work with a team of professionals to insure that your experience is a good one!”
Considerations, Inspections and Insurance
Once you’ve officially signed on the dotted line, it’s crucial to have your home insured from that point on. There are steps that can be taken prior to the official sale date so that everything goes smoothly and there’s never a gap in coverage. Moreover, there are a lot of things about the home that you’ll want to take into consideration before you “pull the trigger” and enter into a purchase agreement.
Home inspections will alert you to a wide variety of issues that would need to be addressed by the seller before the agreement can be made for the sale, and these are also things that would affect your ability to insure the home. “It’s important to make sure that the home’s key systems are updated, especially in the case of an older home,” advises Douglas Kruce, LUTCF, a local American Family Insurance agent. “Right now in the area of home insurance there’s a huge magnifying glass on this as it’s a source of a huge amount of claims nationwide. In fact, quite a few companies won’t even offer a policy on older houses if its systems aren’t updated. This commonly includes replacement of fuses with electrical breakers as they are a major cause of electrical fires, along with updated heating, plumbing, air conditioning and roofing systems. If the furnace can’t keep up in the winter you’ll be dealing with frozen pipes, and if the roof isn’t sound you’ll have moisture damage and that can be a major health hazard along with costly repairs to fix the issue.
We look into coverage prior to our client closing on the home; as an agent I go out and take pictures to document my on-site inspection, which helps to evaluate the accuracy of your existing coverage and what changes you’ll need to make for your new home. Every home policy will need to go through an evaluation, and at this time it’s of primary importance to make sure the replacement costs are accurate. Every year there’s inflation, whether it’s for paint, drywall, lumber, and so on. If your policy isn’t current then you will more than likely fall short on costs associated with replacing the items needed to fix the damage to your home. If you lose everything, you don’t want to fall short on being made whole again just because replacement costs weren’t updated. As for your possessions, you’ll want to keep an updated inventory of all items in the home as well. For example, with the cost of gold that’s going up jewelry should definitely be evaluated regularly. It’s equally important to verify endorsements that you’ll need, such as sump pump coverage or roof shingles, and to also ask about what discounts are available. We are seeing more discounts available for impact resistant roof materials, monitored alarm systems, smart thermostats, moisture sensors, smart garage door openings, and surveillance cameras just to name the major ones. All of these items are things that are easily evaluated by simply speaking to a professional.”
It’s critical to make sure the home is what it’s advertised to be,” agrees David Duff of Farm Bureau Financial Services. “If you’re buying a home with an older roof, make sure you add a clause to replace it or can afford to do so yourself in the near future, and if you choose to buy without the seller replacing first, check for problem areas or leaks and make sure you take a peek in the attic.
Look for ‘spilt milk covered with newspaper’ — sometimes holes in the walls or water leaks are covered with a quick fix and paint. Also, it might not be wise to purchase a home at the maximum end of what you can afford per month. Instead, consider going just a little under that. You will want to repaint a room or two, there will be something that goes wrong with a water heater, with extra space there is a chance of having another kid as an added expense, and so on. Plan a little on the cautious side.
Along the same lines, make sure you know what you are getting and that you can afford it. Sometimes the idea of owning a home in general or in a certain area will affect your judgement, leading to oversight on issues with the property. There are plenty of great Realtors in town that will help you know your price range, what needs to be done to a home before purchase, or situations that might be coming your way in the future with the purchase. Zillow Bird’s Eye View or mortgage estimators are not always the most accurate. Real estate is the best investment if done right with research and utilization of the resources available to you. It can also be your worst nightmare if you rush into it without any thought or preparation.”
Jason Olberding, owner of J-Tech Construction, also offers his advice as to things that should be inspected prior to making the commitment to buy.
“There are certain things that are essential to a home. The first thing I would suggest looking into is the foundation. Is it sound? Will there be problems in the future? If you have a leaky basement or a cracked foundation you could lose most of your investment faster than you think. So be sure to check and double check the quality of your potential home’s foundation. Also, you will want to make sure there are no problems with the roof. Even if the roof looks fine from the ground you want to double check the quality of the shingles. How old are they? Having an issue with your roof is never fun and you want to make sure any potential problems are taken care of before you proceed with closing.
Furthermore, always keep in mind that windows do not last forever. If the house you are looking into purchasing is a somewhat older home make sure you check the quality of the windows. It is not uncommon for some windows, even as new as five years old, to have issues with their seals. When a seal fails on a window you could be dealing with a lot more problems than you think. This could potentially mean an issue with mold build-up in between glass and higher energy bills. Sometimes you may find that all but maybe one or two of the windows are sound but even if it is just a few windows with issues you could see a huge energy loss if those issues are left unresolved. Be sure to mention the quality of the windows to your realtor so you are not left with bigger problems down the road.”
He adds, “The most important thing when looking to buy a house is to make sure you are getting the home you want. If you are purchasing with your spouse or significant other it is important that you are both on the same page. My advice is to sit down and each write a list of the three most important things that you would like your new home to have. Once you have your list you can start your search. While searching you it may be difficult to find a home that meets all three of the things on each of your lists. That is why it is important to have a list of three things because if you can check off two of the three things on each of your lists you will be much happier with your purchase.”
UV damage to flooring, walls, and any other decorative features of the home is another key thing to look for when touring homes on the market. “Oftentimes a home is staged with rugs, wall hangings, or furniture but when the new homeowner moves in, these items are gone and there a discolored shapes left behind,” advises Keith May, owner of The Tint Shop. “This is an issue that could potentially be very expensive to fix. UV damage is a lot more common these days with the bigger windows found in newer homes. If there are large windows or a lot of sunlight in a particular room, make sure to lift up the rug or gently move the picture over to expose the space underneath and check for color consistency.
Furthermore, if you are purchasing a home with large windows, it is advantageous to consider protecting the interior of your new home with 3M Solar Control or Fasara Decorative Window Films. All 3M films block 99% of UV light entering through the glass, which will keep flooring, woodwork, décor, drapes, blinds and other interior furnishings from fading. Window films also have many other benefits; at the top of the list is heat and glare reduction, privacy, and energy efficiency. 3M Films are Energy Star Rated and will extend the life and increase the efficiency of your major heating and cooling systems, effectively keeping your home at a comfortable temperature year-round and reducing your utility bills. In fact, with the energy savings alone the window tinting will pay for itself in 2-5 years, depending on usage, square footage and a few other factors.
When it comes to appearance, there are several choices available and all are safe for the glass. 3M Films can be virtually clear, reducing the heat coming through the glass by almost 70% while not changing the exterior or interior appearance of the glass at all. However, decorative or ‘frost’ films are being utilized more and more in modern interior design and there are many styles, finishes and textures available in the 3M Fasara line for every taste and situation. Privacy and security are also of great importance to homeowners, and 3M Window Films are an excellent way for you to be able to keep your great views without anyone outside being able to look in. It’s a common misconception that window films will have a mirrored look, but that’s absolutely not the case as most today offer a very natural look. We also offer a warranty on all of our products and services, so you’ll enjoy all of the benefits along with peace of mind.”
To learn more, visit The Tint Shop Lincoln’s Facebook page to check out their Photo Gallery of homes or visit 3M.com/windowfilms to get product specs, warranty info, and even test out their Window Film Simulator tool. Or if you simply have a few questions you’d like answered before you set up a free estimate, you can always call The Tint Shop at (402) 466-1355.
When assessing the features of a home you are considering, along with the potential for incorporating new features with any leftover funds you have after purchasing a home, the house’s major systems and integrated technology are without a doubt two major factors to consider.
Pat Killeen, owner of Engineered Controls, offers advice for home buyers and sellers specifically from the perspective of a technology contractor:
“People shopping for real estate today are younger than the previous generation of home buyers and they are extremely tech savvy. They grew up with smartphones, apps and Google searches. And they want to use technology not only in their search for a home, but throughout the home itself. A recent survey by Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate shows that 77% of Gen X and Gen Y home buyers want their homes equipped with the technology that they have grown accustom to. Many buyers today are looking to transform an entire property into a ‘smart home’ with home automation systems for home management, safety or security features. Additionally, realtors indicate that homes with smart home features and technology sell faster than homes without them.
When looking to buy a new home remember that companies like Engineered Controls represent a whole host of smart home products that will improve your home’s comfort and help you operate your home more efficiently. From the most state-of-the-art Wi-Fi enabled thermostats and zoning systems to whole-house air cleaning systems, whole-house humidification and dehumidification systems, Zigbee and Z-Wave wired and wireless security and video systems; everything is geared to make homes more energy efficient and secure. No other manufacturer offers more for homeowners to increase comfort, save energy and protect your home. Engineered Controls represents Honeywell residential products, the most trusted and recognized name in home comfort and security.
One of the most important benefits to purchasing a ‘smart home’ is that homeowners can now taking advantage of new, cutting edge residential technology that improves their environment and living comfort, reduces energy and provides increased safety and security. Today’s smart phones and wireless devices will keep homeowners connected everywhere. Honeywell’s Total Connect Service provides a personalized web portal with mobile apps that allow the homeowner to stay connected to their home’s heating and cooling system and home security system from their smart phone, tablet or personal computer. For example, Total Connect by Honeywell can make a dramatic positive impact on home control technology. Total Connect will allow the home owner to remotely monitor and control their home at any time and from anywhere. With Total Connect, you can take advantage of all the amazing benefits next-generation digital technology has to offer including enhanced communication and the ability to stay connected to your home and business from anywhere in the world. The state-of-the-art security, lighting and HVAC controllers provides you with an affordable way to control your security system, video cameras and heating and air conditioning needs all in one simple to use system.”
Killeen adds, “After seeing how much attention was given to the “smart or connected” home at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, it is very clear that smart home technologies are entering the mainstream of today’s residential real estate market. Smart homes are solving many consumer and societal needs when you consider all of the security, energy efficiency and comfort advantages that come along with the connected home. This is why Engineered Controls is taking an active role in educating consumers about products, networks, features, and benefits of today’s smart or connected homes.”
There are also things to be assessed with respect to the landscape of the property, whether prior to putting a bid in on the home or after you have officially purchased the home.
“If you’re buying an existing home, especially one that is forty years or older, try looking beyond the existing landscape,” suggest Ken Svoboda, owner of Ray’s Lawn and Home Care. “In most cases, the landscape may be overgrown if not maintained well. It more-than-likely will have a prickly evergreen shrub covering the majority of the front of the house known as the Pfitzer Juniper. This was a very popular shrub in the sixties as they were readily available, grew quickly and most of all, were cheap. The house may have a very large shade tree in the front lawn, maybe even planted way to close to the home. If this scenario sounds familiar in your recent home shopping try looking past the landscape and focus on the house in general. Its foundation, its structure, its location. Everything on the outside, just like the carpet and drapes on the inside, can be replaced. Contact a landscape expert for an inspection of the landscape and possibly suggestions on how to improve and update that ‘curb-appeal.’ Ray’s Lawn & Home Care is a local family owned lawn maintenance and landscape firm that has been serving the local home and property owners for forty-nine years. No job is too big and certainly not too small.
In line with consulting an expert for suggestions as to how the existing landscape can be improved upon, call on a landscape expert to do an inspection and evaluation of the landscape. Ray’s Lawn & Home Care doesn’t charge for this service as others in the industry do. An inspection can reveal the age, value, identification and expectations of the landscape plants. I’m often contacted to inspect the landscape of a home for the potential buyer and offer my suggestions and renovation or upgrade cost estimates in advance of a purchase.”
As far as things to evaluate when looking at potential homes on the market, Svoboda advises, “First of all, size up the property and I mean literally. You’re buying a home for either yourselves or possibly a growing or expected family. Take the time to anticipate the number of bedrooms needed and the size and shape of the family gathering spaces such as the kitchen and the family room. Do the same for the outside of the property. If you’re a transitioning middle-aged couple looking to downsize so that you can travel more, don’t buy a home with an elaborate landscape that requires routine maintenance. You’ll either be chained to the weeding and trimming chores or you’ll be opening your wallet regularly. If you’re a new or growing family look for the size of yard that will accommodate games, playsets maybe even a swimming pool. Thinking of these things in advance will save years of frustration later.”
Next are the cleaning checkpoints that you’ll want to cover prior to or shortly after you’ve moved in.
“The items of your cleaning checklist will differ depending on whether the home is newly constructed or just new to the homeowner,” explains Crystal Patzel, owner of Crystal Clean Housekeeping. “A brand new house will need a complete wipe down including vacuuming of vents. Sawdust and drywall dust settle in all corners with new construction. If the home has been lived in prior to the homeowner’s purchase, make sure carpets are professionally cleaned and a company comes in to thoroughly clean the home top to bottom. It’s especially important to move kitchen appliances and clean inside those appliances as well, as there will almost always be ‘hidden treasures.’ Remember, just because it shines doesn’t mean it works. Check those sparkling windows to make sure they open and check the freshly cleaned carpet for odors, as some odors really may never come out. Buying a home is an exciting time, but finding your dream home may not necessarily be easy. Keep in mind that you can always change the color of the paint, the carpet or tile, and even the countertops. If your dream home is only missing a small detail don’t let it slip through your fingers!”
Staging your home is also an important part of getting it ready to put on the market, and this is where a cleaning company can be a very useful resource too!
For those who will be purchasing a home out in the country or acreage, there are a host of differences that will need to be taken into consideration. Waste removal and the septic system or lagoon is a prime example.
“We understand the desire for many to live out in the country; life outside the city truly is a wonderful experience,” says Jaime Kubik, co-owner of Southwick Liquid Waste. “However, what many people might not understand is that living with a septic system or with a lagoon is not the same as living on city sewer. It isn’t rocket science or even that hard, but it is different. If you decide to live on septic or with a lagoon, there are a few things I would want to share with a prospective country homeowner.
First of all, there is a certain amount of maintenance required with both a septic system and lagoon. Septic tanks have to be pumped every 3 to 5 years and lagoons have to be mowed regularly so that they will function properly. In town, all you really have to do is pay your sewer bill and your waste water needs are taken care of — basically, out of sight out of mind. In the country, you have be a little more mindful of your waste water system. Not thinking about your system and just assuming all is well can end up costing you money in repairs and messes due to lack of maintenance.
Second, homeowners living in the country have to be careful of the amount of water they use at one time–especially for septic systems. This doesn’t mean all of your water practices have to be turned upside down, BUT, you’re not going to want everyone in the house showering at the same time while the dishwasher and washing machine are running too. This will overrun your system and possibly cause a back-up problem. Ever try putting 20 gallons of water in a 10 gallon bucket? Using too much water at one time in your home can have the same effect on your septic system.
Third, your new waste water system (whether septic or lagoon) is very dependent on Mother Nature not being a crazy woman. This last spring where the Lincoln area received 11 inches of rain in one month caused many country-living people issues. All the water coming out of your house eventually makes it outside to the ground where it needs to either evaporate into the air or be absorbed into the ground. When it is wet outside or stays wet for long periods of time, there isn’t any place for all this waste water to go. Water doesn’t evaporate on rainy days and soil can’t absorb when it rains all the time. There are a few things that can be done to help in times like these, but even the best functioning septic system or lagoon can have problems when excessive rain comes to town.
I don’t mention these things to scare a prospective buyer — obviously many people live on septic and get along just fine — but I do think it is important to be informed of the fact that living in the country isn’t the same as living in the city. I talk with lots of homeowners who assume everything was going to be the same as living in town and it’s mainly because no one told them it was going to be different. No one likes the unexpected. To make an informed decision we all want the facts. So, again I say, it’s not rocket science, it’s just different.”
Specifically regarding waste water, she further advises, “When purchasing a home, I would make sure the septic system has been properly maintained over the years. Nothing lasts forever, but a well maintained septic system should last a good 30 years. Would you want to buy a car that’s 15 years old knowing that no one ever changed the oil? A 15-year-old car could be a great vehicle, but if it hasn’t been taken care of or maintained, it’s probably going to give you problems…and those problems will probably be expensive.
The first question I would ask when looking at a country home is ‘When was the last time you had your septic tank pumped?’ If they can’t answer you or say ‘I’m not sure we’ve ever had it pumped,’ be careful. If the home uses a lagoon, take a look at it. Is it overgrown with trees, cat tails or other vegetation? Lagoons need to be mowed about once a month so that vegetation doesn’t become too overgrown. Air should be able to easily flow over top of the lagoon water for it to function properly.
Southwick Liquid Waste offers a maintenance program for septic systems. We come out every six months to check the system for any possible issues and then pump the tank every three years for a monthly fee. We are finding more and more people who aren’t used to living on septic moving out into the country. These people don’t want to worry about remembering every 3-5 years they need to have their tank pumped so they pay us to make sure the system is maintained, checked, and pumped regularly. If you have any questions about your system or a system for a home that you’re looking at buying, we are more than happy to lend our expertise and discuss any questions or concerns!”
Safety is indeed a chief concern that should be considered when evaluating potential homes. Fire protection and security systems are valuable assets in existing homes, as they will not only ensure your safety, protect your investment and belongings, and provide you with peace of mind but can also save you money in the future. In fact, most insurance companies offer a discount for having a home security system; often up to 20% off your policy. General Fire & Safety and AlarmLink USA will send professionals out to the home to assess its current systems and/or to provide an estimate for the cost of installing them so that you know what to expect should you decide to purchase the home. AlarmLink USA also utilizes Total Connect by Honeywell as a master control for their security systems, which offers homeowners the ability to control other systems in your home such as lighting, HVAC and more remotely through their smart phone, tablet and PC. Additionally, AlarmLink offers great system options such as a panic button in the master bedroom for quick access to 911, remote wireless access to surveillance so you can see your home or even turn on lights while you are away, and secured gates and doors with access codes for entry just to name a few. This also offers a great deal of flexibility, energy savings, and peace of mind. You can even access security footage from your cell phone, PC, laptop or tablet. They can tailor a system to your specific needs and requests if one is not already in place, and as a locally owned and operated company they are available to address any concerns or provide assistance at any time, day or night. R.J. Lipert, owner of AlarmLink USA, emphasizes, “Because the lives and assets of our clients are at stake, we are committed to the flawless execution of Intrusion Systems, Camera Surveillance, Door Access Systems and Fire Alarms. Buying a new home is a major investment, and our job is to install systems that best fit homeowners’ needs in order to ensure that their new investment is protected from damage, theft, or other potentially hazardous occurrences.”
As previously touched upon, when you’re looking at homes it’s also important to consider projects that could be done to the home in the future before you cross a potential home off of your list.
Realistically no house is going to be exactly what you are looking for unless you build your own from the ground up. However, you’ll likely find one that’s close and just needs a little bit of work done. Alternatively, you may actually be specifically looking for a “fixer-upper,” which is quite common too. No matter what your end goal is, it’s important to be aware of what you can plan for as far as future renovations even before you buy.
“Any home that you look at will require some type of remodeling to get it to where you want it to be whether your goal is bringing it up-to-date, altering it to function better for your family, adding in a feature that you’ve always wanted, and so on,” explains Nate Bahm, owner of Nate’s Custom Renovations. “When you’ve found a house that you are seriously considering buying, make a list of desired renovations and then prioritize it from the ‘must-haves’ down to the ‘could live withouts.’ Then talk to a professional so you can take the costs into account when considering your overall budget. This is an area where it’s not only important to have a professional give you an accurate estimate of what the renovations on your list would cost, but it’s equally important to speak to your lender about the options that are available to accommodate any future remodeling you’ll be doing. For example, the FHA 203k renovation loan program provides funds for both the purchase and renovation of a home packaged into one mortgage loan. Once the purchase of the home is closed, renovation funds are held in escrow to pay for pre-determined renovation work done by approved renovation contractors.
After you know what your budget and financing options are, it’s advantageous to put together a timeline according to priority and cost. For those who don’t want to tackle every project at once, especially right after moving in, prioritizing, budgeting, and creating a timeline will greatly help you make the best decisions moving forward. This way you’ll have a better understanding of the whole picture — the entire cost of getting your home where you want to be as opposed to just the initial cost that only includes the listing price of the home.”
He further advises, “While having a professional evaluate the home and your list of necessary renovations is beneficial prior to making the decision to buy, you’ll want to narrow it down to the home that you’re the most interested in as there’s generally a fee for assessment if the home isn’t purchased yet. A professional has the expertise and tools to give you a clear picture of scope along with an estimate of the cost, which is useful in the short and long run. As one example, we use design software just as they do on the popular TV show ‘Property Brothers’ where we input the measurements and materials for the project and it produces a rendering of what the space would look like when it’s finished. This technology is incredibly accurate and helps our clients to envision the project before fully committing.”
Moving Day Preparations
Along with buying a new house comes with moving into the new house and a well thought out strategy here is extremely helpful too. As a general rule the more prepared you are, the easier the transition into your new home will be. It’s a popular assumption that calling for quotes is the first step, but in all actuality every move is different and in the case of moving companies, estimates are almost always tailored to the specific needs of the client.
“I always advise people to really plan ahead of time and educate themselves on what type of service they will need on moving day,” says Jason Christenson of Two Men And A Truck. “I see a lot of people wait until a week prior to the move and both the availability for the particular day and accommodating the service that works the best becomes an issue. As a rule of thumb, you should book your move at least two weeks in advance. Be prepared with the answers to key questions such as both locations, whether you’re doing the packing or you’d like the company to do the packing for you, and an itemized list of items to be moved that’s as accurate as possible. The list would include large items, estimated number of boxes, and any items that require special care. Also, make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to pack if you choose to do so yourself. We carry a full line of boxes and packing supplies along with offering a complimentary deliver system of those items for any customer that has booked a move with us. We deliver a bulk amount of boxes, and then take any extras with us after the move so that the customer only pays for the boxes that they actually use. This prevents a lot of hassle and I can assure you we have everything on-hand that you could possibly need, all you have to do is ask. Furthermore, make sure to have arrangements in place for the utilities to be transferred. All of these things will alleviate stress when the day of your move arrives.”
He further advises, “It’s in your best interest to get more than one estimate for your move, but don’t shop on price along. Pay attention to how you are treated on the phone as well as by the consultant who comes to your home. Also check with the Better Business Bureau and ask your friends. And one last time…plan ahead!”
So, whether you’re in the market to buy a house or considering selling, there’s truly no better time than the present. As this is a key area where you’ll want to bring in the experts to help you each step of the way, make sure to utilize the wealth of local resources found right here in Lincoln and to consult them early and often!