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9 Tips for Making Your Move Stress-Free

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Buying a new home is exciting – and a big deal. If you're searching for the perfect place, or you've already found it and are under contract, the next step in the process can feel more tedious: moving.

Moving can be stressful, a bit expensive and plenty chaotic. But with some planning, help from friends and a little organization, it doesn't have to be as hectic as you imagine. Here are some tips to take the stress out of your move:

1. Make a plan of attack – Whether you're moving across town or across the state lines, you'll probably want to rent a truck. Do you have willing helpers to assist in the move, or will you need to hire some help? If you're moving farther away, you'll probably want professional help. Figure out what your moving needs are, and ask friends or your real estate agent for references to a trusted mover. Also, stock up on boxes, packing tape, permanent markers and packing peanuts/bubble wrap.

2. Prioritize your packing – As you start packing your current home up, designate a few boxes for each room that you'll need quick access to. For example, you'll want to keep personal toiletries, shower curtains and liners, a first-aid kit and other necessities easily accessible for the bathroom. Label these boxes "Open Now" so you know which boxes are filled with the essentials – and which ones can wait until later.

3. Don't go it alone – Packing is a monumental task. Invite some friends or relatives over, buy some pizza and make it a packing party! Delegate the tasks you feel most comfortable entrusting others with, like packing up DVDs, books and other non-fragile items. A little help goes a long way to saving you some time – and sanity.

4. Don't take it all – If you realize you have 10 boxes of clothes and you haven't worn half of them in a few years, it's time to part ways. Create three piles: a "keep" pile, a "sell" pile and a "donate" pile. If time permits, hold a moving sale to unload some of the items you don't want anymore. Bonus: Selling items before you move gives you extra money that you can put toward moving expenses. Added bonus: You reduce the clutter.

5. Forward your mail – Believe it or not, people forget to do this all the time! It's easy to change your address with the U.S. Postal Service. Simply visit the USPS website, and in a few steps you're done!

6. Turn off your utilities – Check with your local utility providers, as well as other services (trash pickup, newspaper delivery, cable/Internet, phone), to inform them that you're moving. They'll need to know an exact date for your move so they can transition or cut off service. You don't want to be billed for charges after you move!

7. Change your address everywhere else – Contact your bank, credit card companies, healthcare providers, schools, etc. to give them your new address. Although your mail will be forwarded, you still want to update your contact information as soon as possible to avoid missing important bills or letters.

8. Be flexible – Closing day can be unpredictable, and sometimes there are delays. If you're scheduling movers or arranging for help, you might want to pick a day or two after closing to avoid a moving-day headache.

9. Consider hiring a professional house cleaner – Sellers don't necessarily leave their homes in sparkling condition when they leave. If time and budget permit, hire a house cleaner to make your new home move-in ready. It's one less thing for you to worry about!

In the market for a new home but have no idea where to start? There are several decisions you should begin to make before you even start your home search. By asking yourself the right questions, you can quickly pinpoint what you want – and can afford – in your next home.

1. What's your budget? See how your finances stand up to the 28/36 rule, which lenders use to see what you can afford to pay each month. A financial adviser or your real estate agent also can help you crunch the numbers. Going through the mortgage pre-approval process lets you know how much lenders will allow you to borrow – plus it helps you show sellers that you have the funds to backup your offer.

2. What do you need in your new home? How many bedrooms or bathrooms do you need? What about a large kitchen, a home office or a playroom for the kids? How many cars need covered parking? It's critically important to ensure the home you select meets your family and lifestyle needs.

3. Do you want a condo or single-family home? Condos come with much less maintenance. You typically won't be shoveling snow in the winter or replacing the roof, but you'll likely pay monthly association fees to cover services and repairs in the community. Houses, on the other hand, come with more privacy and freedom to customize. They also come with full responsibility for maintenance.

4. How do you feel about living under covenants? Depending on where you buy, you may have to pay homeowner association (HOA) fees in addition to your mortgage. There are benefits to HOAs, such as maintenance, community centers, and maybe even a pool or gym. But you also could be faced with more restrictive rules about the look of the outside of your home, down to the color of your front door, types of window coverings, and whether you can plant flowers in your yard.

5. What school district do you want to be near? Even if you don't have children in the house, local schools will affect your property value. Prospective homebuyers tend to search with education in mind. Do your research on the schools in the areas you'd like to live in.

6. Should the home be move-in ready? Ask yourself how much elbow grease you're willing to put into a home – or how much you'll pay someone else to do the work. Fixer-upper homes can be great after the work is done, but you'll want to figure out your renovation budget before you start your home search. A 203k home-renovation loan might be the right resource for you. If you're not ready for the extra financial commitment of rehabbing a home, or you can't or don't want to wait for remodeling projects to finish up, then a home that's move-in ready might be right for you.

After considering all these factors, you'll be ready to start the home search with a clearer picture of where you're headed. Contact Jorge today at 757-287-3400 when your ready to move forward. 

Millennials are now major players in the home buying arena, according to the recent Home Buyer and Generational Trends report released by the National Association of Realtors:

1. Millennials accounted for 35% of buyers in 2015. This is up from 32% in 2014, and is the third year in a row Millennials have composed the largest group of recent buyers. 

2. In 2015, the number of Millennials purchasing in an urban or central city area decreased to 17% from 21% in 2014. Suburbia-phobe? Perhaps not.

3. They have help getting their foot in the door. Twenty-three percent of Millennials used a financial gift for (or toward) their down payment. 

4. An online search was the first step for 56% of Millennials, whether they were looking for properties or searching for information about the home buying process. 

5. Almost 90% worked with a Realtor to buy their home. 

Are you a Millennial looking for your next home? I would be happy to help you find a home, so contact me today at 757-287-3400.

8 Tips For The First-Time Seller

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If you're selling a home for the first time, it's quite a different ballgame from what you experienced as a first-time buyer.

Ultimately, you're in control of the process. You call the shots on prepping your home for sale, deciding on a listing price, accepting (or rejecting) offers, and a host of other factors.

But you might want to heed the following tips:

1. Hire an experienced real estate agent
A real estate transaction is filled with complexities and nuances that a professional, skilled agent can help you navigate. 

2. Detach yourself from the process
You've made memories to last a lifetime in your first home, and saying goodbye is hard. But be careful not to let your emotional attachment get in the way of making sound decisions, particularly when it comes to staging and pricing your home. Try to see your home as a potential buyer would. Pretend you're a potential buyer and walk through your home. Make a list of what you like about each room – and the things you'd change.

3. Don't overprice
Some sellers might think that in today's low-inventory market they can overprice their home and get top dollar. In reality, if you price it competitively, you'll create a flurry of activity and (possibly) get in a situation where multiple offers are rolling in. Overpricing at the start hurts your chances of getting a quick sale, especially if numerous price reductions are needed.

4. Declutter and stage for a quick sale
Buyers who tour your home will have a hard time picturing themselves living in it if they only see paint colors or décor that fits your own unique style. Repaint the walls with neutral, earth-tone colors, and remove excess decorations from walls. Consider renting a storage unit to store large furniture that overpowers your main living areas; rooms should appear as spacious as possible.

5. Make the necessary repairs/upgrades
Ensure that all systems and appliances are functioning properly, as these items will come up in a home inspection that might cost you more money and, possibly, the whole sale down the road. The rule of thumb is to make improvements to your home that will help the property show well, but don't put a ton of money into capital investments such as a basement refinish or high-end flooring, particularly if such upgrades aren't consistent for your neighborhood. You likely won't get that money back in the sale.

6. Give your home curb appeal
Your home's front exterior is the first thing potential buyers will see when they drive by, and it's likely the first photo that will appear in an online search. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint, add some bright flowers to your entryway, and make sure that any cracks or major cement damage is fixed. Consider renting a pressure washer to get rid of the grime and buildup on the outside of your house, and definitely keep the yard mowed and tidy. A little elbow grease goes a long way to making a positive first impression on buyers.

7. Keep an open mind for negotiations
What's more important to you: Walking away with your asking price (or more)? A quick closing time? Putting out as little up front cash in closing costs as possible? All of these are considerations you'll need to make as you evaluate offers. Also, keep in mind that you have the ability to negotiate with counter-offers. Sometimes, you can sweeten the deal by offering to pay a buyer's closing costs (if feasible), or leaving some appliances behind. A few concessions can go a long way in the negotiation process, and your Realtor can work with you to carefully evaluate and respond to each offer.

8. Get ready for closing
Once you've accepted an offer and signed a sales agreement, you'll start prepping for a closing. Also called “escrow" or “settlement," closing is the final meeting between the buyer, seller, their agents and a loan officer (or an attorney, in some states) where the buyer pays their portion of the costs to the seller and the buyer's new title and any mortgage liens are properly recorded. The closing agent will calculate what monies are due to the owner and what credits need to be applied to the transaction, such as taxes, title fees and other closing costs.

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4

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Jorge Gonzalez primarily provides Real Estate and Property Management services for rental properties for the following areas of Hampton Roads:

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