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First Time Buyers: Understanding How Property Taxes Work and What You Can Expect to Pay

December 10th, 2014

1st-Time-HomebuyerAre you about to buy a house or condo for the first time? Congratulations! Owning your own piece of real estate is a liberating experience and one that will provide you with the foundation to build your personal wealth and equity. Once you own your own home you’ll be responsible for a variety of new costs, including property taxes which are assessed by your local government to pay for municipal services. In this blog post we’ll share how property taxes work and what you can expect to pay when you buy your new home.

It All Begins with a Local Property Tax Assessment 

As mentioned above, local governments assess property taxes as a means for paying for police officers, fire fighting services, road maintenance and the other various costs that come with running a town or city. Whether you’re buying a house, a townhouse or a condo, the property that your home sits on is inside of an area known as an “assessment area”. When the local government determines what your local tax levy or tax rate will be, they will assess your home based on the real estate market value of similar homes in the area. You can multiply your tax rate by the assessed value of your home to determine how much you’ll owe in property tax.

Property Taxes as Part of Your Closing Costs 

When you close on your new home you’ll have to pay property taxes, and your real estate agent will help you to understand how much these taxes will be and how they will be paid. In most cities and counties you’ll pay a pro-rated amount of property tax that covers the time span from the date you purchase the home until the end of the year, after which time you’ll be paying your full assessed rate.

Don’t Forget Your Overall Tax Picture 

Finally, don’t forget that property taxes can be factored in to the rest of your overall tax picture. Check with your accountant or another financial professional to determine whether or not you can write your property taxes off against your income tax to save some additional money. There are numerous tax benefits to owning a home, so it’s best to start using them from day one. As with all other taxes, property taxes are a fact of life that every homeowner faces.

Refinance Now or Wait? How to Determine the Best Time to Refinance Your Mortgage

December 5th, 2014

CalculatorRefinancing your mortgage is a great way to reduce your monthly payments or take out some of the equity in your home to reinvest in renovations, upgrades or in other areas in your financial portfolio. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions that you can ask yourself in order to determine whether you should refinance now or wait until sometime in the future.

Can You Lock In A Lower Interest Rate? 

Depending on when you first purchased your home and took out your mortgage, you may find that by refinancing now you can lock in a lower interest rate. Getting a lower rate can end up saving you thousands of dollars a year in interest, but you’ll need to weigh the closing costs of the refinancing against the savings you’ll obtain to ensure that refinancing is worthwhile.

How Much Do You Owe On The Home? 

If you still owe a significant amount on your home you may find that it’s worth refinancing, especially if you’re confident that you won’t be selling the home any time soon. Conversely, if you’re very close to having your mortgage paid off you may find that refinancing has little benefit.

Do You Need To Tap Into Your Home Equity? 

If you feel that now is the time to tap into the equity you’ve built up in your home over time in order to cover renovation or upgrade costs you may want to consider refinancing. This will allow you to take out a large chunk of cash without having to open a new loan or line of credit. If possible, try to secure a lower interest rate for added benefit.

Do You Plan On Moving? 

If you’re planning on moving in the next couple of years then you may want to hold off on refinancing your mortgage. As mentioned above, there are closing costs attached with a refinancing deal and these must be factored in when assessing whether or not you stand to gain or lose. If you’re staying in your home for the near future there’s a far better chance that the costs of a refinancing will be covered by the amount that you save.

Every financial situation is unique, and you may find that you have other questions about refinancing that aren’t listed above. Don’t hesitate to contact your mortgage professional as they’ve worked with all sorts of refinancing clients and can share helpful advice that is relevant to your situation.

Four Ways You Can Enhance Your Home’s Value Before You List It for Sale

December 4th, 2014

picket_fenceWhether you’ve decided it’s time for an upgrade or you’re moving on to a new city, if you’re selling your home you may be wondering how you can boost its value before listing it up for sale. In today’s blog post we’ll share four ways that you can spend a bit of time and money upgrading your home before it hits the local real estate market.

Spruce Up Your Landscaping

You’ll want your home to make a great first impression, and as such a great place to start is by sprucing up your lawn, gardens and other landscape features. Your grass should be a healthy green, free of weeds and freshly trimmed. If you can, look to add seasonal flowers in your front gardens as this can add a bit of color to your home. Keep any shrubs or trees trimmed away from the home so that buyers can get a good look.

Apply A Fresh Coat Of Paint 

Another excellent way to increase your home’s “curb appeal” is by applying a fresh coat of paint to the house, the trim around the windows and the front door. Of course, painting a house is a big job so this might be one that is best left to a team of professionals. For added effect, replace the fixtures on the front door and pick up new house numbers.

Upgrade Your Kitchen Appliances

Many buyers will focus intently on your kitchen and the condition of everything from your flooring to your cupboards. If you have an older refrigerator or stove you’ll want to replace those with newer stainless-steel models. You’ll also want to ensure that you have quality countertops – if you’re replacing them, consider going with granite as it’s popular with younger buyers.

Install A New Set Of Bathroom Fixtures

Finally, if you haven’t renovated your bathroom recently you’ll want to invest in modernizing your faucets, mirrors and other fixtures. The decor of your bathroom should match that in the rest of your home, but also stand out in its own unique way. If you have an old bathtub with stained porcelain, consider replacing it with a glass-enclosed waterfall shower. Don’t forget about your light fixtures; if you find the bathroom is a bit dark, replace these with something that adds brightness.

For more information about the home staging and selling process, contact First Thomasville Realty today. Real estate agents are your best source for expert advice when selling a home, so don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call us at 229-226-6515 if you have questions.

Buying a Home? 4 Steps You Can Take to Ensure You Start out with a Low Monthly Payment

December 3rd, 2014

TipsAre you thinking about buying a new house or condo? If so, you’ve likely given some thought to your mortgage and as to how you can pay as little as possible in order to own your new home. Below we’ll share four easy steps that you can take to ensure you start out with an affordable monthly mortgage payment.

Make A Large Down Payment On Your Home 

The easiest way to reduce your monthly payment is to invest as much as possible in your down payment. The less you have to borrow, the less you’ll be required to pay back. If you can put a sizeable amount down on your home you’ll find that your monthly payments are going to be very manageable. You’ll also save a lot of money in interest.

Maintain A High Credit Score 

When a lender assesses your financial history they’ll take an in-depth look at your credit score in order to determine how much risk you present to them. If you’ve kept a clean credit rating and have a high score, it’s likely that you will qualify for a lower interest rate than someone with a lower credit score – even if you both have the same monthly income.

Buy A Smaller, More Efficient Home 

When you’ve made your short list of homes and you’re scheduling your viewings, ask yourself – do you need a home this big, or this expensive? If you can do with a smaller, more efficient home you can reduce the amount of financing that you require and this will in turn reduce the amount that you need to pay each month.

Consider A Longer Mortgage Term

Finally, if you need to reduce your monthly payment at any cost you can stretch out your mortgage repayment period by a few years. Note that while this can reduce your payment amount it will actually increase the total amount that you end up paying back as you’ll pay more in interest.

While the above are general tips for reducing your monthly payment, it’s likely that there are other strategies that are unique to your current situation. Contact your local Real Estate agent and they’ll be able to share some insights that are relevant to you and the price range you’re looking to buy into.