Patrick Russo, Realtor®'s Blog
Buying your first home is a big decision; one that involves a lengthy process of saving money, building credit, and planning the next phase of your life. However, owning a home comes with one major payoff: home equity.
Simply put, home equity is the amount of your home that you’ve paid off. However, it does get more complicated when we bring in factors like the market value of your home and how it shifts over the years.
In this article, we’ll discuss home equity and what it means for you as a homeowner. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you finally make that last payment on your home or when you decide to sell.
Home equity and market value
As I mentioned earlier, home equity is more than just the amount you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Like most markets, the housing market shifts over time.
Most homes slowly increase in value over time. In the real estate world, this increase in value is called appreciation.
However, that doesn’t mean that your home is simply going to increase in value indefinitely until you decide to sell. As you will find out (if you haven’t yet already), owning a home can be expensive. Houses age and require upgrades. If you fail to keep up with the maintenance of your home, its value can diminish.
How to build equity
The most important thing you can do to build equity is to make on-time payments to your mortgage. Making extra mortgage payments will help you build equity even faster.
One method of paying extra on your mortgage that many people are adopting is to make bi-weekly payments. Twenty-six bi-weekly payments comes out to 13 full payments per year, the equivalent of making one full extra monthly payment.
The second method of building equity is something that you have less control over: appreciation. However, if you stick to a maintenance schedule for your home and keep it in good repair, you’ll most likely benefit from appreciation over the lifespan of your mortgage.
What can I use home equity for?
The most common way to use home equity is as a down payment or full payment on your next home. First-time buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment saved often buy a starter home and then later upgrade as their family grows and their needs change. In the years that they own their first home, they build enough equity to make a full down payment on their second home, avoiding fees like mortgage insurance.
Many homeowners planning on retiring in the near future use their equity toward their retirement home, often turning a profit in the process. If you plan on downgrading for retirement and have fully paid off your mortgage, you can often use your equity to pay for your next home in cash.
Adding your home to the real estate market may prove to be challenging, particularly for a property seller who fails to plan ahead. Lucky for you, we're here to eliminate the guesswork commonly associated with the home selling process.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you list your house and streamline the home selling journey.
1. Enhance Your House's Curb Appeal
How your home looks to prospective buyers can make a world of difference during the home selling journey. If you house fails to impress buyers right away, it may take many days, weeks or months for your house to sell. Conversely, if your home instantly dazzles buyers, you could boost the likelihood of a fast, profitable house sale.
Ultimately, you should allocate time and resources to bolster your house's curb appeal before you list your residence. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges and perform assorted home exterior maintenance and upgrades. And if you need assistance with home exterior projects, you can always reach out to local home improvement professionals for additional help.
2. Eliminate Clutter
Although you may have collected a massive assortment of antiques, decorations and knick-knacks over the years, these items may do more harm than good when you decide to sell your house. In fact, myriad personal belongings scattered throughout your house could make it difficult for homebuyers to envision what life may be like if they purchase your residence.
Prior to listing your house, you should remove as much clutter as possible. You don't necessarily need to dispose of excess items, but it may be a good idea to rent a storage unit so you can store these items until your residence sells. On the other hand, if you no longer need certain belongings, you can sell these items at a yard sale or online or donate them to a local charity.
3. Hire an Expert Real Estate Agent
If you are unsure about how to proceed along the home selling journey, you may want to hire an expert real estate agent. That way, you can receive plenty of support as you navigate the home selling journey.
A real estate agent understands what it takes to list a house in a buyer's or seller's market. He or she will learn about you and your home and develop a plan to ensure you can maximize the value of your residence. And if you ever have concerns or questions about the home selling cycle, a real estate agent can respond to them.
Let's not forget about the assistance that a real estate agent will provide after you accept an offer to purchase your house, either. A real estate agent will guide you through the home closing process. By doing so, he or she will help you avoid stress as you finalize your home sale.
Prepare to list your house – use the aforementioned tips, and you can add your home to the real estate market and move one step closer to selling your residence.
One of the toughest choices to make when selling a home can be choosing a bidder. Often because sellers don’t expect this to be a difficult decision! It seems like it would be straightforward. You might think you should accept the first offer or maybe you’re in the camp of accepting the highest bid. And while both of these choices are valid there are other factors to take into consideration. Factors that can make selling your home even easier and relatively hassle-free.
One of the biggest fears people have and one that really throws a wrench in the process is potential buyers backing out of a deal or asking for pricey repairs. And for this reason, I suggest looking closely at all of your bids to review the concessions and contingencies each contract contains as well as the type of financing each buyer will be utilizing.
For example, one thing to look for is earnest money. This is money in an escrow account either held by the real estate agent or the buyer and seller and shows the buyer’s commitment to their bid. It gives the buyer more time to sort out their financing but is also seen as a guard against the buyer walking away mid-agreement.
What is the stability of a buyer's financing? What institution is it coming from? Do a search online to learn more information about each buyer’s finance provider. A buyer may pay in cash, offering a larger down-payment or be pre-approved for a loan.
Sometimes buyers will also include a contingency in their contract to not begin payment until they have sold their own home. If this is something you are not comfortable with this bid might belong in your “No” pile despite a higher bid or down payment.
Are they asking you to cover any expenses? They may ask for the attorney review fee to be waived, inspection fees to be covered or costly repairs to be made before closing. Again, are you okay with covering these costs? Do the math to see if these requests bring down the value of the bid. Depending on how much of an investment they are asking for you to make this could create a less enticing bid.
Sometimes, choosing a bid is less about the numbers and more about convenience. If you are in the middle of shopping for a new home yourself, bidders who offer flexibility on the move in/out date could move to the top of your “Yes” list. Sometimes buyers want to keep furniture or appliances from a home, which could make moving a much lighter load.
If your head is spinning from all of these different factors to take into consideration when choosing a bid, that’s okay! This is why working with a real estate agent is so beneficial. Look to your agent for advice when weighing out the benefits of each bid and on making the final decision.
Carpeting gets a bad rep. As you well know from house hunting, or will soon find out, wood floors are valued far more. While wood flooring may be, debatably, easier to maintain and keep a low allergen profile, it’s expensive to install or restore. Carpeting adds warmth, softness, and flair to a room. So let’s put the arguments against carpeting to rest. Here’s how to properly care for and maintain carpeting.
Shoes off - This one should be a rule no matter your flooring choice if you want to maintain a tidy home. With that said, prevent visible track lines along your home’s most common traffic patterns. Create a designated place for family members to place their shoes sets your household up for success for instilling a no shoe rule. Be everyone favorite host and keep a basket of fresh socks and sandals for guests who aren’t the shoeless type.
Vacuum frequently - Meaning at least once a week. Keep dirt, crumbs, and dander from becoming ground down into your carpeting. Investing in a robotic vacuum will allow you to schedule a few clean times each week without having to lift a finger. And with AI on the rise, you can now control most from your home; which means if you have unexpected guests swinging by you can send a signal to your vacuum to get to work whether you’re in bed, at work or running to the store to pick up items for dinner.
Spot clean properly - Knowing how to properly spot clean any spills or messes is critical. For example, never rub or grind down when cleaning always gently sweep in upward motions to clean up before stains set in. If you don’t have one already add a carpet cleaning kit to your list for your next shopping run. You’ll want cleaner, a scraper, a bristle brush and a microfiber cloth. And, perhaps most importantly, keep all of these items together and on hand. The last thing you’ll want is to dig through your cleaning closet like mad while a wine stain is happily settling in.
How to steam - To truly maintain carpeting you’ll want to plan to have it professionally steamed at least once a year. For DIY-ers skip using store-bought solutions designed to be mixed with the water. This might seem counterintuitive but they tend to leave behind soapy residue which further attracts more dirt. As you can imagine this creates an unnecessary codependent cycle that I have a hunch you’d prefer to skip! You will also want to be mindful of how much water you use as you clean; use caution to not use so much that the carpet can no longer truly dry fully. If this sounds like too much to keep in mind you’ll find hiring a professional well worth the yearly investment.