Jan. 4, 2022

A Guide to Buying your First Home in 2022

Ready to buy your first home in Fort McMurray in 2022? FM Homes specializes in helping first-time home buyers like you find their dream property.

Before you start searching for homes online, it's important to take the first step to house shopping: Getting pre-approved for a mortgage.

Your pre-approval will tell you what you can afford and what your monthly payment will be, so it's important to determine this before you start searching for your new home.

Pre-approval is good for about 30-90 days, so once you're ready, take these first 3 steps to get it done.

  1.  Contact us, and we will send over a list of lenders we know and trust.
  2.  Look over the list, check out online reviews, and ask friends and family for referrals.
  3.  Email 2-3 lenders you like or let us introduce you over email.

Once you've got your pre-approval letter in hand, it's time to start the search!

Before we hop into the home search, we like to advise our clients to create a "Needs" list and a "Wants" list. This will help us to really focus on the things that are most important in your future home.

Needs are the non-negotiable features; the features you simply must have in your next home. Wants are the ones you’d like to have, but you can add or change down the road. Remember, you can’t change the lot or the location so make sure you love both.

Once you've established what you're looking for, we will set you up on a search so you can receive an email the second a home that fits your criteria goes live. If you have any questions about a property, send us the information and we will find out for you. Send us listings you like and we can get more information and set up showings on your behalf.

After touring houses and choosing the one you love, it's time to make an offer. To do this, you'll need your pre-approval letter or proof of funds. You'll also need to make an escrow deposit of at least 1-2% of the purchase price. This will go towards your closing costs at closing.

Have more questions about buying a home or what happens after making an offer? Reach out to us today!

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Dec. 16, 2021

What to Check on Your Final Walk-Through

 

The final walk-through on your new home is an exciting event. It means you have successfully maneuvered through negotiations, inspections, and financing approval, and are on the verge of signing your closing papers. Most buyers attend the final walk-through with thoughts of furniture placement and paint colors in their heads. But the walk-through is about more than just making sure your favorite chair will fit by the fireplace. Be sure to do your due diligence to make sure there are no issues that should be resolved before you reach the closing table.

 

The purpose of the final walk-through is to ascertain that the home is being conveyed to you in the same condition it was when you agreed to purchase it. Here are a few of the things you should check:

 

1) Make sure no damage has occurred to the home that the sellers are responsible for repairing. Weather conditions or careless movers can cause accidental damage, and old and forgotten damage may be uncovered when the sellers’ belongings are removed.

 

2) Check that appliances are still in working order and no new plumbing or electrical issues have popped up. While you aren’t doing a complete home inspection, you can visually check for obvious problems that should be repaired before you move in.

 

3) Confirm that items contractually conveying are present. If the sellers agreed to leave particular furniture, décor, or equipment, see that it has not been removed.

 

4) Make certain the sellers have removed all their belongings. You don’t want to arrive with the moving truck only to find out that the sellers left behind an assortment of unwanted furniture or trash. The sellers should be held responsible for removing everything that doesn’t convey with the sale.

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Nov. 30, 2021

Pros and Cons of Selling During the Holidays

If you are thinking about listing your home this winter, you might be concerned about showing it, and possibly having to move, over the holiday season. The holidays are already a busy time of year for most families, so you would be right to wonder if you are making a good decision by marketing your home between December and New Year’s Day. Some sellers even take their homes off the market temporarily during the holiday season, but, before you make that choice, consider all the pros and cons to selling during this festive time of year.

Pros:

1. Buyers are serious. Buyers looking for a home during the holiday season are usually serious about getting under contract, or else they’d put it off. Often, they are starting a new job at the beginning of the year, or they want to get their children registered in school by the end of the holiday break, or maybe they want the tax break in the current year. Regardless of their reasons, if they are out looking in November or December, they are serious buyers.

2. There are not as many homes on the market. As a seller, you benefit from having fewer homes on the market to compete with. Less inventory combined with serious buyers means sellers get higher offers.

3. You can take advantage of holiday season curb appeal. While it’s recommended that you not over-decorate while showing your home, you can take advantage of the warm and festive vibes that holiday decorations add. Some white twinkle lights, a wreath on the door, and poinsettias lining your porch can add just the right cozy and inviting feel to win over buyers.

4. Cooler weather may invigorate buyers. The only thing worse than house hunting in the dead of summer is moving and unpacking in the dead of summer. On the other hand, the cooler temperatures of the holiday season may fuel buyers' desire to get out on the hunt.

5. You can use a holiday theme to ramp up an open house. Instead of offering the same old plate of cookies and bottled water, let your prospective buyers feel the warmth of your home with a cup of hot chocolate and warm gingerbread in front of the fireplace, or let them wander through your rooms listening to holiday music and enjoying the scent of pine or cinnamon candles.

 

Cons:

1. You won’t have as many lookers. We noted that buyers shopping during the holidays are serious ones, but there will definitely be fewer buyers looking than later in the New Year.

2. Showing your home may be more inconvenient. Again, it’s a busy time of year for most families, so do consider the inconvenience of having showings while you are preparing for the holidays or enjoying time off from school or work.

3. Business closings may slow down transactions. Many businesses have shortened hours or holiday closings, which means you or your buyers might have delays with such things as scheduling inspections and appraisals, clearing title or escrow payments, or getting repairs completed.

 

With inventory being low, it is a great time to get your house on the market!

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Nov. 12, 2021

Home Renovations Q&A

Renovating Your Home? Check Our FAQ’s!

How do I pick a contractor?

Ideally, you want to build the same kind of relationship with your contractor as you do with your real estate agent: one built on trust that makes you want to go back to that person for any future needs. Your contractor should be a very good listener and communicator. You want them to “get” your vision for your home, and to keep you in the loop every step of the way. Do your due diligence by checking out contractors’ reputations, talking with other clients, and looking at work they have done previously before you make your selection.

How much will my project cost?

Of course, the answer depends upon the scope of your project, but in order to get the best estimate from your contractor, take time to write down each detail of your plan so that the contractor can include everything in their estimate. Renovations are famous for taking longer and costing more than originally planned, but this is often because the homeowner makes additions or changes along the way, or they don’t realize that, for example, if you move a wall in your home, you may have to then reroute electricity and outlets. One item often leads to another, so you have to look at everything piece by piece.

How long will renovations take to complete?

As we said above, this depends on the amount of work being done– and how many changes are made along the way. The more pre-planning you do, the better estimate your contractor can give you.

How do I prioritize projects?

If you are living in your home during renovations, you may want to plan out the project in phases, so you can live out of some rooms while others are being worked in. You may also need to phase projects based on cost and availability of funds.

Where do I begin?

You begin by conducting a lot of research. Start a look book for your home, either in a notebook or online, collecting pictures of the look and finishes you want. Talk to different contractors, and visit kitchen, bathroom, appliance, and flooring showrooms to get ideas on selections and pricing.

Do I need permits?

Your contractor will know what projects require permitting. Make sure that you do abide by permitting regulations, as failure to secure proper permits can come back to bite you if further work is needed down the road.

How much will renovations increase my home value?

Every homeowner hopes that making improvements will increase their home’s value, and this is usually the case, but sometimes what homeowners view as improvement can turn out to be liabilities to future buyers. For example, don’t put so much money into the house that it becomes more expensive than the rest of the neighborhood. And be careful not to add personal style preferences that can’t be easily changed, like ornamental fixtures, radical architecture, or unusual landscape features.

How should I pay for renovations?

If you have the cash to pay for your renovations, that’s certainly a good way to go. Otherwise, you might consider a home equity loan with a manageable monthly payment or a revolving line of credit that you can use for renovations as well as emergencies that may arise later.

Posted in Home Trends
Nov. 1, 2021

What to do with an Unfinished Basement

 

Although currently dimly lit and a little rough on the eyes, your unfinished basement still has a lot of potentials. With just a little love and the help of the following ideas, you can spice it up in no time and get some great use out of the space.

  1. Add a pop of color. Give your basement a whole different look without a big renovation by adding some color to space. Consider painting and sealing the floors, opening up the room by painting the rafters white or a light color, or creating a bold accent wall.
  2. Divide the space. Want to make your basement a multi-use room? Partition out the area by installing an inexpensive curtain system. This can be done either with a curtain track or a simple wire, some hooks, and curtains will suffice.
  3. Add foam mats. Whether you’d like to use the basement as a home gym to get a quick workout in or a place for the kids to play and rough house, adding some foam mats into the mix is a great and easy solution. They come in various colors and can quickly be picked up and tucked away if need be.
  4. Use a large rug. As an alternative to adding mats, find a large, eye-catching rug to be used as a focal point, and furnish the area around it.
  5. Add lighting. Basements often offer very little built-in lighting and few outlets around the room. Consider stringing café lighting across space from the rafters to give a nice ambiance and glow without any difficult electrical work.
Posted in Home Trends
Oct. 14, 2021

Seller FAQs

 

 

If you have a home to sell, you’re probably excited to get the process started. There are many things you need to consider when selling your property, and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the task. The good news is we’ve done extensive research about what you need to know about selling your home – and we’ve answered the questions you’re probably wondering:  

How will you determine my home’s value?   To determine your home’s value and set a listing price, we will complete a Comparative Market Analysis. The CMA uses recent sales of homes close in geography, age, size, and features to yours. (A CMA is not the same as an appraisal, which a licensed appraiser can perform.)  

Is it a good idea to start high?   Many sellers like the idea of “starting high” to see if they get higher offers, but this strategy isn’t usually practical. First, buyers may not see your listing if they use a price filter set to what they expect prices in the area to run. Second, you run the risk of the appraisal coming in lower than your contract price, which will require your contract to be renegotiated or canceled. Third, if your listing price puts your home higher than your neighborhood value, your home will likely sit on the market longer as buyers wait for you to make a reduction. It’s best to set a realistic listing price that will bring you buyers quickly. Our goal is always to get you the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time.  

What percentage of the listing price can I expect to get?   The list-to-sell ratio is determined by dividing the selling price by the listing price. The ratio is largely market-driven. In a sellers’ market, which is when inventory is low, sellers may get close to 100% or over 100% if the home sells above list price. In a market with a large inventory of homes, a buyers’ market, buyers have more negotiating power, so the list-to-sell ratio may be closer to 90%. Our goal is to get you as close to a 100% list-to-sell ratio as the market will bear.  

How soon can I get my home on MLS?   Once we agree to work together, we will begin entering your home information on the MLS system. We will also schedule a time for a professional photographer to take photos of the property. As soon as all the information and pictures are uploaded items, your listing can go live on MLS.  

What do I need to do to get ready to list?   For your part, it’s a good idea to begin cleaning out or organizing storage spaces, closets, and drawers and putting away some of your décor or belongings. You may also want to have the exterior pressure washed, and the landscaping cleaned up. We can talk further about specific things that will help your home show better.  

How will showings be conducted?   We will agree on the terms you are comfortable with for showings. We want to make the home accessible to buyers without too much disruption to your personal life. We can use a showing schedule, and unless we agree otherwise, we will notify you in advance of showing requests. We typically use electronic lockboxes that only active members of our local Realtors association can access. We can set the lockbox on a schedule, if necessary. Any time the lockbox is accessed, we receive a notification.  

How will you market my property?   Marketing your listing is of utmost importance. Most buyers find their properties online through MLS (via their agent,) Realtor, or other search engines. Listings in our MLS system automatically show up on these sites within a day or two of becoming active. In addition, we share my listings with the agents in our network, on the FM Homes website, and on social media. We can discuss additional opportunities such as hosting open houses and marketing within your neighborhood.  

How long will it take to find a buyer?   Several factors influence the time it takes to find a buyer. These include the market conditions, price range (higher-priced or luxury homes typically take longer to sell,) location (whether your home is in a desirable neighborhood or a unique location,) and the condition of the home (is move-in ready or in need of renovations?) In a balanced market, most houses, when priced accurately and without significant damage or extenuating circumstances, go under contract within thirty days. Homes sell faster in a seller’s market, while buyers take more time to look when inventory is high.  

Will you qualify the buyer?   When an offer is received, we work with the buyer’s agent to vet the buyer. All offers should be accompanied by either a pre-approval from a mortgage lender or, if paying cash, by verification of funds available to cover the purchase price. Once you accept an offer, the buyer must put down the agreed upon escrow deposit, schedule any inspections as stipulated in the contract, and, if financing is involved, their lender will initiate the loan approval process. We stay in close contact with the buyer’s agent to make sure due process is followed.  

What are the costs involved?   The seller usually pays for the real estate agent fees, which are divided between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. The seller also pays their share of the property taxes and HOA dues. If the full annual amount has been paid, the buyer will repay their portion back to the seller at closing. Often the seller elects to pay a portion of the buyer’s closing costs to help make the transaction work for the buyer.  

Will you also represent the buyer?   If we happen to find the buyer for your home, be assured that we am trained and experienced in handling both sides of the transaction fairly. As professionals, we respect the confidentiality and loyalty required in dealing with both parties. On the plus side, communication is easy when we are representing both sides. Working on both sides of the transaction is hard work, but it would not be a problem.  

How often will we communicate?   Communication is key to an easy and successful sale. We will keep you appraised of events every step of the way. You are welcome to reach out to us with questions or concerns. When we go over the listing information, we will discuss our preferred means of communication and schedules to make sure we know each other’s availability and boundaries.

Thinking of selling? We are here to help! Shoot us a message or give us a call today.

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Oct. 1, 2021

Fall Market Update: Is it a good idea to sell in fall?

 

The early spring through the summer are generally the busiest times of the year for home sales, but the fall can be a particularly advantageous time of year for sellers. Housing inventory drops off during the fall months, so sellers have less competition. That means you can expect higher offers, fewer contingencies, and less scrutiny from buyers. You maintain more power over your terms.

 

Fall buyers are serious buyers! Early in the year you can get lots of lookers who are just thinking about buying at some point, but by fall the buyers still looking are ready to get under contract and often have a deadline. Many fall buyers are anxious to get settled before the holiday season and, if they have children in school, they will want to get them in their new schools before too much of the school year passes.

 

Employers who pay to relocate employees also like to shop off-season to save on moving costs. If you live near a large hospital, university, technology center, or industrial area, your home may be attractive to relocation services.

 

Fall is also prime time for buyers who aren’t shopping school districts. Young professionals and empty nesters are two populations more likely to shop in the fall. If you are marketing to these populations, you might want to show off multi-use spaces for exercise rooms, a home office, or game room.

 

The fall is much more fun for showing a home than the dead of summer. Use the mild weather and a festive atmosphere to enhance your home’s showing potential. As the temperatures cool and we welcome crisp, clear fall days, it becomes easier to maintain your yard and add to your curb appeal. You can use fall colors and foliage in your home décor to create a cozy atmosphere. Don’t forget some pumpkin spice scented candles or warm oatmeal cookies to warm buyers up for a sweet deal.

 

If you’re thinking about selling but can’t decide between listing now and waiting until after the holidays, now is the time. Give us a call, and let’s tie the whole process up in a pretty red bow long before the new year.⁣

Posted in Market Updates
Sept. 13, 2021

12 Tips for an Easier Move

 

As exciting as it is to move into a new home, not many people look forward to the actual moving day. Whether you are moving across town or across the country, moving is stressful. Here are some helpful hints from expert movers to make the big day a little more bearable.

 

1. Schedule your move well ahead of time. Moving companies get booked up weeks in advance, so don’t wait until the last minute to schedule your move. Make sure they know ahead of time if you have any very large or heavy items to move. The last thing you want is for the movers to show up with a truck that isn’t big enough or without enough people to move your belongings safely.

 

2. Consider letting the moving company pack your items. If it’s within your budget to hire packers, it may be money well spent. Packers are usually very efficient and take time to wrap fragile items securely. Packers will usually pack you the day before your move, so you don’t have to pack items away that you may need up until the day of your move.

 

3. Schedule services. Don’t forget to have services transferred or started at your new home. These may include:

  • Power
  • Water
  • Internet/TV/Phone
  • Gas
  • Lawn service
  • Security system monitoring

 

4. Have your new home professionally cleaned. If your seller is not arranging for cleaning to be done prior to closing, arrange to have it done before you move in so that you won’t arrive to a dirty house.

 

5. Pack a moving supply box. Your moving supply box should contain items you may need while you are unpacking and getting settled in your new home, such as:

 

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Sponge
  • All-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner
  • Shelf liner paper
  • Scissors
  • Furniture moving pads
  • Tape measure
  • Cordless screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Picture hanging kit
  • Bottled water, snacks, pet food
  • Paper plates, cups, and disposable utensils
  • Dish Soap and Hand Soap

   

6. Make Your Bed. As soon as your bed frames and mattresses come off the truck, put them together or have the movers put them together, and make them up. Pack your sheets, blankets, and pillows together in well-marked boxes so you can find them easily. When you are ready to collapse at the end of moving day, you’ll be thankful the beds are made up and ready to fall into.

 

7. Ditto for your towels and bath soap. Pack bath towels and soap with your bed sheets so you can jump in the shower before retiring without having to search for towels.

 

8. Make Plans for Your pets. The last thing you need on moving day is a stressed-out pup or kitty, or worse, one that escapes in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Make plans for your pets to spend the day with family or friends, a pet sitter, or boarding facility until you are ready to introduce them to their new home.

 

9. Say Yes to Helpers. Sometimes it’s hard to accept extra help from family or friends if you aren’t sure what they can help with. Here are some tasks you can delegate:

 

  • Lay shelf liner in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers
  • Unpack and put away your kitchen items (you can rearrange later!)
  • Babysit or keep your children occupied
  • Make up your beds, place towels in the bathrooms
  • Wipe down cabinets and counters
  • Break down packing boxes
  • Hang clothes in closets
  • Organize tools and equipment in the garage
  • Pick up lunch or dinner

 

10. Hire a Sitter. If you have little ones, they will be very excited about their new home, new rooms, and yard. They will want to be with you, but they will not be interested in unpacking boxes! Make plans for someone to be available just for them, so you can concentrate. A family member, friend or hired sitter can help them explore their new surroundings, build a box fort, or organize their toys in their new rooms without you worrying about where they are.

 

11. Hire someone to hang your art. Unless you love to hang things yourself, you might consider having a handyman scheduled to come in and hand your wall art and window treatments for you. This can save you a great deal of time getting settled. If you need help deciding where to hang art or portraits, a decorator may be a better choice than a handyman. They can help you decide on placement and hang items themselves or direct a handyman where to hang items.

 

12. Check out of the old house. Prior to closing, you should have submitted a change of address form with the post office. You’ll also need to remember to leave all keys and garage door or gate openers, and make sure the movers don’t pack up things like ceiling fan remote controls or other loose items that stay with the house. Don’t forget to clean out spaces like the attic, backyard sheds, crawl spaces, or any other hideaway spaces you might have stored items. It’s always nice to have the home professionally cleaned for the new owners, and, if you feel inclined, leave a list of recommended local vendors for household services.

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Aug. 31, 2021

Upsize or Downsize: Which is Your Best Move?

 

Deciding if it is time for your family to upsize or downsize is not always a clear choice. There are factors to consider that might push you to take the leap or stay put for a while longer. Whether you are thinking about upsizing so your family can spread out or purging possessions so you can downsize, here are some questions to ponder.

 

1. How are you using your current space?

Do your family members feel like they don’t have adequate privacy or space to do their own thing?  Are you tired of working at the dining table and really need an office or workshop? Is having the kids share bedrooms just not working out? Maybe an upsize is warranted. On the other hand, do you have rooms that aren’t being used, or are you tired of paying property taxes on more house than you need? Check for the downsize column!

 

2. Have you considered the maintenance costs?

If upsizing is on your mind, consider the added costs for maintaining a larger home and property, whether in money or time. Will you be able to keep up with cleaning, lawn care, and general maintenance issues that come with owning a home? If you are ready to cross maintenance off your to-do list, perhaps you are ready to downsize to a more manageable property or one where the HOA handles part of the job.

 

3. What are your outdoor space needs?

Are you ready to give up having a yard or garden to downsize to a maintenance-free space? Do you have pets that need outdoor space? Do you need more outdoor space for your children to play or your dog to run around in? The size of the house is one thing, but the property is important also.

 

4. Have you looked to the future?

What do you expect your needs to be in the next five, ten, or twenty years? Do you want a large home where your children and grandchildren will come for vacations and holidays, or will you be spending those times at their homes? Will you want to entertain groups of friends, or do you foresee going out for your entertainment? What will happen if your spouse passes; will you want to stay in the home on your own?

 

5. Do the financial implications add up in your favor?

Can you handle the higher costs involved with a larger home, or are you ready to cut costs with a downsize? Consider where you stand on your current mortgage. Are you alright with starting a new mortgage at this point in your life, or are you in a position to purchase in cash? What are the tax implications for your move?  

 

6. Is it the right market to upsize or downsize?

A seller’s market is hot for those looking to sell a larger home and downsize. Upsizing may be riskier in a big seller’s market, but if your family would be happier in a larger home, it might be worth the leap.

 

Whatever questions you have about purchasing your next home, we'd be honored to assist you. So let’s work together to make sure your next move is the right one.

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Aug. 11, 2021

When Should you Refinance?

When Should I Refinance?

 

Low-interest rates have many homeowners wondering if it’s a good time to refinance. Refinancing can save you a lot of money in the long term when done correctly. It’s important to consider the drawbacks as well. Here are some reasons why you might want to refinance, and a few things to be cautious of.

 

Reasons you may want to refinance:

1. To lower your monthly payment. If today’s interest rates are lower than when you purchased your home, refinancing to a lower rate will reduce your monthly payment down, freeing up cash to help with other bills, your children’s education, or to save towards retirement.

 

2. To pay off your mortgage earlier. A great way to use the money you save with a lower mortgage payment is to apply it right to your principle, which will help you pay your loan off earlier.

 

3. To take advantage of a better credit score. If your credit score has increased significantly since you bought your home, you may get a better loan if you refinance.

 

4. To save on total interest. For some, the desire to pay less interest overall makes refinancing an attractive option. Reducing the interest rate and/or the loan term will save you money long term.

 

5. To change loan types. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage that has been increasing or is nearing the end of the fixed period, you may want to switch to a fixed-rate mortgage.

If you have extra cash on hand to make larger monthly payments, it may make sense to change to a 15-year mortgage so you can pay it off earlier.

 

6. To consolidate debt or take cash out. If you have built up equity in your home, you may be able to borrow against your home to obtain cash to pay off higher-interest debt, to make improvements on your home, or for things like your children’s education or medical expenses.

 

Be careful when borrowing against your home. If the cash you take out goes to increasing your debt rather than resolving it, then you could end up putting your home in jeopardy.

 

Don’t forget about the closing costs involved in refinancing. You will have fees associated with your new loan just like you did when you purchased your home, so remember to figure the closing costs when you do the math.

 

Also, be cautious about extending your loan term. If you refinance with a 30-year mortgage when you are 10-15 years or more into your current mortgage, you’ll end up paying way more in interest overall, and have extended your payments for many more years.

 

Of course, a mortgage lender is the best resource for answering your financing questions. If you need someone to talk to further, we are happy to give you a referral.

Posted in Real Estate Tips