Travis T. Hall, M.B.A.

Real Estate Professional

The Real Estate Professional for Buyers, Sellers, and Investors


Finding The Right Neighborhood

When looking to move, think about more than just the house.  Do the surroundings of a potential home match your priorities?

Here are a few things to look for:

1. Businesses... if you are looking at a brand-new community, find out if there will be a grocery store nearby.  What about restaurants, coffee shops and gas stations? How far away will they be and how long will it take to get there?

2. Commute times... if you are hunting on the weekends, you won't get a clear idea of what traffic is like when you need to get to and from work.  Go at hours you will be commuting to get a true picture of the time it will take.

3. Future plans... if you are thinking about starting a family, then you might want to consider an area that is kid-friendly with lots of young families, parks, and playgrounds.  The second floor condo might not look as appealing if you need to get a stroller up there every day.

4. Schools... even if you do not have school-age children, buying in a neighborhood with good schools is still beneficial.  Good schools are good for the resale value of your home.

5. Neighbors... get out of the car and go for a walk during times when people are home.  Stop, chat and ask questions.  You'll get insiders' information - and find out whether they're people you would like to live next to.

Top Trends for Today's Homes

Home design is constantly evolving as our society changes.  In today's plugged-in world, homeowners are looking for a place to unwind and spend time with family and friends.  Many are also looking for a sense of community.  And an increasingly aging population is also influencing how homes are designed.  Here are some trends home buyers will see in new homes today.

1. Kitchen central... today the kitchen has become the heart of the home.  Kitchens and the surrounding gathering spaces are being given maximum real estate by home designers.  As the kitchen becomes an increasingly important part of the home, the trend is also to add more technology to the area.  WiFi-enabled home automation technology is becoming standard in many new homes, and plug-in stations in the kitchen are also a must.

2. Getting outside... outdoor living areas - often with fireplaces or fire pits, sofas, and televisions - are becoming more and more essential in home design.

3.  Flexible space... look for more areas in the home that don't have a dedicated purpose.  That extra room could become a suite for an aging relative or a quiet office for a family member working from home.  Flex rooms can be easily transformed from one purpose or another without costly renovations.

Six Resolutions for Homeowners

With a few smart decisions, you can get your homeownership off to a positive start.  Here's how:

1.  Start an emergency fund... homeownership has a funny way of costing more than you think.  An emergency savings fund provides a financial safety net, and your new home is the perfect reason to start.  Ideally, your emergency fund should cover several months of expenses, but it's okay to start small.  Set aside a portion of every paycheck with a savings goal of $750 as soon as possible, and then add as much as you can moving forward.

2.  Take a closer look at homeowners insurance... just because a standard homeowners insurance policy satisfied your lender does not mean you are adequately covered.  Unfortunately, homeowners insurance is not one size fits all. Here are a few things to find out about your policy.   Will your policy cover the full cost of jewelry or other valuables?   Are natural disasters are included in your policy?   Will your policy pay if your dog bites the new mailman? There may be many more situations that you will want to investigate about your policy.

3.  Get an energy efficiency audit... heating, cooling and powering a home isn't cheap.  After the last family portrait is hung, you may notice more about your home, especially if you bought new construction.  Maybe a room smells funny or one room is colder than another.  This is when you may want to consider an energy efficiency audit rather than guessing at the problem.  An energy audit is not as expensive as you may think and it may put free money in your pocket, thanks to local, state and federal rebates.

4.  Consider a home warranty...  if your appliances are near the end of their life cycles, a home warranty may protect you from the cost of replacement.  However, approach home warranty companies with caution.  Read customer reviews and avoid gimmicks that seem too good to be true.

5.  Create a disaster kit... your home is your castle, but it's not indestructible.  A disaster kit that includes financial documents and a home inventory will speed up recovery if the unthinkable happens.  Your kit should contain pictures of big ticket items in your home, along with the brands, original prices, ages and condition of the items.  In addition, make copies of your personal identification, birth certificate, and social security cards.  Keep the last statement of your credit cards, vehicle records and other important documents in a fireproof safe.

6.  Build a equity... create a plan to build equity.  Unless you bought your home with cash, it will be many years until you own it outright.  Make plans to build equity faster so you can unlock more benefits of homeownership even sooner.  There are many self-help books that discuss this topic with proven strategies, don't reinvent the wheel take the time to educate yourself from someone else.