Archive for ‘For Buyers’

April 14, 2014

Neighborhood Spotlight- Ellicott City, MD

Thinking about moving to Maryland? Howard County has a diverse selection of neighborhoods and locations to choose from. Ellicott City is a popular choice and after reading this, your interest may be increased. Voted #8 on the best places to live charts, Ellicott City offers the best of both worlds — a charming, historic downtown with plenty of restaurants and a thoughtfully laid-out, planned community with tons of stores.

Take a Day to Relax
Have a spa day and get away from it all at The Spa Turf Valley. Take advantage of the “Total Indulgence” package that includes a facial, massage, body treatment, and lunch. A good value for all that’s included that will leave you completely stress-free.

Have Fun with the Childrenellicott city

If you are looking for an educational and fun outing to experience with the children, then the B&O Railroad Museum near Ellicott City may be your best bet. Offering a wide selection of activities throughout the museum, young children will be able to sit in authentic antique rail cards, and for older kids, they can be entertained by the roundhouse of full antique trains and real train cars that they can enter.

Go for a Walk at the Park

Scientific studies have found that walking is good for your health. Benefits include improved immune system function, lowered blood pressure, and better feeling of overall health. Patapsco Valley State Park is a great place to spend with your family and it’s “nationally known for its trail opportunities and scenery.”

Shop until you Drop

Wind River Classic is a national outlet in Ellicott City that features women designer samples and major retailer overstock at 60% off or more regular retail.

Have a Sweet Tooth?

Stop into Old Mill Bakery Café for fun and tasty treats. From baked goods to coffee, the whole family will love this shop.

Wine & Dine

Looking to fine dine for date night? Portalli’s Italian Restaurant is an exceptional restaurant located in historic Ellicott City that offers a mixture of traditional Italian dishes and Italian-inspired dishes.

Real Estate Overview

With a desirable combination of good schools, low crime, college-educated neighbors, Ellicott City really has some of the features that families look for when choosing a good community to raise children. If you’re interested in buying a home in Ellicott City, please contact one of our local real estate professionals.

April 7, 2014

Credit Karma

For many of you, the thought of buying a home raises some financial concerns such as CreditKarmagetting pre-approved and affording the down payment. Getting pre-approved is often based off your debt-to-income ratio, your credit score, work history, etc. Take note, that just because you pay everything on time, doesn’t necessarily mean that your credit score is perfect. It is important to have a sense of where your credit stands; check out to find out. provides you with a free credit score; no credit card required. By creating a free account and becoming a Credit Karma member, you will have safe and secure access to four different credit scores including your TransUnion Credit Score, Vantage Score, Auto Insurance Score, and Home Insurance Score. This system also includes a simulator that allows you to plug in variables and see how your credit score may be affected.

Staying up-to-date on your credit score and working to continuously improve it, will keep you on track so you know when buying a home is right for you.

March 31, 2014

Before you Buy…

before you buyThe home you found might appear to have the right features and price but before you make an offer there are some other factors you should consider.

Sometimes when we want something so badly, we might not always ask the questions we should. Since this is one of the largest financial investments most of us will make in a lifetime, taking a step back and having one more look is probably a good idea.

Have you considered the items below?

  *Have an Inspection – Most homes have a defect; some are obvious, most are fixable. Knowing what could potentially need fixed can help you negotiate a better price now. Inspections for lead paint, radon, and pests are also strongly recommended.
* Ask for utility bills – Homes with high ceilings or glass walls might just break your monthly heating/cooling budget and maintaining a beautiful, but elaborate landscape could cause your water bill to skyrocket. All of these should be considered in your monthly expenses.
* Is there an Association? – An association that will keep lawns mowed in summer or walks shoveled in winter could be a very nice perk. As association that organizes community functions also shows that the residents care about their neighborhood.
* Talk to Neighbors – It might be nice to know how many residents are homeowners versus renters.
* Visit at various times – A seemingly quiet street now may be noisy during morning or evening rush hours. The school across the street may appear quiet over the summer but that could change during the school year.
* Look through newspaper archives – Do a little research to see if the area you are considering has any “skeletons” in its closet. Is it prone to water contamination problems or are their future plans to run a power line through your back yard? It pays to be informed.
* Examine taxes closely – Don’t just ask to see the current tax bills, but look at past bills as well. Does this municipality re-appraise homes frequently, leading to increased taxes? Is the local school funded by property taxes? This could be another cause for tax increases.
* Check with City Hall – Check into the property and neighborhood zoning. Also look for any easements or liens that may be connected to this property. Your realtor can help you with the research.
* Reconsider the “options” – Do you really need the in-ground pool? Can you afford the costs to maintain it? Can you live with just a one-car garage or on-street parking? Consider these items again before you buy.
* Explore – Get to know the area around the home. Are you close to an airport or fire station where noise could be a factor at all hours of the day and night? Is the home close to an agricultural area where smells or airborne dust could cause problems? Look beyond the streets of the neighborhood for other potential “deal-breakers”.

Try your best to be impartial and un-emotional when re-evaluating the home. This may be hard to do, but you will be glad that you took the extra time and put just a little more thought into it.

Your home purchase should fill you with joy, excitement, and happiness;
not leave you with buyer’s remorse!

March 18, 2014

Thinking About Buying a Foreclosed Home?

Purchasing a foreclosed home is quite different from buying a foreclosure signtypical resale. A foreclosed home is the process by which a homeowner’s rights to a property are forfeited because of failure to pay the mortgage.

The home you found might appear to be the right price and be in tip top shape, but before you purchase make sure to take some of these suggestions into consideration.

Reconsider Auctions – This process has many risks; prospective buyers aren’t able to do thorough home inspections or stay informed of outstanding taxes owed on the property before making the purchase.

Budget your Funds– Just because the price seems low to you now, doesn’t mean that something can’t be expected later. With low payments, this gives you a chance to really save your money.

Purchase Through a Bank – It might be better to go through a bank to purchase a foreclosed home. Banks are required to handle and pay off any back taxes  and you will be able to inspect the home before purchasing.

Inspect the Home & Neighborhood Thoroughly! – Answer these questions and record your findings when conducting your inspection:

How is the neighborhood?

How long has the house been empty?

How is the landscaping of the home and neighboring homes?

Was the house winterized?

Really take time and think about what your best options are. Are you prepared for the obstacles that could arise when purchasing a foreclosed home? If so consider these suggestions and do your research. 

“Really good deals on these bank-owned, they go quick — and the buyer doesn’t necessarily have time to try to work out the financing afterward. They need to work that out first.” – Jenson

March 11, 2014

One Last Look…

Once you’ve found your dream home, the financing is approved, and all inspections are completed, many buyers are tempted to sit back, relax, and wait for closing day.  There is one more very important step in the home buying process, a final walk-through.

This is the last chance to make sure everything is in working condition and that things are as they were presented in the deal.  If not, you still have time to have them repaired or you could even walk away.  Taking time now to check on the home could help save you time and money on costly repairs in the future.

Here are some things to look for: final walkthrough

Major Systems – Turn on the heat and the air conditioning as soon as you get there.  This will give it time to run so you should notice a temperature change.  Make sure you are hearing more than just the fan running.

Plumbing – Take the time to turn on every faucet and shower.  Do they drip?  Is there good water pressure?  Take a look in the basement and below sinks for any possible leaks.  Also flush all toilets to insure they work properly and are not leaking.

Repairs – Some repairs or upgrades may be required per the terms of your contract.  Check that the seller has taken care of these items and they have been done properly.  Don’t be afraid to mention something that has not been completed. 

Appliances – Turn on the dishwasher, the oven (light and fan too), washing machine, clothes dryer, and any other major appliance that is part of the home, to make sure they all work.

Landscaping – Take a stroll around the exterior of the home and the entire yard.  Believe it or not, some sellers have actually taken outside plants/shrubs with them.  Make sure nothing is missing.  If there is an irrigation system, check that it works.

Remotes/Keypads – If the home is equipped with a security system, does the keypad work?  If there are ceiling fans with remote controls, make sure the seller did not accidentally pack them.

Lights – Check that all lights and switch plates are in place.  A seller may forget to mention that they intend on taking a certain light fixture, etc.  Be sure that everything you expecting is in its proper place.

Walls – Take a look at walls and ceilings for any holes or damage that may have occurred while the seller was moving out. 

Cleanliness – Sellers are required to leave the home clean and free of their possessions.  Make sure the garage, yard, and any outbuildings are empty and clean.  You don’t want to find yourself responsible for the disposal of something large or even hazardous.

You may have had a professional inspection performed, but you should be just as diligent on your final walk-through.  Use this opportunity for more than planning furniture placement, check these important items first and then enjoy planning your move. FYI, another good idea to consider is the purchase of a home warranty.  This will give you a little extra peace of mind and will take care of any costly repairs for major system issues, appliance break-downs, etc. that might occur after you move in. 

February 27, 2014

How to Choose the Right Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling your home can be emotional endeavor, but with the help of a dedicated and dependable real estate agent, it can be an enjoyable and peaceful process. There are many aspects that you must consider when trying to choose the agent that is right for you. By following some of these simple guidelines, you will be heading in the right direction for a successful real estate experience.

Research & Record Your ResultsReal Estate

This cannot be stressed enough.  Referrals from family and friends are great but we still encourage you to do your research.  Go to open houses and watch an agent in action; this will help you see them in a professional and casual setting.  Another suggestion is to drive around the neighborhoods in your market place and see which agents and companies dominate the area.   Make a list of your top choices for a Realtor and Google them.  In that list, record the pros and cons from online reviews, ratings, testimonials, etc. 

Schedule Interviews & Ask Questions

This is the biggest step in the process. Keep in mind that as a seller, top agents will market your home on multiple websites and social media.  As a buyer, they will notify you as homes that meet your criteria enter the market. Find out how the agent will keep you updated and represent you during negotiations.  There are hundreds of questions you could ask, but remember to separate the good, better, and best agents by comparing the answers you get to your questions.

Lay Down your Laws with Some Simple Guidelines

Real estate transactions consist of fine details that can be missed and disrupt the whole process if you don’t have the right agent in your corner. Communication is a key aspect and you must stress that your agent needs to be available via email or phone, whichever is preferred.   Set realistic goals and stress that you and your agent must work as a productive team.

When it comes to buying or selling your home, finding the right real estate professional makes the difference!

February 6, 2014

Moving Day Etiquette, Mind Your Manners

blog feb 5Moving is a hassle, no matter how much you pack, plan, and prepare for the big day.  You will most likely hit a few bumps along the way!  It is highly recommended that you use a checklist to help you survive this arduous task.

Aside from being organized for the actual move, you also need to take into consideration those around you who will also be affected that day.  Like your mother always said, “mind your manners”.  Here are some etiquette guidelines:

Time of Day – The most recommended moving time slot is between 9am and 4pm on a weekday if possible.  During this time most neighbors will be away at work, therefore reducing any inconvenience to them.  Also remember to keep noise level low; do not allow movers to blare music from the moving van, etc.

Last Impression – Make sure the last moments spent in your old neighborhood are good ones.  Be careful not to block driveways and streets with vehicles or furniture.  Keep an eye on the moving crew; some will take short cuts they shouldn’t, through yards, flower beds, etc.  Be considerate of others!

First Impression – The same consideration described above should also be given to your new neighbors!  If you see that the moving truck will be blocking a neighbor’s access, knock on the door, introduce yourself, and explain the situation to them.  Apologize in advance for any inconvenience!  Be readily available if something needs to be moved.

Help – Don’t just sit around and watch or give orders.  Roll up your sleeves and help out, even if you have paid movers.  You can always start unpacking boxes in your new home, be busy!

Refreshments – Offer some basic refreshments to your trusty “crew”, whether it be a group of hired pros or your family and friends.  Provide some snacks, as well as some refreshing bottles of water and sodas; consider offering coffee or hot chocolate if you are moving during colder weather.

Clean up – Once your old home is vacant, take time to clean up any trash, vacuum, dust, and leave it in presentable condition.  Also make a trip around the exterior, cleaning up any debris left behind from the move.  The same holds true for your new home keep an eye out for trash or debris that may be left outside.  Clean it up immediately so your neighbors don’t have to.  Also try to avoid leaving a large trash pile by the curb for pick up. Instead, make a trip to the dump to dispose of these items.

Pets – If possible, take them to the home of a friend or family member, vet, or pet daycare.  If not possible, keep them comfortable in a room away from the noise and commotion.  Pets can become agitated and noisy during a move.  The risk of them getting out and getting lost is also higher during a move.

Thank you – Don’t forget to tip and say “thank you”.  For paid movers it is generally 5% of the total bill.  If using family and friends, show your gratitude by buying a few pizzas for dinner and saying thanks.  People like to feel appreciated.

How you handle yourself on moving day goes a long way in determining what type of relationship you will have with your new neighbors.  Make sure you get started on the right foot!

January 27, 2014

Buying your first home?

ImageIf you are considering buying your first home, planning is essential.  If you are not prepared, the excitement of buying a home could quickly fade behind a pile of paperwork. 


Prepare ahead of time by gathering the proper paperwork and ensuring your financial situation is in order.  It could take weeks or even months for this process, especially if you have any credit items that need “fixed”.  Here is some helpful information to get you moving in the right direction:


Credit Score

Review your credit report closely.  Credit reports can be obtained for free, annually, from the 3 major credit bureaus, but you may have to pay for your actual credit score.  The score required could depend on the type of financing and price of the home you want.  Most lenders will want to see a score of at least 660.  You should start boosting your credit about a year before you want to purchase.  Try to avoid obtaining new credit cards at least 3 months before applying. Multiple credit checks can lower your score. 


Financial History

Having a good payment history is also taken into consideration.  Banks will want to see that you have made auto loan payments and credit card payments on time.  They will also look for bankruptcies and an excessive number of credit lines.  Clean up any history of consecutive late payments at least a year before you apply for a mortgage.  If you rent, they may request a history from your landlord.  Be prepared to show them everything.


Adequate Income

Will you have enough money to pay for your home, as well as, all expenses associated with it?  Typically no more than 28% of your gross income can be used for any house payments and 42% of your income must be set aside for other expenses.  Lenders will also consider the time you have been at your current job.  They usually like to see a period of 2 years, unless a job change was made to improve your financial situation.  They might make an exception in that case. 


Down Payment

The specifics of how much you need to put down could vary based on the type of loan you are considering.  Typically, conventional mortgages will require 10-20% down, while an FHA loan may require 3.5% -10%, based on your credit score. 


Closing Costs

Some areas have higher taxes and homeowner insurance rates.  You should plan on setting aside approximately 5% of the purchase price for these costs.  This may be a little high, but it’s better to have more than not enough at settlement!


As a first-time home buyer, being prepared is the best first step.  As soon as you start to think about buying, contact a lender to discuss each of these items in more detail and determine how they pertain to you! 

Happy home buying!

January 16, 2014

Current Living Trends

familyThe American home is becoming a little more crowded these days.  More and more families are choosing to have multiple generations living under the same roof.  The term is “multi-generational” housing, which typically means three generations under one roof, and an estimated 51.5 million people are now living this way. 

This idea was born out of a trend that became popular during times of recession, when families doubled up to share expenses, struggling kids moved back home with parents, families lost homes and moved in with siblings, or parents settled in with their children’s families.  They were often forced to live in a guest bedroom or if they were lucky, a master suite.  They did not have an independent living space, but instead they resided in somewhat cramped quarters.

A more comfortable solution is now available.  Home builders are creating house designs that will accommodate this lifestyle.  The concept is to create a house-within-a-house.  The homes look like any other home, but includes a separate, private, “almost” complete apartment.  The apartment typically features a bedroom, bathroom, living area, kitchenette, and discreet private entrance.  However, it does lack a stove, which would qualify it as an apartment in most zoning codes.  Builders and remodelers are also incorporating universal design features; better lighting, wider doors and hallways, fewer or no steps; that all work well for wheelchairs and baby strollers.

The home designs allow occupants to decide how to spend their days; as part of a group or on their own when “alone time” is needed.  There are many different dynamics for which this housing concept is ideal:

  • Taking care of aging parents vs. putting them into expensive skilled-nursing or assisted living facilities
  • Sharing a home with a widowed parent who may not enjoy living alone
  • Accommodating adult children with special needs
  • Sharing living expenses with another family or family member
  • Children going to college who may live at home or who return home frequently
  • Single parents needing help with daycare or raising children can share a home with other family members or another single parent
  • Living quarters for a full-time, live-in caretaker
  • Cultural preferences

A multi-generational home offers a common-sense solution to an increasingly common housing situation but has its own set of challenges.  Not only must you take local zoning codes into consideration, these homes really only work well on large residential lots, preferably at least 6,000 SF, which can be hard to find especially in urban areas.

While the trend is not skyrocketing in popularity, there is a clear niche for this type of property.  Many builders are anticipating that the demand for these homes will continue to increase.  This housing is more than just a recession buster, it can change lifestyles.  Families may be coming together because of the economy, but they are staying together because it works!

December 16, 2013

Helping Pets Adjust to a New Home

pets-moving-new-homeMoving to a new home can be stressful for every member of the family, including the beloved family pets.  Don’t forget about their wants and needs during this hectic time, it can be rough on them too.

Transitioning to new surroundings is difficult for many pets.  The stress and worry can cause out of character behavior, as well as lowered immune responses.  Here are a few suggestions to help keep them happy and healthy!

  • Keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible.  Be consistent with feedings, walks, playtime, and bedtime.  Keep accommodations consistent; if your dog is used to using a doggy door, install one in your new home right away.  If your cat likes outdoor time, arrange for it, using a leash initially for safety and to prevent him from running away.
  • If you will be traveling long distances with your pet, plan on making frequent stops so they can stretch, eat, and for bathroom breaks.  Confirm that hotels you will be staying in allow pets.  Make sure they are secured safely in your vehicle using either crates or restraining harnesses.  Practice on short trips, before moving day, to help them become familiar with traveling in the car if they aren’t accustomed to it.  For fish or smaller pets, visit a local pet store for suggestions on transporting them.
  • Bring along favorites; this is not a good time to introduce new items.  Bring your pet’s favorite bed, toys, food and water dishes, treats, and other familiar items.  Put them in places that are similar to your previous home.  This helps your pet feel more in control and at home more quickly.
  • If you are moving out of the area, visit your Vet to make sure your pet is current with all vaccines and treatments, to refill prescriptions, and maybe even consider micro-chipping your pet.  Moving is a common time for pets to get lost.  Obtain an updated copy of your pet’s medical records as well.  Since your Vet is familiar with your pet, ask for their advice on making this move easier.
  • Get a new pet ID tag as soon as you know your new address and phone number.  This improves your pet’s chances of getting back home if they take off.  Do this before traveling should they decide to wander off at a rest stop.  Having a recent photo of your pet is also a good idea.
  • Be patient while your pet sniffs around their new digs.  Let them explore.  If they decide to hide for a little while, this is ok, as long as they know where the litter box or doggy door is located.  Their behavior may change for a little while, including eating, barking, pacing, or being protective.  They will need time to adjust, just as you do.  If bad behavior persists, talk to a professional.
  • Find a dog park, local veterinarian, and other pet resources in your new hometown to aid in the transition.

Be sure you give your pet the attention they are used to and maybe even a little extra during this tough time!

Moving in to our out of Maryland or Pennsylvania? Take a look at our online relocation guides.

Central Pennsylvania Relocation Guide
Berks / Schuylkill Haven Pennsylvania Relocation Guide

Baltimore Maryland Relocation Guide

Metro DC Relocation Guide



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