Keep your home safe this holiday season

Stay safe this holiday infographic

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Montague Miller Monthly Market Report

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Make this holiday season house-hunting season

Make holiday season house hunting seasonWith turkey day and Christmas right around the corner, buying a home may be the last thing on your mind.  Even though the market is not as active at the end of the year, there’s a lot of great reasons to buy now.

Prices are good.

Because there are less buyers during the holiday season, sellers are more likely to be flexible. Unlike the fast-paced spring market, homes for sale during the fall and winter tend to take longer to sell, which makes some buyers nervous.

This nervousness can lead to a multiple price reductions, which in turn means savings for you. The Charlottesville Area Associate of Realtors (CAAR) reports median sale prices were already down almost 7% from August to September 2015.

Take advantage of tax savings.

Any home purchased between now and December 31 means you can write off some costs associate with the purchase on this year’s taxes. If you itemize, you can deduct points paid at closing, mortgage interest and personal property taxes.

To find out more about the impact of a home purchase on your taxes, consult a tax professional.

Get help faster.

Unlike spring and summer, real estate agents and associated businesses are less busy during the fall and winter.  This means people are easier to get in touch with and more available to help you with your search.

However, this is also when real estate professionals take time off. Be sure to talk to your REALTOR about their availability beforehand.

Once you find the home you want, you’ll be more likely to get your pre-closing services done faster and go through the settlement process quickly.

More Information:

For more information about holiday house-hunting, check out these resources:

4 Reasons to Buy a Home During the Holidays | Zillow Blog
Buying A Home During Holiday Season |
Top 5 Reasons to Buy a Home During the Holidays | Fox
Reasons to Buy a Home During the Holiday Season – ABC

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Third Quarter Real Estate Sales: Greater Charlottesville

3rd Quarter CAAR Real Estate Market Report

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Look closely before submitting an offer to buy

Look closely before submitting an offer to buyBuying a home is an emotional experience.

It’s easy to get so swept up in the process that you fail to notice damage that could cost you big bucks after you move in. That’s why it’s important to get a home inspection and learn to look for things a home inspection may not catch.

Why should I get a home inspection if they might not catch everything?

Home inspectors are trained to look for problems that a buyer may overlook. In the state of Virginia, home inspectors are required to have 35-70 hours of training, take a nationally accredited exam, and complete between 25-100 inspections before being allowed to have a license. To keep current on the changes in home inspections, they also have to take an additional 16 hours of training every two years.

They can quickly spot problems an untrained eye can’t, and let you know how significant the damage is. When submitting a contract, you can include a contingency that allows you to back out of the sale if the problems found during the home inspection are more than you want to take on.

What should I look for?

Plumbing Leaks: Fill up the sinks with water and look underneath when draining them for leaks in the pipes below. Many of these leaks are not expensive fixes, but its still good to check them.

Outdated windows and systems in older homes: While picture windows may add charm to an older home, their single panes and wood frames are nowhere near as energy efficient as their newer counterparts. The wood in the frames and sills also may be rotting.

Always find out how old the HVAC system and hot water heater are. Replacing or servicing older units can get very costly. But keep in mind that sellers may not agree to replace older systems if they are in working order. This is important information to plan for future repair costs.

Faulty Appliances: Once you decide on the house you’d like to make an offer on, make a trip back to check things you might have missed the first time. It’s a good idea to run appliances such as dishwashers, washers and dryers to be sure they are in good working order. Sometimes these appliances are not sold with the house. Now’s the time to check on those things too.

Water damage: According to home inspector Rick Yerger, water damage is the most expensive to fix. In addition to foundation problems, it also causes mold and rot.

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7 Steps to Prepare to Buy Your Dream Home

How to Prepare to Buy Your Dream Home

You may be living in a tiny apartment, a cramped condo, or a home that no longer suits you. Right now your dream home is just that. A dream.

Even if you’re not ready to buy a home, there are things you can do right now to prepare turn the home of your dreams into your future address. The following steps will set your feet firmly on the path to homeownership:

1. Put your dreams down on paper. Write down all the things you want in a home. Don’t think about how much those things cost (yet). Be sure to include:

  • neighborhoods you want to live in
  • type of residence (house, condo, townhome, etc.)
  • number of bedrooms
  • appliances
  • convenience to shopping and things to do
  • schools (if you have or plan to have children)

2. Do some homework. Start looking at homes that meet those criteria and take note of their price. Make a list to revisit once you have a better idea of what you can afford and what you really want.

3. Learn how much home you can afford on a monthly basis. An easy way to do this is to use an online mortgage calculator to find out what your monthly payments would be. Fill out as much information as possible, including what you plan to use for a down payment. Though the amount required for a down payment varies depending on your mortgage, assume that you could have to pay up to 10% upfront. (Can’t afford 10%? Don’t despair! Keep reading.)

4. Create a plan. Once you know how much you can afford, look at properties again based on your price range.  Can’t find what you want? Now’s the time to decide what amenities you can live without. Consider buying a house with extra space if you’re planning on starting a family or working from home.

5. Seek assistance. If you don’t think you can save for a downpayment or worry that you don’t understand the homebuying process well enough, don’t give up.  There are plenty of programs available to help homebuyers.  Be sure to talk to a qualified mortgage professional before making any major financial decisions to get your credit in order; it could actually hurt your chances of getting a mortgage. When you’re ready, contact a REALTOR to help you get started.

6. Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the homebuying process. It’s also important to know how to look for potential problems before you make an offer on a house.

7. Adjust your plan. After getting input from others, now’s the time to get to work on your credit, get pre-qualified for a mortgage, and start house hunting.

For more information, consult these resources:
The 10-Step Guide to Buying a House by
The Start to Finish Guide to Buying a Home on Lifehacker
Trulia’s How-To Guides: Getting Started

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Congratulations to Montague Miller’s 3rd Quarter Sales Award Winners

Montague Miller 3rd Quarter Award Winners

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Central Virginia Down Payment Assistance & First Time Homebuyer’s Programs

Centra VA First time Homebuyers & Down Payment Assistance Programs

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. Today’s tighter mortgage regulations make it harder.

Even with stellar credit, buying a home can be difficult because of large down payment requirements or other unforeseen issues. But there are programs available to help.

Take a look at the following list to get the help you need:

National Programs:

FHA Bridal Registry Account: Most people don’t think about mortgages when planning their wedding. But if you get pre-qualified for an FHA mortgage, you may be able to set up a bridal registry account that allows you to turn wedding gift money into cash towards the purchase of a new home. If your mortgage lender has never heard of this, show them the link and push to get one set up. You will need to apply for this account through a lender who finances FHA loans.

USDA Guaranteed Home Loan Program: This program works through a traditional mortgage company to help you buy in USDA service areas as well as fix up a property that you may be interested in buying, but can’t afford the investment required to make it livable. To apply, contact an approved lender or the Virginia Guaranteed Loan Coordinator if you can’t find one on your own.

USDA Direct Home Loans: If you are unable to get a loan from another mortgage lender, you may be able to qualify through the US Department of Agriculture. You must be below income limits, meet a couple of other criteria, and your home must be in an area that they serve. Check here to see if your area is part of this program.

Federal Home Loan Bank Grant: This program provides $3 for every $1 you save towards the down payment of a home purchase. Ask your mortgage lender for details, as this program (also called WISH) may no longer be active.

Statewide Programs (Virginia):

Virginia Individual Development Accounts (VIDA): For every $1 you save with VIDA, the state will provide you with $2. The program has a maximum time limit of 2 years and $4,000 to match. Call 1.888.8432 to get started.

Central Virginia Programs:

Central VA Housing Coalition: Serves Spotsylvania, Stafford and Caroline counties, as well as the Town of Culpeper and City of Fredericksburg. Assistance available with down payment and/or closing costs through a partnership with the Virginia Housing Development Authority. To apply, contact them directly through the above link.

Piedmont Housing Alliance: Serves Louisa, Greene, Fluvanna, Nelson and Albemarle counties, as well as the City of Charlottesville. There are many programs available, including a down payment assistance loan that covers up to 10% of a home’s value on down payment. To apply, complete and return their intake packet, then call the agency to set up an appointment.

Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation: Their first time home buyer’s program can help you put a down payment on a house in Louisa or Fluvanna County. To apply, contact them at 540.967.3483 (Louisa) or 434.589.4820 (Fluvanna).

Skyline Community Action Program: Their HUD-certified counselors have free programs to help you buy a home for the first time or prevent foreclosure in the counties of Greene, Madison and Orange, Virginia. Contact them through the link above to get more information.

Nelson County Community Development Foundation: If you’re interested in buying a home in Nelson County, contact this organization for more information on their First Time Homebuyer program.

For more information, call a REALTOR to be your trusted adviser through this process. Montague, Miller & Company is always ready to help.

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Prepare your home for sale with home staging

home staging tips

With a slower moving winter real estate market just around the corner, now’s the perfect time to get your home ready to sell.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, agents report that 96% of buyers are affected by home staging. A large part of the buyer’s decision is based on the way a house looks. It’s critical that you do your part to make your house attractive to buyers by staging it appropriately.

While some advise against selling later in the year, fall is a great time to put your house on the market.  Selling during slow times means less competition, and it’s easy to make your home stand out with a few simple staging techniques you can do yourself.

Check out the following ideas to get your home market ready:

1. Declutter: It’s harder for a homebuyer to imagine what they can do with a space that is full of stuff.  Pack away your knick-knacks. Have a yard sale. Start packing like you are moving in less than 6 months, keeping only the essentials on-hand until you’re ready to hand over the keys. Remove bulky furniture to add space and keep it in storage until moving day.

2. Depersonalize: Remove personal photos from the walls and repair the holes left behind. Paint them neutral colors afterwards. Your personal style may turn off potential buyers that love the house but don’t want the added cost of replacing your favorite wallpaper.

3. Create curb appeal: Colder temperatures and gloomy weather give potential buyers a million reasons to stay in when they should be looking at houses instead.  Make your house warm and inviting inside and out with fresh paint, an inviting entryway and a clean yard. Be sure to keep leaves raked and walkways clear of debris.

4. Don’t neglect the entryway: Front doors make a big first impression. Make sure yours is freshly painted. Covered porches are popular and add functional outdoor space to smaller homes. Replace any outdated railing or worn boards.

To learn more about home staging, check out the following tips:
15 Secrets of Home Staging by HGTV
Aol Real Estate Home Staging Guide
5 Dirt-Cheap Home Staging Ideas
How to Style Your Home Like a Home Staging Professional
Secrets of Home Stagers

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What NOT to do when buying a home

what not to do when buying a home

After searching for what seems like forever, you finally found your dream home.  The contract was accepted, and you are steadily moving forward to closing.

The home is yours, right?


Even though you’ve made it through the major hurdles to homeownership, there’s still a possibility things may fall through.  It may seem to be a done deal, but the choices you make between ratified contract and closing can jeopardize your ability to buy a home.

Here are some common mistakes homebuyers make between contract and closing:

1. Changing jobs. Even if your job is in the same industry and pays better than your old one, your lender will have to verify employment before you can go to settlement.

2. Cashing in your savings. Most likely you’re going to have to come up with some money at the closing table. Many lenders will double-check to make sure the funds you promised are available shortly before closing. A significant change in your cash on hand is a big red flag to lenders.

3. Buying big ticket items like furniture. One of the most important considerations when reviewing a loan application is your debt-to-income ratio. Opening new store accounts to purchase items for your home will increase this ratio. If your debt-to-income ratio gets too high you won’t be able to get financing.
4. Closing credit accounts. It’s definitely a smart move to get your finances in order and close any unnecessary accounts. But closing accounts actually lowers your credit score. If your score falls below minimum levels, you won’t be able to get a loan. Save those changes for after you’re in your new home.

5.  Purchase a new car. Buying a home tends to trigger feelings of making a fresh start. But getting a new car could drain your savings and/or increase your debt. It’s better to wait until you’re safe and secure in your new place until getting new wheels.

6. Get behind on your bills. It’s important to keep your credit healthy until you close, which means paying your bills on time every month. If you must get behind on your bills, wait until everything is finalized.

7. Open new credit card accounts. Even the slightest increase in debt could make you lose your loan. Wait on sending in those credit card applications until after you get in your new home. It’s not a smart move to add any more debt until you’re sure you can afford it.

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