Kathy Wilfert - Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage



 Photo by Tod Franklin via Pixabay

What makes you happy? Do you love to sit and read? Or are you more of a hang-out-with-friends kind of homeowner? Regardless of what moves you, there's a way to create space for it in your own backyard. Even better -- you can increase your home's resale value in the process. Use these tips to inspire you:

Plant a Perennial Garden

Perennial gardens are low-maintenance, especially if you use plants such as purple coneflower or coreopsis that began life as hardy, native wildflowers. Plant once, and you'll enjoy blooms for years to come. And if you plant according to bloom-times, you can have flowers right up to frost. This option will scent the air beautifully, too. It may even help repel flies and mosquitos. The prettiest gardens combine plants with other features, such mulched walkways or small ponds filled with hardy goldfish, paradise fish or white cloud mountain minnows. 

Add a Hardscape

Hardscapes are the manmade features that complement your landscaping. They include rock walls, paved walkways, stone benches, concrete steps and more. All Hardscapes add elegance to your outdoor getaway, but they can also be functional by adding extra seating for guests.

Provide Shade

Mature, well-positioned shade trees such as maple or magnolia are always a selling point for future buyers. They can actually increase your home's resale value as much as 19 percent, says HGTV. So consider planting one or two if you have vast expanses of shadeless backyard. Position them away from foundations, wells and septic tanks so roots won't damage anything costly. Additionally, don't plant them where they will someday block the view to your home's entrance. And when you need immediate shade for yourself, consider adding a pretty pergola, arbor or gazebo.

Consider Fencing

Fencing is another home improvement that will send property values soaring. Metal and stone top the list of fencing materials that provide the biggest ROI, but they're also pretty costly to construct. If budget is a concern, consider blending the two into a fence that features occasional stone pillars or posts, joined by metal sections of fencing. 

Add Comfort

Most importantly, your outdoor getaway needs to provide a comfortable space for family and friends to congregate. This means investing in some nice-quality outdoor furniture such as chairs, sofas, and love seats to help everyone settle in. Purchase furniture that's made from materials easy to maintain, such as synthetic wicker, teak, concrete, stainless steel or aluminum. For upholstery, buy fade-resistant and waterproof fabrics. 

Additional tweaks to make your outdoor getaway more enjoyable include string lights, fire pits, an outdoor kitchen, a bubbling fountain, and outdoor art pieces made of mosaic tiles or driftwood sculptures. Whatever makes you happy, whatever inspires you -- these are the most important elements to include in your new backyard oasis. 


Buying a home is a big financial endeavor that takes planning and saving. Aside from a down payment, hopeful homeowners will also need to save for closing costs and moving expenses.

When it comes to the down payment amount you’ll need to save, many of us have often heard 20%, the magic number. However, there are a number of different types of mortgages that have different down payment requirements.

To complicate matters, mortgages vary somewhat between lenders and can change over time, with the ebb and flow of the housing market.

So, the best way to approach the process of saving for a down payment is to think about your needs in a home, and reach out to lenders to start comparing rates.

However, there are a few constants when it comes to down payments that are worth considering when shopping for a mortgage.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some characteristics of down payments, discuss where the 20% number comes from, and give you some tips on finding the best mortgage for you.

Do I need 20% saved for a down payment?

With the median home prices in America sitting around $200,000 and many areas averaging much higher, it may seem like 20% is an unattainable savings goal.

The good news is that many Americans hoping to buy their first home have several options that don’t involve savings $40,000 or more.

So, where does that number come from?

Most mortgage lenders will want to be sure that lending to would be a smart investment. In other words, they want to know that they’ll earn back the amount they lend you plus interest. They determine how risky it is to lend to you by considering a number of factors.

First and foremost is your credit score. Lenders want to see that you’re paying your bills on time and aren’t overwhelmed by debt. Second, they will ask you for verification of your income to determine how much you can realistically hope to pay each month. And, finally, they’ll consider the amount you’re putting down.

If you have less than 20% of the mortgage amount saved for your down payment, you’ll have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is an extra fee must be paid in addition to your interest each month.

First-time buyers rarely put 20% or more down

Thanks to FHA loans guaranteed by the federal government, as well as other loan assistance programs like USDA loans and mortgages insured by the Department of Veterans Affairs, buying a home is usually within reach even if you don’t have several thousands saved.

On average, first-time buyers put closer to 6% down on their mortgage. However, they will have to pay PMI until they’ve paid off 20% of their home.


So, if you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future, saving should be a priority. But, don’t worry too much if you don’t think you can save the full 20% in advance.


Photo by Pexels via Pixabay

If you do not know the process for selling a home it can raise your stress level some. It can also be a very unpleasant experience. During the process, you will have to endure a lot of opinions and suggestions that can either help you or end up hurting your efforts when the home sells. If you want to be successful in selling your home, then there are some things that you will want to consider before beginning the journey.

Get the Best Agent

Your real estate agent is called a listing agent. This is true if they are the one that listed your home. If your agent also is helping the buyer, then they can be the mediation between both parties. In order for them to represent both parties they must have approval by agreement of both parties in writing. This is important to know because as your agent they must represent your interests to the buyer. An agent that represents both parties could be accused of having a conflict of interest. When choosing your agent you will want to find one that is able to represent your interests effectively.

Have an Analysis Done on Your Home

It is the price that will eventually sell your home. If you price your home too low, you will end up losing money. But price if the price is too high, and you will make nothing because it will never sell. A comparative market analysis will be done by your agent. It will compare your home to others in the area. It will suggest what your home could potentially sell for. When you finally decide on a price your agent will put that price on the contract. The buyer will have to agree to that price, in writing, for it to become the sale price.

All sellers are responsible to disclose anything that could be wrong with the property. You will have to fill out a form that would list any problems that could potentially be wrong with the property. In this case the law favors the buyer as they are making a major purchase. 

Get Your Home Connected

You will want to make sure to advertise your home. Your agent will be able to put the listing out for everyone to see but that is not the only thing you can do. Go ahead and take pictures of your home and use social media to advertise it. The more exposure you give your home the better it will sell. The real estate market is very competitive. If you want to sell your home fast, then you will have to do more than what everyone else is doing to market their own homes. But knowing how to create exposure will sell your home fast.


Photo by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay

Buying property is a long-term investment. If you’re looking to make quick income from property, the only way is to buy low and sell high with minimal input for remodeling, upgrades, or even paint. However, if you intend to keep your property as a rental here are a few of the basics to make it profitable sooner.

Show Me the Numbers

Say you buy a house for $300,000. To get a loan for an investment property you’ll need a minimum of 20% down; so in our scenario, that’s $60,000. Closing costs depend on so many things that even an estimate is difficult, but rule of thumb is three to four percent of the purchase prices. Go with an even $10,000 to keep the numbers easy. You’re out-of-pocket $70,000 by this point.

The mortgage is for the remaining $240,000, so a 30-year fixed rate at 4.5 percent makes your principal and interest payments about $1,200 per month. Add to that property taxes of about $6,000 per year, or $500 per month, and homeowner’s insurance for about $150 gives you a monthly payment of $1,850. If you have an HOA, that might be an additional $50 per month. That’s $1900 for the basics, every month.

These numbers do not factor in upgrades, changes, paint, flooring, appliances or anything else, so remember that those items eat away at your profit too.Say that you rent it for $2,500 per month. That gives you a $600 difference. From that amount comes management fees if you pay someone to manage it for you. It also pays for lawn care unless you turn that over to the renter. Plus, for every month it goes unrented between renters, you carry the entire amount. 

Positive Cash Flow

You decide to manage it yourself and have the tenant take care of the lawn. Presuming no major systems require repair during the first year and you rent it within a month, you receive $27,500 ($2,500 x 11) in rent. You pay out $22,800 ($1,900 x 12) leaving you with $4,700 positive cash flow.

Assuming you never have to spend anything on repairs, maintenance, increases in taxes or refurbishing between tenants, it will take you 12 years and nine months to make back your down payment. Of course, if you raise the rent every year or so, you’ll shorten the time to repay the down payment, but you may lose more tenants.

Is It Worth It?

Yes! After year 12, your profits increase. But only if you follow these guidelines:

  • Do buy in a nice, livable area where people want to rent.
  • Don’t overspend for the property.
  • Avoid frivolous upgrades with low R.O.I.
  • Vet your tenants.
  • Remove tenants that damage property or don’t pay rent.Use a property management and marketing service to reduce unrented months.
  • Know the property owner and tenant laws in your municipality. 

Some properties are more profitable than others or are profitable sooner. Your investment real estate professional knows the difference and can help you choose the right property for your investment situation. If you want to invest in real estate, let your professional agent guide you.


After you receive an offer to purchase your residence, determining the best course of action often can be difficult. Because if you make the wrong decision, you risk missing out on an opportunity to sell your house and maximize its value.

Ultimately, it may prove to be beneficial for a home seller to submit a counter-offer. There are many reasons why a seller may choose to provide a counter-proposal, and these include:

1. A homebuyer's initial offer to purchase fails to match your expectations.

Although a homebuyer's initial offer to purchase your residence fell below your expectations, you can always submit a counter-offer to find out if a buyer is negotiable. That way, you may be able to work with a buyer to find a common price that is suitable for all parties.

When it comes to selling a house, there is no harm in submitting a counter-offer. Remember, the worst response a home seller will receive to a counter-proposal is a simple "No." And even in the worst-case scenario, a seller can move forward with the property selling journey and await an offer to purchase that matches his or her expectations.

2. You are flexible about the price of your house.

As a home seller, you probably realize that what you originally paid for your house is unlikely to match your residence's current value. But even if you set a competitive initial asking price for your home, you may still want to negotiate a counter-offer if a buyer's initial proposal falls short.

The housing market constantly fluctuates, and a sector that favors sellers today may favor buyers tomorrow. Thus, if you are flexible about the price of your house, you can always negotiate a price with a buyer that accounts for the present state of the real estate sector.

3. You want to get the best-possible price for your residence.

The goal of the home selling journey is to obtain the best price for your home, regardless of the real estate market's conditions. Therefore, rather than accept or reject an offer to purchase, it may be beneficial to see if you can receive a better proposal from a buyer.

As you move along the home selling journey and review an offer to purchase, you should not hesitate to collaborate with a real estate agent. With a real estate agent at your side, you can receive plenty of guidance throughout the home selling journey.

Typically, a real estate agent will help you list your residence and promote it to prospective buyers. He or she will set up home showings and open house events and keep you up to date about any offers to purchase your residence. Then, when you receive an offer to purchase, you and your real estate agent can work together to determine how to proceed.

Hire a real estate agent – you'll be glad you did. By employing a real estate agent, you can get the help you need to fully analyze an offer to purchase your residence.




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