Jeff Smith - KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY


Posted by Jeff Smith on 5/21/2018

In today’s world, people will do anything to cut costs. Many people consider selling their homes without a real estate agent. If you decide to go the “for sale by owner” route, you could potentially save thousands of dollars in agent fees. However, you’ll need to be prepared to do a lot of legwork in the process of selling your home. There’s also no guarantee of a final sale in the end. Ask yourself these questions when you decide to sell a home on your own:


  • Do I know The Value Of My Home?
  • Can I Take On The Marketing Responsibilities Myself?
  • Will I be Able To Take Criticism Of My Home? 
  • Can I Screen Potential Buyers?


Pricing Your Home


There’s a lot of information that’s readily available to real estate agents that wouldn’t be available to you as a lone seller. You’ll need to know the marketable price for your home as well as how competitive the market is. If you’re selling on your own, you may need to pay for an appraisal ahead of time, which is something the buyer typically does. If you want to sell quickly, you’ll want to price your home a bit lower than the average for the neighborhood. 


Are You Ready To Work With A Buyer’s Agent? 


Real estate involves a lot of negotiating. If you want to sell your home on your own, you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re ready to work with a buyer’s agent directly. Sellers are typically responsible for paying the agent's commissions on a home sale. Commission is negotiable but if you lack the knowledge and skills in this area, you could end up making a big mistake as a seller. 


You may end up going through several price cuts in order to save yourself from difficulty in selling a home. When a house has been on the market for a long time, it leads buyers to ask, “What’s wrong with that property?” Without marketing efforts and some price cuts, you could end up with a big loss by selling a home on your own. There’s so many advantages to hiring a real estate agent including the fact that they have extensive knowledge and experience in the field.   


Agents Work As A Buffer For You


With the amount of knowledge and experience that agents have, they are able to act as a buffer for you. Whether it be their presence during a home showing or being the point of contact for buyers, hiring an agent can save you a lot of time and aggravation when you’re selling a home. 


There’s a lot of advantages to hiring a real estate agent to help you sell your home. They are your ally throughout the process. If you’re willing to take the dive and venture in selling your home on your own, just know that you’ll have your work cut out for you. The good news is that there’s plenty of information readily available to you, no matter what route you choose.





Posted by Jeff Smith on 5/14/2018

Buying your first home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your life. But, it does come with its advantages. Among them are tax breaks and deductions that you can take advantage of to save money if you play your cards right.

In today’s post, I’m going to cover some of the tax breaks and deductions that first-time homeowners should seek out this tax season to help them lower their tax bill.

Mortgage points

While earning points is a good thing on the basketball court, it can be a financial drain on a mortgage. Mortgage points are what buyers pay to the lender to secure their loan. They’re usually given as percentage points of the total loan amount.

If you pay these points with your closing costs, then they are deductible. Taxpayers who itemize deductions on their IRS Form 1040 can typically deduct all of the points they paid in a year, with the exception of some high-income taxpayers whose itemized deductions are limited.

PMI costs

If you’re one of the many people who made a down payment of less than 20% on your home, odds are that you’re going to be stuck with PMI, or private mortgage insurance, until you pay off at least 20% of the loan balance.

The good news is that homebuyers who purchased their home in the year 2007 and after can deduct their PMI premiums. However, the state on premium insurance deductibles is something that frequently comes up in Congress, so homeowners should ensure that these deductions are still valid when filing their taxes.

Mortgage interest

Mortgage interest accounts for the biggest deduction for the average homeowner. When you receive your Form 1098 from your lender, you can deduct the total amount of interest you’ve paid during the year.

Property taxes

Another deductible that shouldn’t be overlooked by first-time buyers is local property taxes. Save the records for any property taxes you pay so that you can deduct them during tax season.

Home energy tax credits

Some states are offering generous tax credits for homeowners who make home improvements that save energy. There are a number of improvements you might qualify for, including things like insulation and roofs, as well as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.

IRA Withdrawals

Many first-time buyers withdraw from an IRA account to be able to make a larger down payment on their home or to pay for closing costs. In most other cases, withdrawing from an IRA will count as taxable income. However, if your IRA withdrawal is used toward a down payment or closing costs, the tax penalty is waived.


Keep these tax breaks and deductions in mind this tax season to help you save money and get a larger refund.





Posted by Jeff Smith on 5/7/2018

Many first-time home buyers are worried about all of the documents and information they’ll have to gather when applying for a mortgage. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably dreading having to dig through the five places that these documents might be. Fortunately, the process is now somewhat streamlined thanks to lenders being able to collect most of your information digitally.

In today’s article, we’ll talk about the documents you’ll need to collect when you apply for a home loan so that you feel prepared and confident reaching out to lenders.

Documents needed to pre-qualify

Before going into applying for a mortgage, let’s talk about pre-qualification. There are three types, or in some cases steps, of approval with most mortgage lenders: pre-qualification, pre-approval, and approval.

Pre-qualification is one of the earliest and simplest steps to getting pre-approved. It gives you a snapshot of the types and amount of loans you can receive. Pre-qualification typically doesn’t include a detailed credit analysis, nor do you need to provide many specific details or documents.

Typically, you’ll fill out a questionnaire describing your debts, income, and assets, and they will give you an estimate of the loan you might qualify for. Might is the key word here. Your pre-qualification amount is not guaranteed as you haven’t yet provided official proof of your information.

Documents needed for pre-approval

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage entails significantly more work on the part of you and your lender than pre-qualification. First, the lender will run a credit analysis. You won’t need to provide them with any information for this step, as they’ll be able to automatically receive the report from the major credit reporting bureaus. However, it’s a good idea to check your report before applying to make sure there aren’t any errors that could damage your credit.

Now is where the legwork comes in.

You’ll need to gather the following documents to get officially pre-approved or approved for a mortgage:

  • W-2 forms from the previous two years. If you are self-employed, you’ll still need to provide income verification, usually as a Form 1040, or “Individual income tax return.”

  • Two forms of identification. A driver’s license, passport, and social security card are three commonly accepted forms of identification.

  • Pay stubs or detailed income information for the past two or three months. This ensures lenders that you are currently financially stable.

  • Federal and State income tax returns from the past two years. If you file your taxes online, you can often download a PDF version that includes your W-2 or 1040 forms, making the process of submitting tax and income verification much easier.

  • Personal contact information. Name, address, phone number, email address, and any former addresses which you’ve lived in the past two years.

  • Bank statements from the previous two months. Also, if you have any assets, such as a 401K, stocks, or mutual fund,  you’ll be asked to include those as well.

  • A complete list of your debts. Though these will likely be on your credit report, lenders want to ensure they have the full picture when it comes to how much you owe other creditors and lenders.






Posted by Jeff Smith on 4/30/2018

If you live in a relatively safe, low-crime area, then that's definitely something to be thankful for! However, very few -- if any -- neighborhoods are 100% crime proof, so it's always a good policy to "err on the side of caution."

By integrating some basic, common-sense home security measures into your daily routine, you can dramatically increase the chances that you and your family will remain safe. While each home has different security needs and potential vulnerabilities, there are several steps you can take to thwart burglaries and help prevent home intrusions.

  • Be security conscious: Good habits are one of the cornerstones of keeping your home secure. If you get in the habit of locking doors every time you leave the house, then you're making it a lot less convenient for an intruder to enter your home. Even if it's just a neighbor, relative, or friend who might innocently let themselves in through an unlocked door, there might be personal papers on your desk, a private letter left out, or a sink full of dirty dishes that you'd prefer they didn't see! Locking your doors when you're not at home can help protect your privacy, as well as your security.
  • Avoid leaving ladders out when you're not using them. One of the cardinal rules of home security is don't make it inviting and easy for a burglar to gain access to your home. Leaving your garage doors open when you're gone or allowing your first-floor windows to be covered by overgrown bushes are two other security breaches that many homeowners overlook.
  • Create the impression that someone is home -- especially at night. Leaving lights on or having them come on automatically at a designated time is one smart strategy for discouraging break-ins and home intrusions. Outdoor illumination, such as lamp posts and motion-activated spotlights, are other easy-to-implement techniques for making your home more burglar resistant.
  • Secure first-floor windows. Since homes can get pretty stuffy if you leave your windows closed all the time, it's nice to let fresh air circulate, whenever possible. Although opening your windows on a regular basis can be highly desirable to maintain comfort and indoor air quality, remembering to close and lock them when you're sleeping or away from the house is of even greater importance.
  • More ideas to consider: If home security is a major concern of yours, it may pay to look into options like deadbolt locks, stronger doors, window and door sensors, and high-tech security systems that you can control from a mobile device.

While it's beneficial to make your entire family aware of the importance of home security, it's often a good idea to designate one person as the resident security chief, so to speak. When the "buck stops" with one specific person -- preferably an adult -- then there's less of a likelihood that important precautions will be forgotten or overlooked. Since every family's security needs are unique, creating a customized checklist for your own individual situation is the best solution.





Posted by Jeff Smith on 4/23/2018

The rent vs buy dilemma is something that Americans have been facing for decades. Both options have their benefits, and it’s really a matter of timing and preferences when it comes to choosing which is best for you.

However, there are a lot of things to consider before making this decision. So, in today’s post we’re going to break down some of the benefits of renting an apartment and of buying a home. That way you can make your decision with a clearer picture of what each situation looks like.

One thing to note first, however, is that it isn’t always as simple as buy vs rent. Some living situations draw on the pros of each type of living. For example, living in a condo might be a good option for people who want the privacy and independence of owning their own home, but who also don’t have the time or desire to keep up with maintenance.

So, as we compare buying and renting, keep in mind that the features of each are not mutually exclusive.

Renting an apartment

Most people who are living on their own for the first time start off renting. For younger people just out of school, renting offers the first taste of independence without the prerequisites of homeownership.

When you rent your first apartment, you’ll learn the skills associated with budgeting for your monthly expenses, making your rent payments on time, and will start learning some of the skills that it takes to run a household.

In terms of monthly costs, apartments can vary greatly. Depending on where you live (and how luxurious the apartment is) you could end up having rent and utility payments that are much lower or much higher than mortgage payments for a house.

However, apartment leases often come with the benefit of utilities, trash removal, and other expenses built in. They also typically require the landlord to maintain the apartment and the land it sits on.

Live in the northern part of the country and hate shoveling snow? Make sure your lease specifies that your landlord will provide snow removal.

One technique that many renters take is to find an apartment that is small and affordable while they save up for a home. In this case, it’s worth living with fewer amenities if your end goal is saving for a down payment.

But, what if you want to own a home someday but haven’t quite decided where you want to settle down? Maybe your work keeps you moving from place to place or you’ve always wanted to move away to somewhere new.

Renting is typically a better option for those who aren’t quite sure what their plans are for the next coming years. They can have a stable place to live while they figure things out and plan their next move.

Buying a home

Once you’ve rented a home for a while, you might become increasingly aware that you want more space and more control over your home.

You’re also likely noticing how much money you spend on rent each month that is essentially a net loss.

When you buy a home, your mortgage payments might be going to the bank, but someday the money you’ve paid toward that home will be yours in the form of equity. You can then use this as a down payment for another home.

This financial benefit cannot be understated. Since house values dependably increase over time, owning a home is a great investment toward your future.

So, those are the main pros and cons of renting vs buying a home. Think about your circumstances and determine which one makes the most sense for you right now. Then, start planning for the future.




Categories: Buying a Home   rent vs buy