Home Buying: Making the Most of an Open House

Open houses have been a long running tradition in real estate. It gives the chance for buyers to view a home in a relaxed atmosphere. Having a Realtor present also gives buyers the opportunity to get a feel for the market, ask questions about the home and the buying process. From those who are just beginning to think about buying a home, to the people who are have already spent weeks house hunting and eager to make an offer, buyers with all kinds of motivations make their way to open houses. No matter what buying decision stage you are in, here are some tips for making the most of an open house visit.Open House

1.   Take the time to plan. Typically, open houses are available to view between 2pm and 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.  Instead of wasting precious weekend hours driving around looking for balloons tied to open house signs, research properties online and make a list of properties you want to see and sort them in order of location. Begin with the visiting open houses in the area you are most interested in before you hit up your next favorite area and so on. When making your game plan, keep in mind that you should allowing enough time to see each home.

2.   Take a thorough tour. Sometimes wandering around someone else’s home can feel a bit uncomfortable. The key is to be polite as you make sure you see the entire home. In other words, don’t be afraid to open doors to explore every room and closet, but don’t be opening dresser drawers and sifting through the seller’s undergarments (after all, those more than likely won’t be included in the purchase of the home).

3.   Come prepared. Bring a notepad, camera, and tape measure to each open house so you can assess the home thoroughly and jot down your pros and cons of each property. After a day of visiting different properties it is so easy to get back home and realize it is all just a blur. Whether you’ve visited one open house or six, having your notes, photos, and videos to jog your memory can be incredibly helpful. Keep in mind that, in many cases, the home is still someone’s private residence, so be courteous and always ask permission before taking photos and videos of the property.

4.   Ask questions. The real estate agent hosting the open house is there as a resource to you! Many people are apprehensive to ask questions or even make eye contact with the agent in fear of being sucked into a pressuring sales pitch, but don’t let your fear keep you from making the most of your open house visit. If you have a question about the house, the neighborhood, or the market, ask it! The agent is in the market and more than likely knows the answer, and knowledge is power in the buying world. Many buyers in the early stages of the buying process have met their agents at an open house and gone on to build long-term buyer/agent relationships.

5.   Look beyond the property itself. Flipping through photos of a home is a great online resource for home buyers, however, they rarely paint of picture of what surrounds the home. Attending an open house gives buyers a chance to see what lies beyond the property including nearby parks, schools, restaurants and shopping. Take time to notice neighboring properties as well to get a feel of what and who you might be living by.

CLICK HERE to browse upcoming open houses in Kentuckiana

Super Semonin Weekend
November 21-22, 2015
The Largest Open House Event in Our Region!

Semonin Realtors ® selects one weekend a month that we call a Super Semonin Weekend. It is a weekend we focus upon as a company to hold as many open houses as possible. We encourage visitors to register for a drawing to win your choice of an APPLE iPad or a $500 Gift Card to Lowe’s, Kroger or Target! LEARN MORE »

Preparing to Downsize Your Home

Whether you’re a recent empty nester or your home has become too much to manage, nearly everyone reaches a point in their life where its time to downsize. If you are planning on moving to a smaller home keep in mind these helpful insights.Downsizing

Take your time.
It simply isn’t logical to think you can successfully downsize from a home you’ve spent years living in in only a week or two. Downsizing is more than just a weekend of organizing, it is a process that deserves a few months of preparation. Sorting through decades of keepsakes and housewares takes diligence and time, so giving yourself plenty of time is crucial.

Make a trash and recycling plan.
Depending on the scale of your downsize you may need to schedule a junk pickup or have a dumpster delivered. Whatever your plan may be, keep in mind you are less likely to recycle or donate things if you have easy access to a colossal trash receptacle in your driveway.

Cut back on unsentimental items.
Old shampoo samples and extra pots and pans are much easier to toss out than that old rocking horse you bought for your son’s second Christmas, so, save rooms like bathrooms and kitchens for a day when you don’t have the heart to throw out the more sentimental items. You should be able to move these rooms more quickly than others and it will feel good when you can cross them off your list. If you come across something in the kitchen that means something to you and your family tradition, such as that special plate you pulled out every for year for Santa’s cookies, consider passing it along to your children or grandchildren instead of keeping it in the back of your cupboard.

Pass on the memories.
All those school projects, dance recital outfits, sports trophies, and artwork you’ve collected from your children over the years may have seemed very important once, but now they are most likely just collecting dust in the closet. Instead of going through these keepsakes alone and deciding what to keep and throw out, invite your children and other family to come over and sift through the family relics together. Reminiscing on old memories can make for a very entertaining afternoon full of laughter. Tell everyone in advance they are welcome to keep anything they’d like and everything else you will throw out or recycle. Memories are precious and valuable, so you should be encouraged to buy yourself a large plastic bin to keep those treasures most important to you. This way your children are reassured that you don’t want to throw away their memories, you just want to find a new home that works better for your current lifestyle.

Are you really going to wear that again?
Some clothing hoarders justify their behavior with the thought “everything old will eventually come back into style,” but when your downsizing it is good to be a bit more discerning. With very few exceptions, like a formal dress or other special occasion outfit, you should get rid of any items you haven’t worn in the last 1-2 years. If you are recently retired there is no need for several suits and work outfits. As for all those t-shirts and sweatshirts you’ve collected over the years, how many do you really need? Choose a select variety of apparel to keep and donate the rest. Chances are a year later you most likely won’t even remember having owned some of it.

Think paperless.
It is astonishing how much paperwork can accumulate over time. You have probably dreaded going through that file cabinet full of pay stubs, tax reports, receipts, and other records for years. Take a day (or a couple) to tackle all that paperwork and try to trash the majority of it. The IRS says tax filings must only be kept for seven years, so anything before that is safe to throw out. But remember to protect yourself from identity theft by running documents through a shredder.

Semonin Realtors® Builds Our 18th Habitat for Humanity Home

Last week Semonin Realtors® worked to build our 18th Habitat for Humanity home. For the second year in a row, Semonin partnered with NTS in providing funding and volunteers for the construction of the home which was located on Craig Ave near Taylor Boulevard and the Watterson Expressway.

Through various fundraising activities held throughout the year, Semonin Realtors’ staff and agents were able to contribute a total of $35,000 toward construction costs. In addition to these funds, 100 agent and staff volunteers worked on-site October 7th through 9th during the “raise the roof” portion of the build. NTS also made a generous monetary contribution and gathered volunteers to work on the build October 8th.

Bahati and her children hammer their first nails into their new home.

Bahati and her children hammer their first nails into their new home.

Bahati, who heard about Habitat through friends, is the owner of the new home and her and her children worked alongside us during the build last week. Bahati and her five children are so excited to move into their new home once Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville and its volunteers complete construction in approximately 12 weeks.

Since 1993, Semonin agents and staff have contributed a total of $562,000 toward 18 Habitat for Humanity homes built in Louisville, New Albany, Elizabethtown, and LaGrange.  During this time period, more than 3,500 Semonin agent and staff volunteers have worked together to complete new Habitat homes.

“Semonin agents and staff take great pride in the communities where we live and work, and this is an important way for us to give back every year,” said Brad DeVries, president and CEO, Semonin Realtors.  “This new Habitat home is no exception.  We think homeownership can be for everyone – and it is our distinct pleasure to work alongside NTS and contribute to such a great cause.”

Semonin Realtors and Habitat for Humanity also thanks 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, Beef O’Brady’s on Blankenbaker Parkway, Texas Roadhouse in Shively, and Semonin Insurance for their support and contributions toward this year’s build. Below are a few pictures from this year’s build. Click here to see the entire photo album on our Facebook Page.




Home Maintenance Tips For Fall

Fall Home

Check The Chimney
Cooler weather is rolling in and it will soon be time to put the life back into those fireplaces that have been hibernating since last winter. Autumn is the time of year to prep your fireplace, insuring it will work properly and safely. Buildup of creosote and other residue can lead to chimney fires and cause carbon monoxide to enter rather than exit your home. Schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep to inspect and clean your fireplace. To avoid a long wait during the busy season, call and request a visit early in the fall season.

Unclutter The Gutters
Leaves and debris that gather in and clog your gutters inhibits water to properly drain away from your home. This can cause mold, leaks, and pest problems. To avoid damage to your home’s roof and siding regularly check and clean your gutters. Installing gutter guards can help make this job a lot easier, however even with guards, routine checks should still be made.

Tend to the Lawn of Leaves
It can seem almost over night that those vibrant red, orange, and yellow leaves have made their way from the tops of the autumn trees down to the surface of your yard like a think blanket. Leaving the leaves to pile on your lawn can prevent the grass from getting the sunlight and nutrients it needs to the point where they suffocate the grass. This can lead to many insect and disease issues. Raking and bagging the fallen leaves is not the only solution. You could put the raked leaves into a compost bin which can later be used as a fertile mulch in your garden or landscape. An easier solution is simply using your lawn mower to dice the leaves into bits too small to rake. This not only allows the grass to still be exposed to sunlight, but also enable the small bits of leaves to make their way down to the soil where they can break down over winter and add their nutrients to your lawn.

Ensure Insulation 
With winter right around the corner, now is a good time to ensure you can keep warm. Inspect the insulation in your attic to make sure it is correctly installed—call a professional to take a look if needed. Your windows and doors can also become quite drafty in the cold winters, so make sure they are well sealed. Where needed, reapply caulk around the edges of windows and door frames and add weather-stripping around doors so that daylight is not visible from inside your home. Lastly, as the A/C days come to an end for the year, include changing the furnace filter as a part of your fall home maintenance checklist.


Getting Your Home Organized

Are you having trouble conquering your clutter once and for all? There are many, many tips and tricks for getting your home organized, but here are four valuable points that you should keep top of mind.Organized

1.  Start with the problems that affect your everyday routine.

An area or room in your home that you use to store a lot of your rarely used items may be a nightmare to look at, but if it does not affect the way your live your daily life consider tackling other areas first. Foyers or other entry ways can be a good starting point since this is where a lot of traffic happens.

Keep in mind that the system you come up with to organize the areas that you use the most need to be the simplest and easiest to keep up with. If a system turns out to be more of a hassle than a help, chances are you won’t stick with it for very long and you’ll find yourself back to square one.


2. Develop a plan before diving in.

Especially when you are tackling an entire room take a step back and look at what you are actually dealing with. This will help you develop a clear vision for how you want it organized before you actually start tossing and sorting. Take a thorough inventory of what is currently in the room and determine what problems you are trying to solve. Then you will be able to better categorize everything in a way that makes the most sense.

It also helps to clear everything out of a room, closet, or drawer before you do a big organizing overhaul. Starting with a blank slate forces you to be more selective when it comes to what goes back into the space and where.


3. Get creative.

Bins and baskets can fill up floor and shelf space pretty quickly and there is only so much you can organize into drawers before the drawer itself becomes unorganized. Think out of the box when it comes to where to put things. For example, the backs of closet and cabinet doors are a great places to hang hooks and racks that gain instant and discrete storage space.

Re-purposing is another way to exercise your creativity as well as save you some money. Why should you spend $15 on a pretty box, when you can create your own with a shoe box and paint or fabric?


4. Remember that organizing is a constant process.

After a day or weekend of rearranging shelves, labeling bins, and sorting through drawers you can find your home to be in pretty good order. However, getting organized is one thing, staying that way is another. Having a designated tray by the door to drop your mail is only a good thing if it is regularly sorted through and kept from piling up and spilling over. Stay disciplined and take time everyday making sure your organizing systems are still working for your home.


Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Your first home is probably the biggest purchase you will make in your life so far—it can be an exhilarating time but you probably also have lots of questions. Here are some tips for first-time home buyers:

1. Get Pre-Approved
Before your start looking at houses it is important that you first know how much you can really afford. You can start the financial process by looking at your credit score. Having a good credit score is one of the most important factors to qualify for a loan. Next you should talk to a lender to get pre-qualified for a loan. Knowing exactly how much a lender is willing to give you to purchase a home will allow you to shop with confidence. There is no greater disappointment than thinking you have found the perfect home just to find out you can’t afford it. As an added tip, shop around when you are looking for a lender. Getting a second opinion can never hurt and one lender may be able to offer you a better amount or interest rate than another.

2. Prioritize Your Wants & Needs
Shopping for homes is exciting and fun! However, if you don’t have a clue what you might be looking for, you could end up making the home buying process a longer than it needs to be. Spending months looking through a hundred homes can turn the process into a frustrating and tiresome one for you and your Realtor. Make a list of features you’d like to have in a home and categorize them as “must-haves” vs. “nice-to haves”—but remember to keep this list realistic with your budget.

3. Look Online
With you wants and needs list completed, get online to start looking at homes. The Internet is where 90% of home buyers start their search. It is a great resource to get a feel for what is on the market and compare homes that are in your price range. This can help you quickly weed out the homes you don’t want to see and select the few you want to see in person.

4. Select a REALTOR®
Purchasing a home is an exciting time in anyone’s life, but the process can get to be overwhelming especially for first-time buyers. Selecting a REALTOR® who will represent and support you throughout the entire process is of the upmost importance. Your REALTOR® will advise you, keep you on the right track, help you negotiate, and handle all the paperwork during your transaction. Finding a REALTOR you can trust will put your mind at ease during the process, so if you need to, sit down with a few agents and decide for yourself which one is the best fit for you.First-Time-Home-Buyers

“The Best of Louisville” Infographic

The Best of Louisville

7 Pitfalls of Selling Without a REALTOR®

In today’s market, with homes selling quickly and prices rising some homeowners might consider trying to sell their home on their own. In the industry, this is referred to as a For Sale by Owner, or “FSBO”. While being a FSBO might seem to have its advantages, there are reasons why nearly 9 of every 10 homes are still sold with the help of a REALTOR®.For Sale By Owner

If you are thinking of selling your home on your own, first consider these challenges you will face by not using a REALTOR.

1. Setting the right price
Overpriced homes don’t sell. On the other hand, no seller wants to risk underpricing their home. FSBOs frequently misjudge the value of their home, basing their pricing decisions on inaccurate information they find online or the common misconceptions about the current state of home prices and the overall real estate market. REALTORS® have the expertise, knowledge, and resources to help sellers choose the best price for their home.

2. Being available for showings
Are you going to be available on short notice to show your home to prospective buyers? Your job, family, and personal life can make for a very busy schedule. This makes it very unrealistic for many of us to simply drop what we are doing and rush home to meet buyers for a showing. One of the roles of a REALTOR is to take the demands away from sellers and be there to represent your house any time a buyer wants to see it.

3. There’s more to negotiating than you may think
Negotiation is a normal part of any real estate transaction, but many FSBOs do not consider all the different people they must be prepared to negotiate with, including:

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible for themselves.
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer.
  • The home inspector(s) who works for the buyer, not the seller, and will almost always find some problems with the property.
  • The appraiser if there is a question of home’s value.

4. Exposure to prospective buyers
The days of considering a good marketing plan to be a sign in the front yard and some flyers are long gone. Studies have shown that out of 10 buyers 9 use the Internet to search for homes while just 2 are looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?

5. Results come from the Internet
How do we know the Internet is an effective marketing tool? Because it generates real results! A recent study from the National Association of Realtors showed 43% of buyers found the home they actually purchased on the Internet. That is in comparison to only 9% from a yard sign and 1% from a newspaper. Having a strong Internet strategy when selling your home is crucial.

6. FSBOing is not what it used to be, the process today is difficult and complex
Over the years more and more requirements have been set in place and the paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and procedures have become mandatory. This has made the process of real estate transactions a complex one, giving reason for why we have seen a drop in FSBOs from 19% to 9% in the past two decades. If you are thinking of not using a REALTOR to sell your home, ask yourself, how familiar are you with reviewing contracts and negotiating contingencies?

7. Using an agent will net you more money
Many homeowners are drawn to try selling on their own because they believe they will save the real estate commission. However what they don’t realize is that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. In reality, the seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical FBSO home sells for $208,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $235,000. FSBOs are more common in lower price point markets so this doesn’t mean that an agent can get $27,000 more for your home. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Before making the decision to try selling your home on your own, contact a REALTOR in your area and see what they have to offer.

Source: The KCM Crew. http://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2015/06/02/5-reasons-you-shouldnt-for-sale-by-owner-5/

The Super Semonin Weekend Winner for June is…

Semonin Realtors ® selects one weekend a month that we call a Super Semonin Weekend. It is a weekend we focus upon as a company to hold as many open houses as possible. We encourage visitors to register for a drawing to win your choice of an APPLE iPad or a $500 Gift Card to Lowe’s, Kroger or Target!

The winner of June’s Super Semonin Weekend is:
Kim L. of Louisville, KY!

Kim visited an open house at 11501 Valley View in Anchorage hosted by Semonin Realtor® Ed Evers. After being randomly selected as the winner, Kim chose to receive a $500 Gift Card to Kroger!

Thanks to those who attended a Semonin open house during June’s Super Semonin Weekend.

The next Super Semonin Weekend will be held: JULY 18-19

For more information visit http://www.semonin.com/supersemoninweekend.aspx

What is Your Home Worth? A Look Into Automated Valuation Models

Whats-My-Home-WorthYou are probably familiar with websites that have emerged in recent years that attempt to estimate what your home is worth. If you have used any of these tools you may have wondered where the number comes from, or why the price one website gave you is different from what another one gave you. So how are these online guesstimates configured?

Websites use computer programs designed to make home value estimates, or averages. These are known as Automation Valuation Models (AVM). The estimates these models configure are usually based on public records like you might find from your local Property Value Administration, or “PVA”, department. The problem with these types of models is the automated estimates calculated do not figure in important factors like the condition or uniqueness of a home. So, for example, if you have owned your home for 10 years and spent lots of time and money making upgrades and renovations, you have added value to your home, however that extra value is not always reflected in the estimates generated by AVMs.

Not every website uses the same model, which is why various sites rarely agree on the price your home is worth. This creates problems during negotiations since the seller will want to believe the most accurate website is the one that gave the higher estimate, however, the buyer will fight that the site that gave the lower estimate is the correct one. So which one is right? The truth is, home value estimates or “guesstimates” that you can get on various websites are helpful when you want to get ball park figures and an overall feel for the market, but when you go to list your home for sale, pricing decisions should never be based on a website’s generic analysis.

The responsibility of Realtors is to make sure you have as much information as possible to base your decisions on. An AVM estimate can give you an idea of your home’s value, but a comparative market analysis or CMA will best determine this number. Realtors have the experience, knowledge, and tools to provide you with a more comprehensive estimate based upon a visit to your home where no automation model can go.

AVMsThe Semonin Difference

We offer home value tools on our website at www.semonin.com/home-values.aspx. What makes our tools different from others is the engine. The home value automation tools we offer on Semonin.com are powered by Collateral Analytics. Collateral Analytics is the top rated automated valuation model for bank grade information. Banks rate them the best in the country for giving them information so they can make wise investment information.

We offer consumers two tiers of AVMs. The first we refer to as the Consumer AVM (CAVM) which pulls public records on a frequent basis to estimate a home’s value. The CAVM allows you to enter your address, or any residential address in the country, and instantly find loads of information right at your fingertips. You will find a range and an estimate of what a property is worth as well as comparative data for other homes nearby.Get Home Value

The second tier of home value automation available on our website is called an Interactive AVM, or I-AVM. The I-AVM takes home value estimation one step further and uses information from a variety of sources. This model combines public PVA records, local MLS data, and predictive economic modeling to provide what is called a “Bank Grade” automated value which is what lenders use in determining mortgage loans. To access the Interactive AVM visit www.semonin.com/home-values.aspx and click on the “Get Report Used by Lenders” link.


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