Apr 09

Curb Appeal

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

I have written a number of my articles for you guys about how to make your house more appealing to a potential buyer. I want to specifically focus todays article on curb appeal.  The very first impression your house makes with a buyer can color the rest of the showing for them!

Take a close look at your listing from the eye of a home buyer. Are the bushes overgrown around the front windows? Has the mulch all washed away? Is the paint on the shutters fading?

These are the questions Jon Coile, chairman of the multiple listing service MRIS in Rockville, Md., asks in a recent column at The Washington Post that aims to help sellers examine the exterior of their homes. Here are some simple ways to solve common curb appeal issues:

Stick to similar plant groupings. Aim for a continuous flow with a landscape. “It can often make small spaces feel much larger,” Coile says. To do this, select only few different types of plants for the landscaping, instead of selecting a wide variety. The majority of the landscaping should consist of similar plants so the landscape doesn’t look look broken up into too many different sections, Coile notes. Then, feel free to use a small number of accent pieces to add color and visual interest.

Use visual markers. Visual markers help draw buyers’ eyes from one end of the yard to another. “The easiest way to do this is to lay a path that subtly transitions in the same places the yard does, at slight changes in elevation or where shaded areas transition to open sun,” Colie notes. “If that isn’t possible, then a few strategically placed taller plants, subtle decorations, or lighting fixtures can create the same impression.”

Show off the entertainment value. Show grassy areas where kids can play safely as well as places where adults can socialize, Coile writes. Consider these features for an added touch to show the possibilities of a space: Fire pits and outdoor gas flames, outdoor speakers, or a wet bar near a grill.

 

Source: “How to Enhance Your Home’s Curb Appeal,” The Washington Post (April 11, 2016)

Mar 31

Just What Exactly Is A Closing?

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

In light of the home buyer workshop that we are having this Saturday, I thought I would talk about what exactly a closing is.  As the name suggests a closing or settlement happens at the very end of the home buying process.

Closings as I am sure some of you know involve loads of paperwork, including the deed, which grants legal rights and is signed by the seller and given to the buyer. The deed will then be registered with the city or county in order to protect the ownership rights of the new owner. Keys are also given from the seller to the buyer. Finally, the seller will get a check for the net proceeds of the transaction; the sales price minus closing costs and what they owe on their original loan, if anything.

The details of the financial transactions that occur at closing are summarized in a document known as the HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

As a home buyer, your real estate agent and loan officer should provide plenty of coaching on what to bring to your closing. In most cases, you’ll need:
1. The big check. A cashier’s check (not a personal check) for the total amount due on the HUD-1 Settlement statement. This includes your down payment and closing costs.
2. Your checkbook. You’ll want to be able to cover any last minute changes (although hopefully there won’t be any). You may also need to cut the seller a check for items that aren’t included in the settlement, such as any heating oil left in the tank.
3. Your full attention. There are a lot of intimidating legal documents to sign at a closing, and it’s important not to glaze over. Do take the time to read before you sign. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if there’s anything you don’t understand.

I have found that no one really wants to ask what really happens at settlement or what closing costs are so I thought a post about it would be beneficial.  If any of you have any questions or settlement stories please feel free to write them in the comment section below!

 

Mar 24

Home Buyer Workshop!

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

My brokerage is having its first Home Buyer Workshop of the New Year and I wanted to invite all of you to attend. It is being held this Saturday, April 2nd @ 10 a.m. at our office.  The office address is 10461 Mill Run Circle, Owings Mills, Maryland 21117.  Buyers who attended the workshops last year definitely received a lot of information not only about what I do as a Realtor but also about the financial side.

This Saturday we will talk about the:

  1. Loan Qualification Process
  2. Grant Programs
  3. Home Shopping Process
  4. Offer Submission
  5. Owner Responsibilities

Anyone who comes will also be able to get On-Site Pre-Approvals as well as First-Time Buyer Incentives and Discounted Title Services.  You can call 410-205-1360 to register and use the code Approved to get a free one-on-one consult! I really love meeting people in the community and giving back so this really is one of my favorite things that we do every year. I look forward to meeting some of you on Saturday and if you can’t come this Saturday don’t worry because we will be having one every month for the entire summer!

Mar 14

Lets Go Over Earnest Money Deposits

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

In an ideal world, if you found the home of your dreams, you and the owner could sign a purchase contract, followed by a handshake and, later, your down payment. In the real world, in order to prove your offer to purchase a property is “earnest,” or “in good faith,” you need to put money on the table as soon as the ink of your signature dries on the purchase contract.

This earnest money deposit is a fraction of your down payment which indicates the buyer’s intent and willingness to execute the agreements laid out in the contract with the seller. The buyer usually pays it in the form of a personal or certified check issued to the real estate brokerage of choice. The deposit will be held in an escrow account, a type of trust fund controlled by both the seller and the buyer, until you successfully complete the closing.

Earnest payment amounts vary widely. The attractiveness of the home’s sales price, the level of interest others have expressed in the property, and how quickly a prospective buyer can move from contract to closing can all influence the sum a seller may request as an earnest money deposit.

Once the seller and the buyer both have signed the contract, the buyer should issue a check for his earnest money deposit to an escrow account, which is held by a real estate brokerage. That means you make out your check to a real estate brokerage, not an individual.

State real estate laws strictly regulate how real estate brokers conduct and manage these separate, professional escrow accounts. Brokers are not allowed to deposit any earnest monies in their own business bank accounts.

Nevertheless, make sure to request a receipt for any earnest money handed over to a real estate agent or a brokerage. It should come in the form of a copy of the check on the brokerage’s letterhead along with a signature of the person accepting the check’s delivery and the date and location the check was received. If you’re in a hurry to close on your purchase, be aware that a quick closing date requires a certified check for earnest money.

It’s important to know that this earnest money deposit is not an extra cost of buying a home. It will be credited towards the down payment at closing, and in case it exceeds your mortgage down payment, you will receive the balance at closing.

As always I hope this post helps answer some questions you might have had about the earnest money deposit! Feel free to leave stories or ask questions in the comment section below.

Mar 04

More Real Estate Tips For Buyers And Sellers!

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

Hey Guys! I try to use my experience in Real Estate to help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls that customers encounter during a Real Estate Transaction.  This article will be similar in that I will outline some key points that both buyers and sellers can benefit from!

1. Sellers: Know Your Hand But Don’t Over Play It

If you set a price from 5% to 10% above the market, you’re more likely to get an offer close to your home’s real value than if you start much higher and force your listing to go stale. However, if your home has better qualities than area comps, you have a bit more latitude.  Try to look at your house logically instead of emotionally!

A sale contingent on the buyers selling their home is reasonable but only with a contractual escape for you, often called a “kick-out” clause. That gives you the right to continue marketing your home. If a less-encumbered bid comes in, you then offer the initial buyers a set time of 48 or 72 hours to withdraw their contingency.

2. Buyers: Know The True Cost of Home Ownership

 

When is a $250,000 house not a $250,000 house?

Answer: Always! Consider all of these and other closing costs when buying:

  • Origination fee: On a $200,000 mortgage for a $250,000 home, assuming 3.5% interest and no points, you’d pay the lender about $1,800.
  • Home inspection: Even if the mortgage insurer doesn’t require one, get one for peace of mind.
  • Property taxes: You’ll usually pay a few months upfront.
  • Appraisal: The bank will need to determine how much the place is really worth.
  • Private mortgage insurance, or PMI: This depends on your down payment and credit rating.

Other pre-occupancy costs should include home insurance, title insurance and deed-recording fee, and possibly title insurance, survey costs, credit report fees, flood insurance and homeowners association dues/insurance.

On that $250,000 home, allow an extra $5,000 or more atop the sale price.

3. Buyers: Look For Up And Coming Neighborhoods

This might seem obvious but a home is an investment, of the biggest investments that most people make in their lives.  With that being said you should invest in a neighborhood where you see growth!

Things to look for include proximity to a new or resurgent business center, the addition of a major employer, a light-rail station, a city cleanup initiative, young people moving there, crime watch and other neighborhood groups being formed, multiple renovations underway and other up-and-coming neighborhoods abutting it.

New retailers, restaurants and other commercial tenants are also a good sign. Research by RealtyTrac shows that homes in ZIP codes that have a Trader Joe’s grocery store appreciated 40% on average since the homes were last purchased. Homes with a Whole Foods nearby appreciated 34% on average.  An example of this would be the Wegmans that is coming to Owings Mills. This will most certainly have a positive effect on the housing market in the area!

 

4. Sellers: Know Your Houses Selling Points

Upgrades rarely pay for themselves, but there are 2 spaces that can make or break a home sale: the kitchen and master bath.

Because kitchens are the heart of the home, or the “new living room,” make yours homey. Hide the coffee maker and toaster. Add simple decorative touches to the wall behind the sink.

Sure, new granite countertops and appliances are optimal, but new hardware for cabinets, new faucets, new lighting fixtures and fresh (neutral) wallpaper are inexpensive touches that carry weight. Thoroughly scour and depopulate the fridge and take magnets off it, please.

For bathrooms, always display a sparkling bathtub and commode. A new tub liner, or “shell,” can make that marred tub look like new and save you from replacing it.

A new faucet, new lights, fresh caulking, a new towel rack or new mirror may be in order. Clean out the medicine cabinet. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t declutter, depersonalize, paint and scrub the rest of your space, too.

Some of this I have mentioned before in previous blog posts but it never hurts to repeat good advice! I also want to stress that your Realtor should be advising you on all of these things and more so make sure that they bring all of this up.  As always please feel free to leave tips below or even topics that you would like me to talk about!

 

 

Jan 15

Housing Market Is Healthier Than Ever

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

There has been an increase in both average and median home prices, according to the Maryland Association of REALTORS® (MAR), for the second month in a row. Smaller counties like Allegany and Wicomico saw large increases of 34.2 and 24.6 percent respectively. Average prices rose by 1.4 percent and median prices by 2.4 percent as compared to December 2014 statistics. MAR President Bonnie Casper said, “2015 ended on a high note”. Casper went on to say that, “in addition to a 12.3 percent increase in home sales in December, there is also a healthy incase in pending units, which indicates an active first quarter. We can reasonably expect a stable and lively market in 2016.” Maryland monthly housing statistics are compiled by data as reported by MRIS and the Coastal Association of REALTORS®. For the purpose of this report, “units” are defined as the closed sales and “pending units” are properties under contract. Months of inventory are based on the current inventory and monthly sales for the corresponding month. This article was compiled by gathering information from a similar article written by Melissa Lutz (MAR).

Jan 08

My 2015

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

Reflection can be defined as a thought occurring in consideration or meditation. I want to wish Happy New Year to all of you and I hope you all had a wonderful and safe holiday. As I was writing this post I began to reflect like most of us to during the beginning of a new year on the year that has past. It seems to me that no matter how much you plan for the year ahead life will always throw a few surprises in there just to make sure you’re on your toes. I would like to share a few of those surprises with you and some of the lessons I learned in 2015. My hope is that I can learn from them and continue to evolve positively in 2016 and maybe you all can take what I have learned and incorporate it in your daily lives as well. A few days before the new year I was going over all of my transactions for 2015 with my husband and business partner and I realized that referrals were 80% of my business. First, I would like to say thank you to all of you who allowed me to share your home buying, selling, or renting experience with you! I really and truly appreciate all of you. Second, I learned that who you communicate and interact with on a daily basis is a huge part of life. We all hear growing up “do unto others as you would have done unto you” I see that being in a service-oriented field, that old adage is doubly important. There have been great changes in the agency this year: I hired 5 new agents, 3 new full-time employees, we had a number of Homebuyer Workshops, developed new professional relationships as well, and I learned a number of things from the growth of my team. I learned that leading by example is extremely important as well as one-on-one communication with my agents and employees. On a personal note, both of my adult children moved out of the house this year which was definitely an adjustment for me as well as them. I say all of this to encourage you all to look back on 2015; the good and the bad and take all the lessons you might have learned or overlooked and apply them to this year. I look forward to growing with you all this year and taking you along on my journey.

Dec 22

Mortgage Debt Relief Act

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

GREAT NEWS!!! The Mortgage Debt Relief Act has been passed by both Houses of Congress and is on the President’s desk to be signed. The Act which is part of the bigger tax bill, extends the relief of debt for 2015 and 2016. This is great news for Sellers/Homeowners who did a short sale in 2015 or will be doing one in 2016. If the property is the seller’s principal residence, the amount forgiven by the mortgage company will be exempt from federal income tax. At Johnson and Associates Real Estate, we are committed to keeping clients up to date on all changes to the law regarding short sales. We continue to help guide you through shorts sales at a record rate and most of all, continue to have great results!!!! We thank you for a great 2015 and look forward to 2016. If you or someone you know are under water with their mortgage, have questions about this or would like to proceed with a short sale in 2016, please feel free to contact me…anytime at 410-928-4660…it will not cost you a DIME!!!!

Dec 22

Johnson and Associates – Holiday Event 2015

By Antoinette Johnson | Uncategorized

Its that time of year again. Happy Holidays to all of you! Every year I try to have a holiday dinner for my agents because they all work so hard throughout the year. Last year I did all the cooking for the party because like I told you guys a couple weeks ago, I love to cook!! This year I wanted to enjoy the festivities without worrying about the food so I decided to reserve a room at Ruth Chris Steakhouse in Pikesville on Friday December 11th. I eat there often and the service is always great so I thought my agents would enjoy it. We started off the dinner with a quick presentation from Rich Johnson (my hubby, Senior Attorney in the J&A Law Division, Associate Broker and our Marketing “guru”), which summarized the year in terms of sales and marketing. He also talked about the trip to Jamaica that we are planning for 2016, which definitely got the agent’s full attention! I have a total of 13 agents that I am responsible for at Johnson & Associates Real Estate. Five of my agents are under 26 years old and I like to call them the “Fab 5”. This sharp, professional group includes, Dorian Johnson, Kay-Marie Barnes, Wingrove Lynton, Joshua Watts, and Isaiah Nichols. The other 8 include a police officer, Marlena Fonseca, as well as 3 attorneys/associates brokers, Rich Johnson, Angelina D. Jones and Angela Gallagher. ( My team also includes, William Dawkins, Lloyd Marshall, Michael Minor, and Delroy Johnson. Johnson & Associates also participated in an Angel Tree Initiative where each agent was asked to donate a gift to a 10-year-old little girl in need. We collected over 50 items for this young lady!! I was so impressed by my team for their contribution. We surely will make one little girl smile this Christmas! Finally, every year I also try to acknowledge the agents that stand out and have done an exceptional job with their clients in the community with specific awards. This year Angelina Jones won the Platinum Award because she was the Top Residential Sales Agent for 2015 with $2.3 million dollars in Total Sales. Dorian Johnson was awarded the Gold Award 2015; he was the Top Commercial Agent and 2nd Residential Agent with $1.5 million dollars in total sales. Finally Kay-Marie Barnes was awarded the Silver Award for the Top Residential Rental Agent and 3rd Residential Sales Agent for 2015 with $550 thousand dollars in Total Sales. I also gave all my agents the book, Sell With Soul by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn. I have read it and I think its great. Not only is it a book designed to show agents how to successfully navigate the critical first year of their new real estate career, but it also reminds agents of the importance of treating others with respect and compassion…even while selling. After all, what would we be doing if we did not have our clients? PS-I think that even the seasoned agents will get so much out of this book; I know I did. I hope you all have a great holiday season and all the best in 2016!   See my Fab 5 here! IMG_307211           See my team here! IMG_307411