Posts by Alan Hubbard

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August
27

After more than a year of low housing inventory, skyrocketing prices, and intense bidding wars, the real estate market appears to be tempering a bit. While inventory is still sparse (though improving) and prices continue to appreciate (though at a less rapid pace), there's plenty of reason for optimism if you're looking to buy. Here are a just a few reasons why it's a good time to buy a house.

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August
11

With the start of the school year upon most of us, now's a great time to talk home organization! Kids resuming their studies often results in a flurry of backpacks, textbooks, and various other school supplies that can quickly leave your home in a stressful state of disarray. Here are some airtight back-to-school home organization tips you can use to corral the chaos.

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July
14

With homes flying off the market within days of being listed (and often for far more than the listing price), you might reason that selling your home on your own is the wise choice. Why pay a commission fee to an agent when buyers are falling over themselves just to make an offer for every available house, right?

Not quite. It may seem appealing to go the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) route right now. But even in a seller's market, the benefits of working with an agent are worth their weight in gold. Here's why you should still use an agent to sell in 2021.

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June
22

The big day is almost here. You got preapproved for a favorable mortgage. You scoured listings for weeks – maybe even months – to find the perfect house. You submitted an offer and the seller accepted. And now, so close to the finish line, it could all be for naught if you make one of the mistakes we're going to talk about. Instead, stay informed with your real estate agent and, above all else, don't do these things before closing on a new home.

Apply for New Credit

There is quite possibly no worse time to open a new credit card account than before you've closed your home purchase. Think of your mortgage preapproval as a snapshot of your credit, debt, and income situation at that moment. Opening a new line of credit alters that snapshot and could give you a lower credit score, causing your lender to reevaluate everything.

Buy a New Car

We don't necessarily mean new as in brand new – though it of course applies – but rather any new vehicle that is new to you since you were preapproved. That new set of wheels likely comes with a large loan of its own, and trust us, your lender will not like that.

Start a New Job

Another thing you shouldn't do before closing is starting a new job. A reliable source of income is critical to securing a mortgage loan; embarking on a new job brings with it inherent questions of stability and security. If possible, it's best to wait until after closing to pursue the fresh start you've been craving.

Use Credit Cards Excessively

Putting more and more purchases on a credit card increases your credit usage, which can have repercussions on your loan eligibility. What's more, it's a good idea to make sure your bills are paid up or at least not delinquent. And while you're at it, be on time with all your payments until your loan is finalized – the last thing you want to do is send up a red flag to your lender by way of late payments.

Make Any Big Purchases

This could be a tricky situation to avoid before closing. Furniture, appliances, and other essentials will be calling your name, and while some of them may feel like necessary purchases, they're also expensive investments. Paying for them upfront could eat into the money you've saved aside for closing costs – do NOT do this! – while financing or using layaway adds another line of credit to your name.

Make Any Unexplainable Deposits

Your lender will know what your income typically looks like, so an unexpected deposit of, say, $3,000 will create unease on their end. If you have a paper trail, that helps. Your best bet is to just wait until after closing for big, out-of-the-ordinary deposits.     

Co-Sign a Loan for Someone Else

It's just a favor for a friend or family member, right? Wrong. Co-signing a loan for someone else makes you responsible for said loan. Should the borrower fall behind on payments or default, you're the one the lender will be coming after.

It's always wise to consult with your agent whenever you have any questions about what you shouldn't do before closing. Find a Watson agent when you're ready to start your home search.

May
18

Whether you're selling or refinancing, a lot rides on your home's professional appraisal. The appraiser's unbiased opinion will give buyers and lenders alike a clearer vision of your home's worth. A lower number hurts your chances of securing a loan or selling for a good price.

Many factors go into your home's appraisal, some of which you simply can't control like number of bedrooms or the neighborhood. Luckily, there are things you can do to boost your home's profile. Here are some tips for getting a high appraisal.

Look at Past Appraisals

If your home has been appraised in the past, take a look at those records. Pay close attention to the things that lowered your home's value and try to improve those issues first.

Clean Everything

Cleanliness is next to godliness, and that goes for your home too. Scrub, dust, and wipe every corner of your home to create a spotless presentation. Renew your air fresheners or light a candle or two to emphasize a clean, crisp environment. You'd be surprised how something as simple as cleaning can influence your appraisal.

Take Care of Those Minor Repairs

If you've been putting off those pesky leaks or clogged gutters, now's the time to knock them out. Neglecting quick and inexpensive fixes will absolutely negatively affect your appraisal. Be sure to document any minor and major repairs as well, especially if you hire contractors to work on them.

Create Curb Appeal

Before the process even begins, your appraiser will start making mental notes about your home's exterior as they arrive. Make sure they're taking good notes by creating welcoming curb appeal. This can be done by maintaining the grass and any plants, presenting a clean walkway, touching up the paint if need be, and more.

Enter the Modern Age

Worn finishes and creaky, old appliances won't score you any points for being vintage. Instead, consider saying goodbye to these relics of the past and enhancing your home with more modern touches, like quartz countertops or stainless-steel appliances. Appraisers will place more value on these sorts of higher-end details. Of course, it's always worth talking to your agent about which upgrades make the most sense for your home.

With that said, however, it's important not to cater your home to one specific niche. Pricey upgrades may not make as much sense as they do on paper – you may not even recoup those expenses in the sale.

The ultimate takeaway is to ensure your home is well-kept. Even a home with outdated stylings could sell well if it's been maintained with care and consistency over the years.

Be Honest

If there are repairs you haven't completed by the appraisal, be honest with your appraiser. The desire to hide them may be strong – no one is proud to admit they haven't gotten that cracked foundation fixed yet – but it will only hurt you in the long run.

By telling your appraiser of any needed repairs, they can possibly factor the costs of said repairs into the appraisal. Otherwise, they may use a general figure, which could end up hurting your value. If you intend to have the repairs done yourself, the appraiser may need to return to confirm their completion.

Have more questions about getting a high appraisal? Contact a Watson agent today for more info!

May
6

The real estate market has been on fire lately, and that figures to continue well into the summer. New homes are flying off the market, often within days of listing and for more than the asking price. Sellers are unquestionably in the driver's seat right now, but that doesn't mean you can get away with speeding. Here are a few reasons why pricing still matters in a seller's market.  

High Prices Can Alienate Buyers

As inflating sales prices continue, it's easy to start seeing dollar signs. If the market says you can get more than your home's value, why not list at that amount?

For one, it alienates potential buyers. Buyers are already at a disadvantage in the current market, and by putting up your home for an exorbitant price above market value, you could be pushing away valuable contenders who don't have as much spending power.

Create a Bidding War

A fair price leaves room for a bidding war – another reason why pricing still matters in a seller's market. Multiple buyers will be in competition for your home – a precious commodity in a low-inventory landscape.

Competition means a steady flow of offers all trying to one-up each other. That is, unless you force the bidding to start at an artificial high point with an expensive asking price. While more offers can make choosing the right one more complicated (the right agent will make it easier, though!), it's often in your best interest to create a bidding war.

Get Off the Market

With such low inventory, it's possible your home will sell fast even if it is overpriced. However, it still remains a risky move. You'll want to lean on your agent's knowledge and market expertise to ensure your home's priced fairly based on several factors, including location, condition, and more.

A boosted price could keep away gun-shy buyers and leave your home dwelling on the market for an extended period. Especially in a market where homes for sale get purchased extremely quickly, you don't want to be the one home that isn't moving.

Want to know more about why pricing still matters in a seller's market? Contact one of our real estate agents!

March
22

 

Florida is a magical state full of hidden gems the average visitor – or even resident, for that matter – knows exist. Everyone knows about Walt Disney World and the glistening sands of South Beach, but for every well-known destination in the Sunshine State there exists at least one under-the-radar spot worth visiting. Join us on this tour of some of the amazing hidden gems in Florida that you should absolutely check out.

Ravine Gardens State Park

There's no shortage of beauty on display at Palatka's Ravine Gardens State Park. The park's namesake ravines can be viewed from suspension bridges – a ripe opportunity for photos. And if you're visiting between December and March, you're in for a real treat: it's blooming season for the hundreds of azaleas, washing the gardens with a dazzling colorscape.

Florida Caverns State Park

Florida isn't exactly known for its caves. After all, most of the state is barely above sea level. And yet we have Florida Caverns State Park, a series of large, connected caverns beckoning visitors to explore. Take a guided tour to experience the chilly underground air, sounds of dripping water, jagged stalactites, and wildlife like bats in these otherworldly depths.

Bok Tower Gardens

Nestled among rolling hills of citrus stands Bok Tower Gardens, a true hidden gem in Central Florida. The titular Singing Tower looms over the gardens and houses one of the world's finest carillons, a percussion instrument consisting of 23 bronze bells in fixed suspension. Performances can be heard ringing throughout the garden daily, adding to the overall contemplative atmosphere.

Beyond the Singing Tower, the park is home to one of the state's most impressive landscape gardens. As you meander through the garden, you'll encounter acres of blooming foliage, lush ferns, palms, and oaks, and even natural Floridian wildlife like threatened gopher tortoises and endangered eastern indigo snakes.

Falling Waters State Park

Here's another one to file under "Things You Didn't Know Florida Had" – waterfalls! Sink Hole Trail leads through huge trees to Falling Waters Sink, a 100-foot-deep, 20-foot-wide cylindrical pit. A small stream drops water 70+ feet into the bottom of the sink, creating the picturesque waterfall. The park even has a bit of a spooky factor: no one truly knows where the water goes once it reaches the bottom of the sink.

Blowing Rocks Preserve

This peaceful barrier island sanctuary is home to the largest Anastasia limestone deposit on the Atlantic coast. High tides and storms cause the sea to fling itself against the rocks, forcing plumes of saltwater as high as 50 feet into the air. It's a sight unlike anything else.

Cedar Key

While the previous entries on this list have been parks and preserves, this entry is an entire city! Located just over an hour south of Gainesville, Cedar Key is a small island city in the Gulf of Mexico. The quaint and quiet town offers a refreshing break from city life both in its city-by-the-sea vibes and the amazing Cedar Key Museum State Park. As a vacation spot, it's under the radar but perfect for a quiet getaway.   

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Weeki Wachee Springs has something no other hidden gem in Florida does: live mermaids! These dazzling sisters of the sea perform classic shows and other underwater feats for captivated audiences each week (though attendance is limited during the pandemic).

Once you've seen the mermaids, enjoy a serene journey into nature with a kayak ride down the spring. Kids will love splashing in the waters of the onsite Buccaneer Bay waterpark, too!

Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest attracts plenty of visitors, but outside of locals, the park's praises aren't sung enough. Anything you want to do, you'll find space for it at Ocala National Forest. Go hiking across miles of trails. Kayak or swim in remarkably cool springs. Camp overnight under the twinkling stars. All your outdoors dreams converge here.

March
5

The 90s were a simpler time. Clothes were baggier, music came on cassette tapes, Blockbuster still existed. If you're anything like the rest of us, you likely spend at least a few hours a day pining nostalgically for all things 1990s. Especially if you lived in Jacksonville, FL during the 90s. Because we can't help but revisit what feels like better days, join us as we tour things only 90s Jacksonville, FL residents will remember.

Sinking Quarters/Tokens into Games at Aladdin's Castle & Tilt

Thanks to barcades like Keg & Coin – an arcade bar in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood – and entertainment hotspots like Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing, there are still places you can get your arcade cabinet fix.

But there's nothing like the originals. Bereft of the other distractions – Keg & Coin is a bar first, arcade second, while Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing prominently feature an entire restaurant and a water park, respectively – these classic arcades existed purely for the endless joy of arcade games.

Many of us lost countless hours in Aladdin's Castle in the Orange Park mall. Parents shopping for boring stuff? Give us $5 and we'll be content basked in the warm glow of arcade cabinets for at least an hour. The same goes for Tilt at the Jacksonville Landing (itself an icon of the 90s that no longer exists). A few rounds of Street Fighter with friends at Tilt would be enough to make anyone's weekend.

Playing Mini-Golf with Rex at Goony Golf

DINOmite!! | Jacksonville beach, Jacksonville florida, Jacksonville fl

Before he became the orange sentinel of Beach Boulevard as we know him today, Rex, Jacksonville's famous T-Rex statue, presided over innumerable mini-golf games at Goony Golf. He was one of several, um, interesting obstacles and characters for which Goony Golf was known. For all its kitschy charm, Goony Golf felt like a staple of a fun Saturday afternoon.

And while the chain's Jacksonville location went extinct early in the 2000s, we still thankfully have Rex's beautiful mug to remind us of just how great things used to be.

Going to a Drive-In Movie

Playtime 3 Drive-In in Jacksonville, FL - Cinema Treasures

Going to a movie in a normal theater is a treat in itself, to be sure. But there was just something special about rolling down the windows, audio pouring out your radio, and watching a movie in the crisp night air.

In the 90s, Jax residents had a few options. They could pull up to the Playtime Drive-In off Blanding Boulevard or the Beaches Drive-In. These excellent and unique date destinations from the 90s sadly no longer exist. Playtime had its screens shut down for good in 2008, while Beaches Drive-In had its proverbial windows shuttered in 2003.

The Eats!

Feasting on the Wagon Wheel at Famous Amos. Ordering a Camel Rider on-the-go from The Sheik. A full chicken platter from Beach Road Chicken Dinners. Sipping on a Slush Puppie from the local Little Champ gas station. Barbecue from the short-lived Rumboggies (or maybe you just bought the sauce?).  Eating Chinese buffet in a dimly lit indoor dining area surrounded by koi ponds and bridges at Garden of Tiki.

We could go on, but we're making ourselves hungry.

The Malls!

What were you doing for fun in the 90s if you weren't at the mall? Maybe your commerce hub of choice was the Regency Square Mall, with its bustling storefronts and unique eateries at the food court. Or maybe you favored the newer atmosphere of the Avenues mall, which opened its doors in 1990.

If you lived in Orange Park, though, we know you loved the Orange Park Mall. Dozens of storefronts, a thriving food court, the aforementioned Aladdin's Castle, and, of course, the classic carousel.

The Sports!

jacksonville lizard kings - Google Search | Hockey logos, Kings hockey,  Football team logos

With no major league sports teams calling Jacksonville home in the early 90s, the city still had plenty of sports to get excited for. Baseball was never hotter than when the Jacksonville Suns lit up minor league ballparks (of course they still persist today, though rebranded as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp).

Meanwhile, possibly the coolest local sports team in terms of uniforms, colors, logo, and name: The Jacksonville Lizard Kings. Sure, hockey doesn't have a strong foothold in Florida, but the Lizard Kings captured the hearts of many Jax residents on sheer coolness alone. Just look at that logo above! 

Then, of course, the big daddy arrives in 1993: Jacksonville gets its very own NFL franchise. The Jaguars were born, and a city fell in love with its team in teal. The 90s seasons were special for the Jags, too, as the team found immense success within its first three seasons playing in the formerly named Alltel Stadium.

Keep Max in Jax

Call Box: Maxwell House sign has been dripping since 1955 - News - The  Florida Times-Union - Jacksonville, FL

The intoxicating smell of coffee beans is familiar to anyone from Jacksonville thanks to the Maxwell House coffee plant located downtown. However, in the early 90s, the plant was nearly shutdown. The city launched a "Keep Max in Jax" campaign to convince Maxwell House to keep the plant open. It turned out to be wildly successful, not only saving the plant but motivating the company to double down in Jax with a multi-million-dollar expansion.

Classic Jax Radio Stations

The 90s had some outstanding radio stations for Jax residents. We spent many an afternoon cranking up the dial on all our favorite modern hits on 97.9 KISS FM. There was 93.3 Planet Radio for crunching new rock, while 104.5 pumped out all the classic rock your heart could desire. Then, of course, we had Cool 96.9, showering us all with "good times, great oldies."

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