Articles Tagged "real estate"

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June
21

Florida Real Estate

Record home prices, rising interest rates, and low inventory have created an incredibly tough environment for buyers. It's still entirely possible to land a property despite the current market conditions. Buying a home in a hot seller's market just requires some extra work, time, and a lot of patience. 

Our real estate agents have been working closely with buyers to navigate the complexities of this unprecedented market. Here are 7 tips we frequently share with our clients:

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October
27

Your first stab at buying a home involves a lot of emotions. Excitement, happiness, anxiety, fear, joy, sadness; you're sure to feel at least some combination of these and more during your first homebuying experience.

Real estate agents know this, and they're often prepared for it. "First-time homebuyers can be scared because they've never experienced this situation before," Michael Blazek, Managing Broker of Watson's Atlantic Beach office, says. "But working with them is fun because they're usually very excited."

We understand just how daunting buying your first home can be. That's why we got some of our brokers to come up with their own expert advice for first-time homebuyers.

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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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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.

June
18

Bidding War

After a long search, you've finally found the house you want. The only problem is, someone else wants it too.

Bidding wars are common, especially when interest rates are low. If you're not careful, they can drag on forever and cost you much more than you were initially prepared to pay - if you win the war at all. Our real estate agents can help you hold your own when there are multiple bids. Here are a few tips for making it through a bidding war and coming out on top.

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June
16

It's summer and you know what that means – it's listing season! Even though the market is primed for selling and many homes are selling for way over their asking price, it's still important to approach selling with a sound strategy. To that end, here are some key takeaways you should keep in mind to stay on top of your game in the lucrative 2021 market.

Understand Market Data

Though it can be exciting to sell when the market is scorching and you have the potential to make thousands over your asking price, remember that the market changes quickly, and there are a number of factors that go into pricing your home. According to Inman, if a home prices higher than comps in its area, it's likely that home has factors that can't be replicated – such as location, a pool, or a desirable lot. Your Watson agent knows to do their research thoroughly in order to best understand how to price your home.

Know Your Target Buyers

Low supply and buyer demand are skyrocketing the prices of homes, but that means that certain buyers are going to be priced out. Therefore, it's best to understand what your target audience is and what they're willing (and can afford) to pay. A great REALTOR® will understand where the leads are coming from, whether local or out-of-town, and what their financial backing looks like. Many buyers are offering all cash, but that may not always be your best bet since it can include contingencies, deductions, low-balling, and timelines that leave you frustrated.

Don't Alienate Your Buyer

You may think that since the market is in your favor, you get to call all the shots. But that attitude can backfire. Buyers still want a good deal and want to be treated with fairness. They also will be unwilling to move forward if the home doesn't meet their expectations. So, to avoid this pitfall, be sure to first get a thorough inspection and repair big items before listing your home. Things like roofs, leaks, or any basic items that are non-functioning need to be in great condition before listing, or you risk losing most buyers.

Proceed with Caution in Multiple-Offer Situations

Though receiving multiple offers on your home is a leveraging dream, it's not a particularly easy-to-navigate situation. Your instinct may tell you to go with the highest bid, but that's not always the right answer. An experienced REALTOR® will know to dig into the contract terms, financing, the offer letter itself, and other variables in order to make the best decision. It's best to operate with knowledge and realistic expectations and not let emotions sweep you away.

Now that you have the most vital information for selling your home in 2021, let's begin the listing process with the help of our expert Watson agents – contact us today!

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!

February
10

the value of a real estate agent

When buying or selling a house, what's your top priority? Probably to make the most money if you're selling or get the best deal if you're buying. As a result of being money-conscious, you might think you're better off pocketing what you would pay in commission fees for a real estate agent. If you go that route, however, you're likely doing yourself a disservice. The value of a real estate agent comes from the often-overwhelming amount of work they take off your plate when buying or selling your home.

Buying a Home

House-shopping is at once very exciting and exhausting. A real estate agent can help alleviate many of the exhausting factors. They'll comb through new listings – across a wide network you wouldn't otherwise have access to – in search of homes that match your wants and needs, weeding out the pretenders and bringing you the contenders.

The value of a real estate agent becomes even more apparent when it comes time to make an offer. They'll help you prepare a formal offer as well as guide you through any negotiation that may come after to ensure you get a good deal. After the offer, a real estate agent will guide you through inspections and oversee any repairs deemed necessary.

Selling a Home

What do you need an agent to sell your home for – you know it best, right?

Well, when selling, objectivity is your best friend. A real estate agent will value your home with an honest eye, one that accounts for market value and other factors to ensure your asking price isn't too high. They'll also help you stage your home so that it makes the best impression to potential buyers.

Your agent will be invaluable when it comes to marketing your home to those buyers. They can get your home exposure on multiple websites and listing services, as well as use tools like social media to get even more eyes on the property.

Again, you'll truly recognize the value of a real estate agent when you start receiving offers. Your agent will review offers and keep you informed through every step of negotiation, ensuring you don't get caught with a stale deal.

Picking the Right Agent

Ultimately, the real value of a real estate agent comes in finding the right one. Working with an agent you gel with and who understands your wants and needs is critical. But once you secure the right agent, you'll truly understand why it's worth it.   

December
18

Whether you've sold a home or not, you're likely familiar with some common home-selling tips or pieces of advice that you've been told or read in some article. You may even believe some of them! Even if delivered with the best intentions, the fact is a lot of the most common home-selling tropes are myths, and we're here to play the role of real estate myth busters. Here are eight home-selling myths you shouldn't believe.

The Myth: My house will sell in the first week!

The Truth: Your home may very well sell in the first week! We're currently in a seller's market, which means there's more demand than there are homes for sale. So if you were to list today, there actually is a good chance your home would sell very quickly.

However, that's only true when the market favors sellers. In other times, selling in the first week just isn't likely. Having lived in your own home for years, you've naturally developed a strong emotional connection to it. Unfortunately, not everyone else has the same connection, and it might take time to find someone who vibes with your house the same way you do.

The Myth: These huge renovations will pay big dividends in the sale!

The Truth: So you've poured thousands of dollars into a remade kitchen or a high-class bathroom in hopes that it will increase your home's value. On a very technical level, they may have. But it doesn't necessarily mean your house will sell at a higher price. The unfortunate truth is that depending on what you spent, you may not even make it back in the sale. Everyone's taste is different, so sweeping upgrades may not gel with potential buyers. Instead, talk to your agent about which upgrades might pay off. You can also take notice of other homes in the area and see what they're doing.

The Myth: My home should have a high asking price to leave room for negotiation!

The Truth: Unless you find a buyer who is head-over-heels smitten with your home, the only thing a high asking price will get you is a price change after a few weeks. Instead of creating room for negotiation, you're pushing away serious buyers who will balk at the exorbitant asking price. Instead, trust your agent to set an appropriate listing price based on the market, your home's value, and other factors.

The Myth: I received my first offer really fast. I must have underpriced my home!

The Truth: Remember when we said it's unlikely your home will sell in the first week? Sometimes, it does happen – you might get a bite just days after hitting the market. Don't overthink it: you didn't underprice your house. If anything, you likely priced it perfectly, which is why you're attracting serious buyers so quickly.

The Myth: I'm not going to accept my first offer, because I'll likely get a better one down the road!

The Truth: A common thought when receiving an initial offer – especially if you deem it less than attractive – is to hold out for a better offer from someone else. Of course, if the first offer fits what you're looking for, then by all means accept it – you know what's best for you. Talk with your agent about evaluating the offer – is there room to negotiate to bring it closer to what you want?

But turning down an offer just because it's the first can have unforeseen consequences. For example, the longer your home stays on the market, the more questions buyers will begin to have. What's so wrong with those house that it hasn't sold yet? What am I not seeing? Suddenly that first offer you turned down doesn't look so bad.

The Myth: I don't need to depersonalize my home when selling!

The Truth: As we mentioned earlier, you likely have a strong emotional attachment to your home. It's full of personal memories that you'd never dream of hiding. But you really should when it comes time to prepare your home to sell. You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves in the home. Let them imagine making their own emotional connection without the roadblock of your family photos lining the shelves.

The Myth: My house will sell itself!

The Truth: Lovely though it may be, your house is highly unlikely to sell on its own merits alone. A well-thought strategy goes into every home sale, including marketing, staging, studying the market, and so much more. Simply sticking a For Sale sign in your front yard isn't going to get the job done. That's why hiring a trusted real estate agent to assist you is paramount in selling.

The Myth: I'm going with the agent who values my house the most, because they'll get me the best return!

The Truth: Go with the agent who properly researches the local market and values your property fairly according to said market. That's who will give your home the best chance to sell.

September
23

A seller's market occurs when there are more buyers than there are homes for sale. As COVID-19 has impacted our daily sense of normal for the majority of this year, it's also created a seller's market. And as you might imagine, a lower inventory can make buying a home in a seller's market challenging. But it's not impossible! We're here to help you make the right moves so that you're not left out in the cold (figuratively, of course). Here's what you can do to make buying a home in a seller's market a lot easier.

Choose the Right Agent

Navigating a seller's market as a buyer is risky business on your own. Securing a sharp, experienced agent to be in your corner will alleviate much of that risk.

Get Pre-Approved First

Pre-approval not only gives you the security to make a move fast – a must in a seller's market – but it also gives the seller confidence that you mean business. That goes a long way.

Don't Wait to Make Your Best Offer

In a buyer-slanted market, it might be more attractive to offer something lower than the asking price and negotiate from there. But when the market favors the seller, you're much better off making your best offer up front. You don't want to invite competitive interest by submitting a lower offer.

Your Best Offer Still May Not Be Enough

Despite leading with your best offer, you still may need more to secure the purchase. Buying a home in a seller's market means other buyers will be in the hunt for the same home. Prepare with your agent to continue bidding if your first offer isn't enough.

Make Quick Decisions

Seller's markets require buyers to think fast and act even faster. Your favorite listing today could be off the market tomorrow. You should of course still do your due diligence; you want to be decisive but not reckless. If you fall in love with a home, don't be afraid to make a move.

Be Flexible

Flexibility matters in a seller's market. For one, you can make your offer even more attractive by agreeing to terms that are convenient for the seller. Maybe there's a piece of furniture they don't want to take with them. Let them! It might be a bit more work for you after closing, but it might make closing the home that much easier. You have to be flexible with your own wants and needs, too. In a buyer's market, you might have more wiggle room to find a house that checks every box on your wish list. But buying a home in a seller's market could mean compromising on certain things. Maybe the style isn't quite what you love, or maybe the location is a little off from where you'd prefer. If these are must-haves, then by all means wait. But if you can determine those factors that aren't as important, you'll have a less stressful time.

It May Take More Than Money

After a job interview, you may send a personal handwritten note to your interviewer as a follow-up and reaffirmation of your interest. The same gesture can make a difference when buying a home in a seller's market. Let the seller know the home is as important to you as it is to them.

June
17

We've previously talked about questions you should ask when buying a house on this blog. This week we're looking at the other side of that equation: what to ask when selling your house. From making sure you have the right agent to determining your home's value, you've got lots to consider when putting your home on the market. Let's dig into those questions and more.

Do I have the right agent for my goals?

Think of the search for a real estate agent to list your home as a job interview, and you're the hiring manager. Ask about their history in the industry, how many homes they typically sell in a year, areas in which they specialize, what they'll do to market your home, and more. What can they bring to the table, and does it align with your goals for selling?  

Is now a good time to sell?

Depending on your circumstances, the right time to sell can be hard to define. One big factor to consider is if you're in a buyer's or seller's market. A buyer's market happens when there's more homes on the market but less demand, empowering buyers. Conversely, fewer homes on the market and more demand creates a seller's market. A seller's market means you have the power to negotiate better deals. Your agent will help you determine what the current market landscape looks like.

How much will it cost to sell my home?

You'll (most likely) walk away from your home sale with money, but it'll cost you to get there. Commission fees and closing costs will come out of your bottom-line profit, but some out-of-pocket costs can sneak up on you. These can include staging, landscaping, and more. If you're buying a home at the same time, you'll want to include those fees in your budgeting efforts as well.

How much is my home worth?

Determining your home's value can be as simple as determining its condition and demand. Your agent can help you assess demand with a customized report covering how much similar homes in your area have sold for. This is called a comparative market analysis. Additionally, you can get an approximate estimate of your home's value with our home value estimator tool.

Should I hire a home inspector?

A home inspection occurs as a standard part of the process once your home is under contract. You can, however, have an independent inspection completed prior to listing your home on the market. It's another fee to account for, but it gives you a chance to remedy any potential ills in your home before presenting it to a buyer.

What do I need to disclose to potential buyers?

One of the scary parts of selling is having to be honest about your home's flaws. Even if you get an inspection before selling, there may be flaws that just aren't cost-effective for you to fix. But you may still have to mention them in the seller's disclosure. That being said, what you have to disclose can vary based on state laws and other factors. Your agent will help you determine what must be included in the seller's disclosure.

May
29

Let's face it: buying a house can be hard. Even if you've done it a few times before, the purchasing process is so complex that little details can easily be lost in the shuffle. That's why, in addition to having a great real estate agent by your side, you should always ask lots of questions before committing to a new home. Here's what to ask when buying a house.

How much house can I afford?

We've talked a lot about budgeting for a home purchase on this blog, so we won't dig too much into this question. Suffice it to say, a thorough examination of your finances is a critical early step in your house hunt.

What are my total monthly costs?

Your monthly payments in a home are likely to include more than just mortgage and utilities. Things like property taxes, HOA fees, homeowner's insurance, and more are important to remember when putting together your monthly budget. Check with your agent about additional fees like these once you've found a home you like.

What's included in the sale?

Of course you're buying the house itself, but what about what's inside? Are you getting a full suite of appliances and light fixtures, or is the seller taking them? Your agent can help you firm up what you're getting as part of the purchase, which will help you make more informed decisions about what you need.

What's included in the seller's disclosure?

The seller's disclosure details many things, including the condition of various structural items, potential infestations, and other possible health and safety hazards. Your agent will help you review the seller's disclosure for important items like the status of the home's roof, walls, and foundation, hazards like mold and lead paint, and any repairs that have been done to the home in the past.

Why are they selling?

The seller could be putting their house on the market for any number of reasons – relocation, downsizing, new job, etc. But it could also have to do with the neighborhood, or something relating to the house itself. Occasionally your agent may have insight as to why the seller has put their home on the market. Determining these motivations not only allows you to be more thoughtful in your purchase, but it could give you an edge in negotiating if they're trying to sell fast.

How long has the home been on the market?

A long shelf life typically happens when a home is listed at too high a price point initially. Even as the pricing adjusts, the home could still consequently stay on the market. That can scare away buyers, as they fear something must be wrong with the home that can't sell. However, that could also prove beneficial for you as the owners may be motivated to reach a deal quickly.

How old are the appliances and other major systems?

Is the air conditioning unit on its last leg? Are the kitchen appliances (the ones that are staying, anyway) ready to give out? Are the bathroom sinks one clog away from a full-blown disaster? The answers to all these questions and more are crucial to your purchasing decision. Some of this info may be in the seller's disclosure, while others will be uncovered by the home inspector. For many of the home's major systems, you can ask for a home warranty that will cover costs should they break.

What's the neighborhood like?

You won't get a true feel for a community and its residents until you've lived there yourself, but you can get a solid idea just by driving through the neighborhood and speaking with folks you see out and about – they may tell you things the selling agent might not. Visiting the community at different parts of the day can reveal a lot, too, like how many kids are outside playing and how busy common areas like dog parks, pools, and playgrounds can be.

Is the home in a danger zone?

Depending on the area, it can be easy to assess your new home's potential risk level for things like flooding. Beachfront homes are pretty high risk for hurricane damage, for an obvious example. Still, it's good to ask for homes that are in a less obvious risk zone for natural disasters. Florida homes are often required to carry additional insurance for flooding, so it's important to know. Fortunately, you can check for yourself simply by entering the property address on FEMA's flood map service center.

May
15

Whether you're a first-timer or you've purchased a home before, there comes a pivotal point when considering a new home where you have to ask yourself: Are you actually ready to buy? At first the answer might seem simple, but it's not a mere yes or no. Multiple considerations should factor into your answer, from debt and income to down payments and closing costs. You're not going this alone, though. We've prepared this guide to help you make sure you truly are in a good position to buy. So, are you ready to buy a house? Read on to find out.

Do you know how much house you can afford?

As we mentioned in our home-buying budget guide, it's important to go into your home-shopping experience with a firm idea of how much you can afford on housing each month. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan can help, but it also doesn't mean you have to spend the full amount for which you get approved. Most personal finance experts recommend spending 30% or less of your monthly income on housing. However, remember that your monthly housing expenditures include more than just a mortgage payment. Utilities, property taxes, HOA fees, and more could add to the total, so you'll need to keep those in mind when preparing your budget.

What's your debt situation like?

Do you have outstanding credit card debt? What about student loan debt? Not only can debt leave a bad mark on your credit score (more on that below), it can also severely hamstring your efforts to save and pay for a new home. Beyond traditional debt, what about a car loan? Or perhaps a different kind of personal loan? Of course there are financial circumstances that are unavoidable (like medical bills), but they'll affect your home search all the same. If you still have a significant amount of debt to pay off, that should be your financial priority.

How's your credit score?

Your credit score will directly impact the terms of your mortgage. Generally speaking, a score of 740 or more will net you better rates. You should aim to pump up your score as much as possible before seeking mortgage approval.

Are you prepared for a possible down payment?

You don't necessarily need to prepare for the typical 20% down payment, especially if it's your first time – most first-time buyers put an average of 7% down. In fact, many loans and programs require even less. So the amount you spend on a down payment will vary, but it's still a payment for which you should prepare. The last thing you want when buying a home is a surprise.

Will you have enough money left after closing?

If you're saving up for a $1,000 TV, it makes sense to stop saving at $1,000. The same cannot be said for purchasing a house. If your bank account bottoms out after closing, you're in a bad spot. You'll want to have an emergency fund that can keep you afloat for a few months. It's also a great idea to save up enough to cover your housing costs for at least six months. Beyond emergency planning, there will be things you have to spend money on in your home. From repairs to buying those random items you didn't think of before, you'll continue to pour money into your house after closing. Prepare accordingly.

What's your future look like?

We're not asking you to predict the future (but if you can, we'd love to know). Rather, where do you see yourself in five years? If you're uncertain about your current job or don't plan on staying in the area for a couple years, you probably aren't ready to leap into a new home. Buying a house is a major investment, and one that's better done on top of firmly planted roots. Once you've found security in a city and job you love, you'll be ready to start shopping.

April
15

Podcasts experienced a surge in popularity in the last few years, and it's no wonder why. They're accessible, low-investment forms of entertainment that you can listen to when you're exercising, cooking dinner, driving, or doing just about anything. Podcasts can also be about anything. If there's a niche TV show or hobby you can think of, there's probably a podcast covering it. And if you're looking for podcasts that talk about the vast topic of homes, well, you're in luck. From redecorating projects to housing market analysis, here are some of the best home-related podcasts you should be listening to.

The Minimalists

Since starting their website of the same name in 2010, multi-talented authors, filmmakers, public speakers, and yes, podcasters Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have helped people learn to live with less. Their podcast delves into the benefits of going minimal, as well as other related topics.

Fix It Home Improvement

Fix It Home Improvement focuses on – you guessed it – home improvement projects. Most episodes clock in around a digestible 20 minutes and range in topic from how to reduce utility costs to fixing a clogged drain.

Ask a Clean Person

Whether you're a lifelong neat freak or you're looking for better ways to deep clean your home, Ask a Clean Person is the tidiness podcast you need. Cleaning expert Jolie Kerr answers your listener questions, chats with guests, and talks about things like how often people should be washing their bathrobes.

Home: On

Host Richard Gunther uses Home: On as a medium to discuss the latest in home automation and connectivity trends. From analyzing interesting new products to informing and educating, Home: On offers up some of the most thoughtful discussions surrounding smart home tech.

Real Estate Today

If you're after in-depth analysis of the housing market, Real Estate Today should be in your podcast library. The National Association of REALTORS® brings you this informative show covering topics like buying and selling to improving your home's value.

Style Matters

You know when you see a tastefully decorated living room on Instagram and you think to yourself, "Why can't I do that?" Style Matters is the design-minded podcast that will help you unlock your inner interior designer and develop a style all your own.

The Unofficial Fixer Upper Podcast

Podcasts that cover a certain TV show episode-by-episode are popular nowadays. So it makes sense you'd find one that goes through each episode of Fixer Upper, the much-celebrated TV show that introduced the world to Chip and Joanna Gaines. Though the podcast only began with the show's fourth season and went through the fifth and final season, there are still 40 episodes for superfans to enjoy.

Good to Be Home

Rather than focus on the house itself, Good to Be Home instead highlights ways to maintain balance in your life. The weekly show explores topics like entrepreneurship, family, marriage, and more in an effort to help you maintain a happy home.

The RHS Gardening Podcast

Starting your own garden can be intimidating. The RHS Gardening Podcast aims to alleviate the intimidation and show you just how easy and fulfilling it can be to flex your green thumb.

The Chaise Lounge

The Chaise Lounge is one of the top interior design podcasts, thanks in large part to how accessible it makes even the most in-depth discussions of the field. Host Nick May interviews hundreds of the country's top interior designers, revealing strategies that can bolster both entrepreneurs and budding designers alike.

April
2

In these uncertain times, Watson remains committed to your real estate needs. We've taken our home-buying and selling processes digital to offer you the same legendary quality of service you're used to while adhering to social distancing practices. Buying or selling a home digitally is easy; read on to find out how.

Buying a Home

1) Finding an Agent

If you haven't already partnered with a real estate agent, you can easily find one via our website. Once you've found someone you like, you can consult with them via email, phone, or text to talk about your home wish list, areas in which you're looking, and more.

2) Getting Pre-Qualified

Applying for a loan online is simple. Just create an account with Watson Mortgage Corp. and get started. 15 short minutes later, you'll see how much you qualify for!

3) Touring Properties

Your agent will send multiple properties to review online. Once you've narrowed down your favorites, your agent can arrange a virtual tour via video. If you and the seller are comfortable with it, you may still be able to arrange an in-person tour.

4) Making an Offer

A written offer containing details like financing method, cancellation terms, repairs, and more will be prepared over the phone or via email and will be submitted to the seller digitally. If further negotiations are required, they will also be handled over the phone or via email.

5) Closing

We've altered our closing process to reduce the number of parties needed at signing. Once all terms are agreed upon and necessary paperwork has been filed, signings will occur in a staggered fashion – usually the seller goes first and then the buyer. And just like that, you've bought a house safely and conveniently!

Selling a Home

1) Finding an Agent

As with finding an agent when buying a home, you can easily find an agent you like via our website. Once you've secured an agent, you'll consult with them over phone, email, or text to discuss your selling goals, proposed timeline, and more.

2) Prepping Your Home to Sell

If you're comfortable with it, your agent can visit your home to give advice on which projects you should tackle before putting your home on the market. You can also organize a video call if you'd rather stay digital.

3) Listing Your Home

Your agent will consult with you via phone, email, or text to set a reasonable asking price that will give your home the best chance to attract buyers. They'll email you a comparative market analysis that tracks the selling price of similar homes in your neighborhood to help determine your home's value. Once you've settled on a listing price, your agent will consult with you digitally to develop a customized marketing strategy for your home.

4) Showing Your Home

Virtual tours make showing your home during these times easy and safe. Your agent will perform a walkthrough of your house, filming the entire tour with their smartphone or camera. The virtual tour can also be performed live via Facetime or another streaming service. Virtual tours are the recommended way to show your home during these times, but in-person showings can be offered to buyers who are pre-approved and qualified to buy, and who have given their intent to buy the home.

5) Receiving Offers and Closing

Your agent will submit offers to you digitally via email and discuss the terms of the offer with you over phone or email. Any further negotiations will be handled the same way. Once you've accepted an offer, your agent can work with you to schedule independent inspections and appraisals with respect to your schedule and comfort level. After all requirements have been met, your agent will have you sign the final sales agreement in a staggered fashion – seller first, then buyer.   If you have any further questions about buying or selling a home digitally, feel free to contact your real estate agent directly or contact us here.

March
19

For many people, working directly with a builder to create a brand-new home that perfectly suits their needs is the dream. While buying a home that's already on the market has countless benefits, there's something to be said for the magic of having a custom home built just for you and your family. Since you're working directly with a builder, it might not seem necessary to involve a real estate agent in the transaction. But a real estate agent who knows your interests, wants, and must-haves can be just as invaluable during a new construction transaction as any other home-buying experience. Here's why you should work with a real estate agent when having a new home built.

Find Your Community

Your agent will know the area in which you're looking to build, so they can help you find the perfect neighborhood that matches what you want in a community. They'll provide local area information regarding schools, day care, elderly care services, public transportation, proposed developments, and more.

Identifying the Right Builder

If you haven't already selected a builder, your agent will connect you with a reliable contractor based on several factors: reputation for delivering a high-quality product, quick response to issues, and being financially sound.

Navigate the Complexities

Buying a home is already a fairly complex process. Building one from the ground-up has even more intricacies with builder contracts, upgrade negotiations, and more. Your agent will use their experience in these areas to help you navigate the process.

Assist in Design Choices

Obviously, your home should reflect your style and tastes. But your agent can help you determine which design choices and upgrades could potentially add value to the home when it comes time to sell.

Be Your Guide During Construction

Once construction is underway, your agent will accompany you to the work site for walkthroughs and supply you with progress reports when you can't make it. They'll photograph construction throughout the different phases and help ensure everything stays on track by notifying you of developments as they arise. Are you thinking of having a new home built and need an agent to help guide you through the process? Contact your local Watson office to get started!

February
12

So you're ready to buy your first home. Great! Home ownership is a unique gift, one that will continue to give back to you in time if you treat it right. As such, however, it's a major investment that can only come from careful planning, dutiful research, and a disciplined budget. Completing such a large purchase may seem daunting, but we're here to show you how to budget for your first home.

Plan Ahead

Saving for a house isn't the same as saving for a new couch or even a new car. You'll need as much preparation as you can get, so the sooner you start looking, the better. Have a look at homes for sale in areas you're interested in as early as a couple years before you're ready to buy to get an idea of the price range. In addition to pricing, browsing early can help you determine your priorities. How big of a house do you want? Is location super important? Are you adamant on a pool even if it costs more? Figuring out your must-haves will also help you determine how much you could potentially spend.

Set a Budget and Don't Budge from It

Once you have a general idea of what you're looking for in a home, you can start setting up a proper home-buying budget. Assuming you don't already maintain a budget, a good starting point is to add up all your monthly take-home income and subtract from that total all your monthly expenses. Let's say your monthly take-home income is $6,000. Your non-housing monthly expenses come out to $3,000, leaving you with $3,000 each month. However, it would be a folly to use $3,000 as a measuring stick for how much home you can afford. Generally, you should aim to keep your housing costs at 25% of your monthly take-home income. In the above example, you'd want to keep your mortgage payments at $1,500, give or take a few hundred dollars.

Consider the Additional Costs

For most renters, rent and utility payments are the only recurring housing costs each month. However, when you purchase a house, you'll have to consider additional costs on top of your monthly mortgage payment. Depending on the condition of the home you're purchasing, you may need money for repairs or renovations.

A maintenance fund is another good idea – even routine fixes can pile up when you no longer have a maintenance crew on-staff to handle them for free. Then there are HOA fees, property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and more. Even utilities bear considering, as houses typically cost more to heat and cool than apartments.

Depending on the type of home you purchase as well as the location, some of these fees may not apply to you. But rest assured many of them will, so it's vital you weigh these additional costs when coming up with your monthly housing budget.

Get Down with the Down Payment

And so we arrive at the dreaded down payment. You've probably always heard that you must be ready to drop anywhere from 10% to 20% as an upfront down payment. Allow us to break that myth for you. While some people may still want to complete a large down payment, it is absolutely not vital to purchase a home. In fact, the average first-time buyer only puts 7% down, and many loans and programs available to first-time buyers require even less than that.

As with most components of your home-buying budget, what you choose to put down will depend on your situation. You may find it advantageous to make a hefty down payment if your income isn't great but you have a lot saved up, as this could lower your mortgage payments and help you avoid private mortgage insurance. But don't let the myth of a mandatory 20% down payment scare you away from home ownership.

Get Pre-Approved

Unless you hit the lottery or strike rich from an oil deposit, you'll likely pay for your first home with a mortgage loan. Getting pre-approved for a loan from a trusted lender will set the bar for how much home you can afford. However, what you can afford isn't the same as what you should buy.

You've Got This!

Even with this budgeting guide, buying your first home may still feel overwhelming. We understand! Just remember: countless people have done this before, and you can too.

January
29

A common, recurring question in real estate is, "Should I buy or rent?" But perhaps a better question is, "What is the cost of buying vs renting?"

Unfortunately, there really is no simple answer to the first question. The choice of buying or renting comes down to any number of factors that will be unique to your situation.

Are you looking to truly invest in a property? One that you'll build equity in over time? If you answer yes to those questions, then buying is your best option. Privacy and full control over the home are other strong reasons to buy rather than rent.

Conversely, buying a home is a long-term investment. Maybe you want more freedom to move to different areas of town or downsize when you see fit. And if being responsible for home repairs sounds awful, then renting probably suits you.

Money on the Mind

But when you ask about the cost of buying vs renting, the answer becomes a bit clearer, if only slightly. On a fundamental level, buying a house is one of the costliest things any of us will ever do in our lives. Even though the vast majority of homeowners pay for their homes over time via a mortgage loan, there's still the rather large down payment that often costs a pretty penny.

Indeed, a recent survey conducted by Freddie Mac found that renters from multiple income levels view down payments and closing costs as a primary obstacle to home ownership. This belief hasn't changed much across generations, either; 71% of baby boomers, 81% of Gen Xers, and 80% of millennials found these tremendous costs to be prohibitive. Additionally, 40% of renters cite the belief that mortgage payments would be higher than rent payments as another major obstacle on their path to home ownership.

That may hold true in some of the country's most populated cities like Los Angeles or Boston, but you may be surprised at just how affordable owning a home can be. Freddie Mac's survey found that the majority of both renters and homeowners believe their respective living situation is the most affordable option for them. Interestingly, even many of the surveyed homeowners believed renting would be the more affordable option.

However, the same survey shows that isn't necessarily the case. Renters were more likely to be cost-burdened – in other words, 34% of renters spend more than one-third of their income on rent. By comparison, only 25% of homeowners spend that much on their mortgage. That holds especially true in the current generation, as only 17% of modern homeowners spend more than a third of their income on housing as opposed to 41% of renters.

What's Right for You?

Determining whether you should rent or buy a house ultimately comes down to examining you and your family's situation. Practical considerations like committing to a neighborhood versus flexibility to move and others will weigh heavily on your decision. When it comes to the cost of buying vs renting, however, you may find that you're readier for home ownership than you might think.

January
15

After one too many frustrating days at your current job, you've made up your mind: "I'm going into real estate!" Great! A career in real estate can be immensely rewarding and lucrative if you're willing to put in the time and effort.

However, not everyone is cut out for the work. If that statement has you scratching your head because you've always heard that real estate agents make tons of money for little work, well, consider unfriending whoever told you that. Physical labor it is not, but a career in real estate can be equally as mentally taxing and requires some personality traits not everyone possesses. So, ready to find out if a career in real estate is right for you? Read on!

Interview Yourself

First, ask yourself some questions. Why do I want to get into real estate? What do I want out of my new career? Am I willing to commit to doing whatever it takes to be successful? These are the sort of questions you'll face from managing brokers and other successful veterans of the industry, so it's best to have the answers figured out for yourself.

License to Sell

The first step to actually becoming a real estate agent is attaining your license. No biggie, right? Well, the exam can be punishing without proper preparation, so you'll need to study hard.

It Costs Money to Make Money

With the right training and loads of hard work, you can make enough money in real estate to make your head spin. But at the beginning, you'll need to put in an investment fund, so to speak. First, there's the cost of getting licensed, which varies from state to state. Then there are any number of start-up fees, which can include everything from marketing materials to real estate association board fees.

Part-Time Problems

It isn't necessarily impossible to start your career in real estate as a part-time project, but understand that it's very difficult. Real estate affords flexible hours, to be sure, but it also demands your attention at times a typical 9-5 doesn't. House showings, for instance, are often held on evenings and weekends. How willing are you to run to a showing immediately after clocking out from your day job? It's a tricky balance, one which many real estate vets wouldn't even recommend. According to Sandi Wagner, Managing Broker of Watson's Intracoastal Office, "Real estate is not a part-time job. You work to grow your business sometimes six days a week. It requires discipline that goes well beyond part-time work."

Are You a People Person?

Now comes the biggest potential deal-breaker for many: how are you with people? If you've encountered any real estate agents before, you know how effortlessly they can strike up conversation with just about anyone. Introverts they are not. That's because the ability to talk to folks is an indispensable skill for a career in real estate. "People who are naturally outgoing, friendly, personable, likeable, and professional have an easier time getting started," explains Rich Zeisel, Managing Broker of Watson's Fleming Island Office. "More than anything, real estate is a relationship business, so talking to people is a necessity."

Keep Learning

In life, knowledge is the ultimate virtuous pursuit. The same goes for real estate, an industry that's eternally transforming. "This is a profession of constant change, and being on top of that change is a must," says Wagner. "Education and ongoing training is essential." You'll need persistent training to stay on top of this ever-evolving industry. Working for a broker who can keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings will do wonders.

Fire in the Belly

Ask just about any real estate professional what it takes to succeed in this field and you'll get variations of the same answer: you have to want it, and you have to be willing to work for it. "I call it the 'Fire in the Belly.' It's a composite of high energy, optimism, persistence, honesty, a willingness to try new things, and the determination to stay with it and win," explains Wagner. Speaking of asking any real estate professional, that's exactly what Rich Zeisel recommends for newcomers looking for direction. "Success leaves clues. Find the top producers in your office and take them to lunch," he encourages. "Ask questions, watch, attend every training you can, and read everything."

Help, Don't Sell

Above all else, don't look at a career in real estate as a selling position. Consider yourself a helper. Successful real estate agents don't just sell, they garner trust and dependability from their customers. "To be successful in real estate, you must be able to get the trust and confidence of your customer," says Zeisel. "If a new agent focuses on helping rather than selling, they'll do just fine."

December
11

Conventional wisdom tells you spring is the best season for selling your home, with summer coming in as a close second. But we're here to tell you waiting for warm weather to put your house on the market isn't necessary. There are plenty of strong reasons why you should sell your home in winter, and we've got some of our expert brokers to share them with you.

Selling in Spring = Heavy Competition

Know who else sells their home in the spring? Everyone! "Winter is a great time to sell your home because not many people list then," says Curt Marksbury, Managing Broker for Watson's Mount Dora office. "There's less competition thanks to lower inventory."

Indeed, with so many sellers putting their home on the market in April and May, you'll face stiff competition. In the winter, however, your home gets more of the spotlight thanks to the less populated market.

Winter Buyers Typically Mean Business

Fewer homes for sale also means buyers shopping in the winter months are more likely to be seriously interested for a few reasons. The holidays certainly come into play.

"Most people are focused on the holidays around this time of year," explains Geannina Mejia-Acevedo, Managing Broker for Watson's Port St. Lucie office. "They're shopping, traveling, hosting friends and relatives. So if a potential buyer takes interest in your home during this hectic time, there's a good chance they're very serious."

The winter also weeds out buyers who simply want to browse. "Window shoppers tend to only look during the traditional home-selling periods of spring and summer, sometimes fall. Buyers shopping in the winter are looking to make an offer," Marksbury explains.

Holiday Decorations Boost Selling Potential

Speaking of the holidays, the festive décor adorning your home is a great boon in your quest to sell. It not only helps your home stand out, but it also helps buyers imagine themselves celebrating the holidays in the house.

Snowbirds Come Flocking

While northern states get blanketed by blizzards, Florida's climate remains balmy and pleasant in even the chilliest months. Of course, plenty of snowbirds come flocking to escape their frigid northern confines, and some of them may be ready to make their move permanent.

"As snowbirds travel to Florida for the warm weather during the winter, they may decide they're done scraping ice off their windshields every year," says Marksbury. "It makes for a great time to show off your home, too, as they can see what winter would be like in their new house."

Corporate Relocation Creates Motivated Buyers

January and February are two of the most popular months for corporate relocation, which means a lot of buyers are looking for a home fast. And because relocators have precious little time to move their family, they don't have the luxury of browsing tons of listings. Motivated buyers plus a need to move quickly equals a great chance for you to sell your home in the winter.

October
16

In 2019, the classic image of hammering a For Sale sign into your front yard to announce to passersby that your home is on the market looks slightly more dated than it used to. While it's still common and effective, this typical portrait of a home for sale is only one of many ways a customer can list their home.

The newest version that's swiftly gaining traction across the country is Instant Buyers or iBuyers. You've probably heard of some of them: Opendoor, Offerpad, Zillow Instant Offers, just to name a few. Pitched as an alternative to listing with a real estate agent, iBuyers purchase homes outright directly from customers. The convenience of iBuyers has turned many heads, but does that convenience come at a cost?

How Do They Work?

Before we dive into that, let's talk about how iBuyers operate. Typically, sellers start by filling out an online offer request form with details of their home. If their home meets that particular iBuyers' standards, the iBuyer will make an offer using an automated valuation model (AVM). If the seller accepts the offer, home inspectors representing the iBuyer perform an inspection and create a list of repairs to be completed before the purchase is finalized.

In most cases, the seller can either complete the repairs themselves or have the estimated repair costs taken out of the offer on their home. Once that is negotiated and the offer is finalized, the transaction is complete. Just like that, a house has been sold and the former owner embarks on their next adventure.

Stress-Free Selling

Anyone who's put their home on the market knows it's a colossal task. A ton of work goes into getting the home ready to sell: cleaning, organizing, making repairs, and staging take a lot of time and effort. Not to mention the difficulty of getting the kids and pets out of the house for showings.

Then there's the biggest stressor of them all: Will my home even sell? iBuyers remove all those factors. There's no living around contractors making repairs. No stressful deep cleans so the house is spotless for yet another showing. And best of all, no worry if your home will sell. You can even set your own closing date since there's no buyer to consider. iBuyers hinge their business on presenting a true model of stress-free selling.

The Cost of Convenience

If you're waiting for the catch, here it is: homeowners who sell with iBuyers typically get less money than if they had enlisted a REALTOR® and sold on the open market. An investigation of multiple transactions by MarketWatch found that iBuyers customers netted 11% less than owners who sold their homes via more traditional methods. That can translate to tens of thousands of dollars.

Many iBuyer offers come in under market value for the home (some well under). Indeed, one customer cited in MarketWatch's report said they felt lowballed by their iBuyer's initial offer. iBuyers also charge various fees, which can further reduce the amount a customer receives. Collateral Analytics found that most iBuyers charge sellers a convenience fee of 6% to 9%, with some charging additional fees that would normally be paid by buyers at closing, adding another 1% or more.

Conversely, selling with a REALTOR® incurs a commission cost of anywhere from 5% to 7%. With all fees and commission costs considered, iBuyer sellers can expect to pay anywhere from 7% to 10% in fees, while brokerage sellers can expect to pay 5% to 9%. Bear in mind that repair costs also factor into iBuyers' offers, and some customers reported feeling nickel-and-dimed by inspectors working for iBuyers. In their investigation, MarketWatch spoke with a customer who claimed he was being charged heavily for minor repairs.

Should You Use iBuyers?

We arrive at the ultimate question: should you sell your home through an iBuyer? The answer ultimately depends on your situation. If you need to move fast and already have your next destination set, iBuyers offer incredible convenience without the uncertainty of selling on the open market. On the other hand, that convenience comes at a cost. Your home is an investment, and if your goal in selling is to get exceptional returns on that investment, iBuyers might not be your best option.

July
19

Owning a second home in a Florida beach town is a surefire way of knowing you've made it. Year-round sun, palm trees swaying in the wind, and the salty coastal air combine to create an atmosphere of relaxation, warmth, and comfort. In other words, paradise. When you're in the market for a second home, consider shopping for some prime Florida beach town real estate in these seaside cities.

Vero Beach

Located on the prized Treasure Coast, Vero Beach offers up some of the most alluring coastal views in the state. Vero Beach's barrier island features 20 miles of gorgeous waterfront vistas from the Indian River on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Just as charming is the unpretentious retro style on display in downtown Vero Beach, most pronounced in the shining neon lights and art deco storefronts. Featured Vero Beach luxury homes: 3554 Ocean Drive #1201 9309 Orchid Cove Circle 1611 W Camino Del Rio

Ponte Vedra Beach

Ponte Vedra Beach is Northeast Florida's prized jewel. Sitting just 20 miles outside Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach is home to white sand, cool, crystal-blue waters, and multimillion-dollar estates. And, of course, there's the area's largest non-beach attraction: TPC Sawgrass, where golf's legends gather every year for one of the sport's most famous tournaments. Featured Ponte Vedra Beach luxury homes: 8039 Whisper Lake Lane 217 Isle Way Lane 335 Ponte Vedra Boulevard

Daytona Beach

Daytona is synonymous with stock car racing, and for good reason: it's home to the legendary Daytona International Speedway. But it's also home to dazzling drive-along beaches, clear waters, and the historic Daytona Beach Pier. Racing fan or not, there's a whole lot to love about Daytona Beach. Featured Daytona Beach luxury homes: 3000 N Atlantic Avenue #12 5 Widmer Circle 316 Ocean Dunes Road

Fernandina Beach

Life in Fernandina Beach is akin to a daily personal escape. How could it not be? Lush marshlands and oak-lined trails surround, giving way to 13 miles of private, white-sand beaches. Get out on the water for some of the best deep-sea fishing you'll find in Northeast Florida, or head to historic downtown for tons of shopping and dining opportunities. Featured Fernandina Beach luxury homes: 3 Dunes Court 95094 Arbor Lane 6537 Spyglass Circle

St. Augustine

The Nation's Oldest City is rich with culture, charm, and coastal vibes. Historic downtown St. Augustine features a litany of unique shops and attractions like Castillo de San Marco. If the beach is truly calling your name, though, St. Augustine doesn't disappoint. Bask in the laid-back lifestyle of St. Augustine Beach, only five minutes away from downtown. Featured St. Augustine luxury homes: 6 Oceanside Drive 648 Ocean Palm Way 4 Oceanside Circle

New Smyrna Beach

Much like St. Augustine, New Smyrna Beach has deep-running historical roots. Not content to live in the past, however, New Smyrna Beach seamlessly blends the old-school with the new to create an aesthetic all its own. This Central Florida oasis is also home to 13 miles of beaches, loads of golf courses, and so much more to explore and enjoy. Featured New Smyrna Beach luxury homes: 3309 Hill Street 6130 Turtlemound Road 5255 South Atlantic Avenue #1402

December
17

For more than 50 years, Watson has been in your neighborhood. And like any good neighbor, we can't wait to show you around. That's why we created The Watson Blog.

If you haven't noticed, we're fresh off launching a brand-new website. One of our goals when designing our new website was to equip it with the features you'd need to feel empowered during your home-buying and selling experiences. Feeling empowered is, among many things, feeling knowledgeable. Know what you want in your new home. Know what to do once you find the perfect home. Know about the neighborhood you're moving into. Our new website has everything you need to obtain this knowledge, and so much more.

The Watson Blog is a natural extension of that. Because while you can find the right house through our new website, The Watson Blog will fuel your creative urge to nail down the perfect décor style and themes for that house with posts about design trends and other forms of home inspiration. Our new website makes it easy to see statistics about that new neighborhood you're venturing into. But The Watson Blog will show you what it's like to live there. Find the local pizza joint with the best sauce-to-cheese ratio or the best yoga spot to achieve zen in the neighborhood guide section of our blog. Discover the best spots to spook up a good time around Halloween or how to plan the perfect gameday experience for your favorite local sports team in our local events section.

And when we say we're in your neighborhood, we mean it. Watson has a presence throughout Florida and southeastern Georgia; from as far north as St. Marys and Jacksonville to as far south as Port St. Lucie and Port Charlotte – and lots in between – The Watson Blog will be there to show you around. So join us as we post new content weekly covering a wide range of topics about all the places you call home. And should you wander into an area of the blog that doesn't have much content, worry not; we'll be fleshing out every section of The Watson Blog with the kind of rich content you want to read over the coming months.

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