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November
28

Quick Home Improvement Projects You Can Complete Before 2023

Home Projects

Autumn is in full swing, which means the year is drawing to an end. If you're like a lot of homeowners, you started off the year with a long list of home improvement projects, and you didn't complete as many as planned. But have no fear — there's still time to turn things around. Our real estate agents are excited to share some quick home improvement projects you can still complete by the end of the year.

  • Paint a Room
    Is there a room in your home that just looks a bit drab and outdated? Change things up with a fresh coat of paint.

    To get professional results, make sure you use a good-quality primer and let it dry completely before applying the paint. Start by "cutting in" around the edges with a paintbrush, then use a roller to paint the flats of the walls.

  • Power Wash Your Walkways
    Concrete and stone walking paths tend to become caked with algae and grime. Use a power washer to blast this all away. Start with a good concrete cleaner applied with the low-pressure setting. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse it away with the high-pressure setting.

  • Update Cabinet Hardware
    Replacing your cabinet hardware is a fun, quick way to give your kitchen a facelift. Replace older, dated hardware with new, nickel, or brushed bronze hardware. All you need is a screwdriver and some patience. 

  • Replace Your Switchplate Covers
    If you have boring, white, or beige switchplate covers, consider replacing them with more interesting, decorative ones. You can pick a different switchplate cover to suit the theme of each room. For instance, you may want a train-themed one in your child's bedroom and one with sunflowers on it for your sunroom. 

  • Create a Chalkboard Wall
    This project works well in a home office or even in a child's playroom. Purchase a bucket of chalkboard paint, and use it to paint one wall. You will probably have to use two coats, so plan for several hours of drying time between coats. Use a roller so the paint goes on as smoothly as possible. You or your kids can then write or draw on this wall with dust-free chalk. 

  • Paint Your Front Door
    If your home's facade could use a makeover, start by simply painting the front door. Choose a different color — one that coordinates with the rest of your home exterior but still stands out. Bright, stand-out front doors are trendy right now, and if you decide you want a different color, later on, you can always re-paint it. Just make sure you use high-quality exterior paint.

  • Replace Your Light Fixtures
    New light fixtures can transform your room! Shop for fixtures that represent your current sense of style, and install them throughout your home. Whether you like hanging light fixtures or flush ones, there are some beautiful options on the market these days.

There's still time to update your new home with some quick projects this year. If you're still searching for the perfect home, don't hesitate to contact us. We'll help you find Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale in time for the new year.

October
3

DIY a Barn Door With These 7 Steps

Barn Door Tips

Barn doors look lovely in country chic homes and even in some cottage-style houses. They work well as closet doors, pantry doors, and even as laundry room doors. While there are plenty of pre-made barn doors for sale, making your own barn door is a fun project — and a great way to personalize your new home! Follow these steps from our real estate agents to make your own barn door.

  1. Purchase and Mount the Hardware
    Your barn door will need a track to slide on. Visit a home improvement store, and look for a barn door track in your preferred style. You want it to be at least 4 inches wider than the door opening. Follow the instructions on the package to mount the garage door. Screw it directly into the wall studs for maximum security.

  2. Measure and Cut the Vertical Boards
    To determine the width of your door, measure the door opening and add 4 inches. Measure the height of your door, start at the track, and measure down to the floor. Subtract 1/2 inch so the door has plenty of clearance over the floor.

    With these measurements in hand, start cutting your boards down to size. For a simple barn door, it is easiest to use 1 x 6" pine shiplap boards. They are inexpensive and take stain well. If your door width is not a multiple of 6, then you will need to cut one or more boards width-wise. 

  3. Cut the Horizontal Boards
    In addition to your vertical boards, you will need three boards to stretch horizontally across the door. Cut these as long as your door is wide.

  4. Sand Everything
    Once your boards are cut down to length, sand them well. Start with coarse sandpaper, such as 50- or 60-grit. Then, go over the boards again with a fine, 100-grit sandpaper. You can sand the boards as smoothly as you like. Leave them a little rougher for a more rustic look, but be sure there are no patches rough enough to cause splinters.

  5. Assemble Your Door
    Lay your sanded, vertical boards out on the floor, side by side, in the shape of your final door. Then, lay the horizontal boards across them. One horizontal board should go across the top and another across the bottom. The third should stretch across the middle. Measure to make sure it is properly placed. 

    Have someone help you hold the boards in place as you drive screws through the horizontal boards, down into the vertical boards.

  6. Stain the Door
    The great thing about making your own barn door is that it can be any color you like. Choose a stain you love. Apply it according to the instructions on the tub or can. Usually, you have to apply the stain, wipe off the excess, and let it dry for a day before handling the project again.

  7. Mount the Hardware
    This is the final step. Once your stained door is dry, mount the sliders to the top of the door. Usually, they will hook over the door, and you'll secure them with a couple of screws.

    When the hardware is in place, have a friend or family member help you lift the door and hook the sliders over the wall-mounted hardware. Slide the door from side to side, step back, and admire your good work.

With these instructions, you'll have a DIY barn door to be proud of. If you're still looking for the perfect home for your barn door, contact us. We'll help you find incredible Sarasota homes for sale and Bradenton homes for sale in your style.

July
18

6 Reasons You'll Need a Real Estate Agent in this Market

Real Estate Tips

Over the last couple of years, we've seen record low inventory, significant demand, and low-interest rates, which have created an unprecedented seller's market. While rising rates are expected to cool things off a bit, sellers are still very much in the driver's seat.

However, our real estate agents say buying a home in this market isn't impossible. Buyers just have to adjust their approach. It's also never been more important to have an experienced real estate agent in your corner. An agent is critical for navigating the complexities of today's market and avoiding costly pitfalls. Here's why:

  1. See Listings As Soon As They Hit The Market
    Properties aren't sitting on the market very long these days, which is why you'll want to get in to see them as soon as possible. Your agent can let you know the minute a property hits the market. The multiple listing service (MLS) website, which is only available to real estate agents, can be configured to send you an email the moment a listing matches your criteria. Speed is essential when it comes to booking home tours, and you can rely on your real estate agent to battle for an appointment time. Your agent may even be in the loop on new properties before they hit the market and can get you in ahead of the competition. For example, if you'd like to schedule a tour of one of these Bradenton homes for sale, a good agent can get you in to see one today.

  2. Help You Spot Potential Pitfalls
    It's hard to spot potential problems during a 15-minute home tour. As a buyer, you'll likely spend the time trying to envision yourself living in the space. Therefore, you can rely on your agent to be an experienced second set of eyes that can help you spot problems, costly pitfalls, or other elements of the home that you may overlook.

  3. Draft A Competitive Offer
    To win a bidding war these days, buyers often have to get creative. Your agent can help you draw up an offer that stands out from the competition. Whether it's waiving inspections, increasing earnest deposit, or determining the right offer price, an experienced agent likely has a good sense of what it'll take to "win" the home.

  4. Administrative Tasks
    There is a lot of documentation involved in the home closing process. It's important that you have an experienced real estate professional in your corner to help you wade through the paperwork. Your agent can take the time to walk you through the various documents, so you know exactly what you're signing.

  5. Coordinate Inspections
    Your real estate agent has a wide network of industry contacts, so they can refer you to reputable inspectors, contractors, and other service providers who can help support the transaction. They'll also work to schedule these appointments on your behalf.

  6. Negotiate On Your Behalf
    Most real estate transactions involve some negotiating. Whether it's contingencies, repairs, or the final sale price, negotiating terms takes time and energy. If you're in the market for one of these Sarasota homes for sale, you want someone in your corner who knows what they're doing.

Buying a home is challenging in today's market, but a good agent can help you find success. Contact us today to start exploring local listings.

June
27

7 Steps for Organizing Your Pantry

pantry tips

People often say that the kitchen is the heart of the home. But the pantry is a close contender! As the place where you store your snacks and cooking ingredients, your pantry deserves to be an organized, efficient space. You'll love being able to open the door and find what you need in an instant without having to search multiple shelves. So, how do you go about organizing a pantry? Our real estate agents have broken this task down into seven steps, which are presented below.

  1. Sort Through Everything
    Before you start putting items into place, pull everything out of your pantry. Sort through your items, throwing away products that have expired. If there are foods you know that you'll never use, donate them or give them to friends.

    With the extras gone, make a list of the products that remain. If there are items you use regularly but don't have on hand right now, make a trip to the store to purchase them. Then, add them to your list.

  2. Categorize Your Items
    Look down your list, and start dividing your items into categories. Good categories to include are spices and seasonings, pasta and dried goods, canned goods, baking ingredients, and sauces. Once you've categorized your list, move your actual items into piles based on how you categorized them on paper.

  3. Transfer Open Items Into Clear Containers
    It's hard to maintain an organized pantry with a bunch of half-empty bags and boxes. Plus, opened boxes attract pests. So, invest in some clear containers and empty those boxes and bags into them.

    There are lots of good brands that make clear, plastic, and glass pantry containers. Pick containers that are stackable and easy for you to open.

  4. Label Your Containers
    Even if you can see into the clear containers, labels make things more clear. You'll also have an easier time figuring out what you need to buy to fill empty containers. If you have a label maker or can borrow one from a friend, that's awesome. Otherwise, you can make your own labels by writing, with markers, on white stickers.

  5. Line Your Shelves
    Before you put your containers back into the pantry, use a stick-on shelf liner to line your shelves. Our agents have seen this in some Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale, and it really does make pantries easy to clean. Choose a cute pattern or a solid color that matches your pantry walls. The shelf liner should come with application instructions on the package.

  6. Organize Your Shelves
    Decide on a shelf for each category of items. You'll want to put items you use more often on shelves close to eye level. Those that you use less often can go further down where you have to bend to reach them. For example, if you only bake a few times a year, your baking items can likely go on the bottom shelf.

  7. Add a Few Extras
    Once all your food is back in the pantry, it is time to add a few extras to help keep the space more organized. Consider mounting a marker board on the pantry door. You can use this to keep track of your shopping list. Find a bag holder to mount to the pantry door, too. This will give you somewhere convenient to stick plastic bags when you get home. Add any other extras you think may come in handy, too.

If you spend the weekend organizing your pantry, you'll save so much time when you cook and snack later on. Contact us if you're still looking for the perfect home — and pantry — to call your own.

June
20

Add These Features to Your Pool

Pool Tips for Summer

Having a pool gives you a quick, enjoyable way to cool off in the summer. We've seen so many lovely Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale with pools. If you buy a home with a pool, you should know there are plenty of ways to customize your pool and pool area, making it feel more like your own. Here are a few features to think about adding.

  • Slides
    A slide can be an awesome addition to your pool. People often think of slides as being for kids, but there are models large enough for adults to use, too. A straight slide gives you the perfect way to make a splash with your entrance. A longer, spiral slide can be fun for older, more independent kids to play on. Keep in mind that water slides are usually only recommended for deeper pools since landing in shallow water can be dangerous.

  • Bubblers
    If you want to create a peaceful, relaxing environment in your pool, consider adding a bubbler to one corner. The gentle bubbles that emerge will mander through the water before rising to the surface and gently popping. Surround this corner of your pool with plants, and you have the perfect little resting spot.

  • Spillways
    A spillway is basically like an artificial waterfall built into one wall of the pool. It's typically mounted a foot or two above the water level so the water can come tumbling out and land in the pool. The sound of the tumbling water adds to your ambiance, and it can be fun to splash around under the spillway.

  • LED Lighting
    Swimming at night can be much more fun with LED lights in your pool. Most of these lights are color-changing. You can set them to rotate through colors every few minutes, or you can select a color for them to remain all night. Imagine lighting your pool up blue and red for Independence Day or green for St. Patrick's Day. LED lights are also energy-efficient, so you can feel good about this eco-friendly pool addition.

  • A Fountain
    If your pool has more of a classic look, you may want to add a fountain to its design. You can find fountains that feature sculptures of everything from fish to Greek gods. Pick one that coordinates with the rest of your landscape as a way of making your pool feel like a more integrated part of the yard.

  • Natural Rock Waterfalls
    Many pool companies will come to add natural rock waterfalls to the edges of pools. They can create a unique pile of rocks and hide a pump inside them. Water will tumble down over the rocks, creating a peaceful experience. You may want to have some built-in seats added near the waterfall so you can enjoy a close-up view more often.

  • Outdoor Shower
    Hygiene is important, even when you're in your own private pool. Showering before you get in the pool can help conserve the chlorine and keep the pH levels in check. Showering after you get out of the pool can rinse the chlorine off your skin, so you don't feel too dry. There are plenty of freestanding pool showers that can be installed just outside or next to the pool. You and your guests can then rinse off quickly while dressed in your bathing suits.

With the right features, your pool will become one of your favorite parts of your home. If you're still looking for the perfect Florida home with a pool, our real estate agents can help. Contact us to learn more about our services.

March
14

DIY Projects for New Homeowners

DIY Projects

When you're first settling into a new place, you may not want a lot of projects on your plate, but a few carefully chosen DIY projects can help your new house feel like home. Here are a few quick and relatively easy projects our real estate agents recommend for helping you feel at home.

  • Paint the front door.
    Especially if your new home hasn't seen a coat of paint in some time, painting the front door can make a huge impact on how it looks and make it feel a little more like yours, even if you don't have the time, money, or bandwidth to paint the whole home just yet. Consider painting it a fun new color, such as red, green, or blue, as it will liven up the look of your house. Remember, Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale are often painted in neutral color schemes so as not to turn off potential buyers, so repainting that door can add a little of your personality to your new home.

  • Update your house number.
    While you're painting that front door, consider updating your house number as well. It's not unusual for homes to have small, outdated house numbers that are hard to see, so make sure whatever you choose is well lit and large enough to be easily seen from the street. Choosing more modern-looking numbers and changing how they're mounted will also give your home a more updated look, even if that (and painting the front door) is all you do.

  • Hang string lights.
    Want to make your outdoor living spaces in your new home both cozy and cool? Hang string lights from your patio or porch roof, or use them to brighten a gazebo or pergola. Even if you don't have a roof or fence to hang them from, you can make your own planter posts for hanging lights using wooden barrel planters.

  • Modernize your popcorn ceiling.
    Nothing dates a house faster than a popcorn ceiling. They're not only unsightly, but they're also a magnet for cobwebs and dust. Fortunately, they're easily removed with a drywall knife, a shop vac, and a fresh coat of paint afterward. Remember that some popcorn ceilings could contain lead or asbestos, though, and have your ceiling tested before tackling it as a DIY-er, especially if your home was built before 1979.

  • Replace kitchen hardware.
    An easy way to make your kitchen feel more like home is to update the kitchen hardware to something more in line with your tastes. Swapping out cabinet hardware is fairly easy and can be done in an hour or two unless you choose to repaint the cabinets while the hardware is off. The hardware store offers a variety of options, so there's sure to be something that suits your tastes, whether they are traditional or modern, classic or funky.

  • Paint the kitchen cabinets.
    While you have that cabinet hardware off, think about whether you'd like a whole new look in your kitchen. Painting the cabinets is usually a fairly fast job compared to repainting the rest of the house and uses considerably less paint. That being said, it's also a project that yields big results for its relatively small investment, as changing the color of your cabinets can make your kitchen look like an entirely different room.

Little DIY projects like these are a fun way to help you settle in and improve your new home, but it's important to find the right house to start with. Contact us today and let us help you find your dream home.

December
27

New Year's Resolution: Find Your Florida Dream Vacation Home

Florida Vacation Home

With its amazing weather and beautiful beaches, it's not hard to see why purchasing a vacation home in Florida is the ultimate dream for thousands of people all over the world. Not only is a Florida vacation home a great escape, but it's also a fantastic investment. Florida is a hot real estate market, and it's easy to generate rental income from a second home when you're not using it

If buying a Florida vacation home is one of your New Year's resolutions this year, here are some tips from our real estate agents on how to find the right dream home for you:

  • Choose Your Location
    With so many beautiful parts of Florida, choosing one location can be a challenge. Florida is home to 1,350 miles of coast, numerous state parks, and of course, Disney World. To choose the right location, think about your personal preferences and lifestyle. Do you prefer to be on the beach or inland? Do you prefer the Atlantic or Gulf coast? If you're having trouble deciding on an area, take a look at these beautiful Bradenton homes for sale or these amazing Sarasota homes for sale for inspiration.

  • Secure Financing
    If you're planning to finance your vacation home, you'll need to secure a second home mortgage. Keep in mind, second home mortgages often require higher down payments and may also have higher interest rates and fees than a traditional mortgage as lenders may consider second homes to be a bit riskier. Be sure to get pre-approved by a lender before you start shopping.
     
  • Determine The Rental Opportunity
    When buying a vacation home, you'll also want to consider if you'll be planning to rent out the property while it's not in use. If so, you'll want to choose a home in a popular vacation market to maximize your rental income. Do some online research, and check rental websites like Airbnb to get a sense of how much income you can generate from rentals.

  • Consider The Tax Benefits
    When financing a second home, you'll have the benefit of being able to increase the mortgage interest you deduct from your annual income which can result in big savings. However, to achieve this, you will have to use the home as a vacation home. In other words, the primary purpose of the property can't be to generate income alone, you have to treat it as a vacation home first.

  • Find A Good Real Estate Agent
    No one knows the local market like a real estate agent. An agent can not only help you find the right dream home but can also stand in your corner and negotiate a deal. An agent is also a great resource for learning about the local rental market and connecting with property management and vacation rental companies.

A Florida vacation home doesn't have to be a dream. If you're planning to make a purchase in 2022, now is a great time to start your research. For more info on the Florida real estate market, contact us today.

October
25

7 Tips for Saving Up for a Down Payment

down payment

Saving up for a down payment can be one of the most challenging parts of buying a home, especially for first-time buyers. Here are seven tips our real estate agents recommend to help you save for a down payment on your dream home!

  1. Set a Goal
    First things first: It's important to know how much you need to save. Research Bradenton homes for sale, for instance, to see average home prices in the area. It might be a good idea to talk to a lender, not necessarily to get pre-approved right now but to get an idea of what kind of a loan you will likely qualify for and how much you'll need to put down. Once you know how much you'll need, you can set a goal and start saving!

  2. Reduce Your Spending Money
    There's one place you can always cut back, and that's your "fun money." It might not sound like fun to cut back on trips to the movies, coffees to go, and impulse buys, but putting that money into savings instead is an easy way to save. If that new TV seems too tempting to refuse, browse Sarasota homes for sale to keep yourself motivated!

  3. Lower Your Expenses
    You may be able to save money on your expenses, too. Make a list of your monthly expenses and look for two different things: expenses you can reduce, such as by changing the deductible on your car insurance or even eliminate entirely, such as a cable subscription or gym membership that you don't use often enough to justify the expense. The money you save each month can go straight into savings.

  4. Save Any Unexpected Money
    Any extra money you get, above and beyond your usual income, can also go straight into savings. This includes bonuses from work, gifts from family, and pay for side jobs. If you want to be really ambitious, you could deliberately take side gigs or even a second job on a temporary basis to generate some extra money for your savings.

  5. Start a Dedicated Savings Account
    When you're saving for something specific, such as a down payment on a house, it's a good idea to create a brand new savings account, separate from your regular savings account. Make sure your regular savings account has enough money in it to cover you in an emergency, but having a dedicated account for your down payment savings will help you to save better and see at a glance how you're doing.

  6. Transfer Money Automatically
    Out of sight, out of mind applies here! Add up how much money you're saving each month on reduced expenses and spending, and set up an automatic transfer to happen every month with that base amount. You can always add to it as you can, but this way, you'll have a minimum amount going straight into savings every month.

  7. Seek Help
    No matter how good you are at saving, you could benefit from looking into various programs that will get you into a home sooner rather than later. For instance, many employers offer the ability to borrow from your 401(k) to pay a down payment. There are also many grants and other programs available for homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers.

Saving for a down payment may seem daunting, but having a solid plan in place can put your dream house within easier reach than you might think. Ready to start your search? Contact us today.

August
23

Tips for Picking A Real Estate Agent During a Hot Market

Real Estate Market

It's a hot market, and you're looking to buy or sell a home among Sarasota homes for sale or Bradenton homes for sale. While an agent can help you in any type of real estate market, their help is especially critical during a hot market. Here's why.

Why Hire an Agent?

Yes, your home might just fly off the market with a Craigslist ad or the like, but what if it doesn't? With an agent, your home will get considerably more exposure in MLS (multiple listing service) databases created and maintained by real estate professionals to help homeowners like you sell their property. It just makes sense that the more potential buyers see your property, the greater the chance that the selling price could go much higher than your expectations. You could have buyers competing with one another, and that could only benefit you.

Your agent will be there throughout the whole process and able to offer advice for any aspect of the sale, from determining a price to staging your home to determining the scope of repairs you want to do before you put the home on the market. 

But an even better reason to hire a real estate agent is that many potential buyers are not comfortable talking to the owner of a property and prefer to deal with an agent. Not only can you -- and should you -- make yourself scarce while the agent shows your home, but you'll boost the comfort level of potential buyers, who may feel they are visiting you, as the owner of the home, rather than seriously looking at a home they want to live in.

What to Look for in an Agent

As you begin to look for a real estate agent, you will likely focus on an individual's experience in selling houses like yours in your neighborhood. Ask neighbors for recommendations. Get at least three referrals. And remember, while experience is important, so is personality. Can you relate to this person? Does he or she seem real to you? Look for an agent you can build a rapport with, in addition to their sales and successes.

Pay attention to the agent's marketing tools, including website, business card, brochures, signage, social media efforts, and more. Does the agent's personal appearance give you confidence in them, or is something lacking? 

When you discuss the sale of your home with a real estate agent, you want someone who can guide you through what can be a precarious journey. Can your agent answer questions reliably and with real data about investment analysis, neighborhood-level market performance, and possibly even the impact of your decision to sell? You don't want an agent who honey coats their answers; you need real information about possible pitfalls, so listen carefully to how your agent replies to your questions and make sure the agent is really hearing you.

Our real estate agents can give you solid advice on how to hire the right professional to help you sell your home. Contact us today. 

August
9

How to Prepare for a Stress-Free Move

Stress Free Move

Moving can be stressful, but does it have to be? It's never too early to think about how you'll make moving easier, even as you're just starting to look at Sarasota homes for sale. By following these guidelines from our real estate agents, you can stay organized and hopefully avoid any big surprises on your moving day.

  1. Get the Move Scheduled in Advance
    With the number of Bradenton homes for sale and how the market is currently booming, movers and trucks get booked up more quickly than you might think. If you're using movers, schedule with them about a month in advance, possibly longer if you have more notice of your impending move. If you're renting a truck, schedule that too, so that you don't find yourself with a lot to move and no way to move it.

  2. Set up a Labeling System
    Make it easy for movers to get your boxes into the right rooms by color-coding boxes. This will help ensure boxes end up in the room they are supposed to be in. For even more convenience, make sure you label each box's contents on each side of the box.

  3. Start Packing Non-Essentials a Month Prior
    Don't make the age-old mistake of overestimating how much time you still have before your move! Start packing up non-essentials as early as possible. You'll be surprised by how much of your household doesn't get used on a daily basis. Starting early allows you to ensure the nonessentials are well organized and labeled, especially helpful after the move since these are the things that'll probably be unpacked last.

  4. Donate to the Thrift Store
    While you're packing, keep a few boxes labeled for the thrift store. It's easy enough to put things you don't want in the thrift store boxes and drop off a big load of donations when the house is nearly packed. No sense in paying to move things you don't want to keep!

  5. Take Pictures for Reference
    As you're packing, take pictures of anything you want to remember when you're unpacking. Even if you think you'll remember how Grandma's china was displayed or how the stereo is wired up, it may be a long time before those things are unpacked, and you'll have a lot of other stuff on your mind in the meantime. Pictures will make it faster and easier.

  6. Pack Overnight Bags for the New Place
    To prevent having to scramble to find essentials your first night in the new house, pack an overnight bag for each person. Make sure everyone has changes toiletries, a phone cord, a book to read, and anything else you might need if you were staying in a strange place for a couple of nights.

  7. Have a Backup Plan
    No matter how prepared you are, last-minute changes can still happen. Make sure you have several options just in case things go awry. For instance, have a list of local moving companies you can call if your movers fall through or friends with trucks and large vehicles who would help you in a pinch.

Moving is a big event, but it's also an exciting one! By being fully prepared for your move, you can turn your attention to the thrill of moving into your dream home. Contact us today to start the process of finding the perfect home for your family.

May
10

What to Consider When Choosing a Gated Community

Gated Community

Everyone wants safety and security for their homes, but before you assume a particular gated community is right for you, it's important that you understand all the rules and restrictions that accompany that security. Our real estate agents can help you make the right decision based on your lifestyle. There are several basic types of gated communities. Each has its own pros and cons.

  • Equity Country Clubs
    These are communities associated with a private country club. In addition to monthly homeowner's association fees, which take care of regular maintenance tasks, homeowners are assessed with a portion of the costs to renovate or add amenities, such as the golf course or tennis courts. These are known as equity fees. Avid golfers may find these added costs worth the benefits.
  • Non-Equity Country Clubs
    These country clubs do not require membership of all residents, who will therefore not have to pay equity fees. That probably also means you are unable to use the golf course or other facilities. Each community has its own rules, so you need to check what amenities are included for your use. 
  • Guard-Gated Properties
    A guard at the gate checks the ID of all visitors. After verifying that the visitor is authorized by a resident, the guard will direct the visitor to the appropriate destination. The guard will usually follow a strict protocol to ensure the safety of the entire community. These properties typically include amenities such as fitness centers, clubhouses, and tennis courts. Their maintenance is included in the monthly homeowner fees. 
  • Guard-Gated 55+ Communities
    Monitored by a guard at the gate, this community is focused on the interests of residents over the age of 55. You will often find social gatherings, crafts, and outings in addition to a clubhouse. To qualify, a household generally only needs one person of the appropriate age, but there may be limits on the number of people under that minimum age in the entire community. Normally, school buses are not allowed on the grounds, and you will rarely find playgrounds. Grandparents who find themselves bringing up their grandchildren may find this a hardship. 
  • Non-Guard Gated Communities
    The gate to these properties is accessed via passcode or telephone. Visitors may need to insert an ID while speaking to someone via camera. With a phone entry system, visitors input numbers on a keypad which causes the resident's phone to ring. The homeowner will then buzz them in. Homeowner fees are typically less expensive than in guard-gated communities.

In addition to the perks and restrictions specific to each of these, there are some policies that apply to all. Some benefits include lower crime rates, less traffic, no solicitors, and higher property values. Most exterior maintenance will be covered by the HOA fees. Some properties even include cable and house painting. Less work on the part of the homeowner means more spare time to enjoy the amenities offered. The downsides can be restrictions on the type of pets allowed, excessive HOA fees, restricted visitor access, and strict rules governing home exteriors. Deliveries may be problematic. Many communities require the owner to reside in the home for a defined time frame before renting to avoid turnover.

Once you understand the parameters of living in the various gated community types, it's easier to know what to look for in a new home. Contact us when you're ready to look at Bradenton homes for sale or Sarasota homes for sale in gated communities. 

December
28

5 Reasons You Should Move to Sarasota in 2021

Move to Sarasota

Would you like to wake up every day and feel like you're on vacation? Then a move to Sarasota may be just what you need. Our real estate agents love welcoming new residents to Sarasota. Even those who have lived in Florida their entire lives are wowed at the beautiful beaches, spectacular shopping, and laid-back lifestyle of this Gulf Coast city. There are dozens of reasons you should move to Sarasota in 2021; here are five of our favorites.

  1. The Weather
    You don't need to ever step foot in Florida to know that it's home to some of the most preferable weather conditions in the country. Although the summer highs always tempt a trip to the beach or an afternoon by the pool, the winter months are just as comfortable in their own ways. Limited rainfall and highs in the mid-70s allow you to spend as much time outdoors as you wish. Imagine spending New Year's Eve strolling the beach with only a light jacket.


  2. The Culture
    When most picture Florida, a beachy vibe comes to mind. What many don't realize, however, is that Florida is home to a wealth of diversity. Sarasota itself is a haven for the arts, often referred to as Florida's Cultural City. Museums, such as the Ringling Museum of Art, galleries, music festivals, food festivals, and hundreds of other seasonal or year-round events offer the opportunity to explore diverse arts and cultures without venturing far from home.


  3. The Houses
    How do you envision your perfect Florida escape? Whether you're looking for a bungalow near the beach, a condo in the city, or something in between, you'll find it in Sarasota. It's an affordable city for real estate with median home prices just above $349,000. If you're searching for brand-new homes, the new master-planned community Lakewood Ranch was rated one of the best-selling communities in the country. One look at our Sarasota homes for sale, and you'll see why Sarasota's population is growing year after year.


  4. The Proximity
    Dining, shopping, entertainment, relaxation… it's all just outside your front door in Sarasota. Fine-dining at five-star restaurants and seaside cafes mix with fresh yet cheap eats at roadside diners. World-class shopping lets you peruse luxury brands and homemade boutique goods in a single trip. Sports fans are only an hour away from live games in Tampa, while nature lovers can reach the gateway to the Everglades in just over two hours. Of course, you can always take a five-minute drive from home and relax on Siesta Key Beach, voted the best beach in the country.


  5. The Lifestyle
    With sunny skies, vibrant culture, and a short drive from the best Florida's Gulf Coast has to offer, living in Sarasota is the ultimate experience for every lifestyle. You'll enjoy equal parts excitement and relaxation in effortless ways. In a single day, you can enjoy a resort-like beach experience, savor prime seafood, and attend a renowned event, all within a few miles of home.

Would you like to call this Southwest Florida gem home? As one of the top-rated places to retire in the United States, now is the perfect time to put down roots in the Sunshine State for the long-term. Contact us today to see our latest listings for Sarasota homes for sale.

July
31

How to Make Your Offer Stand Out in a Competitive Market

Competitive Market

If you're looking to buy a home and have found one that you love, that's great news, but we are in a competitive market, so you'll need to make your offer stand out from any others that come in.

Our real estate agents love helping people find a new place to call home in the Sunshine State. With the real estate market being as hot as the Florida summer weather, we suggest the following five ways to make sure your offer stands out. 

  1. Keep it Simple
    Make sure that when you make an offer on a home, it's simple. The contract that's most appealing to the buyer is based on price, of course, but also on the number of contingencies it has, and the fewer the better. Common contingencies include your ability to obtain financing or a painting allowance so you can pay to have the home repainted, but in a competitive market, it's best to make your offer as straightforward and simple as possible.
  2. Show That You Can Afford the Home
    Contact a mortgage lender early in the home buying process so you can be pre-approved for a mortgage. Our mortgage partner, HomeBridge Mortgage, provides buyers with a pre-approval letter that can help you submit your offer in the best possible light. You'll receive a pre-approval letter that indicates the amount and type of mortgage you can qualify for based on your financial situation and credit history. This type of documentation demonstrates that you can successfully obtain the mortgage and close on the loan. If you won't be getting a mortgage but will instead be paying cash for the home, submit proof of the funds along with your offer.
  3. Make Your Inspection Period Short 
    You'll want to have a licensed inspector check out any home you're thinking about buying. This includes a close look at the home's structure as well as systems such as the heating and air conditioning to determine if they have any problems. You'll want to talk to your REALTOR® to be sure that you have a plan in place for having a timely home inspection. That way, if the inspection comes back showing problems and you decide not to buy the home, the seller can put the home back on the market more quickly.
  4. Make Your Best Offer on Price  
    You may assume that if the home seller thinks your offer isn't high enough, they'll make a counteroffer. But especially in a competitive market, this may not necessarily be true since the seller may receive other offers that are higher. If you don't make your initial offer your best one, you may not get another chance.
    It's essential to work with a REALTOR® in today's highly competitive real estate market. Contingency clauses are becoming more common and navigating them successfully takes the expertise of a REALTOR®.
  5. Write a Letter to the Seller  
    It can help to write a cover letter along with your offer so you can explain why you love the seller's home. Let the seller know what you appreciate about their home and give them a glimpse into how you'd love living there. Just make sure to let your real estate agent approve the letter so you don't accidentally violate Fair Housing laws.

Contact us at Wagner Realty today to see Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale and let us help you with your search. We'll help you make an offer that stands out in a competitive market and gives you the best possible chance of buying the home you want.    

April
22

Married and House Hunting: Working Together to Buy a Home

Buying a House as a Married Couple
Everyone's "dream home" looks a little different, but what happens when you try to merge two different pictures? House hunting as a married couple is easier than going solo because you have emotional and financial support throughout the process. If you and your spouse have different ideas about your future digs, it's important to find out now and figure it out.  Keep in mind, compromise isn't always easy when you're making the most significant purchase of your life. 

At Wagner Realty, our real estate agents are committed to simplifying your search for a home. We know how important it is to find a house that works for both you and your spouse. As you prepare to embark on a house-hunting journey, here are some home-buying tips to help you avoid common conflicts:

  • Know Your Credit Scores and Financials
    Your finances may already mingle, but do you know each other's credit scores? Before you start the process of applying for a mortgage, pull up your credit reports and see if there's room for improvement. For example, errors should be reported and corrected, and it may be wiser to pay off certain loans or credit cards than to face a higher interest rate. Getting a firm grip on your entire financial picture will also prevent surprises down the road.  Contact Annualcreditreport.com to request your free annual credit report. 

  • Create Lists of Your Individual Musts
    As you search for a home, which features are the most important to you? What about your spouse? Instead of learning about each other's must-haves and dealbreakers along the way, take some time to write them down now. Take a week or two to make lists on your own time, and don't consult each other about them. Think of at least a dozen things you want your home to have, like a spacious backyard, master bathroom, or waterfront views.

  • Tap into Your Real Estate Agent's Expertise
    Don't forget: you two aren't doing this alone! Your real estate agent has insights into the local market and the painstaking process of choosing a home, and they're emotionally removed from your disputes and decisions. Use them as a mediator of sorts. If you and your spouse are first-time home buyers, this is especially important, because you will need unbiased input before making emotional decisions that affect your whole future.
     
  • Fixer-Upper or Move-in Ready?
    Remodeling is right for some homeowners, but you should be on the same page about the amount of remodeling you're willing to do. If one partner wants a move-in-ready house and the other is willing to make repairs and upgrades for years, it's time to decide on a compromise. For example, how much money are you both willing to spend on upgrades? Is it okay to make remodeling plans if key spaces – for example, the kitchen or living room – are already up-to-date? These are questions that may help you get closer to the same page.

Ready to start looking for a house with your spouse? Contact Wagner Realty to find an agent who can help you find a home that makes both of you happy.

March
4

Budgeting Your Way into Your First Home

First Home Buying Budget

Buying a new house can be a long, costly process, and preparing as much as possible will make it easier. You can avoid unexpected expenses and find a place to live that's affordable and comfortable for your family. Here are some tips from our real estate agents to help you budget your way into your first home.

Tips for Making Home-Buying Dreams a Reality

Save for a Down Payment

You should make your down payment as large as possible to save on mortgage interest. If you put at least 20 percent down, you can avoid paying for mortgage insurance. This type of insurance protects the lender and guarantees payment for people who choose lower down payments. According to Investopedia, it usually costs about 1 percent of the mortgage balance per year. That would be $1,500 for a $150,000 loan, more than $100 per month. Recent tax cuts eliminated a deduction for mortgage insurance and increased costs further.

Even if saving 20 percent isn't possible for your family, you can reduce costs by making your down payment as large as possible. Also, a larger down payment will give your home immediate equity and help you increase your credit score. That way, you can easily qualify for an additional loan for a new car or fresh decor for your home.

Prepare for Buying Expenses

Closing costs usually include fees for:

  • An appraisal
  • A survey to verify property lines
  • A wire transfer to send funds to the seller
  • Loan underwriting
  • Document preparation
  • Credit reporting
  • Recording fees for changing property records
  • Title insurance to protect you if the seller doesn't have the full deed to the property

Our agents can help you negotiate with the seller to reduce these costs as much as possible. We can also assist you with persuading sellers to replace old appliances and take care of repairs before you move in. That way, you can save time and money.

Decide How Much House You Can Afford

The cost of the mortgage isn't the only thing you need to consider. Other recurring expenses include homeowners insurance, maintenance, and landscaping. The rent for many apartments includes water, sewer, and trash pickup. In most cases, you'll need to pay these fees if you own your own home. Some homeowners' associations (HOAs) include some of these services in their fees, but you may end up paying more than you would in a house without an HOA. You'll also need to pay for property taxes and larger utility bills.

Budgeting for your first home can help you and your family make buying a house and moving less stressful. It can also prevent unexpected expenses. Contact us at Wagner Realty for help with creating a budget for your first home. We can also assist you in finding a place in your price range that meets your needs and help navigate the closing process.

January
28

Don't Be Suprised By Closing Costs

Buying a Home Closing Day Surprises

Transferring the ownership of a home at closing can be confusing. Even though real estate closings take place daily, the paperwork and costs that ensure that your property transfers legally can often be met with surprises if you're not prepared.

Our real estate agents are here with an explanation of what costs to expect at closing so you are not caught by surprise.

Closing Costs: No Surprises

In any real estate transaction, buyers and sellers should understand each closing cost component before coming to the signing. Some items can be negotiated before the closing to determine who pays.

Typical costs that may appear on your real estate closing statement are:

  • Real Estate Commissions: Usually paid by the seller, this is the realtor fee, usually a percentage of the selling price, to sell the property. The total may be divided between the selling agent and a buyer's agent.
  • Origination Fee: Often expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed, a lender or broker will charge a fee to cover expenses of processing a mortgage application, administrative costs, loan underwriting, and funding.
  • Points: A point represents 1% of a mortgage. Borrowers often have an option of paying more "points" to receive a lower interest rate. A point may be worth one-quarter percent reduction in the mortgage rate. Conversely, borrowers might ask for "lender credits" to offset some closing costs while raising the mortgage rate.
  • Underwriting Costs: These represent the cost of researching your credit history and other background information to determine if you qualify for the loan.
  • Credit Report: This information is required to determine whether the mortgage application is approvable and the maximum amount the borrower may borrow.
  • Appraisal: Lenders require a professional assessment of the property that will ensure they will recover the remaining balance of the mortgage in case of default and foreclosure.
  • Survey Costs: Often paid by the buyer, the mortgage lender may require a survey to confirm property lines.
  • Home, Flood, and Pest Inspection: Before closing, a professional inspection for damage and deterioration is standard procedure. Buyers may request that the seller repair deficiencies before the closing.  In some cases, the seller may have listed the home "as is." Alternatively, the seller may counteroffer with a reduction in the selling price.
  • Title Search: Cost to research the property title among public records.
  • Title Insurance, Lenders:  Title insurance protects the lender in case there are undisclosed liens or other encumbrances. Buyers may also purchase title insurance covering the property as long as the buyer or heirs have possession.
  • Settlement Fee: Paid by either buyer or seller, this fee is paid to the closing agent to manage the closing and escrow accounts.
  • Property Taxes: Responsibility of the seller until closing. After that, the buyer pays.
  • Mortgage Insurance Premium: To protect the lender, if required, the buyer may pay the first premiums at closing.
  • Recording Fees: In many areas, these are fees to record the new deed and mortgage with the local government.

Value of an Experienced REALTOR®

When you're ready to begin touring Sarasota homes for sale, there is nothing like the help of a local real estate professional by your side. Our real estate agents know the current market in Southwest Florida and are ready to help.

Contact us at Wagner Realty to get started.

August
9

Buying a House When You Have Kids

Buying a House When You Have Kids
Buying a home is often a time filled with both excitement and anxiety, and if you are a family with children, those feelings can be even more intense. With kids, your house hunting strategy will be different than that of a single person or a retired couple. Our REALTORS® in Sarasota understand the ins and outs of the housing market, and we've put together a checklist of things to consider as you prepare to find your family's dream home.

  • Get the Kids Involved 
    You might not bring your children to every home tour; however, making them part of the decision-making process can be an advantage. Children can provide a different perspective during a house hunt, and they may bring features of the house to your attention that you hadn't considered. Of course, you won't want to put the ultimate decision-making power in your kids' hands, but letting them experience the process and voice their opinions will make them feel included and allow them to learn a little as well.

  • Education and Your Family's Future
    Most families with kids who are shopping for a home make looking at the school district a priority, and for a good reason. Quality education is essential for all families, and you want your children to have access to schools with high marks. Besides checking online resources and visiting with schools in your desired neighborhood, consider speaking with other parents in the area as well to gain their feedback on area schools. Keep in mind that some communities with highly desirable schools also have higher home prices and property taxes, so you'll need to weigh the benefit and determine if you're planning on living in the home long term.

  • Perfect for Now, But How About Later?
    When you're looking at Sarasota homes, it's easy to picture how well its size and layout will work for your kids at their current age, but it's also key to factor in how it will suit your family's needs as your children grow. Bedrooms and bathrooms are particularly crucial as children transition into their teenage years and want more privacy and space of their own.

  • Yards and Beyond
    Outdoor space is many times considered a must for families with children. Not only do they want a place to play, but parents also want that place to be safe and comfortable. While touring potential homes, consider both the size and layout of the yard to see if it will be ideal for your family. Note whether the yard is fenced or can be quickly and if it borders a busy street or intersection. Many parents also want their children to have neighborhood buddies, so take some time to get a feel for how many other families with children of similar ages live nearby.

Wagner Realty wants nothing more than to see your family's dream of owning your own home come true. We provide personal, results-oriented service to you from our first meeting to closing day for your perfect home. For more information about Sarasota homes for sale, contact Wagner Realty today.

Contact Wagner Realty

July
30

Buying Your First Home? Learn These Lessons Today.

Home Buying Lessons
Buying a home is a huge deal especially for first-time home buyers. Apart from being the single biggest purchase you will ever make, the process itself can be complicated. When you work with one of our real estate agents from Wagner Realty, we will always be on hand to help guide you through the entire process. Below are the key lessons to learn today to help make your home-purchase journey a little less stressful.

Put Aside Your Down Payment Money

It's common for lenders to require you to put down 20 percent as down payment for your new home. Although many lenders allow as little as 3 percent for first-time home buyers, committing anything less than 20 percent will mean higher loan costs and additional private mortgage insurance fees. Save enough money for your home's down payment using several savings schemes such as setting aside work bonuses and tax refunds or having an automatics savings plan.

Explore All Your Down Payment Options

As a first-time home buyer, you have several down payment options available to you if you cannot raise the deposit money. These are:

  • Federal mortgage programs offer loans with only three percent down
  • Federal Housing Administration loans permit 3.5 percent down payments
  • Veteran Affairs loans sometimes require little to no down payment at all
  • Crowdfunding or asking family members to pitch in

Check Your Credit

Your credit is a key factor in determining whether or not your home loan is approved. Moreover, it will determine your loan terms and interest rate. Therefore, work to improve your credit score in advance and offset outstanding debts early.

Pick the Right Home

Always consider everything you are looking for in your dream home when shopping around for one. Here:

  • Pick the right location and neighborhood
  • Consider crime and safety statistics
  • Check out noise, traffic, and activity levels
  • Look out for the nearest hospital, grocery store, pharmacy, school district, and other amenities

Budget for Closing Costs

After making an offer and starting the process of closing the deal, you need to account for closing costs that can run from two to five percent of your loan amount. Here, our real estate agents can help you shop around for affordable options to minimize some of your closing expenses such as title searches, home inspections, and homeowners insurance.

Take Your Time

Perhaps one of the hardest lessons on this list, but taking enough time to look for your dream home and shop around for all the services you will require throughout the buying process is essential. Try to minimize your frustrations and manage your emotions because making rush decisions can easily lead to buyer's remorse.

Be Prepared to Compromise

Making a strong offer is not a guarantee that you will close the deal. As issues arise from the home inspection and appraisal processes, be prepared to make compromises with the seller on certain things. However, too many compromises may result in high renovation costs.

Find a Great REALTOR®

When looking for homes for sale in Manatee and Sarasota Counties, it is important to hire the services of a professional buyer's agent to help you through the buying process from your home search through moving day.

Contact Wagner Realty today to get started buying your Flordia dream home.

Contact Wagner Realty

April
19

Make Them an Offer So They Know You Mean It

5 Tips for Making an Offer to Buy a Home

Tips for Making an Offer to Purchase

So you've fallen in love with the perfect house. Your dream home is waiting, and now the ball is in your court. Knowing how to make the right impression with the seller is an important element in negotiating an agreeable selling price and ensuring that your prospective new home doesn't slip away and into someone else's hands. Our real estate agents have the experience and know how to help you make an offer that's hard to refuse, and we've put together a few suggestions that could give you the advantage in sealing the deal.

1. Straight to the Heart

Many home sellers have an emotional attachment to their home and may be a bit reluctant of letting it go to a virtual stranger. If you are ready to make an offer, consider taking the time to write a cover letter to send with it. Of course you'll want to introduce yourself and perhaps give the seller a little bit of personal background, but more importantly, you'll want to let them know why their home is so appealing to you. Giving the seller insight as to why you love their home may just give you the upper hand, especially if there are multiple offers on the table.

2. Build Trust and Confidence

An offer is one thing, but documentation that backs up your offer in black and white is almost certain to get the seller's attention. Proof of financing terms from your bank as well as an underwriting approval indicates that you are ready and have the financial resources available to purchase the home.

3. Think Twice Before Asking for Extras

Asking for seller concessions such as closing costs may put your offer in line behind other buyers who aren't requesting such credits. Furnishings and fixtures are not always included with the home, and no matter how much you fancy them, it might be wiser to wait and purchase comparable items on your own instead of giving the seller a reason to hesitate in considering your offer.

4. Know Your Budget and Use It to Your Advantage

If you are in a position to do so financially, you might give some thought to making an offer over the seller's list price. There's no doubt that an offer that exceeds the seller's expectations will be taken seriously.

5. Sweeten the Pot

Want to let the seller know that you mean business? Here are a few other ideas that might sway the seller to accept your offer:

  • Propose a quicker than normal closing date. This may work especially well if the seller is motivated and wanting to move quickly.
  • Increase your Earnest Money Deposit. By willingly putting more down to begin with, you send a message to the seller that you are committed to obtaining the financing needed in order to purchase the home.
  • Offer a month of free occupancy for the seller. Some sellers may actually need more time to complete the move from the home they're selling. Giving them the luxury of a little added time after closing might be a winning move on your part.

You know what you're looking for, and now you know some of the best secrets to making a successful offer. Your dream home is out there, and we want to help you find it Contact Wagner Realty today, and let our team of experts show you a world of possibilities!

Contact Wagner Realty

April
6

Right on the Money | Getting Your Finances in Order to Buy a Home

Getting Your Finances in Order to Buy a Home

Get Right on the Money to Buy a Home
Preparing to purchase your first home starts long before you choose a REALTOR® or fill out a loan application form. You've probably started the process without even knowing it by graduating from school, accepting your first job, and financing a car.

There's something you should know before we get started: lenders typically base their loan approval on two things:  

  1. a buyer's ability to make an acceptable down payment and
  2. the buyer's credit profile.  A good credit profile shows the person's ability to make timely, ongoing monthly payment.

Before you begin the loan application process, it's important to get your finances in order to buy your first home.

Save for a Down Payment

Saving for a down payment is hard, but it is worth the effort. A more substantial down payment will give you better interest rates and more options. The amount of your down payment increases or decreases the risk the lender takes when providing the financing for your house. The larger the down payment, the less chance of losing part of their investment.A good rule of thumb is to save at least 20 percent of the purchase price of a home.  By doing this, you'll receive better mortgage and interest rate options--and avoid the extra cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI).  

Following a monthly budget will allow you to save enough money for your down payment. Designate a savings account fund earmarked for your down payment.  Once you buy your home that same money-saving discipline will help you save enough money to make your monthly mortgage payments.

Your Credit Score

Lenders use your credit score to determine how likely you are to pay your bills in a timely manner.  Typically, the higher your credit score, the better interest rate you may be able to obtain.  A person's credit score is based on information about your credit history taking into consideration factors like the amount and type of debt and late payments.  

You can order your credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They will all be slightly different, so look at each report. You can order free copies once a year from www.annualcreditreport.com. Look for any inaccuracies and report them to the credit reporting agency. Fixing mistakes takes time, so start this process as early as you can.

Getting your finances in order prepares you to impress mortgage loan reviewers and qualify for the financing you need to buy your first home.  Contact Wagner Realty to get your home search started.

Contact Wagner Realty

December
12

First-time Buyers Guide: Buying a Home in 2018

Buying Your First Home in 2018
2017 has been a busy year for home buyers and 2018 seems like it will be booming too. 

While some people will shy away from getting involved in such a busy housing market, first-time buyers should be excited! First-time buyers have some major home-buying advantages.  There are many state, county and municipal assistance programs available for first-time home buyers.  In addition, time is also on the side of the first-time buyer. Since you don't have to worry about selling an existing home before you move, you can gather information and take action on your terms.

Let's focus on the top ten things you can do to get off to the right start.

  1. De-mystify Your Credit
    Authorized by federal law, Annual Credit Report provides a free credit report once per calendar year. Good credit means a better mortgage loan, so this is the place to get started. Follow up on any errors to raise your credit score fast.

  2. Pay Any Debts You Can
    Outstanding debt is another big part of your credit score and, thus, your mortgage options. If you have any debts you can pay off in the next few months, focus on them. Avoid opening new credit lines or canceling existing ones.

  3. Work on a Household Budget
    A sound budget helps you save for your home and transition smoothly to mortgage payments. It's the perfect time to gather the bills, figure out where money is going, and see if you can cut a hundred or two in expenditures.

  4. Determine What You Can Afford
    Knowing how much house you can afford will save you time and help you focus on the best homes for you. There are several home affordability calculators available on the web to help you zero in on the right home price based on annual income, debts, and down payment.

  5. Get Pre-approval – Ideally, Before April
    Pre-approval is a written commitment by a lender to issue a loan with certain terms. Although pre-approval does expire, it's best to get it done before April – that way, you know if your tax refund needs to go to housing expenses.

  6. Start Choosing Your Neighborhood
    If you can find the ideal neighborhood for you, you're halfway home! Most buyers start by deciding what amenities they need in a home and neighborhood. Then, they visit neighborhoods at different times of day and talk to local residents.

  7. Save for That Down Payment
    The bigger your down payment, the less you'll have to finance and the more money you'll save in the long run. It's also important to put some money aside for closing costs, which often can't be financed fully. Even a few thousand dollars can make a difference.

  8. Research First-Time Buyer Programs
    The government offers a number of mortgage loan programs, many offering special incentives for first-time buyers. Each one is overseen by a different federal agency, which creates guidelines lenders must follow. Programs include the USDA, VA, and FHA loans.

  9. Check Out Houses
    It's never too early to get a sense for what you want in a house. Online listings are available at the click of a mouse any time of the year. Don't forget to attend some open houses to see your options live and in person.

  10. Find a Real Estate Agent
    Wagner Realty is the #1 agency for first-time buyers. Our REALTORS® have helped thousands of people get first homes in Bradenton, Longboat Key, Lakewood Ranch, and Sarasota.

Contact Wagner Realty for expert help to get the search for your first home started.

Contact Wagner Realty

December
27

Top Tips from the Pros For First-Time Home Buyers

Tips for Buying Your First Home

First-time buyer tips from the pros

Buying your first home is an important life milestone. The process requires your patience, dedication, and financial commitment. You must think differently and consider factors that may not have been important before now.

The good news is that our REALTORS® know what it takes to find a home that's right for your family. When it's time to search for your new home, we'll help you through the process. Our Real Estate Guide for Buying Your First Home provides a to-do list to help you prepare for your home buying experience.

Build Your Bank Account

You should stop spending and start saving long before you begin touring homes for sale. You'll need the money when you close on your home and cash to cover a wave of home-related expenses.

  • Down Payment
    Traditionally, home buyers put down 20 percent of the sale price. A higher down payment will be even more beneficial in the long-run. It will lower your finance costs and your monthly payment.
  • Closing Costs
    The day you sign your closing documents, you'll pay title fees, taxes, homeowners and mortgage insurance, and other expenses that could add 2 to 5% to the home sale amount.
  • Ongoing Home Expenses
    You will need a financial cushion to cover recurring home operating costs, unanticipated repairs, and planned remodels. You'll have a home full of appliances, home systems, a roof, and a yard to maintain. You must also pay for trash services, water and sewage fees, and higher energy costs.

Start Thinking Like a Buyer Instead of a Renter

If you have no idea about the kind of home you want, look at home listings, attend open houses, and drive by homes for sale. Even if you're not quite ready to buy, you can get an idea of communities, home prices, amenities, and how much you're willing to pay for what's available.

Check out the Local Schools

If you have children or plan to someday, you must make sure you're in a thriving school district. Visit a non-profit school rating website like Greatschools.org to see community school ratings.

Determine How Much You Can Afford

The FHA Mortgage Calculator and similar online apps and websites make it easy to calculate monthly mortgage costs. You input the mortgage amount, down payment, terms, rates, and other factors and the calculator shows you the monthly payment and income you need to afford it.

Get Your Credit in Order

You can pay the three major credit bureaus for a copy of your credit reports, but you can access them for free at Annualcreditreport.com. Viewing your reports allows you to uncover problems that may make it difficult to get your home financed. You can eliminate inaccurate information and contact debtors to correct, resolve, or dispute problematic credit entries.

Get Pre-approved

When you find the home of your dreams, your pre-approval letter will save some delays. Your mortgage company will review your debt, credit rating, and financial standing to determine if you're mortgage-worthy. When they issue an approval letter, it tells potential home sellers that you're ready to buy.

Consider Mortgage Assistance Programs

You may qualify for mortgage assistance from Veterans Administration, HUD, and other government programs. They offer low mortgage rates, minimal down payments, and reduced qualifications.

Let Us Help You Find Your First Home

If you're ready to buy your first Gulf Coast of Florida home, you need a realtor to provide professional guidance. Contact Wagner Realty if you're buying or selling a home, or simply want information about the communities we serve.

Contact Wagner Realty

October
18

10 Traits of a Great Neighborhood

10 Traits of a Great Neighborhood
Finding the right home may be your top priority as a shopper, but identifying the right neighborhood is just as important for landing a home you'll love long-term. Our REALTORS® know what it takes to become a neighborhood expert, and we've compiled the top 10 traits of a great neighborhood.

How to Find a Neighborhood You'll Truly Love

  1. Easy Access to Key Services
    Whether you need to shop for groceries, go to the gym, stop at the post office, or simply run your daily errands, having the services you need close to home makes it much easier to get things done. So if you're shopping Sarasota homes for sale, keep an eye out for neighborhoods that allow you to take care of business.

  2. Fun and Entertainment Close to Home
    Every neighborhood offers something to do, but the right neighborhood for you will have entertainment options that match your taste. If you like the idea of a master-planned community with nearby entertainment options, check out Lakewood Ranch homes.

  3. Local Businesses
    Small businesses are the lifeblood of so many neighborhoods because they provide necessary services, unique products, and fun activities close to home. An active, growing small business community is a sign of a great neighborhood, so be sure to sample the local business scene.

  4. Great Food
    We all have our own neighborhood preferences, but most would agree that great food close to home is a major plus. Look for a neighborhood that offers all of your favorite dining options, along with new things to try. Becoming a neighborhood expert has never tasted so good.

  5. Safe Streets
    Whether you're shopping for a family home or flying solo, finding a neighborhood with low crime rates is certainly an important priority. Try visiting neighborhoods both during the day and at night to get an idea of security in the area.

  6. Strong Schools
    Perhaps you're shopping with your family in mind, or you simply want to leave the option open in the future. Either way, finding a neighborhood with a strong school system will serve you well.

  7. Spectacular Scenery
    It's so nice to be able to sit on your patio or peer out the window and enjoy spectacular scenery close to home. Shopping for a home near the water is a great idea if you're looking for lovely views, and Longboat Key homes are a perfect example.

  8. Walkability and Public Transportation
    Do you enjoy being able to walk to nearby amenities, or hopping on public transportation rather than driving to work? Finding a neighborhood with transportation options that fit your lifestyle will make life much easier.

  9. Outdoor Fun
    You won't have any trouble finding outdoor fun in Florida neighborhoods, but it's still a good idea to make sure that a neighborhood offers your favorite outdoor activities. Homes for sale in Bradenton make it easy to enjoy all of the outdoor entertainment our corner of Florida has to offer.

  10. The Right Fit for You
    We have covered many of the topics that shoppers find most important in neighborhoods, but ultimately this process is all about finding the right fit for you. Try creating a list of your own ideal neighborhood features, and rank them in order of priority.

Whether you're still searching for the perfect neighborhood or you already have an ideal match in mind, our local real estate team is here to help you cross the finish line. Contact Wagner Realty to buy and sell homes in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.

Contact Wagner Realty

September
26

How to Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

Home Preparedness
When you own a home in an area that could be affected by hurricanes, it's important to plan ahead to prepare both your home and all of the people in your household.

Hurricane damage can cut homeowners off from important services like electricity, internet, phone, and water. These risks are present no matter the strength of the hurricane affecting homes both inland and directly on the coast. While there is no way to eliminate the risk of hurricane damage, there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure that your home is prepared.

Weathering the Storm

Being informed is one of the most important steps you can take during hurricane season. You can install a weather app on your phone, watch the local news, or visit the National Hurricane Center's website for the most up to date information on potential storms. Knowing when a storm is coming will give you as much time as possible to prepare.

  • Evacuation Routes and "Escape" Supplies – Take the time when the weather is nice to research evacuation routes in your area, and plan ahead so that you have somewhere safe to go in the event of a storm. Make sure that everyone in your household understands your evacuation plan. It's also a good idea to put together a set of tools for evacuation, including a disaster kit, batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies, and emergency cash.

  • Prepare Outdoor Areas – If you live in an area with hurricane risk, keeping your outdoor spaces safe can reduce potential damage to your home. Check the trees and shrubs in your yard to make sure that they are healthy, trim them to reduce the risk a fallen branches, and clear out any lawn furniture if the arrival of a hurricane is imminent. If a tree or shrub is not healthy, removing it may be the best course of action.

  • Clean Gutters – Hurricanes have the potential to drop tremendous amounts of rainfall in a short time, so it's also a very good idea to clean your gutters regularly, including downspouts. If your gutters are aging, loose, or otherwise not looking their best, it may be time to replace them.

  • Ready Your Roof – While you are up cleaning gutters, check the condition of your roof to see if it is in need of repair or reinforcement. Having a professional repair any issues before a storm comes is well worth the cost.

  • Purchase Supplies – In addition to the preparedness kit we mentioned above, there are a few items you may want to pick up if a hurricane is coming to your area including plywood to cover windows, fresh water in case of emergency, and batteries for electronics.

  • Check Your Home Insurance – No matter how much you do to prepare, hurricanes can still cause serious damage to your home. Check your home insurance to see what coverage you have in the event of a hurricane, and don't wait until the last minute to do so. It is so much easier to take care of these important details ahead of time, when you don't have to worry about the pressure of an incoming storm.

Our REALTORS® are here to help with all of your real estate needs on the Florida coast. Contact Wagner Realty to buy and sell homes in the Sarasota/Bradenton, FL area.

Contact Wagner Realty

September
19

Buying a House as a Single Mom

Home Buying for the Single Mom
If you're a single mother, the idea of buying a house can seem like an unreachable dream. The Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2016 show that women still earn less than men. As the custodial parent, you must stretch fewer dollars to meet increasing financial obligations. Homeownership can seem unrealistic under such tight financial circumstances.

Our REALTORS® understand your concerns and we want to help. We believe that buying a house should be an attainable dream, so we've compiled a list of resources to help you reach your goal.

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development
    HUD
    maintains a number of programs that can assist you in buying a house. The Community Development Block Grant Program, Home Investment Partnership Program, and Neighborhood Stabilization Program direct home buying assistance funds to local communities via Florida state agencies.

  • Florida Housing Finance Corporation
    The First-Time Homebuyer Program works with approved lenders to offer a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. As with many loan programs, when you are buying a home, you must meet income and credit guidelines.

    The State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) provides funds and block grants to Florida communities for low-income families. These grants fund home rehab, down payments, homeownership counseling, and other critical services.

  • Habitat for Humanity Florida
    Habitat for Humanity Florida has provided 17,000 new and rehabbed homes to deserving Florida residents. If you qualify as a single applicant, you must give 200 hours of your time to help build your home. You must also agree to live in a Habitat-designated neighborhood and attend homeowner classes. When your home is finished, Habitat will sell it to you with no consideration for profit.

  • Fannie Mae
    Homepath
    publishes a list of Fannie Mae foreclosed properties for sale. Their First Look program gives individual buyers an opportunity to view and bid on foreclosed properties before investors have a chance to buy them.  Homepath offers a three percent reduction in a Homepath property's closing costs when you complete the Ready Buyer online homeownership course.  Homepath properties that qualify for the Home Ready mortgage program may be eligible for a low down payment and other benefits included in HUD's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

  • FHA Loans
    An FHA mortgage can minimize the problems of buying a house when you have limited cash flow or a problem credit history. The requirements are less strict than a traditional loan. The mortgage requires only a 3.5 percent down payment and it offers competitive interest rates.

  • USDA Loans
    Under the Rural Development Home Loan Program, the USDA will guarantee 90 percent of your home loan.  You must meet USDA income and credit qualifications, but the standards are less stringent than traditional loans. The home you choose must also meet eligibility guidelines for rural properties and must be your primary residence. USDA charges a monthly fee for mortgage guarantee insurance.

When your dream of owning a home seems out of reach, we can help. Contact Wagner Realty to help make your homeownership dream come true.

Contact Wagner Realty

July
20

Battling Multiple Offers and Winning Your Dream Home

Battling Bidding Warts
Sarasota, Florida has it all--beautiful weather, amazing amenities, and a community with something for everyone. It's no surprise that, when buying a house, you might find yourself in a situation where the home you want has multiple bids.

It may seem like the only thing you can do is raise your offer and hope for the best. Sometimes doing just that is the simplest way to get a seller's attention. Still, it's not your only option.

In an ideal situation, you'd make your offer, find out you're the only buyer, and move toward closing within a few weeks. Still, there are some homes that are worth the extra effort. Let's look at some steps you can take to fend off multiple offers and emerge victorious.

Multiple Offers Don't Mean the End – Here's What You Can Do

  • Stay Calm
    Just because there are multiple offers, it doesn't mean you're out of the running – even if offering more money is not right for you. Other would-be buyers could fall in love with another property or discover something they don't want to deal with in the current one. An agreement could fall apart for hundreds of reasons, even something as simple as a personality conflict.
  • Get More Information
    To start, you should work with your real estate agent to figure out, if possible, how many offers are out there and what the current high offer is. Outplaying just one other buyer isn't that hard, but do you want to push forward against three or five? If budget is a concern, you should tread carefully at first. Don't let emotion draw you into a costly "bidding war!"
  • Write a Letter
    When you lead with a more generous offer, it can foreclose other options that might be just as effective. Building a human connection with the seller can be a tremendous help. Send a letter that offers a quick biographical sketch, including reasons why you've fallen in love with the property in question. Sellers are more likely to work with those they like!
  • Offer Cash
    Financing adds a lot of time and complexity to an offer. If you have the opportunity and you're confident the property is right, consider paying in cash. This can be a huge relief to sellers, since it simplifies things and allows them to meet any deadlines they've set for themselves. If you know you'll need a mortgage, get a pre-approval to raise a seller's confidence.
  • Buy the Home As-Is
    Many buyers are anxious to avoid purchasing a property "as-is," feeling that it must mean the seller is hiding something. You can defend yourself against this by getting a property inspection done. Still, if you really want to make a unique impression on a seller, bring up the topic of buying as-is – especially if the seller hasn't mentioned it.
  • Ask Your Agent to Make a Call
    Your real estate agent is there to ensure your best interests are represented. A good real estate agent is a partner who understands not only the market, but the personalities involved. Sure, a miracle is unlikely ... but it never hurts to turn things over to the experts. It just might be the case that a quick conversation with your agent may make a decisive difference.

Buying a house requires the best help you can get. Contact Wagner Realty for the top Sarasota homesour REALTORS® work hard to get you the home you dream of!

Contact Wagner Realty

June
26

Amazing Fourth of July Events in Sarasota

How Sarasota Celebrates the Red, White and Blue

July 4 Events Sarasota

When the night sky lights up this Fourth of July, where will you be? For families with homes in Sarasota, it's hard to get this answer wrong. Siesta Key's explosive Independence Day celebration has drawn thousands for the past 26 years, but the country's best beach isn't the only place to be on Tuesday, July 4. Our gardens, parks, and restaurants also offer world-class waterfront views and patriotic celebrations this Fourth, so you can choose your view every year.

If you live or plan to buy a house in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, just pick which body of water you want to see sparkle, and settle in for a full day or evening of Fourth of July fun. Here are some of our favorite spots to celebrate:

Siesta Key Public Beach

It's no surprise that Sarasota's most popular fireworks show happens right on its famous white sand beach. The 27th annual Siesta Key Fourth of July Fireworks start at 9:15 PM this year, and the explosives last at least a full half hour, with colors and shapes that rival even the most picturesque Siesta Key sunsets. The Chamber of Commerce's official celebration is always on Siesta Key Public Beach, but if you want to beat the crowds and enjoy unbeatable views, go a little south of the public area, toward Crescent Beach.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

A lush, tropical retreat in the middle of downtown Sarasota, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are nearly surrounded by Sarasota Bay and the Hudson Bayou. They take advantage of their stellar views of multiple fireworks displays over Sarasota Bay, with an evening party that features live music, a cookout, and cool drinks. The All-American Cookout starts at 6, but free trolleys bound for Selby start leaving the Sarasota Friendship Center at 5 PM.

PIER 22 in Bradenton

Would you rather skip the beach and city crowds, and take in some waterfront fireworks at a slower pace? Head north to Bradenton's PIER 22, a literal pier that juts right out onto Manatee River for unbeatable waterfront views. This Fourth of July, the restaurant is hosting a buffet-style barbecue and waterside fireworks display. Come to PIER 22 at 6 PM for the Independence Day buffet, a single seating event that coincides with the explosions over the river.

Bayfront Park & Marina Jack Trail

The fireworks over Sarasota Bay are visible from both sides of the causeway, but the best views are from the edge of the marina, where family-friendly Bayfront Park pokes out into the water. Grab dinner and drinks at Marina Jack or O'Leary's Tiki Bar & Grill, then walk the Marina Jack Trail along the perimeter of this small but beautiful bayfront park. The fireworks over Sarasota Bay will begin at around 9 PM this Fourth of July, so grab a bench or spread a blanket and enjoy the spectacular show.

Before the Fireworks: Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Looking for a family-friendly distraction before the fireworks begin? Sarasota Jungle Gardens is right on the Bay near Ringling Museum and New College of Florida, and it's an interactive wonderland with flamingos, alligators, and lush landscapes where kids can frolic and adults can relax and take in waterfront views. Kids' admission is half off from Saturday, July 1 through Tuesday, July 4, making it the perfect pre-fireworks destination for Sarasota families.

Are you interested in buying a house in Sarasota? Contact Wagner Realty for more information about our beautiful beach town and its fun, lively neighborhoods. One of our REALTORS® in Sarasota will help you get started on your real estate journey. 

Contact Wagner Realty

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