How To Save Your Down Payment When Buying Mobile Bay Home

How To Save Your Down Payment When Buying Mobile Bay Home

This is a great time to think about buying a Mobile Bay home. Mobile Bay home prices have dropped and interest rates are at all time lows. The biggest hurdle for many Mobile Bay home buyers is saving money for a down payment. Here are 25 things to do on a regular basis to save money:

  1. Make it automatic. Before you see your paycheck, have a percentage of it automatically deposited into your 401(k) and savings.
  2. Keep minimum funds in checking account. Transfer extra funds into your savings account where it will earn more interest than in our checking account.
  3. Don’t pay banking fees! Use your bank’s free bill pay, automatic deposits, free checks, and free reimbursements for all ATM fees.
  4. Use rewards credit cards. Use a credit card offering cash back on every purchase and pay the card off each month to eliminate interest fees.
  5. Actively search out deals. It never hurts to try and find a better deal, or request a better deal from your service providers.
  6. Use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats save you an estimated 10-20% on your heating and cooling bills.
  7. Use ceiling fans, floor fans, and space heaters. Turn your thermostat down, close the doors to unused rooms and use a space heater for heat. Use ceiling fans and floor fans to assist with heating and cooling – depending on the season of course!
  8. Install CFLs to save energy. Compact fluorescent lights use about a quarter of the electricity of normal incandescent bulbs. They also need replaced much less often.
  9. Drive smoothly. Accelerate smoothly and at a reasonable rate, and coast to a stop as often as possible. Also use cruise control on the highway. My car is rated to get 26 mpg around town and I regularly get 29. You can also use these tips to save money on gas, and use gas rewards credit cards to save money on fuel costs.
  10. Plan and research major purchases. Take the time to research the best deals when planning a vacation.
  11. Buy quality products. Quality items may cost more up front, but they last longer and generally provide better results than cheaper, inferior products. Examples of items you should buy higher quality – furniture, clothes and shoes, vehicles, and other items that will see a lot of use.
  12. Buy generic where applicable. You can save a lot of money on generic items for which the brand name product is essentially the same as the store brand. Food and medicines come to mind as items where generic products are good deals.
  13. Use coupons and rebates. Use coupons for oil changes, groceries, books, on-line purchases, and just about anything else we can find.
  14. Use store rewards cards. Many grocery stores have their own ‘reward cards’ saving you money each time your shop. If you are a senior, shop on designated senior citizen discount days.
  15. Cook at home.  Limit restaurant dining to once a month.
  16. Eat leftovers. You can save a minimum of $20 a week by bringing your lunch to work. It is also healthier. On the rare occasion you go out to lunch with coworkers, you’ll enjoy it more.
  17. Use the library. Borrow books and movies from the library. New movie releases aren’t always available, but there are usually plenty of classics from the 40s and 50s.
  18. Use parks. They are great for hiking and outdoor recreation.
  19.  Take care of things. Treat the tings you own with respect and take good care of them. This includes doing things such as cleaning the house, washing your cars, and polishing shoes. Things last much longer when you take good care of them.
  20. Buy insurance. Health insurance, home owner’s insurance, auto insurance, and other types of insurance are designed to save you money! Sure, you may end up paying premiums for years and never file a claim, but in the event you need to file a claim, your premium will likely be small compared to what you would have had to pay. You’ll be very happy if you ever need it!
  21. Bundle cable and internet. You can save a lot of money by bundling these together rather than purchasing the separately. You can save more if you bundle your phone as well.
  22. Use cell phones – skip the landline. Depending on your plan, it can be a real cost saving.
  23. Cancel subscriptions. Almost everything you want can be found on-line for free.
  24. Home improvement. Try making your own repairs before calling a professional.
  25. Avoid debt. If you don’t have the money for it, don’t buy it.

Saving money and watching your savings account grow is a rewarding experience…especially if it can help you purchase a Mobile Bay home of your own.

Learn more about buying a Mobile Bay home at or give me a call for more personal service.

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To Fix or Not To Fix When Selling Your Mobile Bay Home

To Fix or Not To Fix When Selling Your Mobile Bay Home

That is the question all Mobile Bay homeowners should ask themselves when they consider selling their home.

The first item on the fix-it list: clear the clutter! If your closets, attic, basement, garage, and other storage areas appear neat, half-full and organized, your house will seem to have more storage space. To accomplish the clutter – clearing task, empty the house, hold a garage sale, and use the profits to help offset the next set of fix-it priorities.

Check your house for “curb appeal”. The exterior is the first impression a prospective buyer has of your home. Make it as inviting as you can. Think of it as outside decorating. Clean (or paint, if necessary) the exterior, re-sod brown spots and crab grass, mow the lawn, pull weeds, remove dead trees or plants, and trim the shrubs.

Flowers give warmth and personality to a home. Plant them tastefully in pots or beds at the entrance, on decks and around patios. If it isn’t flower season, at least clean the beds, remove the dead leaves, and cover the ground with fresh wood chips or other clean looking mulch.

If you have a limited budget, make the most of it. Put the money where it is most obviously needed and the return the greatest and most visible.

Fix Little Things

Take care of the little obvious things: fix leaking faucets, stop running toilets, replace broken windows, kill pet or mildew odors, repair holes in screens, remove mildew from tile, and re-caulk around bathtubs and sinks. Walk around; look at your house with a prospective buyer’s eyes. Small things tell buyers whether or not a house has been maintained. 

Paint it! 

A coat of light-colored, neutral paint–white or off-white–will make your home’s interior look crisper, cleaner, and also larger. Many buyers may not be able to imagine their sofa in your d?cor. White interiors work for the greatest number of people without their having to redecorate immediately. If you just moved, would you want to redo every room?

Your Carpeting

If the carpet is in reasonable condition, have it shampooed. If it is worn, threadbare or a non-neutral color, consider replacing it with beige or gray. You do not need to purchase the best quality money can buy. Lifetime wear is not required. You want it to look great now. Neutral walls and carpet do not offend anyone. Almost all furnishings look good with them. Rental property managers know this and have been doing it for years.

Professional Inspection

Consider having your house inspected by qualified inspector. Safety- and health-related items, such as radon and electrical problems could kill a sale if not properly attended to. It is much better to fix these items on your own time schedule and financial terms than hurriedly during a contract negotiation. Roof leaks, even if inactive, are also deal breakers.

What else do you fix amongst the inspector’s flagged items? Unless you can realistically get money back, fix only the problems with major systems. You want to keep your home’s selling price as low as possible to increase the pool of buyers.

Do not undertake any major remodeling in preparation for sale. It places more limitations on the size of your buyer pool. Tastes vary, and some people will dislike the results of your efforts. You will have to raise your selling price to reflect your fix-up investment, thereby pricing your home out of the range of other potential buyers.

A neutral color scheme in a house that sparkles brings you the highest return in the shortest time. 

Learn more aobut Mobile Bay real estate at or give us a call, 251-990-0569.

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When Its Wise To Downsize Your Mobile Bay Home

I wanted to follow up our blog post, Should You Downsize Your Mobile Bay Home?,  with a reprint on a Money Magazine article from, When It’s Wise to Downsize. The article discusses the pros and cons of downsizing, pricing in today’s market, carrying costs involved and lessons learned from other empty nesters. 

Here is the article in its entirety (but don’t hesitate to visit the link to the original article to see the interesting graphs): 

“(Money Magazine) — Last year Rick and Suzanne Pepin moved from the four-bedroom 3,400-square-foot house in Minneapolis where they lived with their three (now grown) kids to a luxury condo that’s a third smaller and offers only a Murphy bed for guests. Still, the couple couldn’t be happier.

“The location of our old home dictated that we drive to the grocery store, pharmacy and cleaners,” says Suzanne, 57, a retired lawyer. Their new digs are across the street from Whole Foods and within easy walking distance of other stores and restaurants. They love the low-maintenance life.

“We have no worries about upkeep. No worries about lawn care. No worries about snow removal,” says Rick, 68, also an attorney.

Maybe you too have caught the bug. After decades of hankering after the most expensive and enormous house you could afford, owning a smaller place is starting to look appealing.

Imagine the possibilities! You could move into a posh new condo with everything from a fitness center to a concierge – or into an energy-efficient little cabin on a lake Your commute could be shorter, giving you time in the evening to do something more than watch TV like a zombie.

And, maybe, just maybe, downsizing could save you some dough. Chuck Petitti, a Boston-area real estate agent, says many of his clients right now are empty-nesters who realize, “Hey, I could be traveling or doing something else with all the money I am paying for utilities and property tax on this big house.”

If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re by no means alone. A 2006 survey by Hanley Wood, a market research firm, found that 58% of affluent baby boomers say they are very likely or somewhat likely to move to a smaller home within the next 10 to 15 years.

And therein lies a big fat problem. With millions of boomers competing for smaller homes, you may find it hard to catch a break on price. Even though the downsizing trend is in its infancy, over the past five years smaller homes (under 1,200 square feet) have shown a greater rise in value than larger houses (over 3,000 square feet) – 5.2% a year as opposed to 3.5%, according to

On top of that, you have to get money out of your old house – not an easy proposition with prices in the 20 largest metropolitan areas down 18.4% from their July 2006 peak, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index. As of July there was an 11-month backlog of existing homes on the market nationwide. The happily downsized Pepins have yet to receive an offer close to the $1.25 million asking price on their old home.

What’s more, smaller isn’t necessarily cheaper. Depending on where you move, you may face carrying costs that are as high as or even higher than you pay now.

The trade-offs are complicated. You may cut gasoline costs by moving closer to your job in the city and using public transportation, but those savings could be eaten up by costlier car insurance. You could move to a small condo nearby but be unprepared for the dues and fees that condo living entails.

So you have to plan carefully, sizing up the finances underlying both new and old houses, or the savings you’re counting on could be skimpier than you anticipate.

Get the prices right

To start you need a clear-eyed assessment of the two markets that make up your downsizing, the one in which you’re selling and the one in which you plan to buy. A real estate agent can give you an idea of your home’s value, but you should also check how much houses in your area are selling for on, which lists sales prices of comparable houses.

Hanging on to past high prices only delays a sale. Dodi Christiano, 55, a psychotherapist, and her husband, Paul Waldrop, 56, a producer of TV public-service announcements, put a price of $850,000 on their 4,000-square-foot Fairfax, Va. colonial last year – about what nearby homes had fetched a couple of years earlier.

For six months they received nary a nibble. Finally, after slashing the price by more than $100,000, they were able to sell. “We had to face the fact that not everybody loved our home as much as we did,” says Christiano.

You can’t assume that a home’s price is simply a function of its square footage. The national median sales price for condominiums, which are typically smaller than single-family houses, is now 5% higher than that for houses, according to the National Association of Realtors.

If you hope to reduce costs dramatically, you may have to buy your new place in another town or state. Think Decatur, Ill. or Mishawaka, Ind., where single-family houses cost just $79,400 and $80,900, respectively.

George Pollock, 67, a retired engineer, and his wife Marian, 66, wanted to get rid of the mortgage on their house in suburban San Francisco. Pollock worried that if he died before his wife, she wouldn’t be able to meet mortgage payments with the 50% portion of his pension that she would receive.

No matter how much they shopped, however, they couldn’t find a place they could afford in the Bay Area (median price: $701,700) without a mortgage. So they moved to much less pricey Sacramento (median price: $258,500), where their two grown children live. There they bought a 1,400-square-foot home for $380,000, leaving them with nearly $250,000 extra.

Says Pollock: “My wife is closer to the kids, and I know she has long-term financial security.”

Downsize carrying costs

Buying without taking out a mortgage would certainly reduce expenses. At the very least you should look for a house whose price is low enough to allow you to buy with a mortgage that’s smaller than what you have now.

If you’re at or near retirement, taking on a new 30-year mortgage is overwhelming. You may be long gone before you can repay. Consider one with a 15-year maturity; the payments may look daunting, but you will save money. The interest rate is only about 0.10% lower than that of a 30-year mortgage, but over the life of the loan, you would save about $141,000 in interest.

Another option: Take out a traditional 30-year fixed-rate loan that does not charge a prepayment penalty. Then just send in extra payments each month as if you were on a 15-year repayment plan. You’ll be saving by paying the mortgage off quicker, but if you run into unforeseen financial trouble, you’ll be able to make lower payments.

Runzheimer International, a management consulting firm, estimates average annual savings of $1,300 in utility costs and $2,600 in property taxes from down-sizing from a 2,800-square-foot house to one with 1,800 square feet.

But the devil is in the downsizing details: You need to crunch the numbers to calculate your net savings. Start by totting up the annual cost for ongoing expenses such as property tax, utilities, lawn service and snow removal. As you shop for a new place, you should be gathering comparable information.

Other potential cost savings: If you move from suburb to city, you may be able to ditch one of your cars and its trailing expenses – insurance, financing, taxes, maintenance and fuel. If you gave up your 2006 Honda Accord, for example, you’d save nearly $26,000 in the first five years, according to

On the other hand, some costs could rise. In a condo or a house that is part of a homeowners association, there are monthly maintenance fees, and every so often you’ll be on the hook for assessments to replace the roof or carpet the lobby.

Before buying, ask how much fees have risen over the past five years and whether new assessments are in the offing. If your new place is appreciably smaller, make room in the budget for new purchases to replace an oversize sectional or a king-size bed that won’t fit.

Sell before you buy

Tempting as a pristine new condo looks next to your drafty old five-bedroom Victorian, don’t plop down earnest money until you have a buyer with solid financing. Otherwise you could get stuck with two mortgages, two property tax bills and – well, you get the idea.

At least have your lawyer include a contingency clause in the sales agreement that obligates you to close only if you manage to sell your home by a set date. In the bubble-licious sales frenzy of yesteryear, sellers could make bidders do somersaults and had no incentive to agree to such a clause. But with so many homes on the market for months, sellers may now show mercy.

What downsizers learned

  • Don’t price your house like it’s 2006. Paul Waldrop and Dodi Christiano of Haymarket, Va. asked the same amount that nearby houses had sold for two years earlier. “We had to realize that what had happened during the boom was not the norm. It took six stressful months to sell,” says Dodi.
  • Get the old place sold first. Rick and Suzanne Pepin of Minneapolis moved into their dream condo but now can’t sell their house. “Don’t wait to put your home on the market if you decide to buy. We waited for renovations on our new condo to be complete, and by then we couldn’t sell,” says Rick.
  • Plan for smaller rooms. John and Polly Smart of Houston had the wrong stuff. “Smaller rooms may not accommodate your old things. We spent about $20,000 on new furniture and more on a smaller Silverado because the old one stuck about two feet out of the garage,” says John.

Do you (and your spouse) make more than $170,000 annually and worry about tax-efficient retirement planning? If so, send your name, age, occupation, income and questions, along with a recent photo, to We will be providing advice to a family in this situation in an upcoming article – and it could be you! “

Interested in learning more about Mobile Bay home prices and possible downsizing? Visit our website, or give us a call at 251-990-0569.

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Should You Downsize Your Mobile Bay Home?

You just dropped your youngest child off at college and have officially joined the ranks of the empty nesters. One of the first questions that usually comes to mind is should we downsize our Mobile Bay home. The kids are gone and we probably don’t need this big house. But is buying a smaller home right for you?

There are pros and cons to downsizing. Consider your finances and lifestyle before making a decision.

Reasons not to downsize your Mobile Bay home:

You want a place for your children and grandchildren to stay when they visit. The family is spread all across the country and you want to have a place for everyone to gather for the holidays and vacations.

You can’t bear to part with your cherished belongings. You have been in your current home for many years and have filled it to the gills with mementos you don’t want to part with.

You aren’t you emotionally ready to leave? You are not ready to pack up and leave a lifestyle you worked hard to create. Leaving family, friends and familiar surroundings is more than you can bear.

You enjoy the prestige that goes along with your luxurious home. A smaller home will not portray the correct image of success.

Reasons to downsize your Mobile Bay home:

The lower house payments that accompany a smaller home would give you more discretionary funds to travel and enjoy other recreational activities.

A smaller homes means less to maintain and more time to play.

You or your spouse, are not able to navigate the stairs like you use to and a single level home is more desirable.

A smaller, newer home is more efficient and better for the environment.

You need to be closer to a spouse who is in a nursing home?

Make sure it’s affordable:
If you decide to downsize, make sure the place fits both your pocketbook and your lifestyle.

Talk with a real estate professional about how much money you will net from the sale of your current home, as well as the costs of buying another one. This will help you determine if the move benefits you financially.

Under current tax rules, up to $500,000 (if you are married and file jointly) in profits from the sale of your principal residence are not taxable as long as you’ve lived there for at least two of the previous five years. Up to $250,000 in profits are not taxable if you’re single. Consult a tax advisor to discuss your situation.

Look into how much it would cost to move and to maintain a smaller home. Make sure it really is cheaper to live there.

Decide to downsize only once you’re satisfied that the finances make sense.

Buy into your new lifestyle
A smaller house in your current neighborhood could be the right decision if your priority is maintaining close ties to neighbors. Just make sure there are amenities like public transportation and stores nearby if your health begins to deteriorate.

A condominium or a unit in a retirement community could be perfect if you never want to mow again, or if you want to focus on travel, hobbies and perfecting your golf stroke in the company of other seniors. Just remember you’ll have to pay maintenance fees for the upkeep of the common areas. Talk to current residents to see whether they’re happy with the way things are run. Also investigate the rules. If the association forbids pets and you’re a devoted dog-owner, be prepared to move on.

You may prefer to purchase a duplex or something similar. Renting one of the units will bring in extra income, and you’ll have built-in neighbors.

Thinking of downsizing your Mobile Bay home and want to talk with a real estate professional? We are glad to provide you the information you need to help you make the right decision for you. Give us a call at 251-990-0569.

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Stage Your Mobile Bay Home To Sell

Does your Mobile Bay home have a façade only a homeowner could love? Selling a home can be an emotional experience, and people can lack objectivity when it comes to their own abode. Presenting a home in its best light is always important, but it’s imperative in our current competitive real estate market. 

Professional advice and assistance can make the difference between “Wow!” and”Whaaa?” – a recent industry study found that staged homes sold for 6.9 percent more than homes that were not staged. Another study compared listing times before and after staging.

Homes that had first been offered for sale without staging were on the market an average of 4.5 months; the same homes sold within a week, on average, after being staged. 

Below are 7 tips to ‘setting the stage’ and making your Mobile Bay home more appealing to buyers:

1. Thoroughly clean from top to bottom, especially kitchens and baths.

A dirty house an immediate buyer turn-off. The two most important areas are the kitchen and the bathrooms. If you have not deep cleaned all counter and tile surfaces to a spotless condition, you stand the chance of having the buyers walk right back out the door. 

2. De-clutter the entire house.

Clutter makes it extremely hard for the buyers to visualize moving into your home. The disorganization affects the buyer’s ability to focus on your home and they will most likely overlook your key selling features. In addition, clutter has the affect of making your home appear smaller than it is as the “open” feeling is gone. 

3. Remove the personal memorabilia.

People are generally curious and when you want them to notice the beautiful entryway they may be focused on all the family pictures on the piano or all the “stuff” stuck to the front of your refrigerator. Your objective is to change the view of your home from “lived in” to “ready to move in.” 

4. Neutralize inside and out.

The best way to present a home is for the wall colors to be painted a neutral color. This goes for the outside as well – a loud or non-neutral color may just keep the buyers from even stopping to see the inside. 

5. Let the sun shine in with spotless windows.

Nothing is more distracting to a buyer than to be looking at a view through a dirty window. What you don’t see is often more important that what you do see. 

6. Make your pets go away.

While your pets are a loving member of your family, for the buyers their presence, food and boxes are generally a turn-off. Every trace of their presence should be removed so, once again, the buyers are not distracted from the prime objective – viewing your home in the best possible light. 

7. Add curb appeal.

A healthy, neat, trimmed and well maintained yard and flower beds are the keys to getting the buyers up to the front door. A well-maintained exterior translates to a well maintained home in the mind of the buyer. 

Need help setting the stage and showing off your Mobile Bay home in its best light? Give us a call, we are glad to help. 

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