Wendy Butler | ERA Key Realty


As you go on the house hunt, you’re likely to attend many different open houses. After awhile you can get confused as to what you have seen and where you saw it. Each open house or home showing is only a short window of time. As a buyer, you’re trying to get the feel for a house. Being an observant home shopper can help you to avoid a lot of problems down the road. Check out some of the biggest red flags that you need to look out for when you attend an open house.


The Candles Are Burning Bright


You walk into an open house and see a lovely candle lit on the kitchen table. While it may make you feel all warm and fuzzy, it’s not always a good sign. Candles are a great way to mask odors. There could possibly be a musty odor coming from the sink, the basement, or another part of the house. This spells hidden damage and possible danger for you as a homebuyer. While the home inspection should pick up on things like this, you don’t necessarily want to get that far in the process. The art of masking odors could be a sign that the sellers are trying to hide something.


Be Your Own Inspector


As you walk through the home do you notice squeaky floor boards, cracks in the walls, cracks in the ceilings, or a drippy faucet? Maybe you see some patches on the walls or mirrors and paintings that seem out of place? These are all issues that could be signs of a greater problem. Keep in mind that no house is perfect, but you should do a little investigating on your own while walking through the house at showings.


The Home Doesn’t Appear Cared For


Curb appeal is one thing, but a home that looks unkept is a sign of a larger problem for you. Has the lawn been mowed? Is the fence in disrepair? How does the home appear from the outside at first glance? There are plenty of ways that you can fix up a home to make it your own once you buy it, but the question is just how much of a challenge are you up for? There is always a chance that you’ll have large maintenance costs when a home hasn’t been properly maintained by the previous owners.


Searching for homes and going to open houses can be fun. It can also be an educational experience to help you narrow down what you’re looking for and what you can handle as a homeowner.            



The rent vs buy dilemma is something that Americans have been facing for decades. Both options have their benefits, and it’s really a matter of timing and preferences when it comes to choosing which is best for you.

However, there are a lot of things to consider before making this decision. So, in today’s post we’re going to break down some of the benefits of renting an apartment and of buying a home. That way you can make your decision with a clearer picture of what each situation looks like.

One thing to note first, however, is that it isn’t always as simple as buy vs rent. Some living situations draw on the pros of each type of living. For example, living in a condo might be a good option for people who want the privacy and independence of owning their own home, but who also don’t have the time or desire to keep up with maintenance.

So, as we compare buying and renting, keep in mind that the features of each are not mutually exclusive.

Renting an apartment

Most people who are living on their own for the first time start off renting. For younger people just out of school, renting offers the first taste of independence without the prerequisites of homeownership.

When you rent your first apartment, you’ll learn the skills associated with budgeting for your monthly expenses, making your rent payments on time, and will start learning some of the skills that it takes to run a household.

In terms of monthly costs, apartments can vary greatly. Depending on where you live (and how luxurious the apartment is) you could end up having rent and utility payments that are much lower or much higher than mortgage payments for a house.

However, apartment leases often come with the benefit of utilities, trash removal, and other expenses built in. They also typically require the landlord to maintain the apartment and the land it sits on.

Live in the northern part of the country and hate shoveling snow? Make sure your lease specifies that your landlord will provide snow removal.

One technique that many renters take is to find an apartment that is small and affordable while they save up for a home. In this case, it’s worth living with fewer amenities if your end goal is saving for a down payment.

But, what if you want to own a home someday but haven’t quite decided where you want to settle down? Maybe your work keeps you moving from place to place or you’ve always wanted to move away to somewhere new.

Renting is typically a better option for those who aren’t quite sure what their plans are for the next coming years. They can have a stable place to live while they figure things out and plan their next move.

Buying a home

Once you’ve rented a home for a while, you might become increasingly aware that you want more space and more control over your home.

You’re also likely noticing how much money you spend on rent each month that is essentially a net loss.

When you buy a home, your mortgage payments might be going to the bank, but someday the money you’ve paid toward that home will be yours in the form of equity. You can then use this as a down payment for another home.

This financial benefit cannot be understated. Since house values dependably increase over time, owning a home is a great investment toward your future.

So, those are the main pros and cons of renting vs buying a home. Think about your circumstances and determine which one makes the most sense for you right now. Then, start planning for the future.


The weeks and days leading up to a home closing can be stressful, particularly for a homebuyer who is already trying to do everything possible to secure his or her dream residence. Fortunately, we're here to help you simplify the process of getting to your closing date.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to ensure you can enjoy a fast, easy home closing.

1. Get Your Paperwork Ready

It often helps to get all of your homebuying paperwork ready before you pursue a residence. That way, you can minimize the last-minute stress associated with searching far and wide for pay stubs, tax returns and other documents that you'll ultimately need to get financing for a residence.

Furthermore, you should meet with local banks and credit unions as soon as you can. If you can get approved for a mortgage prior to starting a home search, you may be able to speed up the process of acquiring your ideal residence.

2. Be Prepared to Cover Your Closing Costs

Although you might have financing to cover your monthly mortgage payments, it is important to remember that you may need to pay closing costs to finalize your home purchase. As such, if you begin saving for your closing costs today, you can guarantee that you'll have the necessary funds available to purchase your dream residence on your scheduled closing date.

Also, you should be prepared to present a cashier's check or wire funds when you close on a house. If you plan ahead, you should have no paying off your closing costs when your complete your home purchase.

3. Schedule Your Final Walk-Through Before Your Closing Date

When it comes to a final walk-through on your dream house, why should you leave anything to chance? Instead, set up the final walk-through at least a few days before you're scheduled to close on a house.

If you find problems with a house during a final walk-through, you'll want to give the seller plenty of time to address these issues. Thus, if you schedule a final walk-through several days before your closing date, you can ensure that any home problems can be corrected without putting your closing date in danger.

For homebuyers who are worried about a home closing, there is no need to stress. In fact, if you work with an expert real estate agent, you can receive plenty of support throughout the homebuying journey.

Typically, a real estate agent can explain what you should expect in the time leading up to your closing date. If you have any concerns or questions before a home closing, a real estate agent is happy to address them. Plus, when your closing date arrives, a real estate agent will help you remain calm, cool and collected as you purchase a home.

Ready to streamline the process of closing on a house? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can reap the benefits of a quick, seamless home closing.


If you want to streamline your home search, there is no need to worry. In fact, there are several things you can do to quickly and effortlessly discover a great house at a budget-friendly price.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you streamline your search for your ideal house.

1. Create Homebuying Criteria

Homebuying criteria may help you save time as you embark on a quest to find your dream home. Because if you enter the housing market with homebuying criteria in hand, you'll know what you want to discover in your ideal residence.

To create homebuying criteria, think about your home must-haves and wants. Then, you can search for houses based on your homebuying criteria and move one step closer to finding a residence that you can enjoy for years to come.

Of course, it is important to remain flexible as you pursue your dream house too. And if necessary, you should be ready to adjust your homebuying criteria as your home search progresses.

2. Hone Your Home Search to Preferred Cities and Towns

You know you want to buy a house, but you still have no idea where you want to settle down. If you make a list of preferred cities and towns, however, you may be able to accelerate your home search.

Consider your short- and long-term aspirations as you prepare a list of preferred cities and towns. For instance, if your long-term goal is to work in the city, you may want to focus on houses in or near the city itself. On the other hand, if you want to own lots of land in a small town, you may want to consider small town residences.

3. Work with a Real Estate Agent

Searching for a home on your own may prove to be time-consuming. Fortunately, real estate agents are homebuying experts who are happy to help you simplify your house search.

By hiring a real estate agent, you can receive comprehensive assistance throughout the property buying journey. A real estate agent will teach you about the housing market and respond to your homebuying concerns and queries. Plus, he or she will offer recommendations and suggestions to help you make an informed home purchase.

In addition, a real estate agent is ready to assist you in a number of ways. He or she will set up home showings, keep you up to date about new houses that become available in your preferred cities and towns and help you submit a competitive offer to purchase your dream home. Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will do whatever it takes to help you acquire a terrific residence at an affordable price.

As you get set to embark on a home search, it generally is a good idea to enter the housing market as a prepared property buyer. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can conduct an in-depth home search without delay. And as a result, you can use these tips to discover your dream house in no time at all.


Ultimately, there is no surefire amount that you should spend on a house. The real estate market varies in cities and towns nationwide, and as such, the prices of houses fall across a broad range. Also, the condition and age of a house – as well as a homebuyer's budget – may dictate how much an individual is willing to spend on a particular residence.

As you search for your dream house, it helps to plan ahead as much as you can. Because if you have a homebuying strategy in place, you can determine exactly how much you can spend to acquire your ideal residence.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you get your finances in order before you kick off a house search.

1. Check Your Credit Score

Believe it or not, your credit score may have far-flung effects on your homebuying budget. And if you fail to review your credit score before you embark on a house search, you may miss out on an opportunity to purchase your dream house.

A low credit score may make it tough to get the mortgage you need to acquire your ideal residence. Thus, you may want to check your credit score and find ways to improve it before you begin a house search.

You won't have to break your budget to get a copy of your credit report from the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). In fact, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the aforementioned credit bureaus. Request a copy of your credit report, and you can learn your credit score.

Of course, if your credit score is low, you can always improve it by paying off outstanding debt. Or, if you find errors on your credit report, contact the credit bureau that provided the report so that you can get these issues corrected.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Pre-approval for a mortgage makes it easy to enter the housing market with a budget at your disposal. If you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you can get pre-approved for a mortgage sooner rather than later.

Remember, banks and credit unions employ friendly, knowledgeable mortgage specialists. Don't hesitate to ask these specialists about assorted mortgage options, and you can select a mortgage that perfectly matches your finances.

3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent can make it simple to pursue your dream house. This housing market professional will help you narrow the price range for your dream house and ensure you can discover the perfect house without delay. Perhaps most important, a real estate agent is happy to negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf, ensuring you can get the best price on any home.

Ready to start a home search? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can simultaneously look for your dream house and avoid the risk of paying too much to purchase your dream residence.




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