Sellers: Why You Shouldn’t Wait for a Spring Listing

DUFFY - Sellers - Why You Shouldn't Wait for a Spring Listing

For many people, it can be tempting to put off listing their home for sale until spring. After all, the market is too slow during the colder months, right? Think again. The sales numbers tell a different story.  Over the last 3 years, sales have increased by about 4.5% in the winter months. If you’re thinking of selling, here are several reasons you should go ahead and list your place now:

Winter Buyers are Serious

These shoppers and looky-loos are bundled up indoors, waiting for spring to come around. For those buyers who are willing to get out and shop during the cooler months, they mean business.

Less Home Inventory Means Less Competition

Even though there are generally fewer homes on the market during the winter months, it turns out there are serious buyers out there intently looking for a home to buy, shopping a reduced supply of inventory when compared to warmer months of the year. In Atlanta, more homes go under contract in January than you might think. It’s one of the strongest months of the year.

Year-End Tax Breaks

Buyers that are in the market know that buying a home before year’s end can give them tax write-offs related to the purchase of their new home. These tax benefits include deductions related to real estate taxes, mortgage interest, and premiums for private mortgage insurance premiums. Sometimes, these incentives are enough to move a buyer to act in their best interest and buy sooner rather than later.

Incentive Payouts and Year-End Bonuses

Buyers with an incentive or bonus payday coming are often laying plans to act before the holidays. First time home buyers are ready to enter the market for a cozy Christmas in their new place. Established homeowners are looking to upgrade as the season gets underway. These are powerful motivating reasons for buyers to get out there and shop the market, and a good reason for you to list your home sooner rather than later.

Time Off

The holidays afford many people more time to handle personal affairs away from the office. Serious buyers take advantage of this and get out there to capitalize on their free time. They schedule more showings, browse more real estate websites, and make plans for their new home.

Deadlines and Life Changes

Many buyers find themselves working against a deadline. They may be up against an expiring lease, a job relocation, or their existing home just went under contract to sell. Other motivating life changes include the birth of a child, a marriage, a divorce, a death, or new employment. These things happen any time of the year, leading buyers to act now.

Work with an Experienced Real Estate Team

At DUFFY Realty, you are our number one priority. From the first call to final close, we’ll see you through it all. Call us today to get started: (678) 318-1700

Warning: Don’t Be Scammed by Real Estate Wire Fraud

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dad with baby holding go pro

Atlanta Real Estate

The exciting moment is coming up: your offer was accepted, you’ve completed the inspection process, and now you are ready to close on your dream home! The final step is to sign the paperwork and transfer the payment for the purchase. The closing process can feel complicated if you aren’t familiar with the mortgage and real estate industries, which is why it is essential to have a trusted agent to watch out for your interests with the paperwork and financial details.

Rising Real Estate Danger: Wire Fraud

Unfortunately, wire fraud is one thing that all home buyers need to watch out for in our digital world. Much of the real estate communication happens through digital channels, such as text messages, email, and phone.

Scammers have figured out that there is a lot of money on the line when a real estate deal is going down, so they are always looking for ways to get a piece of the action. Wire fraud is becoming increasingly common, which is why both home buyers and sellers need to be on high alert when it is time to transfer the money. In fact, it is estimated that Americans lost as much as $150 million last year due to real estate fraud.

For example, some wire fraud situations have happened because email accounts were hacked, and the scammers sent false information regarding the wire transfer information. Unsuspecting buyers receive the scam message days before closing, and complete the transaction… sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to the wrong account. Once the money is gone, it can be nearly impossible to get it back again!

Protect Yourself from Wire Fraud

Before you initiate the transfer of money, it is important to double and triple check the bank account information as well as the source of the transfer instructions. Be on high alert if you receive a communication indicating that the wire transfer needs to happen ahead of schedule to avoid pushing back the closing date.

These scammers are sneaky to make the emails look legitimate. They use the same font and signatures. Often, the emails include copy to the escrow officer, mortgage broker, and real estate agent. But, if the email details are inspected closely, it’s found that all of the addresses are slightly different than the original people involved in the deal.

The only way to protect yourself is to have a direct conversation with the people you are actually working with. If you receive wire transfer instructions, get on the phone, and verify the accounts and transfer details with the industry experts that you know and trust. It never hurts to be cautious; and you could avoid the loss of thousands of dollars with a simple phone call.

Our experienced team at DUFFY Realty is working hard to protect our clients in all stages of the transaction. Call us any time if you have questions about buying or selling a home: (678) 318-1700.

Rhonda Duffy

Rhonda Duffy

Real estate expert and consumer advocate Rhonda Duffy is documented and ranked the #1 Agent in the U.S. for resales three years in a row and #1 Agent in Georgia 12 years in a row. Rhonda is the media’s go to expert on real estate matters for her commonsense approach, consumer advocacy and work to educate the public on the rapidly changing landscape of her profession. She has been licensed in real estate for 20 years, has been a broker in seven states and is trained in staging certification.

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8 Steps to Improve Your Credit (and Qualify for a Mortgage)

Black and White Dog laying down on top of stairs
Black and White Dog laying down on top of stairs

Atlanta Real Estate

Has your low credit score got you down because you feel like it is impossible to qualify for a mortgage? If you are dreaming of homeownership, don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut. There are simple things that can be done to improve your credit score, helping you take a step closer to owning the perfect home for your family. Tips to Improve Your Credit At DUFFY Realty, we love seeing our clients move into their dream homes! We have many industry connections that can help you improve your credit score so you can qualify for the financing that is needed. Here are a few proven tips that can help with your credit score:
  1. Always Pay on Time: Late payments are not good for your credit score, which is why it is essential to stay current with all of your payments. Never miss a payment, even by a day! Payment history is one important factor that affects your credit score.
  2. Repair Delinquent Accounts: If any of your accounts are past due, don’t delay in getting the payment made so you can bring the account back to current.
  3. Dispute Credit Errors: It is surprisingly common to have errors on your credit report! Look through the detailed history and identify areas that need to be disputed. This process can remove discrepancies that are pulling down your credit score.
  4. Debt-to-Income Ratio: Talk to a financial professional to evaluate your debt-to-income ratio. Make sure your income is high enough, and your credit balances low enough, that you have a healthy debt-to-income ratio that allows you to add a mortgage on top.
  5. Pay Down Balances: As you are improving your debt-to-income ratio, two strategies can be used for balance paydown. The first option is to pay off the lower balances, then roll those payments into the bigger balances. The second option is to target the high interest rates first, then move down to the lower interest rate lines when the high accounts are finished.
  6. Keep Old Accounts Open: You might be tempted to close old, unused credit accounts. But closing the accounts could harm your score. Old accounts help by showing credit history length, and they also impact the percentage of credit being used vs. what is available.
  7. Avoid New Accounts: When preparing for mortgage approval, try to avoid opening new credit accounts. For example, you might wait to buy a car or new furniture until after the mortgage is in place.
  8. Watch Your Credit Score: Keep an eye on the trends so you can see how your spending decisions are influencing your score.
Do you have more questions about improving your credit score? Our team at DUFFY Realty has the right industry connections to help you qualify for a mortgage. Contact us to learn more about the financing solutions available in the Atlanta area: (678) 318-1700.
Rhonda Duffy

Rhonda Duffy

Real estate expert and consumer advocate Rhonda Duffy is documented and ranked the #1 Agent in the U.S. for resales three years in a row and #1 Agent in Georgia 12 years in a row. Rhonda is the media’s go to expert on real estate matters for her commonsense approach, consumer advocacy and work to educate the public on the rapidly changing landscape of her profession. She has been licensed in real estate for 20 years, has been a broker in seven states and is trained in staging certification.

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Is Fall a Good Time To Buy or Sell a Home

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young girl in lion facepaint

Atlanta Real Estate

As the seasons change, we often get questions from people who are considering a move: it is a good time to buy or sell a home? If you have flexibility with your move schedule, then it’s smart to talk to a real estate agent so you can choose the ideal time of year to maximize your equity.

Many people assume that summer is the best time to buy or sell a home. While it’s true that families often move during the warm summer months when the kids are out of school, it doesn’t mean that nothing happens in the real estate industry during the rest of the year.

Talk to our experienced real estate team, and we will tell you without hesitation: fall is an excellent time if you are ready to buy or sell a home!

Why Fall is a Great Time of Year for Real Estate

What makes fall a good time when you are ready to buy or sell a home? Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Serious Buyers: Spring and summer tend to bring out “tire-kicking” buyers. These people are considering the option to buy a home, but they aren’t serious enough to make an offer. On the other hand, buyers in the fall are feeling the pressure to move before the holiday season, which means there is a higher chance that they will act quickly when finding the right home.
  2. Less Inventory: Other sellers in the area might put their real estate listing on hold during this time of year, because they don’t want the hassle of showing a home and moving during the holidays. Often, sellers are rushed to close before September 30th. Then, people assume that it is best to wait until after the new year before taking a serious look at their options. As a result, fall is the perfect time to sell because there is less inventory, which means you will be up against less competition.
  3. Home Improvement Options: Contractors tend to be busier during the summer months due to the construction going on when the weather is warm. If you want to make a few improvements in your home, then you’ll likely find that contractors are more available during the fall months. Your old home could use a little bit of TLC, whether you are preparing it for a real estate listing or buying a fixer-upper.

If you are thinking about buying or selling this fall, then don’t delay your opportunity to talk to a real estate expert. Our team at DUFFY Realty is here to help you put together the right moving strategy based on the needs of your family. Contact us at any time to learn more about the local and seasonal real estate trends. We’re here to help: (678) 318-1700

VA Loans

Veterans and their families may qualify for a home loan through Veterans Affairs (VA). As an insurance program, the VA offers 100% financing of mortgages and guarantees them up to $424,100. They do not require any down payment and mortgage insurance can be included in the loan itself. Lenders have different requirements, but in general, qualifying borrowers should have no more than a 41% debt-to-income ratio. If you can obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA, you can apply for a no down payment loan through this program.

USDA Loans

First-time homebuyers that live in designated suburban and rural areas may be eligible for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Housing loan. The program is intended for those who live in remote areas, but there are places in suburbia that do fall under the locational restriction. Loan applicants must have at least a 600-640 credit score and make less than certain income amounts. A loan guarantee of 3.5% is required upfront, but borrowers can choose to include it in the loan itself so that no cash is required when the loan closes.

Navy Federal Credit Union Mortgage Loans

The biggest credit union in the U.S. in membership and assets, NFCU’s no money down mortgage loans are a lot like VA loans. You won’t be required to carry mortgage insurance, but there is a funding fee of 1.75%. This fee can be rolled into the loan balance. However, you need to be a qualifying credit union member to apply for the loan. Membership is exclusive to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) employees and contractors at DoD installations, personnel from all military branches, and family members of any of these members.

FHA Loans

Loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration are intended to stimulate the economy and housing industry by encouraging first time home buyers to buy a home. They do require a down payment, but it is quite low. You can pay as little as 3.5% of the home sale price.

Talk with a Pro

Buying a home is a big commitment, and for some of us, it can feel out of reach. That’s where no down or low down payment loans can help. They lend quite a bit more than just a helping hand, making it possible for many people to get their little piece of the American dream.

Here at DUFFY Realty, we can connect you with excellent lenders that understand the world of mortgage finance and will help you find a loan to meet your needs. Call us for a conversation today: (678) 318-1700

Rhonda Duffy

Rhonda Duffy

Real estate expert and consumer advocate Rhonda Duffy is documented and ranked the #1 Agent in the U.S. for resales three years in a row and #1 Agent in Georgia 12 years in a row. Rhonda is the media’s go to expert on real estate matters for her commonsense approach, consumer advocacy and work to educate the public on the rapidly changing landscape of her profession. She has been licensed in real estate for 20 years, has been a broker in seven states and is trained in staging certification.

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Mortgage vs. Rent: Making the Right Financial Decisions for Your Family

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Is there a right choice when it comes to the decision of mortgage vs. rent? Financial decisions are important to care for the financial needs of your family. Not only do you need to think about your current income and cash flow, but it is also important to look at the long-term outlook for your investment.

This rent vs. buy decision has many moving parts; you’ll find a variety of factors that will influence your decision. These are some of the pieces of information that should be considered when you are deciding to invest in a mortgage vs. rent:

  • Location or neighborhood where you want to live
  • Price of the home you would like to buy
  • Cost of the down payment
  • Mortgage terms and interest rates
  • The length of time you’ll be living there
  • Comparable cost of renting a similar property

Mortgage vs. Rent: Pros and Cons

The most obvious benefit of buying instead of renting is that the money you pay each month will go to build equity in your property. If you pay the mortgage long enough, eventually you will have a property that you own 100%, and you will be able to live there without paying a monthly cost. Most mortgages have 30-year terms, which means that you will be able to enjoy the home during your retirement years without the financial pressure of paying a mortgage.

On the other hand, renting is basically throwing money away each month. Yes, you have a place to live that solves your immediate needs. But, the money doesn’t go towards an investment that will benefit your family in the future. As a result, most people view renting as a short-term solution.

Here are a few other benefits of buying instead of renting:

  • Long-term stability by living in the same place
  • Options for renovations and redecorating
  • Set payment since the mortgage is predictable and not subject to landlord changes
  • Pride of owning a property you can call your own
  • Building home equity over the years

Keep in mind that homeownership means that you will need to keep up with maintenance and repairs over time. On the other hand, the landlord is responsible for maintenance costs and efforts when the property is rented.

What are Your Family Financial Goals?

The best thing that you can do is consider your long-term financial goals and how you want to support your family. If you are looking for financial freedom in the future, then homeownership can be an essential part of your plan.

Don’t overlook the importance of hiring a good real estate team to help you find the right property that matches the needs of your family. For more information, talk to us at DUFFY Realty. We are the leading real estate team in Atlanta, and we’d love to help your family buy a home: (678) 318-1700

History of Real Estate: Pioneers Who Changed the Industry

The real estate industry we know today is quite different from the roots that started many years ago. Looking back over real estate history, it was around 1900 when real estate brokers began offering services to present homes available for sale.

Founding of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges

In Chicago, on May 12, 1908, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges was founded. The goal was to “unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests.” The association had founding boards in a handful of cities across the US: Chicago; Baltimore; Bellingham, Wash.; Los Angeles; Cincinnati; Sioux City, Iowa; Philadelphia; Cleveland; Detroit; Duluth, Minn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Seattle; Omaha, Neb.; St. Louis; Gary, Ind.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Tacoma, Wash.

A code of real estate ethics was developed in 1913, based on the Golden Rule as the theme of the industry. It wasn’t until 1919 when professional certification and licensing became standard, through the efforts of the association. The association has continued to hold annual conferences over the years, and is now known as the National Association of Realtors after the name was changed in 1972.

The Digital Age of the Real Estate Industry

This industry began to change quickly as digital technology became an integral part of buying and selling a home. As of 2017, 99% of millennial buyers look at online listings to find properties of interests. In the same year, 58% of all buyers indicated that they found their home through mobile apps. Homebuyers, home sellers, and agents have all made the shift to lean on technology as an essential part of the real estate process.

People Changing the Real Estate Industry

Even though the real estate industry was established more than 100 years ago, there are agents today who are continuing to be modern pioneers in promoting new practices in the industry. The most notable changes in real estate are related to the advent of the internet. Online tools help facilitate real estate awareness and transactions, making it easier than ever for buyers and sellers to connect.

A few people leading the current industry include:

  • Rhonda Duffy, founder of Duffy Realty, CEO: A pioneer in adapting flat fee realty services and an 8 step buyer action timeline to help ensure buyers’ rights across the country.
  • Mauricio Umansky, founder of The Agency in Beverly Hills. This brokerage is changing the approach to real estate by offering a modern, start-up look and feel to appeal to the younger generations.
  • Rebekah Bastian, group manager at Zillow. Both homeowners and real estate agents can tap into a variety of tools available, including sales integrations, advertising, and more.

While these industry pioneers have had an impact on the nationwide real estate trends, you can also find local influences as well. Here at DUFFY Realty, we are always looking for ways to improve the opportunities for buying and selling homes in Atlanta. Call to learn more about our services: (678) 318-1700

A Modern Lifestyle: The Benefits of Smart Home Technology

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Technology has been integrated into nearly every aspect of our lives, helping to improve convenience and comfort for all to enjoy. Are you taking advantage of the smart home technology features that are available for your family? Whether you are building a new home or looking for ways to upgrade your current home, it is essential to evaluate the ways that you can use home technology.

Smart Home Technology: Stay Connected When You Are Away

Even if you are gone on vacation or spending the day at work, you can still maintain a connection to know what is going on at home. There’s no need to turn around after running out the door because you can’t remember if you closed the garage. Now, smartphone apps can be used to see real-time updates about your garage door, security system, climate control, and more.

At the same time, these technology features also give you the benefit of improving your daily lifestyle when you are in the house. For example, you can adjust the thermostat setting using an app, without the need to walk to another part of the house where the thermostat is installed on the wall.

Ideas for Smart Home Upgrades

What features should you install in your home? Here are some of the ways you can enjoy technology to upgrade your lifestyle:

  • Climate Control: Use technology to program the air conditioner based on your typical schedule. For example, if you are gone throughout the day, then you might have the air conditioner kick on 30 minutes before you typically arrive home from work, so the house is cooled down and comfortable for the evening.
  • Door Access: There’s no need to carry around a bulky set of house keys when you can unlock the door using technology. Your phone can be used to open the garage door or other doors in the house. You could give garage access to a neighbor remotely, then shut the garage after they are done.
  • Connection: WiFi and digital entertainment can be programmed so that children can only access it at certain times of the day. Parents often prefer to shut down the WiFi connection after a certain time each night, preventing the kids from playing games all night when they should be sleeping.
  • Appliances: You can connect appliances through internet access, or program these appliances to turn on at specific times. Schedule the coffee maker to kick on 15 minutes before you get out of bed. Or, use this digital access to turn the slow cooker on or off.

One of the greatest benefits of smart technology is that you can improve the energy efficiency of your home by reducing the electricity used for the lights and HVAC systems.

At DUFFY Realty, we want to help you find the home of your dreams. If you have questions about buying or selling a home in Atlanta, you are welcome to contact us any time for assistance: (678) 318-1700

Real Estate Tips: How to Avoid Buying a Lemon

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Any time you are investing money in a big purchase, it is important that you are careful to avoid “buying a lemon.” This term is often used in reference to a car purchase when someone buys a used car and then encounters problem after problem due to breakdowns and necessary repairs. In the same way, you might face expensive problems if you aren’t careful about the home that you buy.

Avoid Buying a Lemon Home

Even if you feel like you have finally found the perfect home for your family, you should never skip the pre-purchase inspection process. Some people assume that an inspection is unnecessary. Others don’t want to hear the bad news because they want to buy the home no matter what.

Remember that it is your responsibility to protect the financial interests of your family. Failing to complete a home inspection could leave you in a challenging situation if you need to invest thousands of dollars unexpectedly into home repairs or maintenance work.

Safeguards for Your Home Purchase

Keep in mind that certain safeguards are built into the real estate industry to protect home buyers:

  • State law requires that sellers disclose known problems with the property, though these issues don’t necessarily need to be repaired
  • Buyers can invest in warranties that cover any problems with the home after move-in
  • Offers are designed with inspection contingencies, which void the contract if problems arise in the home inspection

While no house is perfect, there are a few things that you can do to avoid high expenses related to problems with the home.

Always Hire an Experienced Inspector

Even though the home looked good when you walked through it with your real estate agent, you don’t have the experience to know if there are problems with the plumbing, electrical system, or roof. A professional home inspector should always be hired to evaluate every aspect of the property structure and systems.

You might even consider multiple inspections. The inspection timeframe is short, but you have the option to schedule multiple people to complete the necessary inspections. For example, it is smart to not only check for structural problems, but also bring in a pest control expert, identify potential signs of mold, and complete a meth test.

Finding the Right Home for Your Family

The hope is that the inspection will come back with good news, giving you the opportunity to close the deal. But don’t despair if something comes up in the inspection and you need to walk away from the offer. At DUFFY Realty, we want to be sure you love the home that you buy. Our team is dedicated to helping you avoid buying a lemon. Call today to learn more about the quality real estate properties available here in Atlanta: (678) 318-1700

Answers to the Most Common Questions from Home Sellers

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What questions are racing through your mind when you decide that it’s time to sell your home? Home sellers often have questions about the best ways to maximize equity and find the right buyer. It can be hard to find the answers to these questions if you don’t have an experienced real estate team to assist with the transaction.

Here at DUFFY Realty, we work with both home sellers and home buyers. Here are a few answers to some of your common questions:

  • Is it a good time to sell my home? There’s no question that the real estate market fluctuates with time. This common question doesn’t have a simple answer, because many factors affect your personal needs and the right timing for your family. The best thing that you can do is discuss your circumstances with a real estate agent to determine the timing that will fit your real estate strategy.
  • How much is my home worth? Again, we can’t provide a generalized answer to this question because home values change from one year to the next. We will determine the right pricing structure for your home by evaluating comparable properties in the area. Our experienced real estate team is here to assist as you are determining the market value and offer a “Comparative Market Analysis” (CMA) for your property.
  • How can I prepare my home before it’s listed? First impressions play a huge role in the process of selling a home. If you want to sell the home quickly, then you need to be sure that your home is designed to attract the right buyers. Present the property in the best possible light by reducing clutter, repairing any visible issues around the house, and ensuring that every room is spotless.
  • Do I need to disclose issues to potential buyers? If there are problems with the property, then you need to disclose these issues with potential buyers. For example, if you know that there are defects with the appliances, then it is important that you share this information. Being honest about the quality of the property helps you avoid potential issues with the inspections and closing of the real estate deal. Some of these defects can be corrected before you list the property. Or, you can adjust the pricing of the home if the buyer will need to invest substantial cash into the repair work.
  • What is the difference between the listing price and the sale price? You determine the price you would like to show on the real estate listing. Then you need to wait for offers to come through from potential buyers. The sale price is the final number reached after negotiations, which is the price that will be used when you are ready to close the deal.

The most important thing you can do is hire a good real estate team to assist with the process of selling your home. If you have questions, then DUFFY Realty is here to assist. Home sellers can reach us by calling: (678) 318-1700

Overcoming the 5 Biggest Roadblocks to Homeownership

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Do you have the dream of owning a home, but you haven’t been able to make the investment yet? Sometimes, first-time buyers face common roadblocks to homeownership. But, just because you are facing one or more of these issues, doesn’t mean that you can’t move into the home of your dreams. Talk to our team here at DUFFY Realty for advice and help regarding the best solutions to help you overcome these common roadblocks.

5 Roadblocks to Homeownership

These are some of the most common problems faced when people want to buy a home:

  1. Down Payment: Don’t assume that you can’t buy a home if you haven’t saved for a down payment. Yes, a bit of cash will be needed for the transaction. But there are programs available for down payment assistance if you can qualify for the loan but don’t have money in the bank for the down payment.
  2. Credit Score: Qualifying for a mortgage can be a challenge if you have a rocky credit history. If you know you have a few late payments and balances that need to be paid, then we can help you find the right financial pro for assistance. Start improving your credit score now so that you are ready for the home purchase in the future.
  3. Self-Employment: Some people are worried about qualifying for a mortgage when they have a variable income. Certain loans can be used that look at the money moving through your bank account when determining the income you are receiving.
  4. Market Trends: Are you worried about buying a home because the prices are too high right now? While it is true that real estate prices move up and down with time, the overall market is on an upward trend when you look at the long-term investment of home ownership. Think about the money that you are throwing away on rent each month. Instead of giving that money to pay for someone else’s home, your monthly payment can be building equity for your own home.
  5. Dream Home: Everyone loves the idea of moving into a big, beautiful home. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy a property if you can’t afford the price point that you desire. The best way to get your dream home in the future is to build equity in a good starter home. Be realistic about your current financial situation and buy something that you can afford. Our team will help you find a great match that your family can enjoy. This purchase is a stepping stone to help you afford a bigger home in the future.

DUFFY Realty is here to help with the best real estate strategy for your family. If you are thinking about buying a home, then we invite you to start a conversation with our team. We’ll help you overcome some of these common roadblocks to homeownership. Call us at (678) 318-1700