Closed on a Home… What’s Next?Maintenance List?

Maintenance List

So, you’ve signed on the dotted line and bought yourself a home. Congratulations! Now that the deal is done, you may be asking yourself, now what? And to be honest, it’s a fair question. You probably already know some of the basics you should take care of right away: cleaning, locks replacement, update your mailing address, etc. But, if you’re new to home ownership in Atlanta, you’ll quickly learn there is a lot of responsibility that comes with it, including keeping up with maintenance and it’s records.

Rather than stumble through the process of setting up house, here are the top 6 things you should do as soon as possible after you get the keys to your new place:

1. Make Copies of All Your Purchase Documents

You’ve signed and executed quite a few important documents. Be sure to store these in a safe, or a personal filing cabinet. It’s also a good idea to keep a digital copy in a secure place online, such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox.

2. Change the Locks/Update Keypads

You can also have them rekeyed if that’s easier. You may pay a few hundred bucks to make the change, but the cost is worth it. There’s really no way of knowing who has a key to any external door. Do this one right away. Any door or garage entry keypads should also be updated asap to your own access codes.

3. Start a Maintenance List

As you begin living in the home, you’ll start to notice things that need attention. Starting a home maintenance checklist is a great way to stay on top of things. Everything from HVAC air filter changes, to gutter cleaning, to window caulking; a maintenance list by season will help you keep track.

4. Check the Water Heater and Water Pressure

Make any preferred adjustments to the temperature and water pressure. If you need help, find a good plumber.

5. Review the Heating and Cooling System

If the system has not been serviced recently, you should get it done. Doing this maintenance will help to maximize the life of this expensive system. Change the filters while you’re at it.

6. Notify Contacts and Companies of Your Address Change

Alert the postal service of your new address. They’ll immediately begin forwarding your mail for one year. Next, your family and friends will want to know your new address right away, as will any entities that have a relationship with you. Remember to update your records with your work, financial institutions, utility and phone services, church, medical offices, insurance agent, and any other subscription services you utilize.

More Where That Came From

Truth be told, there’s a lot more that can be mentioned in this list. Things such as deep cleaning, painting, freshening walls and carpets, learning about your tax benefits as a homeowner, etc. You can get more insights from our pros here at DUFFY Realty because we are all about you making profit when you sell in the future.  Call us today to learn more: (678) 318-1700

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

dad with baby holding go pro
dad with baby holding go pro

buying a home

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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How to Get a Mortgage
Financial Decisions
Rhonda Duffy

Self Employed? How to Get a Mortgage When Buying a Home

How to get a mortgage is a common concern, especially for the self-employed. The financial crisis of 2008 drastically altered the world of real estate and mortgage finance. Where stated income loans were quite common before the crash, they became less so after.

Read More »

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

buying a home

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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How to Get a Mortgage
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Rhonda Duffy

Self Employed? How to Get a Mortgage When Buying a Home

How to get a mortgage is a common concern, especially for the self-employed. The financial crisis of 2008 drastically altered the world of real estate and mortgage finance. Where stated income loans were quite common before the crash, they became less so after.

Read More »

Options For Low/No Down Payment Loans

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young girl giggling as butterfly lands on her nose

buying a home

These days, a mortgage loan that requires low or no down payment can be hard to find. They are typically only available to people who demonstrate they have the income to repay such loans and are a good credit risk. Depending on the lender (public or private), you’ll likely need a credit score of 620 or higher. If you are an aspiring homeowner with little money for a down payment, be sure to look into these potential loan options:

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.

Share on facebook
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How to Get a Mortgage
Financial Decisions
Rhonda Duffy

Self Employed? How to Get a Mortgage When Buying a Home

How to get a mortgage is a common concern, especially for the self-employed. The financial crisis of 2008 drastically altered the world of real estate and mortgage finance. Where stated income loans were quite common before the crash, they became less so after.

Read More »

How do the Fed Rate Changes Affect the Real Estate Industry

woman in red dress playing with child in field

The recent Fed meeting brought about a surprising change in the direction of interest rates. In other meetings, the decision was to maintain the same rates, or even to increase rates just a bit. But in the latest Fed meeting, they decided to drop interest rates. So, what does that mean for the real estate industry?

The Fed Rates and Mortgage Rates Aren’t Correlated

Keep in mind that the Fed interest rate changes don’t have a direct correlation on mortgage interest rates. For example, when the Fed drops rates by .25% (which they did in the last meeting), it doesn’t mean that mortgage rates automatically drop by .25% as well.

That being said, the Fed rates announcement is big economic news, which means that the decision after each meeting will affect the economy. In turn, these economic changes have an impact on mortgage rate trends. The market is beginning to slow down just a bit, which is having a positive impact on mortgage options. We’re seeing a reversal in interest rates, and as these rates go down, real estate buying power goes up.

How Lower Interest Rates Affect Mortgage Approval and Payments

When you talk to a lender for pre-approval to buy a home, the numbers will be calculated to figure out your maximum purchase price and mortgage payment. This payment threshold stays the same, which means that a lower interest rate gives you the option to buy a bigger home.

For example, if interest rates drop by 1%, then that decrease gives you 10% higher buying power in terms of the purchase price of your home. Your monthly payment will still be about the same, but you will be paying less interest – which frees up more cash that goes to the principle of the home. As a result, you can afford to buy at a higher price-point. Or, you have the option to choose a home in the lower purchase price, helping to decrease your monthly payments.

Good News for the Real Estate Market

When mortgage rates go down, it’s good news for the real estate market. These lower interest rates make it possible for more people to buy homes. At the same time, the stronger buying power can have a positive impact to help sellers maximize the selling price. These lower interest rates are great to stimulate the real estate industry and option up options if you are thinking about buying or selling a home.

If you are looking for real estate services in Atlanta, then DUFFY Realty is here to assist. We’d love to show you the benefits that come from choosing the best real estate team in the area. Contact us any time to learn more about the top-notch, low-cost real estate services that are available for your family: (678) 318-1700

Benefits of Hiring a Real Estate Team Instead of a Solo Agent

working at duffy

For most families, buying a home is the biggest financial investment that will be made for the future. Are you protecting your investment by hiring the right real estate services when it is time to buy or sell a home? It’s a good time to compare your options by determining whether you should be working with a real estate team or a solo agent.

Benefits of a Real Estate Team

Here are some of the benefits that you can expect when you choose to work with a real estate team instead of a single agent:

  • Customer Service: More people on the team means that you will always have support and help in the moment you need it the most. You don’t need to worry about the disruption of services if your agent goes out of town. A real estate team can offer team members who specialize in paperwork, listings, home showings, and more. The combined skills are great to up-level the customer service experience that is available for your family.
  • Same Price: Just because you are tapping into a team of experts, doesn’t mean that your expenses go up. In fact, it is common for team real estate services to be cheaper compared to the cost of hiring a single agent. Since the job duties are specialized and shared, the team is more effective at moving through the transactions quickly and efficiently. The reduced time requirements mean that there is more money that can be passed back to the customer in the form of commission discounts.
  • Better Results: A full real estate team will have more connections than a single real estate agent. If you are looking for a specific home or you need help finding the right buyer, then you can benefit by having multiple people working on the project at the same time.
  • Attention to Detail: A solo real estate agent can have their attention pulled in many directions at the same time because they are carrying all of the responsibility of working with several clients without support. As a result, small details or tasks might fall through the cracks because the agent is spread thin, with multiple deals happening simultaneously. On the other hand, a team has proven systems in place and can work on multiple deals without sacrificing attention to detail.

Are you looking for the best real estate team in Atlanta? We invite you to have a conversation with us at DUFFY Realty. We’ve been serving the local community for many years, offering innovative solutions and excellent results. We are proud of our excellent reputation and want to show you that buying or selling a home can be easy when you are working with the right real estate team. Call to learn more about our low-cost, top-notch real estate services that are available: (678) 318-1700

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

hybrid low commission

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

Rhonda Duffy, Discount Real Estate Broker

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

search for east atlanta homes

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

listing agents in atlanta duffy realty

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