Top 5 Local 2018 Summer Festivals

Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, and the surrounding areas are rich in culture and heritage. Now that it’s summer, that means our culture and heritage takes center stage in local events and festivals. There’s plenty to do in this neck of the woods, but here are our top 5 local festivals and events to check out this summer.

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5. Sunny Slope Farm is your oyster
If you’ve never been to Sunny Slope Farm, it’s definitely a treat. Sunny Slope Farm serves as a elegant venue for weddings, reunions, and on August 5th, the Wine and Oyster Festival. You’ll get to enjoy wine and oysters while marveling at the beautiful view of Harrisonburg that Sunny Slope has to offer. There will also be artisan booths and live music to enjoy as well, so get your tickets now on the Sunny Slope Farm website at https://onsunnyslopefarm.com/.

4. This could be your jam
Dogs are man’s best friend, so who wouldn’t enjoy a festival where all the proceeds go to finding them all a home? If you’re interested, then mark your calendars for July 3rd when the local SPCA throws its Summer Jam at Massanutten Resort. There will be live music, food vendors, a fireworks display, and even a beer and wine garden. With the inclusion of a kid’s corner, the event is great for any family. If you don’t have Fourth of July plans, consider checking out the SPCA Summer Jam at https://www.rhspca.org/events.html.

3. All the musics
If you’re a music lover, then the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival is the festival for you. The festival has concerts every weekend starting July 20th and lasting until September 2nd. Music ranges anywhere from orchestral pieces, to hip hop, to bluegrass, so there’s something for everyone to listen to. Situated at an outdoor venue in Orkney Springs, it’s only about a 45-minute drive from Harrisonburg. Peek at their scheduled concerts on their website, http://musicfest.org/.

2. Cool people, cool cultures
This festival might not exactly fit on the summer list since it takes place on the last Saturday of September, but this event is too good not to include. The International Festival has been attracting more people each year to celebrate the many diverse cultures present here in Harrisonburg. This year, the International festival is growing from its usual venue at Hillendale Park to downtown Harrisonburg now expecting thousands of people. There will be food, art, and vendors, but unlike the other festivals on this list, this one is entirely free. Learn more at http://harrisonburg-international-festival.org/festival-info/.

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1. To be fair…
Nothing feels quite as American or even nostalgic as the county fair. It’s a huge part of American culture, and here, locals can enjoy the Rockingham County Fair from August 13th-18th. There will be classic carnival games as well as carnival rides throughout the whole week. There’s plenty to get into with live music, tractor pulls, and even a performance from Larry the Cable Guy on the 15th. Check out their website, https://www.rockinghamcountyfair.com/.

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So that concludes our top 5 local festivals this summer. Despite these 5 chosen festivals, there’s still so much more going on if even these don’t tickle your fancy. Otherwise, start getting tickets for these 5 festivals as many of them have early-bird specials to take advantage of. With the wide variety of events in the area, there’s no reason not to get involved and enjoy the summer with those in your community. Whether that includes wine tasting, live concerts, or carnival rides, make this summer enjoyable for you and the whole family.

Budgeting for a Home Purchase

I know… my title is not sexy or attention catching, but it is IMPORTANT!

A few weeks ago a past client reached out to me about doing a seminar on homeownership. We took it a step further (because we are both overachievers) and decided to do a 4-week live Facebook series. Our first one was about budgeting to purchase a home (watch it here), and it was chocked-full of great info. I decided that I would share the info in written format for anyone that wants to have a “checklist!” (Or am I the only one who geeks-out on checklists?!?!)

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Purchasing a home is scary! It is a huge and responsibility, but if you are paying rent anyway, you really should consider putting that monthly rent toward your own mortgage to help build your future wealth! If you’re like many of my past buyers you are already on a budget and trying to make the most out of every paycheck… so, what do you need to know about budgeting for a home purchase? Here are five points to keep in mind.

1. Be aware of your current credit score/rating, and know how to build and/or maintain it.

Building credit is important. Sometimes no credit is just as bad as ‘bad’ credit. You don’t start life with a credit rating – you must work hard for it. But, how? When you need credit to be able to borrow money, but you can’t borrow because you have no credit… seems like a vicious cycle. You can build credit by obtaining a credit card, using it, and paying it off monthly. You can build credit by obtaining a secured credit card from your bank, if they offer it. A secured credit card is tied to an account you have at the bank, and they won’t allow you to spend more than what is in that account. You can build credit by obtaining a small loan, such as a car loan, which you may have to have a co-signor for. So, even though grand-pappy may advise to keep all your cash hidden under your mattress and to pay everything in cash, just know that is not going to help you build credit, and you will need a credit score to borrow money for a house.

Once you have built credit, it is imperative that you maintain it. The best way to maintain your credit is to pay your bills on time and keep balances on credit cards low or paid-off monthly.

2. Save Money

This may sound like a given… “duh, I know I need to save!” But many people just don’t know how to save or what to do with the money that they do save. A bonus is that lenders like to see that you are able to save! And, I suggest that you have at least one savings account (more if you like to create ‘buckets’ of savings: for example, a vacation bucket, a house purchase bucket, an education for the kids bucket, or a in-case-of-emergency bucket… the possibilities are endless!) Here are a few practical things that you can do to save.

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“Practice” paying your mortgage. Wha? Yes. Figure out how much your monthly mortgage payment will be when you purchase (more on how to find this out a little further down the page!) Once you know how much it is, put the difference between what you are paying now (likely in rent) and place it in a special savings account. I suggest an account that you plan to use to accrue a down payment or funds you will need for closing costs or home repairs! For example, your rent payment is $800/month and your mortgage payment is going to be $1,200/month. This gives you $400/month to save. This will help two-fold in that you will know that you can maintain a higher payment than you are used to as well as build up a savings! Win-win! Look at you adulting like a real adult!!

Another pretty basic way of savings is just having a specific amount or percentage of every paycheck go directly into your savings account. You may be able to work this out with your employer if they do direct deposit, or you may have to manually do it yourself. Either way, it is an easy way to begin saving.

This one’s gonna sting, so hold on tight… cut something out of your current budget that isn’t a necessity. (Clarification: This does not include your electric bill, credit card payment, or student loans!) I’m talking about cutting something like your daily Starbucks coffee… you know the $5 specialty drink with “macchiato” in the title and whip on top!! Just as an example, say you stop purchasing a $5 beverage every weekday for one whole year… you will have saved up to $1,300 per year… that’s HUGE! You can start finding ways to cut other things, too… dinner at home vs. eating out, refilling a water bottle instead of buying a new bottle of water every time you want a drink, packing your lunch, skipping the dollar section at Target (I didn’t say it would be easy… but you won’t regret it.) There are a ton of small ways that add up to BIG savings!

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3. Reduce Current Debt

There is a term that lenders use called “Debt-to-Income Ratio” which is important when getting a mortgage. The lender is going to make sure that your debt is not so significant that you won’t be able to take on more debt by way of a mortgage payment. So, it may be important to pay off some of your current debt such as a your car loan, credit cards, etc. Talk to your lender to make sure that your debt load isn’t too high for your income level, and see what debts should be paid off first.

4. Educate Yourself

This is my favorite, because when you educate yourself on purchasing a home (or anything for that matter), you become empowered, and you can make good purchasing decisions. Discuss with your lender how much your qualify for (this means the total purchase price that they will lend you), and then start breaking it down to monthly payments. In many cases, I have had buyers that qualify for much more than what they actually feel comfortable affording from a monthly payment standpoint. If you know that your current lifestyle will only allow you to purchase a home for $1,200/month, don’t purchase a home with payments at $2,000/month just because the lender will approve you for that much. (A note from the author: Please use your noggin… I don’t want to see your home on the foreclosure list because you weren’t smart about your personal finances from the beginning.)

5. Know the Costs of Purchasing a Home

There are some typical costs to consider before purchasing a home… here is a breakdown of those costs in our local (Harrisonburg, VA) market.

Earnest Money Deposit: $500+ (your agent will help you decide what is a practical amount, and should be enough for the seller to take you seriously.)

Inspection(s): $250+ (this one can be tricky because it depends on what type of inspections you want, or need, to obtain before purchasing. It includes as a minimum a home purchaser’s inspection, but can include other inspections too, such as radon testing, chimney/flue inspection, Engineer’s structural report, special water tests, special septic inspections, survey, etc.)

Appraisal: $400+ (required by the lender)

Down Payment: 0% – 3.5% of the purchase price (or more, depending on your loan type.)

Closing Costs: Typically 3% of the purchase price.

Moving Costs – Variable

Home Upgrades (painting, new flooring, etc.) – Variable

Moral of this story is that you should know how to budget, save, and ask questions about what to expect when you purchase a home. There are many knowledgeable professionals to reach out to. Ask questions, and if you still don’t understand ask for clarification. Your money & the money you are spending on a home is important, and you should feel confident in the decisions you are making. Home ownership is a life-changing pursuit that can be incredibly rewarding!

In a World of Confusion… Let’s Make One Thing Clear!

The world is a confusing place to be. Schools teach our children common core math. “Affordable” Care Act seems to have tripled my health insurance costs. Donald Trump is POTUS. The Kardashians are famous for being Kardashians. Kaepernick was named GQ’s Citizen of the Year. What tha wha?!??!!! I can see why everyone is so confused.ice cube confused.gif

I am here to help clear up one of life’s most confusing things: Property values. Or, at least the terminology that we use to describe the different types of values we place on real estate property.

You are probably saying, “Renee, that’s not confusing. The value of my house should be cut and dry.” Well…. not exactly.

You see, there are several different types of values, and, quite frankly, they all have a level of subjectivity, and the end-value sorta-kinda depends on the use. We are going to briefly discern the three main types of real estate property values and where they are best used. All of these values have a very specific role.

Appraised Value: An appraised value is determined by a Certified General Appraiser. This is a licensed entity that has hours, upon hours, upon hours of education in deciphering market trends. Appraisers use their knowledge of market trends along with comparing recently sold homes that are comparable across a number of given criteria (aka: similar.) An appraisal report is typically several pages long, and can around 8+/- hours to complete, and normally includes an interior inspection and measurements. An appraised value is a “snapshot” of the property value at a given date, and is subject to change if the property or market conditions fluctuate.

Appraisals are a great resource to assist in determining the listing or sales price of a home. Lenders, banks, and mortgage companies use appraisal values to determine the amount that a borrower can leverage.

Assessed Value: An assessed value is set by your local municipalities tax assessors office. The assessed value is used to determine how much a property owner will pay in property taxes. These values are based on the size of the property and the exterior appearance. Re-assessments are done locally every four years, and are based loosely on current and perceived future market conditions.

Assessed values should be used to figure the amount a property owner will pay in taxes per year, but it isn’t the most accurate property value tool.

Market Analysis Value: A Competitive (or Comparative) Market Analysis, is used by real estate agents in assisting a property owner in determining a most likely sales price. This value is usually a tight range which is bracketed with a “quick sale” and a “I-don’t-mind-being-on-the-market-for-six-months” value. This value should most closely match the appraisal value since it is likely that both an agent and appraiser will (should) be using similar properties for comparisons.

A good real estate agent will look closely at similar properties that have sold most recently (6 months prior is best!) and make broad value adjustments based on differences between the sold property and the one they are valuing. This value is best used to determine a list price for a home.

The VALUE of a property boils down to how much will someone actually pay for it (and technically how much a lender will loan)? You can have an appraisal, assessment, and a market analysis for $1million dollars, but if no one will pay that, the question remains, “Is it really worth it?!” On the flip side, you may have someone who is willing to pay $1million dollars, but if they don’t have the cash to back it up, and the value can’t be supported by an appraisal for the bank to loan the money, the question remains, “Is it really worth it?!”

I invite you to call/email/text me… or find me on social media… if you want help valuing your home. I take a fairly detailed approach to finding the value that will help you gain the end result that you are looking for: selling quickly for as much as we can support!

Be Prepared for Loan Application

Hey, you! Yeah… you, scrolling through Zillow. I know that you just started thinking about buying a house, but you really should be prepared for when you find “The One!” I mentioned in this FB live video that the #1 thing that you need to do when buying a home is to get PRE-APPROVED (or at the very least pre-qualified.)

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Why is it important to get pre-approved, you might ask? Considering that our current, local real estate market is a seller’s market (in most price ranges and areas), you need to be pre-approved so that the seller of the home you want to purchase will take your offer seriously. And, on the occasion that you may be up against other buyers, you will want to show the seller that you have already done your homework to ensure that you can afford the property that you are looking at. Most sellers, regardless of the market leanings, will require you to show them a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter before they consider your offer terms. So… just get this part out of the way so that you don’t miss out on a home you love!

You may be asking yourself, “What do I need when I talk to my lender?” Well, you are in luck, one of my trusted loan advisers gave me her list of “Documents You Need for Loan Application,” and I am here to share that list with you!

  1. Last 2 years of Tax Returns and W-2’s.
  2. Last FULL month of pay stubs.
  3. Last 2 months of bank statements (full copies will be needed for application, including any blank pages.)
  4. Copy of your ID.

Obviously, this list may vary depending on your personal situation. If you are self-employed, collecting social security, or have multiple streams of income, you will have different documentation requirements. If you have a property that you must sell, you will need a copy of your contract for that sale.

In summary, call your lender, get pre-approved. Then, you’ll be ready to find that perfect home!! Happy house-hunting!

La Morena: Authentic Mexican Food

Is your idea of “Mexican” food going to Taco Bell? Then this post is not for you… or maybe it is! Let’s take a little trip together. I hope your taste-buds are ready!

Those of you who know me, know that I LOVE finding small, out-of-the-way little places to eat. I’d love to follow around Guy Fieri for a day, just to find the best little dives! The takeaway is to never judge a book by it’s cover. The best places to nosh are usually very unsuspecting!

 

Enter, La Morena! Half convenience store, half restaurant. It is located at 751 Chicago Avenue in Harrisonburg, VA (next to Red Front Super Market – my favorite, locally-owned, small-town grocer!!)

The parking lot is always full. Always. To me that’s a great sign of something good going on! Inside, it’s a little chaotic, but I feel that is part of the experience. You order & pay for your eats at the counter, and the friendly staff will bring it to your table when it’s ready. I highly suggest trying their aguas frescas. Super refreshing. There are always about 4 or 5 different flavors to choose from, and you can mix & match for a custom drink! Yum!

They offer sopes, tortas, tacos, pupusas, gorditos, burritos – the usual suspects. All with your choice of meat or cheese filling. Looking around, I had food FOMO of all the yummy looking plates at the tables around me. They have their full menu available to look at on Facebook @751lamorena. I know that I will be back to try a different selection again soon!

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What is your favorite unsuspecting place to eat?

The Long Way Home (the steps to buying a home.)

You’ve decided to purchase a home. Now what happens? Many think you look online, find a home, go look at it, get a loan, and you just buy it. Home buying is a lot different than buying any other consumer goods. You don’t just pick out a size 10, pay with your VISA, and have it shipped to you in 2 days via Amazon Prime… nope, it just doesn’t work that way.

I am going to break down the process for you. Know that this can get a little out of order at times, and at any one step things can tend to get a little “upside down,” but that is where your REALTOR® will be a tremendous asset. Here is what the “typical” process will resemble. *For the record, I have been selling real estate for over 13 years, and I don’t know that I have ever encountered a “typical” transaction… they ALL have their quirks!!

  • Thought: “I think I would like to buy a home.”
  • Search online… just to see what’s out there.
  • Begin talking to friends and family. Actually saying it out loud will solidify the idea for most!
  • Contact a REALTOR®. Your REALTOR® will help you figure out that the next step is to contact a bank or lender. They will also make recommendations for reputable ones to contact locally.
  • Contact a loan officer to prequalify or get preapproved for a loan.
  • Discuss not only the amount you qualify for, but also the amount that keeps the monthly payments at a point that you are comfortable with. (These amounts may not be the same, so be sure to cover BOTH avenues with your lender.)
  • Meet with your REALTOR®. Your agent will discuss with you the importance of having them “on your team” as your representation. They will also help you to learn about the process, and help you navigate the steps from here on out! They may ask you to sign an agreement at this time that states that they will represent you/work in your best interest, and you will work solely with them. (Don’t be alarmed by this – it just means that they respect your professional relationship with them, and want to put it in writing.)
  • Define your home searching criteria & decide what is most important to you. This list may be fluid and change as you look at homes and see what is within your budget, area, etc.
  • Look at homes with your REALTOR®. This may be one home. This may be 20 homes. There is no right or wrong number of homes to look at. Note: If you have looked at 50+ homes and are not finding “the one”… you may want to take a moment to look at your criteria to see if there is something that you can “tweak.”
  • During each home visit you will be looking at numerous things with your REALTOR®, and deciding if further research is needed to make a buying decision on that particular home.
  • Find “The One.” It’s the holy grail! Depending on the market you are in, you may need to act quickly to move on to the next steps. Your REALTOR® will help you in knowing when you need to pull the trigger quickly, and when you have a little time to spare.
  • Research the property depending on what is most important to you. You may want to check on the average utility costs, see if there is a HOA fee, read the covenants & restrictions, verify taxes, check insurance costs, among any number of other things.
  • Your REALTOR® will help you to determine the best offer terms. This will include the price you offer as well as a closing time frame, whether to ask for closing cost assistance, inspections, and any other needed contingencies.
  • Formally make an offer to the seller. It is always best to have your REALTOR® to present your offer in writing. This will require that you sign the offer documents. It is recommended that if you do not understand the documents that you consult an attorney before signing. If this is your first offer/contract to purchase you will want to ask your agent to meet you in person to go over the paperwork. It will ensure that you know what you are agreeing to. If your offer is accepted by the seller it is a legally-binding contract!
  • With the guidance of your REALTOR®, you may have to negotiate the terms with the seller with counter-offers. There may be some back & forth on the terms of the contract. Be patient, and know what your personal limits are. There is no contingency for getting cold-feet!
  • Once everyone has agreed to the terms in writing you are formally UNDER CONTRACT, and moving on the the next phase of the process!!
  • Make formal loan application with your lender. You will need to contact your lender to apply for your loan, and provide them with a copy of your contract (your agent will likely email it directly to them.) The lender will ask for a boat load of financial information. I’ll outline what is needed for loan application in a different blog post in the future… so be on the lookout!
  • Pay lender for the appraisal. The lender will order the appraisal, and the appraiser will contact one of the real estate agents to get into the home.
  • Confirm who you will be using for the title work & closing. Your lender and/or REALTOR® will send the contract and transaction information to the closing agent for them to begin the title exam work.
  • Schedule your inspections (ie: home inspection).
  • Attend the home inspection, if you can. It’s not required that you be there, but it is a good idea so that when you are looking over the inspection report, you know what is being referenced. The inspector will also show you different aspects of the house that are good to know (where filters need to be changed, where shut-offs are located, etc.)
  • Review the Inspection Reports.
  • Determine if there are items that you would like to request the seller to repair. Your REALTOR® can help to make recommendations on how to approach the repairs request.
  • It is likely that you will negotiate the repairs request with the seller, so expect for their to be some more back-and-forth at this stage.
  • Your lender will be reaching out to you throughout the approval process for information and to verify info that you have given them.
  • When the lender has a “clear to close,” which means the loan is approved, they will send you a closing disclosure that you need to review and sign.
  • The title agent will contact you to schedule the closing date & time.
  • Your REALTOR® will contact you to schedule a time to do a final walk through of the property.
  • You will meet your REALTOR® at the home you are purchasing to do a final walk through. At this time you will want to ensure that the home is in the condition that you agreed to purchase it, and that there are no surprises after the seller removed their furnishings. You’ll also take this time to look over the repairs that were completed.
  • Arrive at the closing agent’s office, ready to sign lots of paperwork!
  • Sign closing documents. This will include (but certainly not limited to): Settlement Disclosure with all fees & monies that change hands for this sale, Deed of Trust which encumbers the title with a lien (mortgage), Note, acceptance or waiver of Title Insurance, Loan Application Form, and a few other items. (You may see a future blog post about what to expect at closing, which will include a detailed list of the typical paperwork!)
  • Exchange any info with the seller that you may need. If the seller is present at the closing, you will have an opportunity to ask them questions about anything that came up during the walk through. They may also offer some advice or information about the home and neighborhood.
  • Get the KEYS!!!
  • Move In!!!

Shew… are you tired just thinking about all of that? Don’t be overwhelmed by all that needs to get done during the transaction. You have plenty of time to get it all done, and your REALTOR®, lender, and title agent are all there to guide you through the process (and remind you of what is next on the agenda!!) Never feel hesitant to ask where you are in the process or what is next. Most, if not all, service providers want to make sure that your home-buying experience is the best it can be. Purchasing a home is stressful enough, you should have a team of professionals that are excited about helping you achieve your dreams!

Do you have a question about the process or are ready to get started? Let me know how I can help!

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“Buyers Are Liars,” and other misconceptions about working with home purchasers.

As I sat in an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) class today, I heard the phrase, “buyers are liars” escape from the instructors mouth. I cringed.

I remember when I first started as a real estate agent, this was a common statement thrown around brokerage firms in regards to buyers who purchase a home that is pretty much the exact opposite of what they described to their agent. As my business has matured, my outlook on these type of buyers has evolved as well. I realize that the process of purchasing a home can sometimes help a buyer realize what is actually important to them, and what isn’t.

The “ideal home” vision that some buyers have may need to be gently tweaked throughout the process as they come to see how their budget can be stretched in certain neighborhoods, how looking past the wallpaper and shag carpet can afford them a larger home, or how purchasing a newer home may not require them to spend weekends at the Home Depot with a DIY list of any pinterest-lovers’ dreams! It is my job as a buyer’s agent to help them to find the home that is going to fit their needs, and not condemn them if that ideal fluctuates from their initial view.

Homes are not as simple as “a 3-bedroom, 2-bath ranch on a quarter of an acre lot.” This description of a home can look a lot different to every set of buyers. Aging buyers may see a place to consolidate and “scale down” to a home with all of their living on one level. A family with a new baby may see the ease of having all the bedrooms on the same level for midnight feedings & diaper changes. The important thing that I remind myself as I help buyers navigate this process is that it’s just that… a process, and to the buyer, the home they purchase is where they are going spend a lot of their time making memories.

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Welcome Home!

Oh, hello there, friend! As you can read in my bio, I’m a real estate agent in Harrisonburg, VA! I love “The Friendly City” and am excited to share it & the surrounding Shenandoah Valley with you! My hopes for this blog are to share fun finds in and around the community as well as share some real estate insights. I hope you find the info I share meaningful!

I also invite you to follow me on social media, where I have begun to share live Facebook videos, no matter how awkward they may be! Let’s begin this journey together.Love