Real Estate

Increasing Your Home’s Curb Appeal

exterior-2046781_960_720We all know first impressions matter.  The first impression your home gives when a potential buyer pulls up outside is known as curb appeal.  You want the first impression to be warm and welcoming.

How can you improve the curb appeal of your home?  Here are a few ideas to help you get started-

Begin by cleaning

  1. Pressure wash the driveway, front entryway and sidewalk
  2. Clean the front windows
  3. Clean the front door

Update your greenery

  1. Remove any fallen leaves
  2. Replace any plants that have died over the winter
  3. Trim the shrubs and trees

Add a pop of color- 

  1. Paint the front door a bright and cheery color
  2. Add colorful plants or flowers either in free standing pots or as part of the shrubbery
  3. Add colorful pillows to the chairs on your front porch


  1. Upgrade the door knob and lock
  2. Replace the porch light with a more contemporary set
  3. Replace old tired house numbers with a shiny new set

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to get started.  Now it’s time for me to plant new shrubs in my own flowerbed.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.





Real Estate

How to get your home ready for a showing in record time


Your Realtor® just called, there is a buyer nearby who would like to see your home within the hour.  Will your home be ready to show at the last minute?

Every seller who lives in their home while it’s listed for sale loves the luxury of a 24-hour notice before showings.  But in today’s fast paced real estate world that is not always possible.

Here’s how to get your home show ready in record time-

Start at the back of the house and move toward the door you are going to leave through.

Bedrooms– pick up clutter on the floor, if you don’t have time to put away all of the children’s toys place the items in the hamper and cover with clothes.  Quickly make the bed if you didn’t do so this morning.  Open the window shades and turn on the lights.

Bathrooms– Make sure the toilet is flushed and the lid is down.  Quickly wipe the counter, sink, faucet and mirror.  Empty the trash and close the shower curtain.  Turn on the lights.

Living area– Quickly pick up any clutter.  Boxes on tables tops and baskets on the floor make great places to store television remotes, children’s toys, magazines and more.  Place a folded blanket on top of the basket to cover items quickly stored inside if needed.  Plump and straighten your sofa cushions and throw pillows.  Open the blinds and turn on the lights.

Kitchen– Place any dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  Wipe down all counter tops, stove top, and appliances.  Do a quick sweep if needed.  Turn on the lights.

Final items– Make sure all lights are on and take out the trash as you, the family and your pets leave for the showing.

I hope these tips help you, and remember if you make your bed and straightening up daily, your house can easily be show ready within an hour (or even less).

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

Purchasing a New Construction Home

blueprint-964630_960_720Are you ready to purchase a home and considering new construction?  It seems like an easy process where you can customize the features and finishes to get your dream home, but there is risk involved when it comes to new construction if you go in blindly.  It’s smart to have a Realtor represent you during the purchase to look out for your best interests, and best of all it doesn’t cost you anything.

The agent at the model center represents the builder, not you  It seems easy enough to pop into a model home and have the agent on site write up a contract for you, but remember they are there to represent the builder and the builders best interests. Your Realtor represents you.

Selecting the right lot in the right neighborhood  In the excitement of the buying process sometimes we tend to overlook important features like lot placement and view.  Your Realtor will help you find the right neighborhood for your lifestyle and the lot location that works best for you.  Selecting the wrong lot can cost you money in the future when you sell.

Upgrades and plan modifications  Your Realtor should help you select the upgrades and modifications that will best suit your lifestyle and help your future resale value.

Negotiations Your agent will negotiate the terms of the contract on your behalf.  They will work to get the maximum amount builder incentives and builder paid closing costs for you.  They will run market analysis on the home to ensure you are not overpaying.

Handling contracts and paperwork  Your Realtor knows contracts and will make sure there are no errors in yours and no unforeseen penalties that could occur.

If you have questions about a new construction home in the Tampa Bay area please reach out to me, I’d be happy to help.

Kelly Harden, Realtor

Mihara & Associates, Inc.




Real Estate

What does your monthly mortgage payment include?


Your monthly mortgage payment is more than just your loan amount.  There are several charges that are grouped together and paid as a single payment monthly.

Your mortgage lender should review all of these fees and payments when you apply for a mortgage.

Here is a general breakdown of what is included in your monthly mortgage payment:

  • Principle:  The portion paying down the original amount of the loan
  • Interest:  The charge in dollars for the use of the money (loan)
  • Taxes:  These vary by county and state.  Your tax assessor determines your property taxes annually and this amount is divided into a monthly figure.  This amount is then held in an escrow account by your lender and paid once a year when the bill is due
  • Home Owners Insurance:  This policy protects you from loss of your home.  Your insurance company typically bills annually, your lender will then divide this amount into monthly payments that are held in an escrow account and paid once a year when the bill is due
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI):  Typically, if you paid less than 20% down payment your lender will charge mortgage insurance.
  • Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP):  FHA loans will have this insurance due to the borrower using less money toward their down payment

Your lender should review all of this information with you when you apply for a mortgage, but if I can help answer any of your questions please reach out to me.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.



Looking to update your kitchen?

Have you considered painting your cabinets to update your kitchen?  I have a client who is thinking about painting her dark wood kitchen cabinets.  She is thinking about white paint on the cabinets and grey on the kitchen island.

Painted cabinets are a hot look right now and it’s less expensive than replacing all of the cabinets.

This article from Houzz gives you step by step instructions if you decide to tackle the job yourself or simply want to learn more about it before hiring a professional to do the work.



Real Estate

Costly mistakes to avoid when selling your home

mistake-1966448_960_720Avoiding these common mistakes when selling your home can save you thousands.

  1.  Not hiring a professional to sell your home.   A professional Realtor® knows the market trends, home prices in your neighborhood, how to negotiate, and how to get you to the closing table.
  2.  Mispricing the home.  A home that is overpriced based upon comparable area sales will linger on the market for a longer period of time with no offers.  Underpricing a home can cost you thousands.
  3. Using poor quality photos.  Buyers search on the internet first; high quality photographs are a must.  Select a Realtor® who uses professional photographs.
  4.  Not disclosing past or current problems.  A home inspection will discover the roof leak you had so be sure to disclose it ahead of time.  You don’t want to have a lawsuit after the sale because you failed to disclose a past problem.
  5. Listing the home for sale before it is ready.  Take the time to repair any damaged items, replace burnt out light bulbs and ensure the lock on the front door works properly.  Skipping small maintenance items can give buyers the impression the home has not been properly cared for.  Larger items that need to be repaired will show up on the home inspection and will either need to be replaced anyway or the buyers could ask for financial compensation to repair it themselves.  It could even cause the buyer to cancel the sale during the inspection period.
  6. Not prepping the interior.  Take the time to declutter each room, closets and cabinets.  Hire a professional stager if the home is empty to help buyers see how the rooms can be used.
  7.   Poor planning.   Do you know what your next step will be after the sale is complete?  What will you do if the house sells quickly or takes longer than expected?

Your agent should be able to help you avoid these costly mistakes when selling your home.  If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I’d be honored to help you sell your home and I have a list of great referral partners who can sell your home if you don’t.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.



Driverless cars??


Self-driving cars are expected to be the wave of the future.  According to a recent Florida Realtor® news article, currently there are about 7,000 self-driving cars on the roads today and within 20 years we should have 4.5 million.  Yes, that’s million with an “M”.

If this prediction comes true it could impact where you live in the future.  People used to judge their commute between home and office by how many miles away they were.  Now more and more people are asking how many minutes away from home is their office located.  If the number of self-driving cars predicted to hit the roads in the future is accurate, will people buy houses further from their work because their commute time no longer will be wasted time?

We will no longer have to sit behind the wheel and use our commuting time for focused driving.

Commute time could be spent eating, preparing for a meeting, reading, texting, shaving, applying make-up, napping and more.

Driverless cars could eliminate speeding tickets, drunk driving, eating while driving and all types of distracted driving.

You wouldn’t have to worry about taking the keys away from Grandma as she ages, she’ll no longer have to drive herself go anywhere.

It’s a very interesting concept and could change the way we live our lives.  Do you think we will see 4.5 million self-driving cars on the road within the next 20 years?  And if so, how do you see self-driving cars impacting your life?

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

I want to buy a home, how do I begin?


When you are ready to purchase your next home, whether it is your 1st home or your 5th the beginning is the same.

First, we will schedule a time to talk face to face.  I’ll have a series of questions to ask so that I can understand your goals so we can find the perfect home for you.

Examples include questions such as-

  • Do you want a house, a townhome, or condo?
  • Where would you like to be located?
  • How soon do you want to make your move?
  • Where do you live now?  Do you have to sell your current home or do you rent?
  • How large of a home would you like?
  • What must you have in your new home?
  • What would you like to have but can live without?
  •  Will you be applying for a mortgage?

These are just a few of the questions I’ll ask.  This meeting also give you the opportunity to ask me any questions you have.

Typically, our initial meeting lasts between 30-60 minutes.

Next, if you will be applying for a mortgage you will speak to a lender to get pre-approved for the loan.

I know what you are thinking- “Why do I need to get pre-approved before I find a home I like” 

We want to know what your price range is.  The lender is going to tell you how much home you can afford and what the monthly payments are expected to be.  You may qualify for an expensive home but want to buy something a little less expensive because the payment will be better on your budget.  We want to shop in your comfort zone.

Plus, when we find the perfect home we will need to act fast.  We’ll write up your offer and send your pre-approval letter to the sellers.  This shows them you are serious about your purchase and can move forward.  In today’s market sellers require either a pre-approval letter or proof of funds before they go under contract.  I would hate for you to miss out on the home of your choice because you were not prepared and someone else was.

Once we’ve outlined your criteria and you’ve gotten pre-approved the fun part begins- we start shopping!!!  I’ll send homes to you directly from the MLS that meet your criteria and you’ll probably search online too (everybody does, lol).  Once we find a few that you like we’ll start visiting them in person.

I’ll tell you more about what happens once we find your dream house in future blogs.  You can always reach out to me with any specific questions you may have or when you are ready for us to begin your home search.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.






Real Estate

Closing Expenses during a typical Florida Real Estate Closing

contract-2779509_960_720Typically the same expenses arise during Real Estate transactions.  Like anything, these expenses can be negotiated but typically this is who pays each fee during a residential transaction.

Sellers Expenses

  • Title Search– The title company researches public records to ensure the title is free of any liens or claims and the seller is the property owner
  • Closing Fee– A fee cover administrative costs
  • Owners Title Insurance Policy- Insures the new owner will have a clear title
  • Real Estate Sales Commission- Fees paid to buyer’s agent and seller’s agent for real estate services rendered
  • Payoff of Existing Mortgages
  • Home Warranty (if offered by seller to buyer)
  • Home Owners Estoppel Fees– HOA payoff statement
  • Home Owners Association Dues– Any amount the seller may owe prorated for the seller’s time of ownership
  • Property Taxes- Amount of taxes the seller is responsible for, prorated to closing day
  • Doc Stamps- Charges by local government to record transfer of property for public record

Buyer Expenses

  • Lender Title Policy- The buyer’s lender requires this policy to protect their investment
  • Endorsement Charges– Most lenders require this additional insurance coverage as a condition of the loan
  • Survey
  • Termite Inspection 
  • Home Inspection
  • Home Insurance and Flood Insurance– when applicable
  • Recording Fees– Charges by local government to record the transfer of property and make it public record
  • Doc Stamps– Taxes on the mortgage
  • Intangible Tax- Taxes on the mortgage

Keep in mind these are typical fees, each transaction may have different fees or a different party may pay for them.  Your sales contract and title company will have the most acurate information for you during your transaction.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc


Real Estate

Preparing your home for sale


Everyone wants to sell their home quickly and get the highest price possible.  Taking the time to prepare your home before listing it for sale can help make that happen.

Picture your home in the eyes of the buyer.  Really take the time to look at everything up close and personal.  We tend to overlook the little things when we see them everyday.

Start from the outside of your home.  Does the landscaping need to be refreshed?  When was the last time the trees and shrubs were trimmed?  Are there dead or dying plants that need to be removed or replaced?  Do you need to add a little color with seasonal plants?  Replace the mulch, paint the mailbox and powerwash the walkway if needed.

Now walk to the front door.  Is the entryway clean and inviting?

Once inside it’s time to de-clutter every room.  The general rule of thumb is anything larger than a football should be packed up.  Remove any personal photographs.  The idea is the buyers should be able to envision living in the home with their belongings and photos.

Be ruthless when de-cluttering, especially in the closets and cabinets.  You want to highlight as much storage as your home has.  Don’t worry about having to pack up the holiday dishes and things you only use once a year.  You are planning on moving, you are going to have to pack them up eventually so why not take care of that now.

Thoroughly deep clean your home, scrubbing all the corners, cleaning the vents and all those areas you never even think about.   You want to make sure it shines!

Repair any minor items that have been on your “honey do” list that you keep putting off.  Refresh the paint where needed.

Details matter.  Believe it or not, your home is about to enter a beauty contest with all the other homes for sale in the area and we want your home to win the crown (or get sold!).

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.