Real Estate

Saving for your first home

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Homeownership is the American Dream.  But if you’ve never owned a home before saving up for one can be a little daunting.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Set a goal and a deadline.  Studies show people perform better with a written goal and a deadline.  Be as specific as possible!
  • Pay off credit card debt, auto loans and any personal loans.  This will make it easier to be approved for a mortgage.  It will also help you get a better interest rate, saving you money over the life of the loan.
  • Create a separate savings account for your down payment.  This will keep you from spending the money and should generate excitement as your account grows.
  • Talk to a good lender.  Your lender will help you figure out what monthly payment you can afford realistically AND how much money you will need for a down payment.  For example, did you know you could get a mortgage for as little as 3.5% down payment?
  • Look for creative ways to save money faster.  Are you getting a tax refund?  Put it in your savings.  Did you get a raise?  Put the extra money in your savings.  Can you get a side job?

Owning a home is great way to build wealth over the course of your lifetime.  A new study from Urban Institute found the younger you are when you buy your first home the wealthier you will be at age 60.

Would you prefer to watch this information via YouTube? Click here

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

What not to do when getting a mortgage


Applying for a mortgage can be such a stressful time!

To help ease some of your stress I’ve put together a list of what not to do while waiting for loan approval.

  1. Don’t apply for a new credit card. Taking out a new credit card can negatively affect your credit rating and keep you from being able to buy your new home.
  2. Don’t buy a new car, unless you would rather have a new car instead of your new home wait until after closing to purchase that car.
  3. Don’t furnish your home before closing day! The excitement of buying an empty new home can tempt you to purchase new furniture.  It’s best to wait until after closing
  4. Don’t cosign a loan with a friend or family member. Taking responsibility for their debt will affect your credit score.
  5. Avoid changing jobs. Taking a new job with a higher pay may make it easier to pay the mortgage, but it is best to wait until after you’ve purchased the home to change jobs.
  6. Don’t close any open credit accounts. It seems like a smart idea to close credit cards with a zero balance or transfer money to a credit card with zero interest but it can negatively affect your credit rating.
  7. Don’t move money or accept monetary gifts without having a paper trail. Your lender will need documentation for any unexpected money going into your account.
  8. Don’t get behind in your payments. Make sure you continue to pay your rent, credit cards and car payments on time
  9. Don’t spend your savings. You are going to need cash for your down payment, closing costs and expenses after you move.

When in doubt check with your Realtor or Lender.

And if you’d like to see a video with some of these tips click here

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Design, Real Estate

6 Tips for a Successful Remodel


If you are renovating the home you just purchased or if you are considering updating your existing home, following these tips can help make sure you are pleased with the results of your renovation.

  1. Set the budget.  Be realistic about the cost of the improvements you want to make and be sure to allow a cushion to cover unforeseen expenses that always come up
  2. Don’t over improve the property.  If your renovations turn your home into the nicest home in the neighborhood with a state-of-the-art kitchen and bath you most likely will not get back the cost of the remodel when you sell the home.  Keep this in mind if you want to sell in the next few years.
  3. Be prepared for inconveniences, dust, noise and delays.  Construction projects can be loud and messy.  You won’t be able to use the area that is being remodeled for a period of time.  Which means if you are updating the kitchen be prepared to eat take out for a while.
  4. Do your research ahead of time.  Hire a quality contractor with lots of recommendations.  Check their references.  Insist on a detailed contract and timeline.
  5. Secure valuables before the job starts.  If you don’t want it broke, lost or covered in dust pack it away before construction begins.
  6. Inspect the work carefully before making the final payment.

Following these 6 tips should help ensure a successful renovation!

And if you want to see my video about these tips click here

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Fun, Real Estate

Keep your kitchen from becoming dated

Nothing dates a home as quickly as a kitchen.  It’s also the most expensive room in the house to update.

What can you do to keep your kitchen looking stylish longer?

  1.  Use plenty of white.  White has been a fan favorite in the kitchen for years.  A white kitchen reflects light better than other colors helping the kitchen to always look bright and even feel larger than it really is.
  2. Install Shaker style cabinetry.  Shaker cabinets have plain, simple, clean lines lending a timeless look to the kitchen.
  3. Keep the backsplash simple.  Subway tiles are a good classic choice, but anything simple without too much pattern should do the job.
  4. Use Carrera marble countertops.  This classic surface never goes out of style.
  5. Install hardwood flooring.  Over 80% of buyers list hardwood floors as very important to them when looking for their new home.


Following these tips will help you have a beautiful kitchen that will keep its resale value for years to come.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

What happens during a closing in Florida?


Are you buying or selling a home in the Tampa Bay area and are curious about what happens on closing day?

Typically the actual closing itself takes place at a title agency selected by the seller. The buyer may select the title company of  his choice if he prefers and it is entered into the contract.

Occasionally you will have a remote closing where a notary will bring the paperwork to the buyer or seller.  You can also have a “mail-away” closing where the documents are sent via overnight mail to be signed with a notary if one of the parties does not live locally.

Before Closing

Three days before closing the lender and title company will tell the buyer exactly how much money they need to cover their down payment, closing costs and expenses.  The title company will require the money be wired to them in advance, often the day before or the morning of closing.  This information will only come from the title company and it is extremely important to verify by phone or in person the wiring instructions with the title agency.

Sellers will also notify the title company in advance where to send the proceeds of the sale.  It is extremely important to speak to the title company directly to avoid being the victim of wire fraud.

Day of Closing

Buyers should conduct a “final walk through” of the property they are purchasing either the morning of or the day before closing.  Be sure to verify any requested seller repairs have been completed, all of the sellers things have been removed and the home is in the same condition it was when you went under contract.

Buyers, be prepared to sign a lot of paperwork today!  If you are getting a mortgage you will usually sign those documents first.  Then the title agent will send copies of these to your lender so the lender will release the funds to the title company.  You will also sign another set of paperwork to take ownership of the home.

Once the funding from the bank has been completed and all of the paperwork signed you are handed the keys and are officially a homeowner!  Congratulations!!

Sellers may sign their paperwork the day before or later in the day after the buyers have signed all of their papers.  I have even attended closings where the buyers and sellers are in the same room and sign all of the documents together, although that is not common.

After the buyers and sellers have signed all of the documents and the lender has wired the money to the title agency the proceeds will be wired to the seller.  This is often the next business day.

As a buyer or seller there are two things you must be sure to do

  1. Bring your photo ID to your appointment.  The title agent will need to verify your identity
  2. Confirm any wiring instructions with the title agency in person or by phone before sending any funds.  Wiring information should only come from the title company

Your closing may be slightly different from the typical closing that is outlined here.  Your real estate agent and title agent should keep you informed of what the next steps are during your transaction.

This video may be more fun to watch

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc


Real Estate

How to prepare for your home inspection

49090672_2184850881575790_1489716858385858560_nOnce your home has gone under contract, the buyer will hire a licensed home inspector to view the home and inspect it for any health and safety items that need to be repaired before closing.  They will also look at the general condition of the home and provide a detailed report for the buyer.

As a seller, what can you do to prepare for the home inspection to ensure a smooth transaction?

If the home is unoccupied, be sure the utilities are on and the pilot lights are lit.

Verify the following items work properly

  • Electrical light sockets, light fixtures and ceiling fans work
  • Safety- Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors operate
  • Water- faucets and toilets run properly with no leaks
  • Entrances- Doors and windows open and close and the hardware works

Clean the stove top and oven so they will not smoke and set off the smoke detectors during the inspection.  The inspector should turn on all of the appliances included in the sale to ensure they are working properly.

Clear obstructions and debris around air conditioner, water heater and attic access so the inspector can get to all of these items.

Leave keys for any outbuildings.

Make sure the location of the septic tank and well are noted if applicable.

Gather any documentation for repairs that have been made or renovations done to the property.  The inspector may need these items and the appraiser might too.

Plan to be away from the house for at least three hours.  Take the pets with you or be sure they are crated during the inspection.

If you are concerned about what items may come up during a home inspection or would like to be fully prepared when your home is listed for sale you can hire your own inspector to conduct a pre-listing inspection.  A pre-listing inspection gives ou the opportunity to fix any items needed before going under contract.

Click here if you would prefer to view this blog in video format?

Mihara & Associates, Inc

Kelly Harden, Realtor®


Real Estate

Safety tips for home sellers


If you are living in your home while it is listed for sale there are steps you can take to increase your safety and security.

Make sure to begin the process buy hiring a trusted Real Estate Agent who uses an electronic lockbox that makes a record of everyone who enters your home.

Never show your home yourself to someone who knocks on the door.  You have no idea if they are legitimate home buyers, thieves coming to case your home, or worse.  All potential buyers should be prescreened and accompanied by a Real Estate agent during a scheduled an appointment.

Lock up your valuables.  Cash, credit cards, jewelry and other expensive items can be taken.  Fragile items could be broken, even by someone accidently knocking into them.

Remove prescription drugs from the medicine chest.  They can be stored in a safe or even taken with you during showings.

Keep personal data locked up and out of sight.  This includes banking information, credit card statements, social security cards and more.

Never leave weapons in the home.  It’s best to remove all weapons, but at a minimum they should be locked up in a secure safe.

Use security cameras.  Put up a sign that shows they are in use to deter unwanted activity.

Check doors and windows after every showing.  Be sure they are locked for your security.

Following these tips should minimize your security risk while your house is for sale helping to make the experience a pleasurable one.

If you would like to see this blog in video form, please click this link Safety Tips for Sellers

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.




Real Estate

Should a buyer move into a home before closing?


Occasionally a buyer will ask to move into their new home before the final settlement or closing has happened.  Maybe the home they are selling closed a few days earlier or maybe they just want to move a few items into the new house to make their move less complicated.

Should the seller allow the buyer to move into the home before closing?

The short answer is no, absolutely not.  An early move in could have negative consequences for the buyer and the seller.

What happens if something breaks?  Who is responsible for the repair?  The seller normally would be responsible for keeping the home in the same condition it was in when the home went under contract, but what if the seller believes the buyer was the one who broke the item?

What if there is a fire or a pipe burst and the home floods?  Who is responsible?

What if the buyer decides to get a head start on repairing or remodeling the home by removing the carpet or tearing out the cabinets?  If the home does not close the sellers will have to repair the home before they can sell it to another buyer.

What if the buyer suddenly experiences buyer’s remorse?  They may find small things wrong with the house they “didn’t notice before” and ask for new items to be repaired before closing.  They could even decide they no longer want the home, now what?

What if the buyer’s loan is not approved?  Occasionally loans are denied at the last minute.  If that happens how is the seller going to remove the buyer from their home?

It is not in the best interests of the sellers or the buyers to allow an early move in.  If both parties decide they want to allow an early move in they should consult an attorney to draft a “pre-occupancy” agreement detailing the responsibilities of each party to protect their best interests.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.




Real Estate

What happens when you inherit a home?

testament-1183175_960_720Have you inherited a home or is there a chance you will inherit one in the future?  Are you prepared to make the decisions will need to be made?

Hopefully the person you inherited the home from left a will explaining what their wishes were.  Not everyone takes this step though.  A recent example of dying without a will happened over the summer when Aretha Franklin died.

If there is no will or trust set up for the estate, an executor is usually appointed to make most of these decisions along with members of the family.

These decisions include-

  1. Will you keep the property, rent it out, or sell it?
  2. If you decide to keep the property, can you care for it properly?  If it becomes an investment property, can you manage the estate if it is rented out?
  3. What is the fair market value of the home?  This important information will be needed if one or more of the heirs wish to sell the home and the other heirs want to keep it.  The person who wants to keep the home will have to purchase the interest of the other party.
  4. Is the home in good condition, or does it need to be renovated or repaired before selling?  Often if the original homeowner was elderly or ill they may have not been able to maintain the home.
  5. What happens to the furniture inside the home?  Will it be divided up among the heirs or should it be sold?
  6. What if there is a mortgage on the home?  Can you maintain the mortgage or do you need to sell the home to pay the mortgage?

As you can see there are a lot of decisions that need to be made when you inherit a home.  Hopefully there is a will in place to help guide your decisions.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.




Real Estate

Should I buy a home through the sellers agent?


When you are ready to buy a home should you buy it directly through the seller’s agent?

Maybe you’ve fallen in love with a home while touring an open house, or maybe you called the agent whose name is on the sign in front of a home for sale.

It seems so easy, however buying a home through the seller’s agent may not be the best idea for you.

A seller’s agent works for the seller.  The seller hired him to sell their home and represent them during the sales process.

A buyer’s agent will work for you, not the sellers.  You should have your own representation during the sales process.

A buyer’s agent will negotiate on your behalf.  They will work hard to get you the best deal, negotiate any repair requests and handle any problems that come up.  They will look out for your best interests during the transaction.

There is nothing wrong with using the seller’s agent when buying a home if your state permits, it just may not be the best idea for you.

Do you prefer watching this blog in a video format?  Click the link below

Should I buy a home through the sellers agent video

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.