Is NOW the time to become a Landlord?

If you're like most people in recent months and years, you have seen your 401K and other retirement portfolios shrink. Perhaps you have reallocated funds to other retirement funds only to have them disappear, too. There may be another option for you. Rental properties. More and more people are investing money into income properties as an additional answer to their additional income needs for retirement. Interest rates are at historic lows. Housing prices are such that properties which wouldn't even be previously priced as income properties, may actually pencil out as viable … [Read more...]

Does your Gas Leaf Blower Start right Off?

I went out the other day to get rid of all the leaves in my yard. I should have just waited as all the county's leaves are now in my yard - again. Anyway, I go to use my leaf blower ... it spits and sputters. I try several times and then pick up the old reliable - my rake and leaf sack. But I started thinking about why my leaf blower is acting like it's on its last leg and then I read this article - who knew? According to HouseLogic, Ethanol-blended gasoline, which is made for automobiles and other vehicles isn't made for the small gas powered engines. According to the article, "Ethanolis a … [Read more...]

Are You Still on the Fence?

Are waiting for rates to get lower before you start thinking about buying that home? They're HERE! According to Real Estate on for the first time ever - EVER - rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage dipped below 4%. If you were thinking of a 15-year fixed mortgage, that dropped to a record setting 3.26%! You may be hearing all the bad economic news and are afraid of the risk, but if you can qualify, this is the time to jump off the fence and secure that mortgage. Think about how much rent you may be paying now - you can afford  a lot more house than what you're paying in rent … [Read more...]

Would you like to buy more house or have a smaller monthly mortgage payment?

Are you thinking about buying? Have you thought about refinancing? Interest rates have hit a record breaking low with an average 30-year fixed-rate loan around 4.09% - levels that we haven't seen since 1951!!  30 year fixed - 4.09% - lowest in 60 YEARS!5 15 year fixed - 3.30% What does this mean for you?? If you were going to buy, you can buy MORE house or pay less for the one you want. A SWEET DEAL INDEED. A $100,000 home with 20% down and an interest rate of 4.09% would have a principal and interest monthly payment of only $386.09 - taxes and insurance not included. If you … [Read more...]

Fire up those Fireplaces!

Building a fire in your wood burning fireplace is one of the advantages of living here in Iowa. The temperatures go down and we light up the fireplace. However, before we start lighting that fireplace for the first time this year, there is maintenance to be done now. If annual maintenance is not done, you may be just blowing dollars and heated air right up your chimney, or spewing dangerous smoke inside or even causing a chimney fire. Between 2003 and 2005, there were 25,100 US house fires caused by a fireplace, chimney, and chimney connectors for a cost of $126.1 million in damage … [Read more...]

Have you gotten your lawn ready for winter?

Did you know you have until Halloween to prepare your lawn for its winter sleep? Did you know that fall prep is just as important as getting your yard ready in the spring? Oh, I know that we can't wait to get out in the yard when the first dandelions peek out, but in order to hinder those little yellow weeds, there are about four things we should do now. You need to Aerate. For proper aeration, earth plugs actually need to be pulled out of the ground and not just punched into the ground. This process gives more room for your grass giving it less competition with the weeds. The pulled out … [Read more...]

Mortgage Prepayments and How It Can Benefit You!

I am pleased to present guest blogger, Marie Spodeck. Marie S. Spodek, DREI, GRI is a highly regarded real estate educator and author. Her seminars have been attended by thousands throughout the U.S. Mortgage Prepayments and How It Can Benefit You! Pre-payment is legal and it does allow you to avoid some major interest payments, but oh, yes, you do have to pay interest. Just remember that as long as you pay off any part of the principal before the due date, you don't have to pay interest on those portions prepaid. For instance, if you decide to pay off the entire loan tomorrow, … [Read more...]

In a Disaster, Help May Arrive at Tax Time

I saw this article on HouseLogic website and thought it was very good information, especially when we have had damaging storms this year. September 13, 2011 from HouseLogic In recent months, home owners across the country have been forced to flee their homes to escape tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and other harbingers of doom. Now comes the cleanup, and it won’t be cheap. Recovery will be particularly costly for thousands of families in the Northeast whose homes were flooded by Hurricane Irene. Standard home owners policies don’t cover flood damage, and only a fraction of home … [Read more...]

Iowa Farm Ground has increased 32.6% since last year!

The Iowa Farm & Land (Chapter #2) of the Realtors Land Institute released its bi-annual survey. Since the last survey was released six months ago, Iowa farmland values increased an average of 12.9 percent. And 32.6 percent over the previous year which ended September 1, 2010. The Land Institute reported $6,477 an acre for an average value of medium quality crop ground, up from its previous report in March of this year as $5,711 per acre.  Northeast Iowa had the largest increase per acre up 17% in the last six months Southeast Iowa had the lowest ground value increase of … [Read more...]

Get Ready to Buy that Home!

Buying a home may not seem like a big deal or it can be very overwhelming. Either way, there are definitely steps you need to do before you begin searching for your perfect home. You may want to keep these in mind when you start your process: Saving enough money for your down payment. The more money you can put down on your home with the initial purchase will reap huge rewards in less interest paid over the life of your mortgage. It also may help you qualify for a lower interest rate and make your mortgage payment lower per month. Figure out how much house you can afford. Keep in mind … [Read more...]

How to Improve Your Credit Score!

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, your credit score is VERY important. What if your score isn't what you'd like it to be, what can you do to improve it? Keep the cards you open at a minimum. Every time you open a new line of credit through a plastic card, the company takes a look at your credit. If you have too many companies are taking too many peeks at your credit, this will lower your credit score. DON'T MAX OUT YOUR CARD! Just because you may have a $10,000 limit on a card, does not make it a good idea to borrow that much money on it. As a rule of thumb, only borrow half of … [Read more...]

What Makes up Your Credit Score?

Whether you're 18 or 80, you should know your credit score. However, more importantly, you should know what your credit score is based on …. 35% - Payment History. This is the largest portion of your credit score. If you are more than 30 days late, late pays, slow pays or no pays, all this does make a huge negative impact on your score. 30% - Amounts Owed. How much you owe does impact the amount you are able to borrow. If you have a lot of debt, this may show you are overextended financially. However, you can solve this by making sure you only charge up to half or less of your card limit … [Read more...]

What is YOUR most important reason to buy a home?

What is YOUR most important reason to buy a home? Is it a solid and safe place to raise your family? Does it give you more space for your family to live? Does owning a home give you more control of your environment? Even though those are very good reasons to purchase, is it still a sound investment?  Out of most of people asked, 65% of the general population consider homeownership a "safe" investment. 56% think ownership is more of an asset than any other traditional investment. 69% believe NOW is a good time to buy a home, which is an increase over the last 2 … [Read more...]

Farm Prices in Iowa

The DOW is down. The NASDAQ is down. Housing prices are down. Interest rates are down. Unemployment is up. Foreclosures are steady. Do you want to know what ISN'T down? IOWA FARMLAND! Farmland values in Benton County, Linn County, Tama County and Iowa County have done very well in 2011 and are seen more as better  investments. Much of the Midwest has seen land values increase 20% to as much as 30% since 2010, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City reported Monday, August 15, 2011. This is actually the highest surge of land prices since the 1970's. The number of Iowa farms … [Read more...]

Best 25 Housing Markets in the United States by The Housing Predictor

The Housing Predictor, Real Estate News & Forecasts in the Public Interest, posted August 17, 2011, the Recovery in the Best 25 Housing Markets in the United States. If you have been listening to the national housing market reports and seeing what has been going on in the general Cedar Rapids area, things  here haven't been all that bad. The housing inventory is only a few months and we're one of the rare states in which our home prices are appreciating in all of its 2011 markets. We do have foreclosures, but are not the plague they are in most states, which does help the real estate … [Read more...]

How Secure are Your Doors?

A person who is casing your home to break into looks at your home differently than you do. Is your front door visible from the street, or is your shrubs over grown and covering it? Someone who is looking to breaking in and entering want the doors to be hidden so no one can see them snap your locks and enter. Your strike plates and deadbolts may need to be replaced. These metal fittings that catches bolts and latches may be fastened to the soft wood of the door jamb with only a couple of screws. This will not keep anyone one if they want to break in. You can increase your security by … [Read more...]

Do what I say, Not as I do …

You have decided to sell your home. Many factors play into deciding your next move, but the major decision may be …. Do you hire an experienced REALTOR® or go through one of the many for sale by owner companies? Yes, it may sound like you are saving THOUSANDS of dollars, but is it such a good deal? Recently, the creator of, Colby Sambrotto, hired a traditional real estate broker to sell his home. That's right, the company telling you that you can sell your home yourself, hired a professional and paid the standard for their area's real estate commission of 6% for … [Read more...]

Thinking of Selling Your Home? You may not want to wait.

The real estate market in the Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities (like Atkins, Belle Plaine, Blairstown, Cedar Rapids, Center Point, Elberon, Fairfax, Hiawatha, Keystone, Luzerne, Marengo, Marion, Newhall, Norway, Palo, Shellsburg, VanHorne, Vinton, Walford, Watkins, Urbana, Walker, and Mt.Vernon) has really been pretty strong through the entire market downturn. As you can see from the charts below that the only thing declining is the inventory we have on the market. This is good if you are selling your home as there is now less competition than in 2010 and 2009. This is in direct … [Read more...]

Tree Falls Over Property Line: Who Pays? Who Picks Up the Pieces?

The storms yesterday morning really brought to light trees and the damage they create when they come crashing down. The time to find out who is responsible is not when it falls on a car, house or fence. You even need to know who's tree it is before disaster strikes. The article below briefly details what you should know about tree ownership. We love our trees, but they sure are a mess to clean up. I am very glad there were no injuries from this horrific storm, but sorry for all those who have suffered property damage and are starting the long road of clean up and repair. previously … [Read more...]

Housing market turning around in several rural states

We all know we live in a pretty great state, but even when things are pretty darn tough around here economically, we are better than many other places and it looks like we'll rebound quicker than most states. So what does this mean for you? You may want to really jump off that fence if you're thinking about buying, homes values may be on the rise. If you're looking to sell, homes are selling. HOWEVER, not like they have before or by the same ways agents were marketing before the Real Estate Downturn in 2007. Real Estate Agents need to use more technology and resources never thought of … [Read more...]

Is Finance in the Drivers Seat in the Real Estate Transaction?

Being ready to purchase your new home is key whether you are a first time home buyer, moving up, investor or purchasing a second home. Starting the process, even if you have done it before, may be a bit over whelming. I'm here to help!! I am able to connect you with loan officers who make the process as easy as it can be, plus I'm always here if you have questions! So, if the first thing to do is get your financing lined up, the one thing to do before that, is to call me! Is Finance in the Drivers Seat in the Real Estate Transaction? (a repost from Summer's about to … [Read more...]

What Are Your Outdoor Chores?

If you're like me, summertime adds so much more to your "to do" list. Even though you try to do everything, there may be things you may miss. I found this article on the website, HouseLogic with a check list of things we should be aware of and do for our outdoor maintenance. Let me know how your "to do" list is going and if there is anything you do, I don't have listed. Go out and get your chores done, but don't forget to have fun.  Also, if you have any questions or real estate needs, don't forget to contact me! Your Guide to Outdoor Maintenance Previously Posted By: Dave Toht If you … [Read more...]

What a Home Inspection Should Cover

You just found the most perfect home! It is so exciting!! It has everything you want - now it's on to closing!! You may want to wait a minute and make sure you include in your offer the option to have your home inspected by a certified home inspector. A certified home inspector will go through your home bottom to top to make sure there are no safety issues which may impede your home ownership or enjoyment. Inspections are not to nickle and dime the offer price down, it is used to make sure your home you are purchasing is safe. I do advocate home inspections and will give you a list of … [Read more...]

Testimonial 3

"I wanted to Thank You for all the time you spent showing us various homes around the area. Buying my first home was a very fun and enjoyable experience, thanks in large part to your help. It was a pleasure working with you." - John C. … [Read more...]

Testimonial 2

"Thank you Shannon for helping us find our perfect home! Your friendliness and expertise made our first time home buying experience easy and enjoyable!" - Arthur and Eva … [Read more...]

Testimonial 1

"Thank you very much for all the great advice and representation on the house. I have bought property before and it was never as smooth as this." - The Walters … [Read more...]