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Finding A Home: Finding The Complete Package

Buying a home is not only one of the largest monetary and long-term investments that a person is likely to make in their lifetime, it is also a sizeable commitment of time and resources in order to find the right fit for your needs, desires and lifestyle.  There are many considerations that go into the process of buying a home, and the more you know the more likely you are to have a successful experience and purchase a home you are completely satisfied with and can take pride in.

Stephanie BoyesBNC National Bank offers a wide variety of home loan products and free consultations to prospective home buyers, whether they are first-time or subsequent purchases.  Stephanie Boyes, Senior Mortgage Loan Consultant for BNC National Bank, advises, “In buying a home it is important when looking at the loan itself to compare apples to apples.  Any appraisal or inspection fees or taxes are not set by the lender.  So if you are shopping around and one looks different than the other that simply means they are estimating differently.  The items to be conscious of on the lender side are lender fees (also known as origination fees/discount fees) and of course the interest rate.” When buying a home, all of the professionals and businesses you choose to work with will significantly impact every aspect of the process.  Boyes adds, “I feel it is important to always work with someone you trust.  Buying a home is a major undertaking and regardless of what loan product you will be utilizing, you need to trust the person you are working with so that you feel comfortable with the process.  There are a lot of potential ‘bumps’ in the road so you want to make sure you are working with someone who looks out for you and your family’s best interest.”

ashburn-taylor union bankWhen checking out options for financing the purchase of your new home, it is obvious that you will take an in-depth look at your personal finances and budget but don’t forget to get pre-approved for your loan! That is a crucial step, and should be done as soon as you even consider buying a new home.  This way, you will efficiently target only the homes in that specific range and thus, feasible for you to purchase.  While visiting a variety of homes in many price ranges is a great opportunity for gathering ideas, it is largely a waste of your time in the grand scheme of things.  Taylor Ashburn of Union Bank & Trust agrees that you should get pre-approved before you start house hunting—that way, you know what you can qualify for and you won’t get your heart set on a house that you can’t afford.  There are many different loan programs available with different rates, terms, down payment requirements, etc.  The Loan Officers at Union Bank will sit down with you, analyze your financial situation, and give you a few options that best fit your needs.  Ashburn says, “Our Loan Officers have the experience and market knowledge to expertly guide the customer through purchasing, refinancing or building a home.  We strive to make the home buying experience better with personal service and attention to detail.  Our customers have direct access to local decision-makers, giving them responsive service and flexible solutions that other companies simply can’t provide. The local residential construction market has recently picked up considerably, and construction lending is an important aspect of our business that we are excited to offer to clients.  Customers who seek financing for a construction loan from Union Bank are typically approved within 24 hours.  We want to keep the project moving and on-time.  Because we’re family-owned and have decision makers right here in Lincoln, we maintain prompt communication to keep the process moving in a timely fashion. During construction we monitor monthly draws from the builder, conduct on-site inspections, and reconcile costs with the original bids, free of charge.  Finally, we pride ourselves on the speed in which we pay out the monthly draws.  In most cases, we’ll pay the builder within 24 hours, keeping the project moving forward.”  Ashburn adds, “Many people think buying a home is simply too costly and that perhaps renting is their best option.  But when one looks at the big picture, purchasing a home has a number of advantages which may make it more affordable than you think. Our friendly professionals will be happy to answer your questions and help you calculate the financial benefits of home ownership. Rates are still at historic lows and the market in Lincoln is quickly becoming a ‘Buyer’s Market.’  You may be allowed to deduct mortgage interest and property tax on your federal income tax return (although you should check with your tax advisor regarding deductibility of interest).  These deductions can mean significant tax savings, especially early on, when interest makes up most of the payment.  Furthermore, as you make payments on your home, you reduce the principal and build equity. It’s like investing in your home. And if the value of your home increases through appreciation, your equity will build even faster.”  Union Bank offers a complete suite of home buying products including government loan programs (such as FHA, VA, NIFA), conventional fixed rate, and adjustable rate mortgages.  They also offer bridge loans, “cash to close” loans, investment property loans, and construction loans. Additionally, they have a select mortgage team which can assist customers whose situation may not fit the conventional Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac guidelines.

Travis Gunderson copyTravis Gunderson, Mortgage Loan Officer for Midwest Bank, also encourages anyone considering a mortgage loan to first visit with a mortgage lender as he agrees that it is important to explore your options and determine what size home you can afford to buy before you start looking.  Midwest Bank offers free pre-qualification for mortgage loans for this reason.  By becoming pre-qualified, you are well aware of what you can afford before you begin your search and it may give you an advantage over a buyer who is not pre-qualified.  Representatives of Midwest Bank will explain in detail all of the available loan products and give you expert guidance as to the best loan option for your individual needs.  Gunderson states, “At Midwest Bank, we understand that buying a home can be a very exciting and stressful experience.  We will work hard to ensure that the customer understands what is taking place during the entire home buying process.  Specifically, we focus on the financial needs of our customers in the markets we serve.  At Midwest Bank, we value our tradition of exceptional personal service; a tradition respected in the markets we serve and reflected in the relationships we build.”  Midwest Bank offers a full range of mortgage products, including conventional, VA, NIFA (first time home buyers), and USDA guaranteed loans.  These terms include 10, 15, 20 and 30 year fixed rate mortgages with no pre-payment penalties.  Additional products offered include construction loans, bridge loans, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit.  Their team of experienced bankers works closely with the customer to tailor a mortgage loan that meets their individual needs.  Midwest Bank has nine locations in eight communities in Nebraska.  In Lincoln, they are located at 2655 Jamie Lane, which is one block north of 27th and Yankee Hill Road.

Brent-MansheimHome insurance is incredibly important as it protects you and the mortgage company or bank against covered losses to your home. Home insurance also provides liability coverage among other things.  Brent Mansheim of Allstate Insurance and Mansheim Financial offers full insurance protection reviews for home buyers, both customers and non-customers.  He explains, “The reviews are especially beneficial to first time home buyers, people without a professional agent, or people that have not had a review recently.  During the review, the home-buyer can get all their questions about insurance answered plus learn about all the levels of coverage and features available. This will assist them in making decisions about protecting what is likely the largest single purchase they will make while helping both the individual and their family avoid financial disasters.  We offer a full line of solutions that can be customized to fit each home buyer’s needs.  This includes the home insurance, life, and disability insurance.  The majority of our policies are between $350 and $900 per year, which ends up saving many people $50 to $75 per month on their mortgage payment.  We also offer assistance in saving for a home purchase or other major events.”  Mansheim offers several tips on selecting the right insurance policy and agent to protect your home, and the people and property inside.  “First you will want to make sure to select an insurance professional and company that is knowledgeable, understands your needs, and you feel comfortable working with.  Next you will want to make sure the amount of each individual coverage you select is right for your needs.  You will want to pay close attention to the deductible(s).  Besides choosing a deductible you are comfortable with, be sure to ask if there is a ‘wind and hail deductible’ or any ‘special deductibles.’  I have seen many cases where the home buyer finds out about the small print or hidden deductible too late.  Another thing you need to ask about, if the insurance representative does not mention it, is the coverage for the roof.  Be sure to know if your policy provides full replacement cost coverage, actual cash value, which is subject to depreciation, or other payment options for roof damage.  It can be a big shock to find out about the small print too late.  Your insurance professional should also help you determine if you need sewer and water back up coverage, identity theft, or for special items like jewelry or firearms.  In a few cases you will be required to buy flood insurance, which is not covered by a standard home policy. You should also ask about claims, how they will be handled, what assistance your local agent will provide, and what effect reporting a claim will have on your policy.  Allstate offers Claim RateGuard(sm) which helps prevent your premium from going up just because you file a claim.  Alternately, Allstate also offers a claim-free bonus of up to 5% back for not filing a claim.”  He adds, “You will want to have your insurance in place well before the closing date because in most cases you will not close on your home if there is no insurance in place.  However, if needed, many times we can get coverage in place immediately.  A good insurance agent will make sure the mortgage company or bank has everything they need in plenty of time for the closing.  It is common for the insurance payment to be escrowed, becoming part of the house payment.  You will also want to make sure you have coverage in place if something happens to one of the people paying the mortgage.”

Lois HartzellLois Hartzell of Vistar Homes, Inc. mentions that building a home is a particularly wise investment right now, as homes today are built at such a high energy standard that the money you will save on utilities makes it a great long-term investment.  Vistar Homes, Inc. proudly builds unique homes to fit your lifestyle.  They strive to make all of their homes just a bit different from your average home, while still incorporating all of the features you are looking for.  Vistar Homes specializes in a variety of styles, including new-urbanism, two-story, townhome and ranch.  Their innovative construction techniques help them deliver a quality home with efficiency and value.  Furthermore, their professional sales staff will enhance your home buying experience with insight and counsel on architectural and decorating options, contract details, and information on your prospective neighborhood and community.  Hartzell says, “Our goal is to make the home buying experience fun and easy, even though we understand it is a very large investment and can be really stressful.  We always let the buyer decide exactly what they want in their home.”  She adds, “To meet the needs of our clients, we now offer different degrees of finishes.  We can keep the home beautiful while using simple finishes, or clients can go all the way to the elite line and have granite counters, full backsplashes and wood floors.  My number one tip is to talk to a lender before going out and looking at homes.  That way you are looking at the correct price point.  We think it is important to put money in areas and things where you like to be.  For example, if you are a kitchen person make sure every detail in the kitchen specifically fits your needs.  Also, ask for help if the selection process is overwhelming.  It can be done in steps, so try to work as closely as possible with your builder and with the specific vendors.”

Joe-Courtney-bancwise-realtyThe home buying process certainly can be overwhelming, but finding the right Realtor is crucial to alleviating a great deal of that stress.  BancWise Realty is a locally owned company specializing in residential real estate sales, and differs from traditional real estate companies because they are able to offer commission options without sacrificing service. Joe Courtney, a Realty Specialist with BancWise Realty, has been with the company for almost seven years helping buyers and sellers in the Lincoln area and offers several tips for home buyers:

Tips for the “First Time Buyer”:

• Be sure to interview a few Realtors before committing to one.  Select someone that is knowledgeable of the market and experienced with contracts and negotiations.  Remember, this person will be in your life for 3-6 months and take care of you every step of the way.  Make sure they are someone you can effectively communicate with and trust.  Ask your friends and family for a Realtor referral.  Chances are if they had a good experience, then so will you.

• Get pre-approved for financing right away.  It is important to know all the costs involved with buying a home before you get too far in the process.  It’s hard to shop if you don’t know what you can afford!

• Ask questions! You aren’t expected to know everything and that’s what we (Realtors) are here for.  Remember, your agent is working for you!

• Make sure the house is right! It is easy to get excited about buying your first home and jump on the first house that gives you the “warm fuzzy feeling”.  Due diligence will help you get a feel of the market as you look at other homes in your price range.  You will get to understand what you get for the money and where.  This will make you feel more comfortable about “pulling the trigger” when youfind the right one.

• Always have a home inspection.  For a small fee it is more than worth the peace of mind.  You aren’t an expert, so hire one to work on your behalf.

Tips for the “Move Up Buyer”:

• This process can be a challenge if you need to sell your current home before you can purchase your new home.  Your first priority should be to sell your current home.  Remember, that is the only thing holding you back from buying a new one. Get your home listed with a Realtor and priced right.  Trying to sell and buy at the same time is a lot to take on, and having a professional in your corner to guide you is essential.

• Search for properties on your own in addition to what your Realtor sends you.  I find when buyers look on their own, they adjust criteria more often to “see what else is out there”.  That is good.  You may come across properties you might not have considered before.  You will also get a “big picture” view of what is on the market so that once your home sells you know where you want to be.

• Everyone wants to sync up the closing of their existing home with the purchase of their new home.  This can happen most of the time although you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario.  If your home sells and you can’t find another home in time or negotiate a closing to sync up with your existing home sale then you will need to look into some type of temporary living situation.   It isn’t fun to move twice but look at the bright side; your home is now sold and you are a ready to pull the trigger when you do find the right one! Remember, it is only temporary!

Tips for the “Downsizing Buyer”:

• The kids are gone and you just don’t need 4,000 sq. ft. for the two of you. This process can be frustrating as a lot of times you will be changing the style of living that you are accustomed to.

• Have the conversation with your Realtor up front to see if your needs and wants for the new home are realistic

• De-clutter, sell, or donate those items you don’t use.  Chances are there won’t be the same amount of storage as your last home.

When buying a home, it is not only important to consider your current investment and future investments that will be necessary, but also where the home falls regarding value with respect to the other homes in the neighborhood.  According to Brock Owens of RE/MAX Real Estate Concepts, it is best to look for homes that are as close to the median price range in the area as possible.  He has observed that when it comes time to sell, those homes at the top end of the value range in the neighborhood will experience much longer marking times.  Owens also adds, “A couple important aspects to consider when buying a home is the different financing options from one loan program to another as there could be a considerable amount of savings, not just monthly but over the life of the loan.  It’s extremely important to find a Realtor that you have confidence in their knowledge of the market and someone you feel you are compatible with as you spend a lot of time together finding that perfect home.”

When looking for a Realtor or real estate agent, you are looking at a lot more than just their professional credentials (although that is important!).  This is someone that you will be working with very closely, including spending a lot of time communicating back and forth and traveling to many potential homes together.  As such, this should be a personal that you feel you can trust, have a clear line of communication with, will represent your best interest, pays attention to your needs, wants, budget, and preferences, and basically works hard for you.  Developing a good rapport always takes a bit of time, but shouldn’t be forced.  It is in your best interest to interview as many agents as it takes to find the one that you feel is the best fit.  This may seem like just another thing about buying a home that takes valuable time away from other details, but we assure you having the right agent is an ESSENTIAL component of a smooth home buying experience.

At Third Generation Builder, they believe that builder to home buyer communication is key in the successful building of new homes.  They strive to be available to their customers anytime they need help, all the way from layout decisions to tile selection.  Third Generation Builder offers the services of Nebraska Home Sales Realtor, JR Knopp, who knows the Lincoln market well and works with their clients personally to find the home that best fits their lifestyle.  Knopp can also work to sell your existing home while you design your custom floor plan and begin to build your new home.  Knopp says, “I am a full-service real estate agent, which includes being a buyer’s agent. I make the home buying process as easy for my clients as possible by offering my professional opinion and advice when evaluating homes while protecting them through one of the biggest purchases of their life. Instead of going to five or six different websites to view all the homes Lincoln has to offer, I can make searching for homes a lot easier for clients. Once the client has told me what they are looking for in their new home, I take that data and plug it into the search platform that only Realtors can use to search the entire Lincoln market for what would fit the criteria they are looking for.  I think the best aspect of using my services is I’m not a hard seller or pushy sales person. I’m a pretty laid back and outgoing person that brings a little levity to an otherwise stressful situation! I go into homes and point out the positive and negative aspects, but generally I point out all the negative aspects first to make sure the buyer’s really knows what they’re getting into. I have an extensive knowledge of homes, especially since I have gone through thousands of them in my career, as well as experience in remodeling and renovating homes so I know what to look for when it comes to the durability, efficiency or providing unique ideas for the home. There are also steps and processes that I make sure my buyers go through to protect them from unforeseen problems with the home and to ensure they’re protected after they have officially purchased the home. Another major benefit I offer buyers is my negotiating skills after years of experience in negotiating real estate contracts. When it comes to contracts, I know what provisions should be included and what to look for to protect my clients and their interests while getting the best price on the home. But the first and most important step for any home buyer is getting pre-approved from a good mortgage lender. The biggest tip I can offer most buyers is to stay local with the mortgage lender as they seem to offer the best service and better rates then some of the national banks.”

shawndel-polivkaShawndel Polivka, a Realtor with HOME Real Estate, also notes the importance of having a qualified and experienced Realtor when buying a home as they offer many products and services that are invaluable to their clients.  She says, “Throughout the buying process my focus is on the clients–their needs and how I can be of the highest value are my top priorities. HOME Real Estate offers a complete and convenient family of services.  As a Realtor with HOME Real Estate, I have the option of working with our in-house lender, title company and insurance partner for the convenience of one-stop shopping. I can even assist home buyers after their purchase, as Home Owners Plus helps our clients to save time and money with vendor discounts on many home-related services.  Furthermore, with the different real estate options available today, I believe it is important to point out computer-generated valuations and tax assessments are not market values. An accurate market value should always be determined by your Realtor.”  Polivka points out that it is a good idea to understand the process of buying a home before you dive in, in addition to having a Realtor guide you through each step.  She says, “First, loan pre-approval is important, as well as extremely helpful. After you have that information, you will be better able to go over what it is you are looking for in your next home with your Realtor. The next step is to go shopping, and my goal is to help you find your dream home as soon as possible! When we find the perfect home we will write an offer together, and it is imperative to remember that everything is negotiable. Once the offer is accepted, your first priority would be to apply for the loan and talk to your insurance agent about setting up homeowner’s insurance. Prior to closing, I will coordinate the appraisal, inspection reports, surveys, title insurance commitments, appropriate verifications and credit reports. We will do a walk-through on the property prior to the closing day, and confirm all potential repairs have been made and personal property remains. On closing day, you will need a certified or cashier’s check for the amount given to you by your lender, your insurance binder and receipt, and your photo ID.  As long as you provide all of those items closing only takes approximately one hour.  After closing is finished you may then move into your NEW HOME!”  Polivka adds, “As a Realtor, I have taken an oath to subscribe to a stringent, enforceable Code of Ethics with Standards of Practice that promote the fair, ethical and honest treatment of all parties in a transaction. I reflect the level of skill, knowledge, and attention to detail required in today’s market. Not every real estate agent or broker is a Realtor. When you work with a Realtor, you can be certain you will receive honest, fair, and ethical service.”

photo-Randy-King-Kings-Home-InspectionsWhen buying a home, you should always utilize a reputable home inspection company to conduct a thorough inspection of the property before you finalize the purchase.  King’s Home Inspections is a great local company who has an extensive amount of experience with all aspects of home inspections.  Randy King of King’s Home Inspections says, “It’s always a good idea to get a Home Inspection prior to purchase. Besides identifying problems with the house, a Home Inspector can also give you guidelines for typical life expectancies of various components, such as the water heater, furnace, and air conditioner. Assessing where your home’s systems are at in their life cycle can help you understand what you will face in say, the first five years you own your home. This includes what you should expect to replace so you can budget accordingly.  When buying an older home, the Home Inspector can advise you on the need for upgrading obsolete components of your home. Galvanized iron pipe in the plumbing system is often found in older homes and hasn’t been installed new for nearly 50 years. It rusts and corrodes from the inside out, often resulting in leaks and reduced water pressure and volume. Furnaces and air conditioners older than 25 years should be looked at with replacement in mind. They may still function adequately, but parts are becoming obsolete and they are not nearly as efficient as a modern furnace. Shingles are unpredictable, and vary tremendously in quality and longevity. Wood siding is great, but will need painted and maintained. Some types of wood siding (i.e. sheet presswood, siding typical on houses built in the 80’s) are not products designed for longevity, and even if kept painted, usually lasts no more than 25 years. A Home Inspection can help you formulate a game plan on what to replace and things to upgrade in your new home, which will increase your enjoyment of it and help you maintain property value for when it is time to sell.”  King adds, “Radon testing has also become much more prevalent. Radon is common in Lincoln and surrounding areas, as about 80% of houses I test come out above the EPA threshold of 4.0 pCi/l of Radon, and mitigation is recommended. Radon gas causes lung cancer, and those who smoke or have COPD may have an elevated risk. Re-testing should be done every two years–as the ground under your home may change, pathways for Radon to enter your home may appear. With last summer’s drought, houses that never had Radon before suddenly had Radon. Cracks and fissures opened up so deep in the ground, it changed the paths in which the soil gasses travel. Radon in your home is based on the structure of the soil under and adjacent to your house. There is no ‘newer neighborhood’ or ‘older neighborhood’, or any specific location that ‘has high Radon in that area’.  Those are fallacies.  The fact is, one house can test low and the one next door can be very high. The only way to know is to test. Even new construction can have Radon. Any structure built on a grade, crawlspaces, full basements, and walk-outs can all have Radon. It is not predictable in neighborhoods or construction types. If you are considering new construction, discuss Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC) with your builder. Installing a pre-emptive Radon mitigation system during the construction process is easy and very inexpensive, and in most cases, your new home will test low. In the event it is still elevated, the addition of a simple fan turns the system from a passive to an active system and eliminates the problem.”  King also advises that a Home Inspection is not a Home Warranty. “Most Inspectors’ observations are good for the day of the Inspection only – they have no control over what happens to a house after they leave. A water heater can start to leak at any time, a dishwasher decides to stop working, or a piece of sheet rock under tension cracks and your Home Inspector has no control over those things. Therefore, a Home Warranty is a good investment on older homes. Depending on the type of warranty you purchase, they can cover all the way from the basics to most everything in a house. Most builders offer at least a one year warranty on new construction, which may or may not include your appliances but often those are covered by their manufacturer’s warranties.  It is beneficial to check with your builder to see what the limitations are and how your warranty is implemented.”

lindsey-reinke-John-HenrysLindsey Reinke of John Henry’s Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning agrees that if you are buying a home, you are at risk of not finding all the potential defects unless you have a home inspection conducted by a certified professional.  Reinke states, “Home inspections are really valuable to potential buyers. A great example is the knowledge of where to look for cracked heat exchangers on furnaces. Each brand has the potential to fail in different areas and a HVAC technician knows where to look. It’s very common to find cracked heat exchangers AFTER homes sell and the new owner is responsible at that time for those costs. That’s too late and also dangerous because of carbon monoxide risks. Another good example when buying a home is the main sewer should be inspected by utilizing a sewer camera. The cost to do this is around $200, but the cost to replace a defective sewer can be thousands of dollars. A digital copy of the inside of the sewer can be used to help negotiate repair costs during the sales process.”

Reinke emphasizes, “If you are building a new home, you deserve to get options to upgrade your heating and cooling equipment. Those options should include energy equipment payback to help you make your decisions. If you invest in high efficiency equipment the payback is typically three to five years. Low efficiency equipment will cost you more during the life of the equipment. Some builders do not provide options, so consider that a red flag if they are not willing to look out for your best interests during the preplanning stages. Due diligence is a great idea in understanding quality heating and air conditioning equipment. Equipment ratings are always available. You should definitely be nervous if a contractor tells you all equipment is basically the same because it is not. Trane, Lennox, and Carrier are three well-known brands, great quality brands.  Also, make sure to ask your builder who your plumbing and HVAC contractors are and then check them out. Are they members of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and if so do they have a good BBB rating? Do they have BBB complaints filed against them? If not, don’t settle. Instead, consider it time to ask around for references.  Buying or building a home or business can become costly when mistakes are made. It’s important to fully understand the risks of current trends, and also the solutions that are available. Always be involved in the process and call trade professionals that have your best interest in mind.”

photo-trevor-neemann-neemann-and-sons-incTrevor Neemann of Neemann and Sons Roofing adds that when you have chosen several prospects that you are seriously considering, it is a good idea to get an inspection by a qualified exterior remodeler.  He explains that there have been a lot of defective products on the market in the past 15 years, and what may look just fine might end up being a large expense within a couple of years.  Neemann says, “My advice is that if there is going to be a new roof put on before the closing of your new house, make sure it is a reputable company doing the work and not just the cheapest one out there that the current homeowner is paying for. I have seen multiple times where the purchase agreement requires a new roof and the homeowner gets the cheapest contractor and the roofs leaks when the new homeowner moves in. In these circumstances, the buyer can usually negotiate to pay the difference for a quality company or choose who they want as a contractor and the product they want installed.  When hiring a contractor or investigating whom will be working on your new home, make sure to check all of their credentials thoroughly.  Ask around with friends, the Better Business Bureau, and local shingle distributors.  A reputable company should also have an office location for you to visit.  Furthermore, get an address of their jobsite so that you can drive by to see who will be working on your property.  You will want to make sure that every person working on your house is fully insured and not a subcontracted worker. If they are used as subcontractors each individual must provide proof of insurance. You will want to use companies that hire local employees and take pride in their work.”  Neemann and Sons offers residential roofing, reroofing and repairs, cement board and vinyl siding, Fascia, soffit and seamless gutters.  They are a reputable, family-owned and fully insured local business that has been serving the Lincoln area since 1981.

RJ-Lipert-Alarmlink-USAMore valuable information can be obtained before buying a home by having a professional evaluate its overall security, including the home itself and other features of the property.  AlarmLink USA is a locally owned and operated company that provides expert technicians who can evaluate any existing system or features, as well as your future needs, and will custom design the best security system to protect your family and belongings in your new home.  They offer a wide variety of options, including state of the art security systems, door access systems, high resolution camera systems, DVR recording devices, and remote access to surveillance.  These systems can include smoke and carbon monoxide protection, as well as medical alarms, and are monitored from multiple locations including local monitoring in Lincoln, NE.  Buying a home with an existing security system, modifying an out of date system, or installing a security system in your new home could also qualify you to receive up to a 20% discount on your homeowner’s insurance.  RJ Lipert of AlarmLink says that above all, having a good alarm system in your home gives you peace of mind; allowing your family to sleep better, ensuring your safety at all times, and effectively protecting both your loved ones and assets.

When buying a home, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration.  One of those is what you don’t necessarily like, how this can be modified, and if it is worth pursuing.  It is highly unlikely that you will be in love with every single aspect of the home you choose to buy.  Some things are definitely deal breakers, but other fixes are simple or can be done for a minimal investment.  For example, what if you absolutely adore the layout of the kitchen, storage space, and existing appliances but the backsplash and granite are matching shades of electric blue?  Those are things that really are tied into personal preferences, and can easily be modified.  A1 Cabinet and Granite offers a wide variety of granite countertops and all-wood soft close cabinets for kitchens and bathrooms that fit any style or color palette.  They also provide a large showroom with plenty of options, so you can get a feel for what the materials will look like before you commit to installing them in your new home.  Also, if the quality of materials in your prospective home is the issue, upgrading to granite countertops will add value to your investment and beauty to your home that will last a lifetime.

Kevin-Monismith-The-GroutsmithKevin Monismith, owner of The Groutsmith, agrees that you shouldn’t let factors that can easily be remedied, such as dirty tile and grout, influence your decision on whether to purchase a home.  First, bring it to the attention of the seller or agent and negotiate the appropriate terms to have the tile and grout professionally cleaned and sealed.  The Groutsmith can clean and restore floors and showers to like-new condition, and all tile floors are covered with a ten year warranty!  With over 30 grout sealant colors to choose from, The Groutsmith can match or change the grout color to satisfy any taste.

Ken Svoboda, owner of Ray’s Lawn Care, also speaks to not letting small details cloud your vision on an otherwise great investment.  He says, “I have found Ken-Svoboda-Rays-lawn-and-home-carethat most home buyers have difficulty envisioning the potential of a home they’re considering. If they can’t get past the overgrown shrubbery and the dead tree in the front lawn, they may be passing on a real gem of a home with everything they’re looking for. Just like some home buyers have the same difficulty getting past that sixties wallpaper and orange carpet in the living room. An experienced professional can offer an assessment of which plants have value and how to better incorporate their personal touch into the established landscape.  As with the previously mentioned evaluations, Svoboda says he often receives calls from new homeowners who simply want a knowledgeable individual to walk them through their new or potential property.  “Whether their buying a new home with new landscape or an older home with a more established  and matured landscape, most home owners just want a better understanding of what landscaping they have, how large will it grow, if certain trees or plants will bloom, and what care and maintenance the landscape will require. Occasionally the new homeowner will hire our company to modify the landscape to better suit their wants and needs right away. Most of the time, however, new homeowners are a bit overwhelmed by finally completing the sometimes stressful process of buying a home. We try to reduce any stress by offering services that are based on an honest assessment of the property.”

Ron-FrickeAs far as the exterior features of homes go, they should be providing function, security, and style.  Not only should you take note of the overall security of the home, but the actual points of entrance such as the quality of the doors and windows–including the entrance(s) to your garage.  Having a secure garage also largely affects your home’s efficiency and convenience.  Raynor Doors of Nebraska offers a wide variety of garage doors and openers for any size or type of home and garage, in many different designs, colors, R-values and other options that meet their clients’ needs and desires.  They can come out to your new or potential home and evaluate the current system, including equipment and devices, as well as uploading a picture of the garage into their iPad on-site in order to show you what each new garage door would look like on the house.  They are now offering matching house and garage doors, which will give your home a sharp, cohesive look while maintaining quality, durability and function.  Raynor’s showroom offers a wealth of sample products for inspiration, including functional displays that you can test on the spot.  They invite you to come in with as many questions as possible, and their goal is to make sure you leave with all of the answers you need to make a good decision on what will work best for you and your family in your new home.  Ron Fricke of Raynor Doors of Nebraska also warns against using companies that do not have an established business address or who will charge you way more for products and services you may not need.  He offers several tips for judging whether a company is credible:

• Get competitive prices before you let someone in your garage.

• Quickly check reviews at trusted sites such as BBB.org or Yelp.com.

• Pay with a credit card, and keep accurate records including dates and charges.

• Trust your gut.  If something feels wrong, don’t let them proceed with the installation or repair.

• Read what you are signing.  Don’t sign it if you don’t agree.

• If you feel wronged, file a complaint with the BBB.  While it helps you seek your own justice, this also ensures that others who use the BBB as a reference will be receiving current and accurate reviews of each company.  Good or bad, each company deserves that word of mouth.

• Speak directly to the owner.  If this is not possible within a reasonable amount of time for any reason, it should always be a red flag.

Fricke also advises to do business with local companies whenever possible for all of your home buying or updating needs.  This ensures that you have the ability to go directly to the source with any questions or concerns, and that you are working with individuals from your community who care about doing quality work.  Furthermore, local businesses are concerned with their reputation amongst members of their community and therefore providing excellent customer service is a priority.

Tom-Friedman-Strong-Box-StorageWhen it comes to what most people dread about buying a new home, often it is the moving process that poses the most obstacles and hassle.  Additionally, home sellers many times need to move some of their possessions from crowded garages or basements to help their homes show better.  Strong Box Storage can help alleviate potential problems by providing a wide array of resources for moving vehicles, supplies and storage if necessary.  Their office is open six days a week, and they offer a dozen different sizes of moving boxes, packing peanuts and wrapping paper, tape, and many other items that are essential for moving.  Strong Box Storage is also an independent U-Haul dealer.  This means that they can go through the U-Haul system on the Internet and make, change or finalize any truck or trailer rentals, in addition to having direct contact with U-Haul by phone.  Their customers have the option to visit the office, or if that is not feasible, Strong Box Storage can make reservations on behalf of their customers from wherever they are currently at to wherever their destination may be.  Tom Friedman of Strong Box Storage emphasizes that they pride themselves on this type of personal service for their customers.  They have been awarded a TOP One Hundred award of achievement for their commitment to this objective.  With over 15,000 independent U-Haul dealers across the country, this is truly an honor and an exclusive designation.  Friedman says, “We off a variety of sizes of storage for the home buyer (and seller)—we are the transitional service that they need. Many times a buyer needs to move out of their current residence by a specific date and needs a place to store their belongings in the meantime.  We offer sizes from 5×5, mainly for record or tool storage for example, to 10×40 that can hold larger household items such as furniture and clothing. We take great care in finding out the sizes that each customer needs. For additional convenience, we accept a wide range of payment types including cash, check, credit and debit cards. We can also set up auto payments to avoid late fees, and we have discounts for active military or prepaid months.  Our unique keypad codes ensure that our customers have access to their belongings 365 days a year.  Concrete roads and a manager who lives on site help our customers feel comfortable and at home.” Strong Box Storage is locally owned and a member of the Better Business Bureau Honor Roll and the Self Storage Association, which is a testament to what a great, trustworthy option they are for the storage of your most dear home furnishings and possessions.

eileen-marrisonIf you don’t have the time or manpower to move your belongings yourself, you can trust the moving professionals at Two Men and a Truck to get your household from one home to the next on schedule and with great care.  In fact, using a full service professional moving company will usually cost you less than 1% of your homes’ value, while preserving the value of your belongings and providing you more time to focus on other aspects of your life during the moving process.  In line with the advice from many other professionals, Eileen Marrison of Two Men and a Truck suggests that when selecting a moving company you should always check out their rating with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are reputable.  She also suggests that moving is a great time to go through your possessions and donate any items will no longer use to a good cause.  Two Men and a Truck provides full relocation services which includes moving locally, intra and interstate moves, packing, unpacking, and they also sell a complete line of boxes and packing supplies.  They will work around your budget, including options from completing your full move with packing and unpacking or simply moving your larger items.

You likely know more than one person who has recently gone through the process of purchasing a home, so take advantage of the opportunity to pick their brain before you enter into your own personal endeavor.  Even our President, Paige Zutavern, recently bought a home and offered some great advice based on her experiences.  First and foremost, she will be the first to tell you that having a great Realtor that you trust and communicate well with is a must.  Choosing the right fit for a Realtor was a primary objective in her search for her new home, as she had a good idea of what she wanted but as a business professional with an incessantly hectic schedule, she certainly did not have the time or resources to devote to seeking this out on her own.  Paige explained, “My family lived in our starter home for over 20 years, so I had plenty of ideas regarding what I wanted in my new home.  I was definitely a picky buyer, and I changed my mind on what I wanted a lot.  My Realtor had the utmost patience with my search, and when it was all said and done took me to over 125 houses before I finally found my perfect home.  This dedication really meant a lot to me personally, and was worth every penny of the commission she earned as a result of my purchase.  Not only did my Realtor invest her time in my search for the ideal home, she invested her own gas and wear and tear on her vehicle to chauffer me around. Looking at homes is not a hobby for most people—it happens out of necessity.  My Realtor was someone I liked and trusted, so I simply told her my wishes and desires and she did the rest of the work!  As the expert, she knew just about everything on the current market and was an incredible resource in every aspect of my home buying experience.  Many people are under the impression that they can manage all the aspects of buying a home on their own and will save money in this way.  I respectfully disagree, and in fact, URGE anyone in the market to buy a home to utilize the services of a great Realtor.  Unless you understand the market or know construction, there are so many things that you will miss the mark on from the overall price and value of the home to knowledge of regulations, updates, systems and appliances, and possible points of negotiation.  I looked at several older homes, and what appeared to be really great finds to me were, in actuality, money pits that needed significant work that I had absolutely no time for.  On the other hand, most buyers also don’t have the vision to see past things that may only require minor adjustments.  A Realtor can help you see the whole picture, and give you an accurate evaluation of what exactly you are investing in and what you will be looking at in the future.”  She adds, “When you are looking for a Realtor, it is always a good idea to interview several and go with the one you trust. In this scenario you may not have the luxury of really getting to know them at length before you work with them, so choose someone you have an instant rapport with as you will be spending so much time with them that you can’t ignore something like personality even though it seems trivial.   This person should be a good listener who is attentive to your need and shares a similar style of communication.  After you have chosen this individual, loyalty is crucial as they will not get paid until the process is complete.  This means during the whole process they are investing in you, even when you haven’t made a tangible investment in them yet.  So once you choose your Realtor, stay committed to them and understand and respect the work that is being done on your behalf.  This relationship, as many others in the business community, will last much longer than just one buying experience and can also be mutually beneficial in the future.”


There are a multitude of factors that go into finding the perfect fit, and the successful purchase, of a new home. We encourage you to do your homework before you enter into this endeavor, and to partner with local professionals to evaluate each candidate. When it comes to making one of your biggest financial decisions and investments, and one that will significantly impact just about every other aspect of your life, you should be confident in your determination that the house you choose is “the one.” And don’t forget to enjoy your new surroundings and title as an official Home Owner!

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