Get A Jump On The Spring Home Buying Season.

Get a Jump on Home Buying
Get a Jump on Home Buying

With winter’s cold weather still lingering, spring can seem far, far away, but now is the time to get a jump-start on preparing yourself for the spring home buying season. Here are a few good tips to help you prepare.

Create Your Wish List

Curl up by the fireplace and make a wish list for everything you’d want in a new home. Now is the time to really think and prioritize when it comes to must haves in your new home. What does your new home need to have? What can you live without?

Pick A Neighborhood

Do a little research on the area or areas where you want to live. Do you have a school district in mind? Do you want an urban space? Are you looking for acreage in the country? Have you had your eye on that new subdivision just north of town? Now is the time to learn as much as you can about your potential new area.

Find An Agent

It is important that you consider working with a licensed real estate professional in order to save yourself time, money and hassle. There can be a lot of confusion and guesswork if you are out there navigating the market on your own, especially as a first time buyer. Working with a Mel Foster agent will give you the expertise and guidance you need to reach your home buying goals. You can find an agent by name or office location by clicking here.

Supporting Our Hunger

Student Hunger Drive
Supporting our Hungry

Mel Foster Co. is proud to participate again in the Student Hunger Drive Corporate Challenge.  The competition kicks off today and runs thru February 27.

Each Mel Foster Co. office is conducting an internal food drive by collecting donations of money and/or canned food items for the Student Hunger Drive.  For last year’s corporate challenge, Mel Foster Co. received the Bronze Award for Division B collecting 37.25 pounds per employee and their insurance division won the internal drive.

“Supporting those in need is what being a community partner is all about”, says Lynsey Engels, President of Brokerage Division of Mel Foster Co.  She added, “Mel Foster Co. is proud to continue our tradition of supporting the Student Hunger Drive, and our agents and staff look forward to helping create awareness in the fight against hunger in our area.”

MEL FOSTER CO. CELEBRATES SALES GROWTH

MF LOGO ONLY COLORMel Foster Co. held its annual awards reception last night at the Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf, Iowa. Rob Fick, President & CEO, Lynsey Engels, President Real Estate Brokerage and Marc Engels, President of Mel Foster Insurance, presented awards to 115 agents who were recognized for achieving membership in the company’s different sales club levels including Chairman, Executive, President and Honor. Top honors were awarded to:

Thad DenHartog – Commercial Top Sales

Diana Franks – Residential Illinois Top Sales

Brad Boeye – Residential Iowa Top Sales

Mike Smith – Insurance Top Producer

Dedicated agents and staff are the foundation for success at Mel Foster Co. Inc. Building on the momentum of a strong 2013, Mel Foster Co. Inc. had a solid 2014, including an exceptionally impressive year for Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate Services. Combining all three divisions of Mel Foster Co. Inc. (Residential Real Estate, Commercial Real Estate and Insurance), the total sales volume increased by over 4 percent from 2013 which is a record year.

Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate Services set a new company sales record with a 31 percent increase over last year’s record sales volume. Lynsey Engels reported that the brokers of the commercial division closed an average of over 10 million dollars per broker. She praised the commercial division and said, “This past year was phenomenal for our commercial division, the best total sales volume recorded in our history. Based on the year’s closed commercial transaction production, our commercial division ranked number one in the CMLS (Commercial Multiple Listing Service) for 2014 capturing over 43 percent of the total commercial sales volume.  Many of these 2014 transactions will have a significant impact on the future growth and development of the Quad Cities and surrounding region and that is something we are very proud of.”

Mel Foster Co. residential real estate ranked number one in the Quad Cities MLS with over one third of the total sales volume for this region. The average 2014 sales price for Mel Foster Co. residential real estate was $152,885, an increase of 3 percent from last year.

New construction continued to be good for the Quad Cities housing industry. Last year, Mel Foster Co. residential real estate predicted new construction sales to be strong in 2014 and that forecast met this expectation. Lynsey Engels said, “We positioned ourselves to meet the new construction demand in our region by launching four new subdivisions in 2013 and we closed 43 new residential lots in those subdivisions.”

Mel Foster Insurance continues to build off of a record setting year.  Marc Engels commented. “Any time you reach new levels, the big question is can you keep the momentum going.  Our continued success can be attributed to our staff, producers, and the local clientele we work with each day.” In 2014, results continued to trend upward as direct written premiums grew 8 percent, policy count was up over 6 percent, and the agency added 791 new clients. With a range of product offerings from Personal and Commercial Property/Casualty to Employee Benefits, Mel Foster Insurance saw positive contributions from all departments this past year.  Marc Engels also stated, “We continue to focus on innovative solutions, while remembering that most importantly, our clients want a customized, personal insurance experience.  When you look back on the year, you realize that the accomplishments our division is most proud of don’t show up on the financials, but in our role as a community stewards.”

“In 2014, we welcomed 41 new agents and staff, and 12 individuals are enrolled in our upcoming pre-license classes. With job creation continuing to increase, mortgage rates falling, and healthy increases in home sales prices, the outlook for the housing market in 2015 looks bright,” commented Rob Fick. Optimistic about Mel Foster Co.’s future, Engels also mentioned the hiring of its Director of Business Development to continue the emphasis on recruiting and training new agents with exceptional education programs and tools. Engels added, “The agents are the true lifeblood of our company’s success so it is a key focus to ensure they have great technology and training opportunities to provide the consumers with the best experience.”

Where Gen Y Buyers Can Find A Diamond In The Rough.

Are you a Gen Y buyer?
Are you a Gen Y buyer?

When shopping for a home, check out transitional city neighborhoods that might just be on the verge of revitalization. You might find a great price or a really unique home that’s in the middle of the action. There are several reasons why you should consider all of your options when searching for your new home.

Urban neighborhoods are home to coffee shops and corner stores. Boutiques and other quirky shops can add the character you might be missing in a traditional suburban setting.

Young couples or singles, who aren’t ready to give up a thriving nightlife, are often drawn to downtown lofts, converted warehouse spaces or even upper floors of shops and restaurants. Living downtown may give you more opportunities to make friends who are your age.

Many times, living in an urban area gives you easier access to public transportation that could significantly reduce your annual transportation budget, if you’re fortunate enough to no longer need the use of a car.

Farmer’s markets and food co-ops are also becoming very popular in urban areas. With access to organic and farm fresh food, your health and wallet could be thanking you. Another point of consideration is that living in densely populated areas gives you the potential for exposure to other ethnic groups and cultures. New and interesting food and customs could become just another perk of your new neighborhood.

Downtown homes or lofts are often smaller than homes out in the burbs. This means less to clean, a smaller yard or maybe no yard to mow, and your utility bill may be smaller in a smaller home. You have your whole life to move out to the suburbs. Look around your downtown for the hot spots that fit your budget and style.

Count on a Mel Foster Co. agent to help you identify up and coming neighborhoods and the programs that may make homeownership more affordable to you. Find an agent at your local office.

Turn A Vacation Rental Into Your Second Home.

Turn a vacation rental into a second home!
Turn a vacation rental into a second home!

Vacation home sales are on the rise, with many people buying for a vacation home to use now and retire to later.

Second home buyers tend to be in their 40s and 50s, are still working, have children who are starting their own families and no obligations to care for aging parents. They are using their vacation home as a meeting place to gather everyone during holidays or other significant family holidays.

When the home isn’t being used, it generates rental income. In some locations, the rental fees can completely cover the mortgage, taxes and fees of homeownership, giving you a vacation home for free that can eventually become your second home in retirement.

Purchasing a vacation home where you’d eventually like to retire allows you to establish community ties for a smooth transition into retirement later. It’s also a great trial run. It gives you a glimpse into where you might want to spend your golden years before the time arrives and you have to make a firm commitment.

There are also financial benefits to owning a second home. First is the appreciation that will happen over time, especially if you purchase in a popular resort area. However even modest appreciation over time is acceptable given all the benefits of second home ownership.

Mel Foster Co.’s relocation division has connections to help you find a second home anywhere in the world. Contact a relocation specialist at 800-367-1134.

Get Your Finances In Order.

Getting your finances in order
Getting your finances in order

One of the smartest things you can do before buying a home is getting yourself pre-qualified. By getting pre-qualified, you’ll get an idea of what your mortgage might cost, ahead of time. This can help you prepare your budget, set your expectations and strengthen your confidence to negotiate when you’re ready to make an offer.

What is pre-qualification?

Pre-qualification gives you an estimate of what you could potentially borrow. It is based on information you give on your income, assets and credit. Many times a pre-qualification can be done online and is offered by many lenders at little to no cost. It is however just an estimation, and not a guarantee of any type of loan.

Why get pre-qualified?

Once you know how much of a monthly payment you are able to afford, and you’ve figured out a budget for yourself, a pre-qualification will allow you to estimate a loan option to fit your needs. You’ll also have a better idea of which homes you can afford during your search.

What documentation do I need in order to get pre-qualified?

You will need proof of income, this could include recent pay stubs, or W-2 statements from the past two years. You should also bring a copy of your tax return for the past two years, as well as proof of any alimony or additional income. You’ll also want to bring proof of your assets, including bank account statements to show you have the money for a potential down payment. Don’t forget your driver’s license and social security card, as the lender will need these to access your credit report.

Pre-qualification can help you be fully prepared to purchase that home you’ve been eyeing. You can get a head start by using the mortgage calculators to determine your monthly payment, figure out how much home you can afford and make a decision about renting versus buying.

An Older Home As A Green Alternative.

Older Home as Green Alternative
Older Home as Green Alternative

Call it recycling on a grand scale. Homebuyers who want their purchase to be more environmentally friendly are turning to older homes instead of building new. In fact, architect Carl Elefante coined the phrase, “the greenest building is the one that is already built.” What he meant by that is that environmental resources that would be used to build a building’s replacement are often times spared by restoring or repurposing an existing structure.

Did you know that it can take up to 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome the energy and climate change impacts caused during the construction process? Building reuse offers significant environmental savings when compared to the energy consumption of demolition and new construction.

Older buildings constructed prior to reliance on mechanical heating, cooling and lighting systems utilize what nature offers as part of their design. This can help reduce your energy use, helping you save on heating and cooling your home.

Go green and consider purchasing an older home that just needs a little TLC. Use the option to search by Year Built by clicking here to find a home you can recycle.

Put Out The Welcome Mat For Fall.

Welcome Fall
Welcome Fall

The number one tip for giving your home great curb appeal in the fall is to keep your lawn free of leaves. Buyers may drive right past your home if they feel like raking leaves would be too much work for them if they bought your home. Keep up with this chore to give your home a tidy and maintenance free look.

Cooler temperatures also mean it’s time to replace your tired annuals with colorful mums or kale. Clear out your planting beds of summer foliage and drop some blooms into your window box or porch planter. Remember that you still need to water these plants to keep them looking fresh.

If you have already moved out or can’t maintain plant watering, you can brighten your porch with a grouping of three large pumpkins. Want them to last even longer? Don’t carve your pumpkins for Halloween. You can keep an uncarved pumpkin on your porch through Thanksgiving and get two holidays out of one purchase!

Even though it’s Halloween time, real spider webs on your porch need to be cleared away regularly. No need to scare away buyers with frightful spider webs.

Need ideas for keeping your home open house ready for the holidays? Click here for simple tips.

Which Loan Is Right For Me?

It’s important to select the right type of mortgage for your financial situation, but understanding your options can be difficult. Your Mel Foster Co. agent  <link to find an agent> is your resource for proving information so you are able to make a knowledgeable decision regarding a mortgage. This quick list explains the top three most popular loan types.

1. Fixed-interest Mortgage

A fixed-interest mortgage is a type of loan that has a set interest rate. Most fixed mortgages are usually 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. The most common length of time is 30 years, as it provides the lowest monthly payment for homeowners. Keep in mind that most of the first few years of the payment are heavily focused on the interest that will be paid off, and very little actually goes towards the principal. You can determine your monthly payment for a fixed-interest mortgage with the Mel Foster Co. monthly payment calculator. 

2. Adjustable-rate Mortgage

An adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM is a loan with a variable interest rate. The interest rate will change after a designated period of time, determined by the lender. As a borrower, you may benefit if the interest rate is lowered, but you will also be exposed to potentially higher interest rates. The interest rate will remain steady for an agreed upon time, and won’t change until the next adjustment period. These types of mortgages are easier to obtain in situations when a fixed-interest mortgage isn’t an option. 

3. Interest-only Loan

An interest-only loan focuses on paying only the interest first. An example would be a 5-year fixed-30 mortgage. This means that for the first five years, you are only paying the interest, and not contributing any money towards the principal. The interest rate is fixed, but may change after five years. Once the five years is up, you begin to pay interest along with the principal cost. This will increase your payments significantly, even if the interest rate doesn’t change. This option is meant for someone who believes that they will earn more money in the future, or currently has their money tied up somewhere else. Just always remember to save your money for after the initial five years.

Which loan is right for you?
Which loan is right for you?

Staging Secrets To Get Top Dollar Offers.

Most sellers have tunnel vision when it comes to getting their home ready for sale. It’s important to view your home as a potential buyer would. That paint chip you hardly notice or that collection of family photos running all the way up your staircase will jump out as negatives to buyers. To get top dollar, focus on making your home appealing to potential buyers, instead of appealing to yourself.

Start by removing any clutter around the house. This will help buyers envision themselves living in your home. Although less is more, it is still important to leave the essentials in your rooms. This will give a frame of reference for how much space really is in the room and how furniture can be placed. If the room is completely empty, it may appear to be smaller than it really is. Also, remove anything that is personal in the house such as family photos, religious symbols and everything on the refrigerator.

Next you should focus on all of the things you may have ignored for the past few months. Does your front door have some paint chips? How about that leaky faucet? Quick fixes can get you higher offers.

If you have walls that are painted bright colors, or may come off as taste-specific, consider getting a fresh can of a neutral color and diffuse the bold walls. Although your child may love her fuchsia walls, someone who is just moving in would most likely appreciate a more neutral color. Taking the time to paint the room is an important step when trying to stage the home because it lets someone else see a blank canvas that they can paint their dreams on.

Mel Foster Co. has several agents who are certified in the staging of your property to attract potential buyers. Accredited Staging Professionals® (ASP) are highly skilled and certified in creating just the right atmosphere that will appeal to all five senses of every buyer.

Top Dollar Staging Secrets
Top Dollar Staging Secrets


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