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The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Home

buying a homeBuying a home is no small decision, and the process is no minor feat.

To make things less stressful for you, here is a quick and easy overview of all steps along the way. This can help you understand what you’re getting into, and learn how to handle each step as you get there.

Don't forget: if you work with the Keen Team, you'll have an advocate helping you every step of the way. (Check out our testimonials.)

1. Set a Budget

When deciding how much to budget for a home, remember that the mortgage amount you’re approved for doesn’t necessarily equal the amount you can afford.

The cost of owning a home involves more than just the price of the property; it also includes the extra expenses that come along with...

Don't Have 20 Percent Down? Don't Worry!

Buyers find lots of reasons to lose sleep when purchasing a home, but coming up with a 20 percent down payment shouldn’t be a source of anxiety.

In the days before government groups guaranteed mortgage loans, lenders usually required 20 percent down payments so buyers would have some skin in the game – equity –and incentive to keep paying down their mortgage debt.

Today, however, lenders can accept less than 20 percent down payment because a myriad of government agencies will guarantee the loans under specific conditions. And even if your lender requires 20 percent down, there are ways of raising that money without tapping out your savings.

Here are some ways you can handle a down payment so you can buy the house you love.

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In 2012, 14...

How to Buy a Great Home for the Long-Run

Searching for a new home? You may know what you want – granite countertops and an open floor plan – but it’s hard to predict what you someday will need.

That’s the challenge of house hunting in real time: It’s hard to select a home that will fulfill both your current and future desires.

Life as we know it changes. Maybe you’re newlyweds and plan a family down the road. Maybe you’re married with teenage kids who, hopefully, will get a job and move into homes of their owns. Or perhaps your parents are aging, and you envision inviting them to live with you when they need a little more help.

The scenarios are infinite, but home choices aren’t. That’s why it’s important to choose a home that you’ll love today, but that you can also customize to meet...

254 Norwood Avenue NE, Atlanta GA 30317

254 Norwood Avenue

254 NORWOOD AVENUE NE
ATLANTA GA 30317

Priced to Sell @ $550,000

MLS #: 5578922

Located in the Historic Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, 254 Norwood Avenue is a 6 bedroom 4 bath neo-craftsman bungalow built in 2001. It sits on a private lot and includes additional “bonus space” on the 2nd level. The galley-style kitchen showcases solid granite counters, a stainless appliance package and wood cabinetry. The living room features a fireplace, soaring 10ft+ ceilings and gleaming hardwood floors throughout the common areas. Upstairs you'll find a master suite with private master bath, large walk-in closet and plush wall-to-wall carpet. There’s a wood...

How to Find a Great Real Estate Agent

How to Find a Great Real Estate AgentLooking for a new home? Eighty-eight percent of homebuyers use a real estate agent or broker, who becomes their guide, advisor, even confessor. But with more than 2 million active real estate agents and brokers working in the U.S., it’s hard to know which one will be right for you.

We can help. Here are some steps to take and questions to ask when looking for a real estate agent to help you buy or sell a house.

Roundup Independent Referrals:

The National Association of Realtors says 86 percent of buyers are likely to use the same agent again or recommend their agent to others. So work those cocktail parties, PTA meetings and family reunions to gather names of agents who have earned the trust and respect of...

Should You Buy a Home This Summer? Or Wait Until Winter?


Is it better to buy a home in July or January?

If you go by the numbers alone, buyers get a better deal on homes during the lazy, hazy days of summer than on the tree-bare, frigid days of winter. A Redfin study shows that in the past five years, more homes listed in winter sold faster and for more money than homes listed in summer. Another Redfin study concluded you’ll likely pay more than the asking price if you buy a home in December, January, February and March.

Or course, numbers don’t tell the whole story. And buying in summer or winter each has its advantages. Here are some things to consider when deciding when’s the best time to look for your dream home.

Summer Considerations

Lots of Choices:

Summer inventory throughout most of the U.S. historically is 15 percent greater than in winter, according to the National Association of Realtors. That means more houses to see and more chances to...

Should You Buy a New Construction Home or an Older Home?

old vs. new constructionThere’s nothing like a newly constructed home, a pristine place unmarred by floor scratches and nail pops.

On the other hand, an older home has withstood the test of time. Over the years, the house has settled, leaks have been discovered and patched, and, in general, the bugs have been worked out.

Is a new or older home better for you? Here are the advantages of each type of construction.

New Home Advantages

Low Maintenance:

New construction is far less costly to maintain than older construction. The 2009 American Housing Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that 26% of all homeowners spent $100 or more a month on house maintenance, compared to only 11% of owners of newly-constructed...

Which Home Improvement Projects Increase Home Value… and Which Ones Are a Waste of Money?

Which Home Improvement Projects Increase Home Value...and Which Ones are a Waste of MoneyMaking a major change to your home?

Before you splurge five figures, think about how your update will impact your home's eventual re-sale value.

An upgrade that seems like an awesome idea now (like turning your garage into a giant ball pit for the kids) could come back to haunt you when you put your home on the market ... and find the market doesn’t like what you’ve done with the place.

If you’ve got a renovation or new project on your wish list, take a look at the following first to make sure your future self will remain happy with the changes.

Go For It

A new roof – Roofs are expensive, and if yours is on its last legs,...

Getting a Home Inspection? Here’s What to Expect

What to expect when getting a home inspection

A house is one of the most important investments you’ll make, and it's also the place you and your family will call home. 

But what you don't know can hurt you. An unexpected major repair – like needing to replace the roof – can yank tens of thousands from your bank account.

How can you minimize this risk? Before you sign on the dotted line, get a home inspection to make sure you know exactly what issues to anticipate. 

Here’s what you can expect when you schedule an inspection. 

Preparing for the Inspection

Finding an inspector. Your real estate agent should be able to recommend some good inspectors they’ve worked with in the past,...

Great Ways to Fix Bad Credit

Great Ways to Fix Bad CreditIn today’s economy and credit driven society, bad credit is becoming the norm rather than the exception.  And bad credit may be keeping you from securing loans for a new home or vehicle, or the resulting high interest rates may be putting heavy stress on your finances. The good news is there are hassle-free ways to repair your credit and improve your rating.

Before you do anything else, get a copy of your credit report to discover what things are weighing negatively on your credit. Contact all of the individual creditors listed and find out if you can put together a workable repayment plan that you can afford. As you pay off the debts, get a letter in writing stating that payment has been fulfilled. If you note inaccuracies on your report, dispute them...

Preparing for the College Years

Preparing for College Years with Real EstateA new trend in real estate investment is emerging: parents investing in real estate to fund their children’s college education.

With the ups and downs of the stock market this past decade, more parents are seeking to invest for their children’s future through other assets, including real estate.

How Does It Work?

These parents believe that the time is right to purchase real estate because of low prices and mortgage rates, and have a strong belief that real estate prices will show considerable appreciation by the time their children are in college.

The idea is to purchase a house as an investment property when a child is born or very young. Ideally, a 15-year fixed rate mortgage is used for a property that cash flows in the first year.

By the time the child...

Atlanta Home Inspections: To Beware or Not To Beware

Atlanta Home InspectionsIt’s common for home inspections to be a point of stress for a buyer. I recently wrote a segment about choosing a home inspector and the types of home inspections to consider when purchasing a single family home.  

Experience shows that many buyers, especially first timers, have no idea what to expect from a Home Inspection. I sure didn’t when I bought my first place (well, before I was in the business). I remember how stressed and anxious I was about my home inspection, only to have it all fall into place. I was so excited to move into my first digs.

It's Normal To Stress, but Preparation Helps

Buying a home is a big event for most people, and anxiety can understandably run high when awaiting the results of...

Can you buy happiness?

I’m not a realtor... I’m a purveyor of new beginnings.  I’m not a broker, I’m a dealer of memories.  I’m not an agent, I’m a lifestyle consultant.

Buying, selling, owning and investing in real estate is still one of the best ways to build wealth in the long term.  And we work to provide our clients with the right information to make smart decisions for their future. 

But what we really love about our job is helping our clients realize their greatest life dreams. We work with people transitioning from one phase to another, big families with big ideas, college grads with new jobs, and empty-nesters with new found freedoms.  Walkers near trails, bikers near paths and foodies near food.  Open lofts for artists, gardens for urban farmers, kitchens for family gatherings, garages for hot rods, basements for woodworking and nurseries for new arrivals.

It’s our pleasure...

How to Lease Purchase Your Home

Over the last few months I've had a number of past clients ask me whether a "lease purchase" would be viable to help them sell their home. Though it's not right for everyone ... it can be a win-win real estate deal, and it can help solve a serious problem for today's frustrated sellers.

Here's how it works:

In its simplest form, a lease-purchase agreement is nothing more than a written contract to purchase real estate over an extended period of time, typically not exceeding 36 months. It is usually coupled with an agreement to allow the purchaser to occupy the house and pay rent on it while he is completing the purchase.

In contrast, a lease-option agreement is primarily an agreement to rent real estate. That agreement contains a provision granting the renter the option of purchasing the real estate at some point in the future if he so chooses.

Here's why it's working today:

Traditional lenders have tightened underwriting guidelines and raised minimum credit standards,...

Know Before You Buy

A professional home inspection is your best defense against buying a home that has unexpected issues that will cost you time and money as the new owner.  Getting a proper home inspection on a single family home you plan to buy is a must.  Don’t ever skip proper inspections.  Ever.

There are different types of inspections that should be considered depending on the type, age and condition of the home you are buying.  Here are your options ::

General Home Inspection.  This is the common Home Inspection- the one that you and your agent will talk about.  An inspection will run you around $400 and will get you a general inspection of all of the homes major operating systems and structure.  That includes the HVAC, plumbing, electrical, roof, structure and more.  In many (most) cases, a General Home Inspection is all you need to protect yourself.  Good Home Inspectors are not difficult to come by but if you don’t know one personally, take a recommendation from someone who...

Buy for Today and Tomorrow.

Young, growing families often find themselves looking for far more home than they need and it can lead to confusion, stress and discouragement when they don’t find it within their budget.

I recently worked with a young family (husband, wife and new baby) who were excited to find their first home.  They planned on having more kids but couldn't say when.  Both were in upwardly mobile jobs and planned on being in Atlanta indefinitely.  At first, they were adamant about finding a large 4 bedroom home with a basement and large backyard fit for the large family they dreamed of having.  Sounds right.  

The problem was their budget.  They simply couldn’t find the home they wanted except in neighborhoods that weren’t a fit.  Despite my best counsel, discouragement soon set in.  Like many young families, they assumed that this was there one shot to find the perfect home to raise their family.  But here’s the catch, although they had a plentiful budget, the home they wanted was just out of reach unless they sacrificed significantly...

When your priorities are clear. Decisions are easy.

Think about that headline"When your priorities are clear, your decisions are easy”.  When it comes to Buying and Selling Real Estate, this is a foundational principal.  Even after being in the business for 13 years now …  helping hundreds of families and selling many hundreds of homes, I stop,  get connected to my priorities, center myself and align my goals with what's most important to me about them.  I repeat that phrase to myself to help keep me grounded.  See, my purpose as a real estate consultant is spelled out in that phrase and I’m always searching for creative ways to share this insight with my clients as I introduce them to the market.  

Look around.  Huge varieties of living situations are abound.  From dark, one room, cement floor, basement apartments to sprawling, water-front, marble villas…  there is a castle for every man.  And, most Buyers I meet know exactly what they want… or do they?  Ha! No.  No, really, they have...

Would You Like To Be Your Neighbor?

In the perceived fast paced world of the internet, Facebook, smart phones and virtual video games you rarely hear folks talking “old style” about meeting or welcoming new neighbors.  That’s not to say that the idea of living in a close-knit community with friendly neighbors that watch out for each other is dead.  I do come across small communities where efforts are put forth by residence to bring neighbors together.  

Case in point- I recently helped a family buy a wonderful family home in a community of 12 homes where the neighbors were very active and involved.  During the home inspection, three neighbors came over to meet my clients (the would-be new neighbors) and it came with an invitation for all of us to join them at their every Thursday “Wine at the Pine”.  This is where they would all gather under the big pine tree in the Cul-de-sac with the kids and a few bottles of wine.  I thought it was brilliant and it got me thinking about what it looks like to get my clients in touch with neighbors in...

Masterclass Lesson Plan :: The Art, Science and Psychology of Home Buying & Selling

It is our choices…that show what we really are, far more than our abilities.
—J.K. Rowling

A secret is something hidden or known only to insiders. A few behavioral scientists and market researchers might be acquainted with some of the ideas in this masterclass series, but these concepts have not been available to our clients until now.  Our team is committed to change that fact by equipping the home buyers, sellers and landlords we consult with “insider information” that can help them become more comfortable (and savvy) about whatever housing decisions they might contemplate.

Because housing decisions are crucial.  They can involve the most money you ever spend, the highest debt you ever incur, and the best (or worst) investment you ever make. A moving decision can result in either a frustrating or fulfilling experience that affects not just your life, but the lives of loved ones who move with you. Yet, as my brother Adam...

Masterclass Introduction :: The Art, Science and Psychology of Successful Home Buying & Selling

This is the preface post in a new Master Class series we're calling " The Art, Science and Psychology of Successful Home Buying & Selling". Taken together, this series will be a guide to help you navigate the complex and emotionally charged process of buying, selling or renting real estate. Feel comfortable leaving comments, asking questions and engaging with other readers when it strikes you.  Simply leave a comment in the section below.

As a military family, our dad's work required him to travel, and many times to foreign places far from what we'd ever think to call "home".  And until recently, the longest our family lived in one geographic place was four years.  During the 18 years I shared a roof with Ben and Adam - we lived in 4 countries (United States, Portugal, Germany and England), 5 states (South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Wyoming and Georgia).  I attended 4 high schools in 3 different countries and moved a total of 19 times before turning 24 years old.   Most of my 19 moves, now...

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