Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Feb. 18, 2019

What is an Adjustable Rate Mortgage and Should I Get One?

Unless you have a tree in your backyard that literally grows money, it’s likely that when it comes time to purchase a home, you’ll need to secure financing. And depending on your budget, credit score, and potential future earnings, you might be considering an ARM, or Adjustable Rate Mortgage, because it offers a low initial interest rate. But is it right for you?

Since the rate of an ARM is lower than the rate of a typical 30-year fixed rate loan, more and more home buyers have been considering ARMs for their home purchases, especially as a first-time buyer. There are important considerations that you should keep in mind before making this decision, though, and here at Meridian Realty Group, we want to help you make the right choice.

What is an Adjustable Rate Mortgage?

Simply put, an ARM is a mortgage where the interest rate adjusts over the course of the loan. Unlike a fixed-rate mortgage, where you’ll know what interest rate you’ll have for the next thirty years, an ARM has an initial period of extremely low interest rates that’s usually followed by an annual adjustment based on current market conditions. This means that your interest rate is likely to go up regularly after the initial period and you have no control over it beyond knowing how high it can go.

Now that you understand what an ARM is, should you get one? It depends on the answers to a few questions:

Are you planning on selling this home within 5-10 years? If you have a concrete plan in place to divest yourself of this home within the initial interest rate period, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage might be the right choice for you. Many younger generations tend to move more frequently for career changes, educational opportunities, and more, so loans with low initial interest rates make more sense.

Is this going to be your forever home? Do you plan to raise a family and have your family raise their family in this house? Is this is a home you’re custom building from scratch and want to stay in the family for generations to come? In that case, a longer, fixed rate mortgage is lower risk and easier to manage financially.

Are you motivated enough to implement a strategy that pays down your principal on an accelerated level? If you have the financial stability and discipline to use the lower initial interest rate to make massive payments towards the principal, you could benefit from an ARM while also decreasing the length of your mortgage.

Is your future income growth uncertain? If you don’t reasonably anticipate that your income levels will grow, you should consider a mortgage that you can plan for. An ARM has the risk of fluctuating wildly, leaving you grasping for ways to pay your mortgage in the future.

As you can see, it is a complicated decision to go with a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage for your home purchase. While we’d recommend searching for that money tree instead, if you can’t find one, give us a call so we can help you make the right choice for you!

Posted in Mortgage Tips
Feb. 10, 2019

Five Hints That You Should Move To A New House

Whether you’re living in a starter home, or the family home after all the kids have grown up and moved out, there are always subtle hints that it might be time to move on. Selling your home and moving on to a new one can be a difficult choice at times, but here are a few glaring signs that are hard to miss:

 

1. Your House Is Too Small

If you bought your home when it was just you and your spouse, and now you have three kids, two dogs, a cat, a bird, Grandma, and that weird neighbor kid whose parents never seem to notice he’s missing all living under one roof, it might be time to upgrade. Extra bedrooms, extra bathrooms, a game room, a man cave, a home office - just think of the possibilities of moving to a larger house! There are plenty of great options out there, and depending how long you’ve been in your current home, you might be able to make it work pretty easy financially.

2. Your House Is Too Big

The kids have all grown up and have homes of their own. The dog is too old to run around and mostly sleeps at your feet. That weird neighbor kid still comes over, but he does chores, so you don’t mind. You and your spouse only use 20% of your house and the rest only gets any use on holidays. This is a great time to downsize and trade in your home for something that’s a little more intimate, a little more cozy, and maybe somewhere the weird neighbor kid can’t find you anymore.

3. Living There Is A Burden

Maybe 30-year old you thought that a three-story house was an amazing idea because of the potential for a top-floor studio where you could paint, but 50-year old you had knee surgery and haven’t painted anything in ten years. There’s nothing wrong with going from a multi-level home to one that’s only single story. Alternatively, maybe the home started off as a fixer-upper, and as the years have gone by, has turned into a money pit. It’s nowhere near being fixed, it’s dangerous to live there, and the emotional and financial stress of keeping the home is unhealthy for you. Don’t let your pride keep you somewhere that’s no good for you!

4. The Neighborhood Has Declined

If you begin to notice the signs of a neighborhood beginning a downward spiral, whether it’s increased crime, urban blight, or that weird neighbor kid living in a cardboard box on the street, it might be a good time to get out while you can. Unfortunately, when a good neighborhood becomes a bad one, home prices can drop like a stone, so if you’re the last to notice, you might also be the one who takes a loss on your home.

5. You’re Not Happy In Your Home

A home is supposed to be the one place where you feel safe and happy. It should be the respite from all the stress in the world, and if you’re realizing that your home, for whatever reason, is causing you more strife than happiness, it might be time to move on (this also applies to relationships, but we’re real estate agents, not therapists). If you begin to fantasize about moving to a new home, stay up late at night feverishly looking through real estate listings, and have dreams of your home accidentally being destroyed by an errant meteorite crashing into it, it’s time to listen to your gut.

Whatever the reason you might have for looking for a new home, chances are if you’re reading this article, there’s something telling you it might be time to find a new place to live. Lucky for you, we can help! Call us today to find out how we can help make that dream a reality.

Jan. 19, 2019

Want to rent, but afraid of getting ripped off? Read this post.

As younger generations - Millennials, Generation Y, Generation Next, and Sugar Free Crystal Pepsi (oops, one of those is wrong) - find it more difficult to put together the money for a down payment to buy a home, many of you are renting instead. It’s important to be careful, though, as tech-savvy as most people under the age of 30 are, you’re very prone to some common and easily avoided rental scams. Here are a few ways to protect yourself when looking for rental property:

Step One: Check the listing carefully.

Before spending any time looking at the home or apartment, review the listing details and the photos meticulously. Does the listing have enough information, or does it feel overly vague? Does it leave out important details or information or sound highly generic? Those can be some signs that it may not be legitimate. Are the photos good quality, or are they TOO GOOD? Scammers will sometimes use stock photos or pull photos from real estate websites - if you see an MLS watermark, it’s definitely worth avoiding.

Step Two: Ask to see the property.

If you’re getting a runaround about seeing your potential new home before paying any type of deposit or application fee, that’s a bad sign. If the person with the ad doesn’t immediately suggest that you come by and see it, and if they try to pressure you into signing something before you see the place, that’s a huge risk. One common scam is to convince a renter to sign a lease for an apartment or home that’s different from the ad, and while you’d have some legal protection from being defrauded, it could be your word against theirs and cause quite a bit of difficulty.

Step Three: Trust your gut.

Let’s say you see an ad for a great property and when you call the number, the person on the other end tells you that it’s available and you can sign a lease immediately with no application fee and no background check. Pop quiz, hot shot - what do you do? Answer: You run. You want someone who wants reliable tenants, not an anonymous person on the other end of the phone who’s willing to sign a lease without any verifying information. That’s a huge indication that your deposit will vanish into thin air without a home to show for it.

You should never pay any amount beyond a basic application fee before you have managed to confirm that the space is available, you’ve confirmed that the person you’re dealing with is officially associated with the property and able to make decisions on its behalf, and you’ve signed a contract that makes you the legal tenant of the exact apartment or home you’ve seen.

Step Four: Look for these other red flags.

  • Is the person you’re talking to out of the country so they can’t meet in person or show you the place? Red flag.
  • Do they want you to pay a finder’s fee regardless of the apartment you find? Red flag.
  • Is the rent they’re asking for way too cheap for the area? Red flag.
  • Do they want you to wire money? Big ol’ honking red flag.
  • Do they keep asking you to visit your grandmother? Those are just your parents. May or may not be a red flag.

Renting a home can be an easy process if you use a little common sense, avoid anything that sounds too good to be true, and especially if you use a reputable Realtor like Meridian Realty Group. Look through our website for our most current rental listings, always available for a viewing at your convenience!

Posted in Tips for Renters
Jan. 15, 2019

You’ve Got Mold: Is It Time To Panic?

Let’s face the truth - we live in Florida, which is a damp, humid, sticky swamp of a state. There’s moisture everywhere - in the summer, you can’t even walk outside without sweating like one of those old men who sit in the sauna at the gym (although hopefully you’re wearing more than the tiny hand towels they wear). And where there’s moisture, there’s a risk of mold.

Anywhere that moisture has a chance to settle, you have a risk of finding mold inside your house, from sink drains to showers, kitchen sponges to laundry rooms. Outside, you’ll find it on walls, brick and concrete walkways, and even in the yard. It’s everywhere!

What should you do when you encounter mold? First, don’t panic. Here are some tips to consider when encountering mold in your home:

1. Be cautious.

Any mold, whether it’s black, white, green, or another color, has the potential to make you feel sick and exacerbate the symptoms of asthma or allergies. Take some steps to be safe by wearing a mask, using rubber gloves when dealing with it, and working in well-ventilated areas.

2. Clean it up.

If you can pinpoint the source of the mold and clean it up with some bleach and water (one cup of bleach per one gallon of water is a good ratio), then you’ll be fine. Fix that dripping faucet, leaky pipe or hole in the roof, clean up the mold, and you shouldn’t see it again. Bathrooms are the biggest offenders, with shower drains needing regular cleaning to ensure that mold won’t build up.

3. Take preventive action.

Mold can’t grow if you don’t give it the space to grow. Keep your home well-ventilated, clean, and dry. A properly functioning and regularly maintained HVAC system will go a long way toward keeping your home mold-free. Check problem areas in your garage, laundry room, kitchen, and bathroom. Keep your exterior walls of your home clean, and pressure wash them regularly. Most importantly, keep your eyes peeled for excess moisture that can be a mold breeding ground.

4. Get rid of any porous surfaces that have been affected.

While those Febreze commercials make it look easy to cover up mold and mildew scents by spraying a few puffs of chemically enhanced spray, it’s not a good idea for your home. If you have mold on furniture, carpet, or drywall, or any other surface that is absorbent, get rid of anything porous that is affected. It might not be fun to throw away a rug or a couch that has mold damage, but it’s a lot less fun to get sick from the mold, we promise.

5. Don’t fall for scam artists when it comes to black mold

Black mold is not toxic. It’s toxigenic, which means it is capable of producing mycotoxins, which are organisms that are capable of making you sick. And while black mold is uncommon, treat it with the same respect you’d have for any other mold - wear gloves and a mask and clean it up, but most importantly, find the source of the moisture and put a stop to it!

6. Use a professional when it’s the right decision

If your home was damaged by a flood or hurricane, you may have severe mold infestation, and in those limited situations, use a professional service to clean your home. This is especially important if you’ve suffered from any type of extended power outage, as mold can flourish without a central air system keeping the air in your home dry. Mold remediation companies can not only remove the mold from visible surface areas in the home, but from within your HVAC air handler and duct system as well. Thankfully, in most situations involving mold, a small mold growth can be carefully and intelligently handled by you, bleach and water, and a little safety.

Do you have questions about selling your home after finding mold? We can talk to you about any necessary disclosures and legal requirements to make sure your home still sells without a hitch. Contact us today!

Jan. 7, 2019

Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth Out Of Your Realtor?

If Walmart started offering discount surgery services in its superstores, right next to the money orders and hair salon, would you consider it even for a second? The savviest readers are immediately shaking their heads and laughing, but there are a few of you thinking “What could be so bad about that?” And luckily for those few, we’ll dive right in and help you with that one.

There are some professions out there where the amount of money you pay is proportionally related to the quality of service, attention to detail, and overall effectiveness, efficiency, and professional results. What this means is that as a general rule for some specialized fields, the more you pay, the better product/service you’re going to get.

Obviously, this isn’t true in the world of retail. Retail has always been, since the dawn of time when a caveman named Grog sold rocks outside a cave to lazier cavemen who didn’t want to look for them, about finding a product for as cheap as you can and then marking up the price as high as possible to earn a profit. Amazon and Walmart only stay in business because when you’re dealing with millions of transactions, you can have a one percent profit margin and still pad your pockets easily.

But, beyond retail, when you’re dealing with specialized services, the price you pay is directly tied to the quality of what you get. Would you go get your annual physical and medical check-up from a guy driving around in a van with “Free Exams” painted on the outside? Are you going to get your prescriptions filled from a guy driving around in an ice cream truck who takes cash? (Weirdly, it’s the same guy - he needs to get a new line of work). Of course not!

Real estate is the exact same situation. Using the lure of a smaller commission to attract sellers, discount real estate brokerage firms offer a promise that is literally too good to be true. The trade-off happens immediately - instead of a professional, hands-on agent who puts the time and effort in to sell your home properly, you get a brokerage that puts their time at a premium. This means agents at a discount brokerage can’t afford to spend the time they need to properly manage a real estate listing or sale transaction, and if the agents can't spend the time needed to help you, who will? Often it's inadequately trained assistants who have even less motivation to do a professional job than the agents, who are in the difficult position of having to close as many fixed-commission sales as possible. This 'head 'em up and round 'em out' approach can result in error-filled transactions that frustrate sellers and title companies, cause problems with banks and underwriters, and delay sales for days, if not indefinitely. Is this really the experience you want? Is this how you feel that your needs as a seller should be prioritized? (They’re rhetorical questions, of course, but the answers should be a resounding “No!”)

We get it. It’s easy when looking at the commissions charged by Realtors to think that a discount brokerage firm would be the way to go. Well, it’s easy until you do a little research and find out that professional real estate firms like Meridian Realty Group will on average get higher prices for your home, with fewer errors in the process, fewer risks of problems with the title or loan and fewer chances that you’ll pull out your hair in frustration at the unprofessionalism and lack of respect you’ll receive as a seller.

A discount brokerage firm only succeeds if your home is one of ten homes it sells that month - you’re nothing but a number to them. In contrast, here at Meridian Realty Group, we succeed every time we help one of our clients get a great price on their home, work with them one-on-one throughout the closing, and gain a new friend in the process.

Give us a call today to find out more about what we can offer you and your family.

Dec. 22, 2018

Five Ways To Boost Curb Appeal On A Budget

We’ve all been there. You’re ready to sell your house and make a little extra money to put into savings, catch up on bills, pay off those student loan people who keep calling, or buy a personal jetpack from Elon Musk. You’ve had your house on the market for a month now, for sale by owner, with very little interest, and you know you have to make some changes if you’re going to sell your home.

But then there’s that whole adage that everyone knows: “You have to spend money to make money.” And while that might be true to selling air conditioners and cars and Elon Musk jetpacks, it’s not necessarily true when it comes to improving the curb appeal for your home. There are plenty of ways that you can punch up the look of your home on a minimal budget and increase interest from potential home buyers.

Step One: Clean It!

A clean home is going to sell better than a dirty home. Get on your hands and knees, get out that toothbrush, and make those baseboards shine! Eliminate the dust and dirt on the inside, and then it’s time to focus on the outside. Get a razor or a squeegee (does that word look weird to anyone else?) and make your windows sparkle. Rent a pressure washer or borrow your neighbor’s when he’s at work (We asked him. He won’t mind.) and get rid of the years of grime and dust and dirt on the exterior of your house, your front porch, your driveway, and even your mailbox. Make it look new again!

Step Two: Plant Some Flowers!

Some pops of bright color in the front of your house can draw the eye and really improve your curb appeal. Pick colors that complement your house colors (no orange and blue even if you are a diehard Gators fan) in pleasing ways, and plant some flowers along your front walkway or porch. Worried about not having a green thumb? That’s okay - you’re only trying to keep these flowers around long enough for someone to buy the house. After that, it’s on them to keep the plants alive. If you live in the Ocala area, stop by the farmer’s market for cheap flowers to plant that are in season and will flourish in the Florida weather (or lack thereof).

Step Three: Replace The Small Stuff!

Just like when everyone noticed that Grandma got a diamond nose ring, replacing the small stuff can make all the difference. Go to your local hardware store and get new hinges, door plates, and lights for the front of your home. Switch out your house numbers for brand new shiny clean ones. Replace the mailbox. Put new lights in along the sidewalk. All of these minor flourishes can be easy on the budget but have a big impact to the drive-by potential buyer.

Step Four: Cover Up The Ugly!

The plan is this: Make the home you want to sell look perfect to a prospective homebuyer. Clean what you can clean, replace what you can replace, and cover up what needs to be covered up. They’ll see it all eventually, but this is a first impression, and when it comes to selling your house, first impressions are everything! So put a trellis in front of that AC unit, put the garbage cans behind the house or in the garage, and move the lawn decoration your husband insists on putting out every year to the dumpster behind the local 7-11.

Step Five: See It From Their Perspective!

Before your curb appeal adventure can be concluded, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the people who may want to buy your house. A little play acting can be fun - pretend to have British accents, wear that hat your mother-in-law gave you that looks hideous, and roleplay. Drive by your home on all sides and see what stands out. As you park, what do you notice? Are there any ugly sights? Weird smells? Items that seem out of place? Does your home look cozy and comfortable? Lived in and loved? If you can approach your own house as a potential buyer might, you’ll be likely to notice a few changes that you can make that will make a huge difference in the long run.

When it comes down to it, the best way to sell your house is to have an expert with you. A Realtor from Meridian Realty Group knows what works and what won’t, and can work with you to take your curb appeal to its highest potential, getting you one step closer to that Elon Musk jetpack. Contact us today!

Dec. 13, 2018

Housing Forecast: Trends in Home Buying and Selling for 2019

Buying and selling a home is a lot like that classic Clash song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” There are many factors to consider when trying to determine whether this is the right time in your life to sell your current house, move out of the area, buy a new home, or just stay put. Or should you just burn it all down, collect the insurance money, buy a camper van, and travel the country like a hermit?* (*This is illegal. Don’t do this.)

Looking ahead to 2019, you’ll find that there is a little good news for buyers and a little good news for sellers, and then some average news, and then maybe a little bad news for everyone. It’s a cornucopia of real estate news and housing forecasts for everyone!

1. If You’re A Home Buyer

The good news for buyers is that if you’re going to buy a home in 2019, chances are that there will be less competition for you. You’ll have less of a chance of finding that beautiful house of your dreams that your husband loves and your kid loves and your dog loves and in the thirty seconds that it takes you to double-check your pre-approval letter from the bank that you dutifully procured before searching for a home, someone swoops in and buys the house out from under you with cash and gold doubloons. This will give you a bit more breathing room as a buyer to weigh your options and choose a home that’s perfect for you, so that’s worth a bit of a smile.

The supply of homes will be increasing, and demand will be slightly decreasing, giving you, the buyer, a small advantage. This is only true IF (of course there’s an IF) you’re looking for a house in the mid- to high-end range of the market. Entry-level buyers are going to find that new homes might be priced out of their budget, and with mortgage rates likely reaching 5.5% by the end of the year, all buyers will be looking at their budgets closely to make the right choice before prices increase further.

2. If You’re Selling Your Home

Sellers, count your lucky stars (If you can see them. Here in Ocala, it’s crystal clear and we can count all the stars!) 2019 should remain a seller’s market, with prices expected to increase by 2.2% nationally. Although you may have less bidders for the property (or properties if you’re one of the wise ones who invests in real estate) you have for sale, and you will likely have to keep home prices at or around median, you should see good opportunities for selling your home. Just don’t be too afraid of offering incentives and reducing the price as needed - if you can react to your local real estate market appropriately, you should still be able to realize the benefits easily. This is especially true if you have an actual Realtor working with you.

What’s the bad news for sellers? Well, mostly that you won’t be able to name your price and then laugh maniacally as families throw themselves at you Mad Max style to place a bid. It’s going to be a softer market than 2018, so there will be a little more equality between buyers and sellers, but you’ll still have plenty of room for profits and maybe even the occasional maniacal chuckle (but just a quiet one). But be nice - the millennials that you make fun of all the time with those memes are the ones who buy more homes than baby boomers and generation Xers!

3. The Wild Card

There is some unpredictability in predicting the 2019 real estate market due to the new tax plan as taxpayers pay their taxes in April. Or burn their identity to the ground and drive around in a camper van living like a hermit.** (**This is illegal. Don’t do this.) With the current confusion as to who will be affected and how that effect will ripple through the economy and real estate market, you might see that renters will keep renting thanks to the benefits instead of making the choice to buy their first home. Since the new plan removes many of the incentives to home ownership that existed prior, you could see fewer buyers entering the market, dropping sales nationally on a minor level. Or an asteroid could hit the Earth. Who knows? Only time will tell.

Conclusion and TL; DR

If you didn’t want to read all of that, but you still want the benefit of the knowledge, here’s a quick summary for you:

  • If you’re buying real estate, mid- to high-end priced homes will offer you less competition and a higher mortgage rate while low priced inventory will be sparser.
  • If you’re selling real estate, you’ll still benefit, even if you have to offer incentives or keep your price close to median prices.
  • All of these predictions are just educated guesses, and if an asteroid comes at us, we’re all moving to Mars anyway.

Have more questions? Want to get started on buying or selling your home today? Meridian Realty Group is here for all of your real estate needs. Contact us today!

[source: https://www.realtor.com/research/2019-national-housing-forecast/]

May 15, 2018

Important Marion County Utilities Connection Information Meeting

Please make an effort to attend this important meeting regarding the Marion County Land Development Code update.

Did you know that under the Marion County Land Development Code, Section 6.14.2, that all new single-family residential and duplex construction in unincorporated Marion County requires connection to the Marion County Utilities water and wastewater system if either property line is within 400 feet of the system?

This Marion County Utilities 400 ft. Connection Information meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at 9:00 am at the Marion County Building Safety building, 2710 East Silver Springs Blvd.

Marion County Land Development Code Flyer

Marion County Utilities 400 ft Connection Information Meeting

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at 9:00 am

Marion County Building Safety Building

2710 E Silver Springs Blvd

July 31, 2017

Curious About Local Real Estate?

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Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!

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You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact us for clarification or to have any questions answered.

We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.