Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

Low-cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home's Exterior

by Lisa Castanet

Here are some ideas and suggestions on low-cost ways to spruce up your home’s exterior.   You can make your home more appealing for yourself and potential buyers with these quick and easy tips:

1. Trim bushes so they don’t block windows or architectural details.

2. Mow your lawn, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before the showing to make the lawn sparkle.

3. Put a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch.

4. Install new doorknobs on your front door.

5. Repair any cracks in the driveway.

6. Edge the grass around walkways and trees.

7. Keep your garden tools and hoses out of sight.

8. Clear toys from the lawn.

9. Buy a new mailbox.

10. Upgrade your outside lighting.

11. Buy a new doormat for the outside of your front door.

12. Clean your windows, inside and outside.

13. Polish or replace your house numbers.

14. Place a seasonal wreath on your door.

These are just a few ideas for low-cost ways to spruce up your home's exterior but we hope they will help you get those creative thoughts started in your mind.  We would welcome you to call us and share some additional ideas you come up with as well. 

Does Moving Up Make Sense?

by Lisa Castanet

Have you found yourself asking "Does moving up make sense"?  These questions will help you decide whether you’re ready for a home that’s larger or in a more desirable location.  If you answer yes to most of the questions, it’s a sign that you may be ready to move.

1. Have you built substantial equity in your current home?  Look at your annual mortgage statement or call your lender to find out. Usually, you don’t build up much equity in the first few years of your mortgage, as monthly payments are mostly interest, but if you’ve owned your home for ten or more year, you main have built up equity.

2. Has your income or financial situation improved?   If you’re making more money, you may be able to afford higher mortgage payments and cover the costs of moving.

3. Have you outgrown your neighborhood?  The neighborhood you pick for your first home might not be the same neighborhood you want to settle down in for good. For example, you may have realized that you’d like to be closer to your job or live in another school district.

4. Are there reasons why you can’t remodel or add on?  Sometimes you can create a bigger home by adding a new room or building up.  But if your property isn’t large enough, your municipality doesn’t allow it, or you’re simply not interested in remodeling, then moving to a bigger home may be your best option.

5. Are you comfortable moving in the current housing market?  If your market is hot, your home may sell quickly and for top dollar, but the home you buy also will be more expensive.  f your market is slow, finding a buyer may take longer, but you’ll have more selection and better pricing as you seek your new home.

6. Are interest rates stable or are they increasing?   Our market and the interest rates are changing and now may be the time to consider selling your home since values have been stabilizing and recently the interest rates have increased.  Inventory levels of available homes for sale are very low which means this could be the right time to sell your home and move on to your next home purchase.

Some of these questions are relevant to the times and the market we find ourselves in and others are relevant no matter the market conditions because they affect our lives and lifestyles.  So, if you find yourself asking "Does moving up make sense"? then consider the answers to the questions posed here and give us a call today at 863-647-1679  for an evaluation of what your home is worth.  We are here to help you! 


FHA Financing

by Lisa Castanet

One of the more popular loan programs available for purchasing a home is FHA financing.  There are many lenders and banks that offer this type of loan product.  Some of the key features that are attractive about FHA financing is the down payment requirement which only requires a buyer to have 3.5% of the sales price as a down payment for a loan.

The FHA financing program requires a few guidelines for borrowers to meet eligibility requirements.  These included the following:

  • Occupy the property as the primary residence;
  • Possess a valid Social Security Number;
  • Have a two-year employment history;
  • No delinquency on any Federal debt such as a student loan or other FHA-insured mortgage; and
  • Meet flexible credit requirements.

We have included a link for a brochure printed by the National Association of Realtors which outlines the FHA financing program.  Since the brochure was written the required down payment amount has increased from 3% to the current 3.5% mentioned in this article.  Additional resources and information can be found on the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development website and you can also ask a loan officer at a lender or bank of your choosing.

For more information or to get help with pre-qualifying for a mortgage to purchase a home, then please contact one of our agents today at 863-647-1679.

Some Helpful Hints for First-Time Home Buyers - part 2

by Lisa Castanet

Here we are with some helpful hints for first-time home buyers part 2.  We left off in the last blog post that we have successfully found the home and now have an accepted contract offer.  Ok, what is next...

Step 5: Do a home inspection.

Your real estate agent can help find general home inspectors, termite inspection companies and many other inspections services depending on the type you want to have preformed.  Most contracts stipulate and time period to complete inspections and notify the seller that you are ready to continue to close on the home purchase.  These are valuable reports to fully analyze your contract offer and proceed to the closing table.

Step 6: Shop around for homeowners insurance.

Your lender will require you to have a homeowners insurance policy which covers the home in case of damage or property loss.  You will want to take the time to get several quotes from different insurance agencies. You will need to decide on a insurer and provide their information to the lender and closing companies.  Once again, your real estate agent can help you with this process.

Step 7: Closing Day.  We have come to the end of the road and you are ready to close.  Your real estate agent can request the settlement statement in advance (typically 1-2 days) so they can review the figures with you.  You will need to be prepared with any funds that you may have to pay on the day of closing and make arrangements to be at the closing appointment.  Most closing agents will require any funds you owe to be paid by wire from your bank to their escrow account.  The lender will also make arrangements to wire your loan financing funds to the closing agent.  Remember you may need to take time off of work as closing agents and closing attorneys work weekdays.

Step 8:  Move In.  The big day has come and you are now the proud owner of your first home.  Hopefully, you are happy and have had a good experience because you knew what to expect. That is part of our job, as your real estate agent. 

We have tried to write down some helpful tips for first time home buyers and hope you found this useful.  We would love to help you in your home search so please feel free to call us at 863-647-1679.  You can also search our website for Lakeland Area Homes For Sale, here.

Reasons to work with a Realtor

by Lisa Castanet

Here is a short list of reasons to work with a Realtor for your consideration. Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®.  The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.  Here are five reasons why it pays to work with a REALTOR®.

1. Navigate a complicated process.  Buying or selling a home usually requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multi-page settlement statements.  A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes.

2. Information and opinions.  REALTORS® can provide local community information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more.  They’ll also be able to provide objective information about each property.  A professional will be able to help you answer these two important questions:  Will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment?  Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell?

3. Help finding the best property out there.  Sometimes the property you are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market, and it will take some investigation by your REALTOR® to find all available properties.

4. Negotiating skills. T here are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession, and inclusion or exclusion of repairs, furnishings, or equipment.  In addition, the purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase.  Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

5. Property marketing power. Real estate doesn’t sell due to advertising alone.  In fact, a large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, and family.  When a property is marketed with the help of a REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home.  Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

6. Someone who speaks the language.  If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with a professional who is immersed in the industry and knows the real estate language.

7. Experience.  Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase.  Even if you have done it before, laws and regulations change.  REALTORS®, on the other hand, handle hundreds of real estate transactions over the course of their career.  Having an expert on your side is critical.

8. Objective voice.  A home often symbolizes family, rest, and security — it’s not just four walls and a roof.  Because of this, home buying and selling can be an emotional undertaking.  And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll every make.  Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on both the emotional and financial issues most important to you.

We discussed this before and these are just a few reasons to work with a Realtor who is a  knowledgeable professional.  This is always valuable to re-visit and consider when you are looking to purchase a home or interested in selling your home. We are here to help with all your real estate needs so just give us a call at 863-647-1679.

Homestead Exemption

by Lisa Castanet

We are often asked about the homestead exemption  regarding property taxes when a buyer is purchasing a  home.  Everyone who purchases a home and lives in that home as their primary residence is entitled to claim a homestead exemption on their property taxes.  You must be a permanent resident of the State of Florida to qualify for any tax exemptions.

There are other property tax exemptions available and we have included a link to the Polk County Tax Appraiser's brochure which explains the different exemptions and the procedure for making a claim.

In order to claim any tax exemptions, a home owner must show proper identification.  Proof of residency can be established using some or all of the following:

  • Florida's drivers license with current address
  • Florida vehicle registration with current address
  • Voter registration with current address
  • Local employment

A home owner must have legal title to the property as of January 1 of that calendar year and the deadline for filing for exemptions is March 1 of the calendar year.  For more information on Polk County property taxes and the homestead exemption or other exemptions please visit their website at

Some Helpful Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

by Lisa Castanet

We have put together some helpful tips for first-time home buyers in order to prepare for their home search.  You may think that you want to purchase a home but have you determined if you are prepared to purchase a home at this time.  Review the following and let us discuss the home buying process with you.

Step 1:  Ask yourself if you are ready.  Financially, ready that is.  Have you thought about these questions…

  • Do you have a steady job and income?  For the past two years?
  • Do you plan on living in your town or location for the next few years? Is there any reason you might move or be transferred, for instance.
  • Do you have enough money set aside for your down payment and closing costs?  Typically, an FHA financed loan will require a 3.5% down payment (determined on the sales price) For example, to purchase a $100,000.00 dollar home you would need to have $3,500.00 saved for the down payment. (other loan programs may vary but this is a popular loan program buyers use quite often in our market area) Closing costs will also vary depending on the lender.  These are costs associated with obtaining your loan financing.  This is something that can be negotiated in the contract offer but it is always good to have extra savings set aside, if possible.
  • Do you have an emergency fund?  Once you become a home owner then you will need money set aside in case something breaks and needs repair or replacement.
  • Do you live within your means?  Do you have credit card debt or student loans?  This will affect the amount of loan that you can qualify for and ultimately the price of the home that you can afford.

Step 2: Find out what you can afford.

Probably the best way to find out what you can afford is to get pre-qualified for a loan.  A real estate agent or broker can help you with this process.  There is no cost to you to get pre-qualified by a lender or bank.  Some real estate agents will not work with you until you do get pre-qualified by a lender.  Also, when you find the right home and want to make an offer this will be necessary when you submit a contract offer to a seller.

The lender can also help you consider different loan programs which may be available to you as a first-time homebuyer in order to determine the best options for you.

A general guideline is to take your gross monthly pay and figure 28% to 29%. This is what most lenders will allow for your monthly mortgage payment including PITI (principal loan payment, interest, taxes and insurance). 

Step 3: Find out what is available.  Now the fun begins, or for some folks, shopping for a home to buy can be frustrating.  Drive around different neighborhoods, search online or look at real estate advertisements.

Step 4: Define your house and find it.

It is so important so share as much information with your real estate agent as possible. This will help in researching available homes and setting appointments to view properties.  Make sure you let other folks know you are working with an agent. Carry some of your agent’s business cards in case you run into other agent’s at their property listings. That way both agents can follow up with each other.  Your agent will also be looking for homes that match your list of needs, wants and desired features.

When you find the home you want to buy then your real estate agent will negotiate the contract offer on your behalf.  Once you have an accepted contract on the home you are ready for the next steps.

Tune in to part two of some helpful tips for first-time home buyers when we continue this list.  You can also call us at 863-647-1679 when you are ready to start the home shopping process and sign up for our Lakeland Area Homes For Sale search today!

Things to do Before Putting your home on the Market

by Lisa Castanet

Are you thinking about selling your home?  Then we have some ideas that may help you in preparing to sell your home.  Here is a list of things to do before puttying your home on the market.

  1. Have a pre-sale home inspection. Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale general home inspection. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers, and you’ll be able to make repairs before marketing your home for sale.
  1. Organize and clean. Pare down clutter and pack up your least-used items, such as large blenders and other kitchen tools, out-of-season clothes, toys, and exercise equipment. Store items off-site or in boxes neatly arranged in the garage or storage room.  Clean the windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures, and baseboards to make the house shine.  Touch up the paint on walls, doors, trim and baseboards if they show excessive wear or scuff marks.
  1. Get replacement estimates. Do you have big-ticket items that are worn out or will need to be replaced soon, such your roof or carpeting? Get estimates on how much it would cost to replace them, even if you don’t plan to do it yourself. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and will be handy when negotiations begin.  If you have recently replaced mechanical systems such as the air conditioning unit, the air handler or an appliance then look for the receipt of purchase and keep on file as proof of when it was replaced.
  1. Find your warranties. Gather up the warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for the furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items that will remain with the house.
  1. Spruce up the curb appeal. Pretend you’re a buyer and stand outside of your home. As you approach the front door, what is your impression of the property? Do the lawn and bushes look neatly manicured? Is the address clearly visible?  How does the landscape look at the entrance of your home?  Is the walkway free from cracks and impediments?
  2.  Get your home professionally cleaned.  Deep clean like a spring clean, move the refrigerator and range out and clean behind them.  Wash the windows and window sills inside and outside the home.  Pressure wash the walkways, driveway and patios.  Knock down any spider webs or wasps nests on the exterior of the home.  Have the carpets or grout between tiles professionally cleaned, if necessary.  You would be amazed what a difference in appearance and how fresh your home will look.
  • These are just a few things about selling your home to consider.  For more information on selling your home or for a complimentary marketing analysis on your home please contact one of our agents today at 863-647-1679.  We are here to help you when you are ready to sell your home.

Common Closing Costs

by Lisa Castanet

There are a variety of expenses that are associated with the purchase of a home.  Some common closing costs for buyers are mentioned in this article. There are some expenses that are charged to the buyer and other expenses that are split between a buyer and the seller.  A few expenses may be paid prior to the closing day, however, the majority of expenses are paid on the day of closing and disclosed on the HUD-1 settlement statement.   

Your lender will provide a good-faith estimate of all settlement expenses (common closing costs) when you submit a loan application and again on the closing day.  There are expenses associated with obtaining the loan financing to purchase your home.  Other expenses are related to the property itself; such as property taxes, home owner’s insurance and home owner’s association dues.  Your lender and the title company or closing attorney will tell you the required amount for the items listed below:

Loan Down payment

Loan origination fee

Points, or loan discount fees, which you pay to receive a lower interest rate

Home inspection fees (generally paid prior to closing when you order home inspections)


Credit report

Private mortgage insurance premium

Insurance escrow for homeowner’s insurance, if being paid as part of the mortgage

Property tax escrow, if being paid as part of the mortgage. (Lenders keep funds for taxes and insurance in escrow accounts as they are paid with the mortgage, then pay the insurance or taxes for you.)

Deed recording

Title insurance policy premiums

Land survey

Notary fees

Pro-rations for property taxes, home owners association dues, etc.

A Note About Prorations:  Proration is a way for the sellers to pay you back or for you to pay them for bills they may have paid in advance. For example, property taxes are charged for the calendar year (January through December) but they are paid in November of that year. If the home is sold on September 1 then the seller would be charged for January through August and that amount would show as a credit to the buyer since the buyer would have to pay the full year of taxes due in November.

It is best to be prepared for what to expect when purchasing a home and we have tried to address some of the common closing costs that a buyer will encounter in this article.  For more information or for help in purchasing a home then please contact one of our agents.  

Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

Contact Information

Photo of Native Palm Team Real Estate
Native Palm Team
Native Palm Properties
5925 Imperial Pkwy, Suite #111
Mulberry FL 33860
Fax: (863)701-8309