For Sussex County renters who are beginning to investigate the possibility of buying a first house, the prospect can look like more than just a steep hill to climb—it can look more like a cliff! Just last month, the Daily Real Estate News cited recent research that indicates in most places (512 counties surveyed, in fact) it can take the average family more than twelve years to save up for a 20% down payment. When you consider the significant financial advantage that a first house brings its Sussex County owner, the situation seems like a Catch-22. How can you save any faster when that big tax advantage goes only to the existing homeowners?

If a decade-plus wait sounds unreasonable, there’s a lot you can do to trim the delay—

1) (Obvious) Cut excess spending

If you take notes for a month or so about how you really spend your money, you find that the little things really add up: morning coffee, daily lunches, planned and unplanned shopping expeditions all put serious dents in your wallet. Spot the expenditures, you can cut back on, then reduce or eliminate them as soon as possible.

2) (Less Obvious) Create a ‘First House’ account

Create a separate savings account with the single purpose of holding your first house down payment. Watching it grow month by month will more than make up for the inconveniences caused by scrimping on daily and other spending.

3) (Way Less Obvious) Pick up extra work

You may never have considered it, but sometimes moonlighting is a great way to add additional income that quickly build your First House account. If you have a hobby that lends itself to web sales, think of starting a store on sites like Etsy or Amazon.

4) Reduce your current bills

There are those bills that you can't quite get rid of -- cell phone, credit cards and other bills don't just go away because you're saving for a new Sussex County house. For some bills, though, there are options for slimming down your monthly payments. Try negotiating a lower APR or reducing your phone or cable plan.

5) Make (and stick to) a budget

Those notes you made up there on 1) can be the raw material for making a detailed budget that separates necessary expenditures from extras like gifts, trips and special nights out. Find creative ways to entertain yourself and get together with your friends. Hosting movie nights, finding free concerts, and moving cocktail hour to home are all surprisingly doable.

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) Downsize

It may seem counterintuitive: why would you decrease the size of your current digs? If you can temporarily scale back, the lowered rent can materially boost your savings. If it’s at all practical, living with relatives might move the process along even more quickly!

The kind of scaling back that builds for a local first house down payment is a lot more fun if you can see quick progress. And the possibility of qualifying for a smaller than 20% down payment is also currently increasing. Give me a call for a realistic discussion of your own Sussex County first house purchase!

There is a seven-year window for some past Sussex County homeowners—and it’s one that’s opening, not closing. The ‘window’ in question is the one that could activate Frankford "Boomerang Buyers"—which would come as good news for the local home sales.

Some background about Boomerang Buyers. It’s a term coined in the wake of the subprime mortgage fiasco, describing those burned by the housing crisis. They were, on the whole, Baby Boomers and GenXers who were caught up in the Great Recession. For many who became enmeshed in the effects of the nasty confluence of the cliff-dive of the subprime mortgage bond market and collapse of residential valuations that swept the nation, foreclosures or short sales became, literally, offers they couldn’t refuse. Not only did the bitter aftertaste leave many with a spoiled appetite for homeownership, but the damage done to the credit ratings of millions made that a moot point: they had fallen off the scale when it came to qualifying for a new mortgage.

But that was then; this is now. It’s a now that, in RealtyTrac Newsroom’s breathless phraseology, "the first wave of…homeowners who lost their home to foreclosure or short sale during the foreclosure crisis are now past the seven year window they conservatively need to repair their credit and qualify to buy a new home."

Soon, more and more Boomerang Buyers in Frankford will be in the clear, if they choose to be; and they are only the first wave. "Nearly 7.3 million potential boomerang buyers nationwide will be in a position to buy again from a credit repair perspective over the next eight years," says Newsroom. Bankrate, the mortgage and financial advice website, sees the group as particularly well-qualified. They quote a broker in North Carolina to that effect: "If you’ve been through a foreclosure, you’ve already been a homeowner…you know the process. You’ve been through hell sometime in the last seven years…"

That word ‘sometime’ is apt, because the seven year period has been anything but uniform. Guidelines for that "waiting period" have sometimes been three years for FHA qualifiers, or even shorter for portfolio loans that lenders keep on their own books. But whether it’s three or seven years, the clock usually starts ticking only when a foreclosure has been completed. But according to FICO, although a foreclosure remains on a credit report for seven years, "the negative impact will fade as time passes."

For potential Sussex County Boomerang Buyers still waiting for a foreclosure to disappear altogether from their credit reports, there are other routes that can lead to a homeownership reboot. For more on buying or selling, I’m always pleased to sit down and discuss some of the great opportunities in our current market!

Some folks live for our Sussex County winters. For them, the brisk air is a tonic; longer night times are invitations to enjoy the warmth and cheer of fireside camaraderie; the prospect of winter sports is something they look forward to all year long. For everyone else it may be more of a drag—particularly when a succession of storms seem to conspire to make their lives miserable.

It can also be a tough time to sell a Sussex County house—but only if you allow it to be! Winter does tend to make most Sussex County houses look drab and barren; and, in general, potential buyers tend to be scarce for a number of reasons. But those who are in the wintertime hunt are apt to be quite serious, so it’s worth remembering that sales can be kindled on even the bleakest February day—especially for owners who keep in mind some simple guidelines:

1. Create your own warmth

Whether it’s turning up the thermostat, lighting a crackling fire, or arranging for that batch of chocolate chip cookies to have just emerged from the oven, thinking cozy is the antidote to gloomy days. The object is to make the entrance from the cheerless outdoors a passage into a welcoming environment brimming with welcoming ambiance. To sell a house in foul weather, make the contrast with the outdoors as stark as possible!

2. Light their way

To compensate for the dimmer sunlight on some winter days, dispel the gloom by turning on all the lights: lamps, overheads, chandeliers—any and everything to brighten the place. To sell an Sussex County house (especially in later afternoon showings), be certain to open shades and curtains, too.

3. Have summertime pictures on hand

Be sure to lay out a picture or two of the property in more attractive months. While potential buyers may not be able to see the home when the sun is shining, a picture can help them envision what the house is like during most of the year.

4. Plus—the regular drill!

And don’t forget the basics: carefully tidied, sparklingly polished, spotlessly cleaned, etc. It may be a little bit more of a chore to disperse the clutter (it does seem to multiply when you’ve been cooped up for days!), but it’s every bit as important as ever. Aromas are important anytime you sell a house, so obliterate stuffy winter air with strategically placed potpourri and candles.

The fact is, when it’s properly priced, you can sell a house in Sussex County at any time of the year. To get the ball rolling, I hope you will make my number the first one you call!

Lewes home owners don’t have to live in the kind of January landscape that features blizzards and snowdrifts to want to winterize their home before the onslaught of the chilliest temperatures. In even the mellowest of climates, winterization is a way to shrink energy bills. And even if the recent shocking downward spirals in world oil prices have sent your home heating costs to the bottom of your budget-tightening "to do" list, remember that if and when you eventually put your Sussex County home on the market, low utility expenses can be a strong selling point. Regardless of how you set your internal thermostat, theBig Three of energy cost reduction always include the following:

Raise the Air Temp; Lower the Water Temp

Two tips that could seem counterproductive will cut energy costs in many an Sussex County home. You’d think you should just switch ceiling fans off until spring, but not so. For cooling, the blades are set to spin counterclockwise so that cool air won’t be wasted down near the floor. The tip is to reverse the fan’s rotation to clockwise. That will act to push warmer air down from the ceiling. Wait until the blades come to a stop, then slide the small direction switch (it’s usually next to the pull cord). The second tip is actually one you can do any time of the year since hot water heaters are usually set to heat to 140 degrees. In truth, most of us don’t need it that hot. Try resetting the temperature to 120 degrees, and see if it’s sufficient. If so, in the course of a year you’ll save more than a few dollars!

Block Air Creep

For a few dollars, a tube of caulk can be a final defense against the creep of cold outside air. Use caulk to seal cracks in the walls and gaps around your windows and doors. In extremes, there are inexpensive extra measures, such as see-through plastic sheets to cover windows with a second seal (doing both would keep the most remote Siberian cabin as buttoned-up as a baby kangaroo). If a drafty door will have to wait until spring for full renewal, an interim trick is to roll up a bath towel and place it against the threshold. This temporary fix keeps out the worst drafts and doesn’t cost a dime.

Take Care of Your Air Conditioner

If you have water-served central air, during the colder months when it’s out of service, good maintenance requires draining the water hoses. Split air conditioners don’t have that issue, but some of them need an exterior cover for preventing drafts (if you haven’t felt any on chilly evenings, it’s not necessary). If you haven’t already removed any window units, better go to the hardware store to buy exterior covers: a lot of chilly air can make its way in through uncovered vents.

The Big Three tips alone comprise a Sussex County home winterization program that costs less than a burger and fries—yet can result in measurable energy savings. If you have found any other simple energy savers, I hope you’ll share: drop me an email, or give me a call at the office!