Category Archives: Tips for Home Buyers

Preparing for a Competitive Bid for Your Purchase

There are a number of steps to take to help you win that competitive bid for your new home. In the Triangle area, many homes priced under $300k will enjoy competitive offers. So, as a buyer, if you are getting a loan, it is important to show you have pre-qualification from a LOCAL LENDER. A seller will view a local lender as someone who has skin in the game and will do their best to get buyers correctly qualified for the loan.  In addition, make sure you do not max out the amount of a loan your lender says you can afford.  I like what Clark Howard (Consumer Advocate) has to say:Clark Howard

mortgage graphic_s



Ratings of the Best and Worst Home Insurance Companies

When buyers are ready to purchase a new home, their lender will require proof of insurance at closing. This is the perfect time to shop at least 3 different companies to compare policies and costs.  Most of the time, customers will get the best rates when they bundle their auto and home insurance together.  I also encourage my clients to look into “Umbrella” policies which provide additional coverage for very little money (usually $1,000,000 policies).  Also, take time to review insurance company reviews, what good is a cheap policy if the company you work with refuses to pay or is very difficult to work with?  Lastly, many insurance companies act like our cable providers and reward customer loyalty by jacking up their prices higher than new customers pay! So it makes sense to review your insurance company and costs annually.


Clark Howard Post of Insurance RatingsInsurance rates

Wake County’s Best Restaurants

The News and Observer just published their list of the Triangle Area’s Best Restaurants. I have summarized the list for those people who live in Wake County. Until recently, people who lived in the Raleigh area had to suffer chain restaurants if they wanted to eat nearby; Chapel Hill and Durham could definitely boast having the best restaurants per capita.

Hal and I have eaten at most of the restaurants on their list and we whole heartedly agree with Greg Cox’s opinions. There are a few additional restaurants that we enjoy that are not on this list, so I’ll give an additional shout-out  to Cary’s Maximillians, it is amazing and never disappoints.

News and Observer’s Best 2015 Restaurants

(Wake County)

Gold Medal
  • An : Cary,  contemporary Asian
  • Herons: Cary, Contemporary
  • Poole’s Downtown Diner: Raleigh Downtown , American Bistro (local, fresh)

 Silver Medal

  • 18 Seaboard: Raleigh downtown,  Contemporary Southern
  • Bida Manda: Raleigh downtown, Laotian
  • Bloomsbury Bistro: Raleigh Downtown, contemporary
  • Bruno: Raleigh Steaks, Seafood, Italian
  • BU.KU: Raleigh downtown, global street food (little and large plates)
  • Coquette: Raleigh North Hills, French
  • Glenwood Grill: Raleigh IBL, contemporary southern
  • Little Hen: Apex off Holly Springs road, American (local fresh)
  • Mandolin: Raleigh Downtown, contemporary southern
  • Maraux’s: North Raleigh, contemporary, seafood
  • Saint Jacques: North Raleigh, French
  • Stanbury: Raleigh Downtown, contemporary
  • Vivace: Raleigh North Hills, Italian

 Best in Class

  • Fusion: Joes and Son’s.  Raleigh Downtown, Mexican-Southern fusion
  • Italian: Gravy. Raleigh Downtown
  • Korean: Seoul Garden. Raleigh Atlantic ave
  • Mexican: Centro. Raleigh downtown (Dos Toquitos near Crabtree, similar menu)
  • Middle Eastern: Sitti. Raleigh downtown
  • Thai: Sawasdee. Two Raleigh locations (central and north)
  • Vegetarian: Fiction Kitchen. Raleigh Downtown
  • Vietnamese: Taste Vietnamese Cuisine. Morrisville
Poole’s Diner Mac and Cheese!!


Best Wake County Schools? 2014 Performance Grades

What neighborhood is assigned to the best schools in Wake County NC?  That is a common question that  home buyers with children ask their Real Estate Broker.  To learn the schools which are assigned to a particular address, buyers need to go to the Wake County Public School System’s website.  A number of schools have “capped” enrollment which means that their assigned school is not accepting new students.  Buyers should call the school to verify that there is not room for their student; sometimes there are still a few spots available.

To determine which schools are high performing, many parents also go to the Wake County Public School Website.  School performance grades were recently published by the Dept of North Carolina Instruction. The ratings are based on student test results and the school’s academic growth.  The scale is A- F; but as a parent of two High Schoolers, I have some humble opinions about what makes a good fit for your student.

Many buyers tell me that they want their children to go to schools with an “A” rating.  I feel my children had better outcomes by attending a school with a “B” rating (Athens Drive High School) for the following reasons:

  • The “A” schools tend not to be very diverse. My children have made close friendships with friends who represent many races, income levels, and religions.  With the global economy, colleges take this into account. In fact, describing their experience with diversity is an essay question asked by many of the colleges my children applied to!
  • The “A” schools are uber competitive.  If your kids are exceptionally smart, then they will do fine. For the rest of us, to get a high class – rank, start saving for tutors.  I’d say my kids are of average intelligence, and they would not come near a high class rank at our local “A” school compared to their nice rank at Athens Drive.  Colleges look at class rank.
  • In “B” or lower schools, there may be more slots available in the AP classes. I can say my children had no problem getting into the honors and AP classes that they wanted; this was not the case for some of my friends’ children who attend an “A” high school.

Link to the Wake County School Rankings

Wake County school Performance grades







State education leaders released Thursday the school performance grades for the 2013-14 school year.The General Assembly required every North Carolina public school to receive an A through F letter grade.
The grades are based on academic growth on state exams, passing rates on state standardized exams, performance on the ACT, the percentage of students who completed Math III and graduation rates. Eighty percent of the grade is based on passing rates and 20 percent based on academic growth.




Triangle NC Neighborhood Sales Data for 2014

Home sales in the Triangle Area NC have bottomed out and we are enjoying a nice recovery.  The average Triangle Area home sales price has risen 4.3% in 2014 and is expected to continue to rise in 2015.  Days on the Market have dropped  6.6% to only 57 days! Take a look at sales data of Triangle NC neighborhoods…

Triangle NC Neighborhood data. (Courtesy Stacy Andfindsen, MLS)


Home that lives like an Estate 5401 Mattwynd Fuquay NC

Sometimes you come across a property that stands out above the rest. 5401 Mattwynd in Fuquay NC just came on the market and it has become one of my favorites. What makes it stand out? The house was built in 2000 and the sellers did all the right things:

  •  Painted all of the interiors a neutral color
  • Replaced worn / discolored carpet
  • Replaced outdated light fixtures
  • Replaced kitchen appliances with new (the old were ready to die at any time) and replaced the old surfaces with level 1 granite.

The property has lush trees and is very private. But what makes it fun it the little pond in the back. As I walked towards the pond to take photos for the listing (Teresa Bowen Real Estate, Keller Williams), a large (10″ round) turtle watched me and slowly slid back into the water. The frogs all talked to each other, it seemed, and hop hop hop they also jumped into the water.  I could picture the new lucky home owners enjoying wine on the stone patio and observing the other wildlife that the pond invites!  Below is a link to the Youtube video I made of 5401 Mattwynd. I wish I could have caught “Myrtle the Turtle”!



Recommended Real Estate Agent for Raleigh, Cary and Holly Springs NC

Walter and Elise Nolan are moving to Apex North Carolina from New Jersey. They decided to move to Wake County based on the Triangle Area getting repeatedly mentioned on those “Best Places to Live ” lists. They found me as their agent by looking up agent reviews and on Zillow…who knew!! I usually forget to ask clients to review me, but now I see it really works. If you own your own business, remember to ask them for reviews!

Is your Wake County Home worth the Tax Value?

The tax values for homes in Wake County NC are set by the County tax office every 8 years and were last set in 2008.  Notice that 2008 was during the housing bubble when home values were higher. Then the plunge….luckily Wake County homes did not endure an extreme downturn like some cities in the United States; however, prices did come down considerably.  We have bounced back a great deal.  Take a look at what  2013 sales prices were as compared to their tax values:Wake County NC tax values to Sales Prices

Wake County NC tax values to Sales Prices

If you want to see the current market value of your Wake County or Johnson County home, I can help you with that…it’s what I do!

Don’t Let Social Media Sabotage Your Credit Score

You’ve found your dream house – GREAT! Now the fun begins working with your lender to get the best interest rate and terms possible for your new mortgage.  Your credit score is  the main factor in determining the interest rate that you are offered.

More and more, lenders (as well as employers) are looking at your social media posts to determine the level of risk you may be for the loan.   Here are some things that they find on Facebook/ Linkedin/ Twitter that can affect an applicant’s rates:

  • Posting that you just quit your job/ hate your job
  • Sharing that you and your boss do not get along or that layoffs are looming
  • Job post or length of time on a job does not match application
  • Posting a picture of a new car/ boat/ appliances that the lender does not know about
  • Sharing about current or past financial problems
  • The caliber of your FRIENDS and their posts may affect you!
  • Posting marital problems

Credit for mortgage

It is important to be proactive and protect your credit score. You can check your credit reports from the three credit bureaus  for free at  (they try to sell you a bunch of add-ons, so do not get suckered into paying  a dime!).   It is best to do this about 6 months before you start house hunting to give yourself time to handle any issues or mistakes that you may find on the reports.




Crucial insurance for home purchases and refis

Lenders ensure that they are covered in case there is  title dispute after buyers purchase a home.  However, it is equally important for buyers to pay just a little more money at closing and have their attorney buy title insurance for THEM.  This way , in the future, if there is a dispute regarding who owns the property…they are OK!