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First Time Home Buying In Eastern Iowa – What Buyers Need to Know

There are few milestones that are bigger in a person’s life, then buying their first home.  It’s a decision that impacts not just their lives, but also their families. Making the wrong decision isn’t like buying the wrong item at Target that you can take back in 30 days. It’s something you’ll have to live with for years, if not decades.

This is why it’s so crucial for first time home buyers to understand the process and to understand what choices they’ll have to make.

In Eastern Iowa you have one advantage over first time home buyers in many markets. You have a lot of good opportunities whether you’re looking in Peosta, Dubuque, Asbury, Dyersville or any of the surrounding communities. There are excellent school systems in the area and not a lot of crime.

First time home loans in Dubuque

First time home buyers

Also, you have more advantage because you’re in Iowa, then in many other states. Owning a home is cheaper than renting in Iowa. So, the time to buy is now.

There are, however, things you have to consider and here are some of the more important ones you’ll face.

Improve Your Credit Rating

If you’ve been thinking about getting a home for a while, then hopefully you’ve been working on improving your credit score from the beginning.  This means paying off as many credit cards as you can and making all your payments on time.  Remember the better credit rating you have the better your loan opportunities are.  It doesn’t mean if you have a lower score you’re not eligible. Many people think that they need a credit score of 780 to get a loan. Yet, a recent survey showed that over half of all recent borrowers had scores between 600 and 749.

Robin McEnany, Loan Officer, Collins Community Credit Union, advises people to check their score.

Robin McEnany, Collins Community Credit Union

“An excellent way to monitor your credit is by downloading two apps. Credit Karma will give you access to the credit report and credit scores of Transunion and Equifax. The Experian app will give you access to the third credit bureau. “

“Remember though these are consumer scores and they often report differently from lending scores. Still they give you an idea of what your credit score is and what you can do to improve it.”

Setting Aside Money for a Down Payment

It is a myth that you need 10-20% down payment in order to purchase a home. This is good to know since you may be working on paying off some of your debt. No money to low down payment options are available to homebuyers. “First time and even repeat homebuyers have many options to choose from,” said Robin McEnany, Loan Officer Collins Community Credit Union. “It is essential to speak with a loan officer who will listen to your home buying goals and lay out mortgage programs for you to choose from. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. Buying a home is the biggest investment you will ever make. ”

First Time Home Loans

One advantage for first time homebuyers is that there are some excellent programs available for you.  Not only do they offer you favorable rates, down payment assistance but also require you to put little money down when you find your first home.

Get Pre-Approved For a Home Loan

Before you even start looking to get a home, you might want to reach out to some of the local mortgage lenders. This will allow you to know exactly what you can afford and in what price range you can search for a home. They can also answer any questions you might have about the lending options. Having a preapproval will make your offer more appealing when your Realtor presents your purchase contract to a seller.

Decide What You Can Really Afford

Once you know your budget range, sit down and really decide what you are willing to pay each month. Remember the mortgage is just one of the monthly costs you’ll be paying. Maybe you can afford the top of the price range, but you really want to be comfortable with what you’ll pay each month. Figure out what all the expenses are going to be and then add that to your monthly mortgage payment. Is that a number you’re comfortable with? If so, then begin looking for home in that range. If not, lower your price range.

Don’t Forget Closings Costs and Prepaid

One of the issues you should discuss with your lender is your closing costs and prepaid items. Closing costs can vary from lender to lender so it is important to shop around. Prepaid items include homeowner’s insurance and property taxes.  Closing cost and prepaid items can be negotiated in the purchase agreement.  Your Realtor can help you negotiate that possibility.

Shop Around For Homeowners Insurance

Another expense will be homeowner’s insurance. This can vary dramatically between agencies so get a few estimates. This might be something you have to wait on until you have your offer accepted, but you can start asking around before then. Again, there are many excellent insurance agents in the area who can help.

Meet With a Realtor

Now that you know your budget, it’s time to begin the home buying process. This means getting a Realtor. You might think you can do it on your own, but even experienced home buyers can be overwhelmed with all that is involved in home buying.  A Realtor can also let you know immediately when a house that meets your requirements comes on the market.  More importantly, they can help you with the negotiations that will take place.

Ask a Lot of Questions

Once you have a Realtor, feel free to rely on their experience and ask questions throughout the process. Not just about the home buying process, but also the communities you’re looking at. If you’re new to Eastern Iowa, then have them take you on a tour of the area.

Deciding on the Home Features You Want

One of the questions the Realtor will be asking is what features you want in a home. It could be a specific type of home style or a set number of bedrooms and baths. Have a wish list, but know you might have to make compromises along the way. Especially if you want one thing and your spouse or partner wants something different.

Plan For the Future

Whether you already have a family or are planning on one for the future, you want to make sure the home meets your needs in the future.  You don’t want to move in and in a few years, find yourself cramped. Have something you can live with for a while.

Don’t Rush Your Decision

You have been waiting a long time to buy your first home, but don’t rush into deciding on a home to bid on. Take some time to go to open houses or to tour homes with your Realtor. Get a feel for the market. Only after you carefully weighed the decision should you talk to your Realtor about putting in a bid.

Don’t Procrastinate With Buying the Home You Want

Not rushing into buying a home is one thing, but if you do find the home you love, then talk to your Realtor about putting in a bid.  Depending on the market you might want to get something in as quick as possible. Your dream home could also be someone’s else’s dream and by the time you bid their offers been accepted.

Be Prepared For Disappointment

It would be nice if you could find the home of your dream, that you can afford it, and that your first bid is accepted. This isn’t always the case, unfortunately. The seller may come back with a counter offer. Or worse, another buyer might have provided a better offer. It can be disappointing to lose out on a home, but it’s just a setback. It’s not the end of the world. Start the process all over again. You’ll find a home that you’ll love, but it can take time and there can be miscues along the way.

Having a Bid Accepted Is Only the Start

One would think the time to celebrate is when your bid is accepted. Yet, its only the start of the final chapter. There are inspections to be done and these could reveal issues with the home you weren’t made aware of.  These could be small things that can be resolved before the closing, but it could be more serious. Or there could be issues that come up with the seller. Most likely, you won’t run into problems, but be aware that there could be some.

Read The Inspection Reports

As mentioned you’ll be required to get an inspection of the property. Your inspector will prepare a report that you should read, even if it comes back mostly positive. You might want to talk to them when they are completed and actually go over it while touring the home. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Any issues you find in the home you need to have worked out before closing. When all is said and done, you’ll finally be moving into your home. Things have changed and now the money your paying each month isn’t simply going to a landlord. You’re building up equity in your home. And you’re free to decorate it as you please. It’s an exciting time.

If you’re looking into buying your first home in Eastern Iowa, then contact American Realty. We have offices throughout the area and agents experienced with each market. Meet with one of them to go over what you’re looking for a home and they’ll help you reach your goal.

Additional Resources



10 Questions To Ask Your Mortgage Company Before Buying A Home

Purchasing a home is one of the biggest decision a person can make. It’s not just that they’re picking a home they will love, but they’ll also be taking on a lot of debt. People will spend hours and hours looking at different homes before deciding on which one they ultimately make an offer on. Yet, when it comes to getting the mortgage for the home, they’ll go online fill out a form and then spend some time on the phone talking to an agent about what they can afford.

If you’re planning to purchase a home, you want to put as much thought and research into the mortgage you’re going to get for your home. That company that you found online might be quoting some nice numbers, but their could be fees included you’re not aware of. Or their could be better

home mortagage advice for Dubuque home buyers

Getting a Mortgage in Dubuque

options because of your credit history and financial situation.

There are a number of excellent mortgage lenders in the Dubuque area. They’ll be glad to sit down with you to review your finances and go over your options for a mortgage. In fact, going in you might want to have questions in mind to ask them. To truly know what all your costs will be and what you can do to get the best possible deal. Even if you’re satisfied with the first one you meet, you want to talk to at least 2 or 3 lenders to compare what they’re offering.

Buying a home often means taking on a lot of new debt. So put the time and effort into researching the mortgage as you do on the features of the home you want to buy. Here are 10 potential questions you might want to ask your mortgage agent when you decide on who your lender should be.

How much can I afford to spend on a home? This is the big questions for most people as then they’ll know the price range they can look for homes in. One of the first things you should do is to get preapproved for a home mortgage even before you begin looking for a home. This way you’ll know the price range you can afford when looking.

What types of mortgage should I choose? Mortgages are available with either fixed rates or adjustable rates. There are advantages to each and your potential lender can go over these and help you decide.

What interest rate will I pay? Interest rates fluctuate. You want to know what the current interest rate is and how that impacts your costs.

Can I lock in the current interest rate? If the current rates are excellent, you might want to lock them in, in case they increase while you’re still house hunting. Your lender can tell you whether this is possible.

What is the minimum down payment I can make? If you’re putting down less than 20% then you’re likely going to have to take out PMI insurance. This is an insurance you’ll pay until you reach that 80% equity threshold.

How does my credit rating impact my costs? Your credit ranking will have a definite impact on your loan, particularly if you’re having to pay PMI insurance. This is why you should do what you can to improve your score before even beginning the house hunt. Hitting certain thresholds could help lower your costs.

What are points, and do I have to pay them? A point is 1% of your mortgage. There are two types of points you might pay, origination points and discount points. One of these might benefit you, while the other could result in additional costs. Your lender will go over both and how they impact your specific loan.

What documents will I need to provide you? You’ll likely have to show proof of income and your assets to your lender. This may include bank statements, tax returns, W-2 forms and recent pay stubs. They may also require additional information about loans and other costs you have.

What other costs will I have to pay at closing? There are fees associated with purchasing a home and your lender and Realtor will be glad to go over these. You don’t want to be surprised at some fees you weren’t aware of as you get ready to close on a home.

How long will it take before my mortgage is finalized? Even if your pre-approved before you start looking for a home (which you should consider doing), the actual loan process can take time. Your potential lender can give you an idea of how long this might take and if it will delay you getting into the home of your dream.

If you’re ready to start searching for home and don’t know where to begin, contact one of the experienced Realtors at American Realty. We can give you the names of a number of local lenders who will be glad to answer any questions you might have and help you get the loan that best works for you. Then you can begin working with your American Realty Realtor to find the home of your dreams.

Call us at Call us today at (563) 556-4577 if you’re looking to buy a home in the Dubuque area or contact agents at our Dyersville (563-875-9455) or Cascade (563-852-7653) office if you’re looking in those communities.

Why the Fall and Winter is Still a Good Time To Buy A Home

Why Buyers In Eastern Iowa Might Want To House Hunt in the Fall or Winter

Most people think of fall and winter as bad times to buy a home. Many prefer to move in the spring and summer when the temperatures are warmer. It can also be an easier time to relocate children who are in school. Yet, despite this, the fall, and even the winter, might in fact be the best time for you to look for a house.

Here are some reasons you might want to look for a home in the fall and winter in Eastern Iowa, even if it means putting up with the cold and even a little snow, while you house hunt.Buying a home in the fall or winter in Iowa might be a good idea.

Waiting To Buy Continues to Cost You Money

If you currently live in an apartment than each month you’re paying a landlord money is another month you’re not seeing any return on your investment. Waiting six months, might seem a short wait, but that’s a lot of money that you could have been put toward a mortgage.

Home interest rates are still low

Home interest rates are still low, but there is no telling when they might go back up.  They very well could be low in a few months, but there is no guarantee. Again, it might be a savings to you to buy a home sooner rather than later.

Fewer Buyers To Compete With

Since many people don’t like to house hunt in the cold, then it means there is less competition for many homes in your price range.  In Dubuque and surrounding communities, houses at certain price range often sell very quickly in the summer. Meaning you must make a decision quick or risk losing out on a property. And even then you might find yourself in a bidding war with someone. In the fall and winter houses can sell slower, meaning you can dictate your price more.

You Don’t Have To Settle

Since homes are often sold faster in the summer you might be tempted to bid on a home that doesn’t quite meet all of your requirements. In the fall, however, with the lower competition, you might be able to hold off making an offer until you’ve looked at a few others. And if your plan is to wait until its warmer you can at least keep an eye on what’s on the market. You might find the home of your dreams has suddenly appeared on the market and might be gone by the spring.

People Might Be Motivated To Sell Quicker

One of the main benefits of looking for a home in the off season is that you have a chance to get a better deal on a property. As mentioned, there are fewer buyers, which means less competition to buy a home.  At the same time, homeowners might be even more motivated to sell.

Some of the homes on the market might have been listed for a while. As a result, the homeowner might have dropped the price on their property a few times already. They just want to get the process over and move onto their next home.

If the home is a new listing, the homeowner might be motivated by time.  They could be moving out of the area and need to sell their home quickly in order to relocate. They might have preferred to wait to sell, but because of circumstances, can’t. So they list their home at a lower price they might have, if they’d had more time.

Finally, they might be motivated by the tax benefits of selling their home before December 31. They’ll see the tax benefits a lot sooner if they close before that date.

Whatever their motivation to sell they might also be willing to move out quicker. You might be able to take possession a lot sooner because of this.

Tax Advantages

Just as the buyer will benefit from selling their home by the end of the year for the taxes, so too will you.  Property taxes and any mortgage payments you make before the end of the year will help to lower your tax bill.

End of year furniture sales.

This may seem like a small thing, but if you’re a first-time home buyer than every little bit of savings can help. According to Consumer Reports, December is the best month to find deals on major appliances. If you’re moving from an apartment you might need a few appliances, even if the home comes with things like refrigerators and microwaves.

If you’re looking for a home, whether it’s in the fall, the winter, the spring or summer, then contact American Realty. Our agents will help you to find your ideal home, all the much sooner. Contact us today and one of our agents will be glad to assist you in the process.

Understanding Real Estate as an Investment Opportunity in Dubuque

Real estate has always been considered a good investment (provided you don’t overpay for a property).  For some people that investment might also be their home. For others the sole purpose of the purchase is to make an investment they’ll see a return from later. If you’re considering real estate as investment, you might want to learn more about what is involved.

One of the first things you’ll do when sitting down with a real estate agent

Commercial Real Estate Investments in Dubuque Iowa

Understanding Commercial Real Estate Investment

to talk about investment properties is to decide what your objective is. Some investors want immediate return and some are willing to settle for long term return; i.e. an investor who is investing to pay for his kids (or grandkids) college education as opposed to an investor who makes his/her living by operating investment properties.


Terms Associated With Investment Properties

When meeting with a real estate agent, it might first be handy to understand some of the terms you’ll hear.


You will see/hear this term used when analyzing a real estate investment. CAP RATE is nothing more than the relationship of the net operating income a property is capable of producing to the value of the property. Value is usually considered to be what a willing buyer, in the current market, is willing to pay for a particular property.


I = R X V or Income (net operating income) = Rate (cap rate)  X Value (value of property). This is typically the formula used to calculate cap rate. Cap rates will differ by market location. For instance, the cap rate for a 4-plex in New York may differ from the cap rate for a 4-plex in Dubuque, Iowa.

If you would like an explanation on how to calculate a cap rate for your area please ask. So, if an acceptable cap rate for your market for a particular type of investment property is say 10% and you find a property that has a calculated cap rate is 8% you (and your agent) may want to address that issue. REMEMBER, cap rate is only one indicator of value. A decision to buy or not buy should not be made on cape rate alone.

What we are discussing here is a method to help you determine if a particular real estate investment might be suitable for you. It in no way is an in-depth look at how a particular investment might perform over the life of the investment. They can never give you a specific rate, however. They’ll present the numbers (facts) and discuss with as to whether or not it is prudent for you to purchase a particular  property. They may in fact tell you that a decision to buy a specific piece of property is not well founded.

There are basically 4 ways you can profit from, or experience a loss from, a real estate investment.  They are:

  1.  Cash flow – calculated based on operating data
  2. Equity build up – Paying down your loan. This is called leverage, or OPM (using other people’s money)
  3. Tax savings/obligation – If when an investor files their income tax for the year the property shows a taxable loss the investor will pay less taxes on his ordinary income than if he did not own the property – but the reverse holds true also.
  4. Appreciation – If the property increases in value due to market conditions this will have a positive effect on the investment return but not until the property sells. Remember, what goes up today may come down tomorrow.

OWNER’S STATEMENT- Usually when analyzing an investment property, you will look to the seller for numbers – i.e. income, operating expenses, etc. You will find that many sellers do not keep good or accurate records – the numbers you get from them may not be reliable. An example might be “upkeep”. When you ask the seller for those numbers they might respond they do all their own maintenance and therefore there are no upkeep expenses. Really?? What about an investor who can’t do or elects not to do his own maintenance and has to pay others for that service. The amount paid for that service becomes an operating expense

BROKERS RECONSTRUCT- Because the owner’s statement on operating data may not be reliable you may have to do what we call a “Brokers Reconstruct”. You will need to verify the sellers numbers and if they fail to provide reliable numbers you will have to verify those numbers and maybe even estimate some of the numbers. When you have all the numbers you are ready to complete your analyses.

CASH FLOW – As a potential investor you will want to know if the property produces a “positive” or “negative:” cash flow. Here is how you calculate cash flow.

SCHEDULED RENTAL INCOME- $  12,000.00 (annual rents as  if rented 100% of the time)

VACANCY RATE –                        $    – 600.00 (5%)

GROSS OPERATING INCOME –   $ 11,400.00 (the actual dollars you have to operate the                                                                                                 property)

OPERATING EXPENSES –              $ – 2,500.00 (taxes, insurance, upkeep, etc.)

NET OPERATING INCOME –         $   8,900.00

DEBT REDUCTION (P&I) –             S  -6,300.00 (annual principal & interest payments)

CASH FLOW –                              $   2,600.00 (this is before paying any taxes which may be due                                                                                     as a result of operating this investment)

So- if all of the above numbers are accurate you can expect to put $2,600.00 into your pocket the first year of operating this investment — IF you do not have a tax obligation as a result of owning  this property. If a property does not have a positive cash flow (as above – $2,600.00) then it either has no cash flow or a negative cash flow. If the cash flow is negative then you’re going to have to inject that amount of your money into the investment just to make the mortgage payments and operate the property – something you may not want to do.

NET OPERATING INCOME (N0I) – Net operating income (see above) is what an investor is taxed on by Uncle Sam. But as an incentive for investing in Real Estate the IRS says that an investor can offset his NOI (for tax purposes) by the amount of interest he pays on his loan (if he has a loan on the property) and depreciation.

So, let’s say in the above example you have made interest payments on your loan of $7,100.00 and that depreciation for the year is $3,500.00. This means you can offset the NOI of $8,900.00 by those two amounts ($10,600.00) giving you a taxable loss on this investment of $1,700.00. For talking purposes let’s say your taxable income from all other sources for this year just happens to be $1,700.00 (ordinary income). Since you can apply the tax loss from your income property against your ordinary income from other sources you will not have to pay any taxes this year. So, in our example here you get to keep the entire $2,600.00 cash flow produced by your real estate investment.

But what if the interest you’ve paid on the loan this year is only $3,000.00 (instead of $7,100.00) and the depreciation remains at $3,500.00 and your ordinary income is the same  ($1,700.00)? In this case NOI of $8,900.00 could only be reduced by $3,500.00 and $3,000.00 ( $6,500.00) so you would have taxable income of ($2,400.00) as a result of operating this investment property. This taxable income from this investment will be taxed as ordinary income. So you add the $2,400.00 to your other ordinary income of $1,700.00 and your taxable income on your tax return will now be $4,100.00 and you will have to pay tax on that amount at whatever tax bracket (rate) you are in.

Here is another way of looking at it strictly from the investment standpoint. . If your taxable income from operating this investment property is $2,400.00 (see above) and you’re in the, let’s say 30% tax bracket, then you will owe Uncle Sam $720.00 in taxes as a result of operating this investment ($2,400.00 x 30%). So from an investment analysis standpoint you really aren’t going to pocket the $2,600.00 CASH FLOW on this investment because you will have to take $720.00 from that cash flow to pay his Uncle Sam. You can only pocket $2,528.00 of the $2,600.00 CASH FLOW. Thank you Uncle!!!

So NOI( NET OPERATING INCOME) and CASH FLOW are two pretty important numbers to consider when analyzing a real estate investment. So what affects those numbers? What might make them higher or lower? It is really pretty simple. If your (revenues) typically rent, increase or decrease, or your vacancy rate increases or decreases, or your operating expenses increase or decrease your NOI (and your CASH FLOW) will change accordingly. Remember, NOI is the number you are taxed on; so higher- more potential tax, and lower- less potential tax. BUT it also affects cash flow; so the higher the NOI the more cash flow the investor will realize (everything else being equal) and the lower the NOI the less cash flow the investor will realize (everything else being equal)

This can be a little overwhelming and if you’re like many people; confused with just reading this, no worries. Your agent is there to give you advice and guide you through the process. Doing some homework on your own is good, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. Real estate investments of any type are a big deal and you want to know you’re making the right decision.

Is there any way to eliminate the risk of making a real estate investment? Not really!! Being informed and relying on the advice of professionals in the area of investing such as your accountant, your lawyer and your realtor will help you manage that risk.

If you live in Eastern Iowa and looking to make a real estate investment in Dubuque or the surrounding communities, then give American Realty a call.  We have agents experienced in real estate investments who will be glad to talk to you about your needs and help you find an investment that works for you.

How To Sell a Home In Dubuque and Eastern Iowa During the Winter

Sometimes you can’t control when you put your home on the market. It might be that you have a new job that you need to move for. Or you might simply didn’t get enough done on the property to get it listed earlier. Now it’s getting to be the cold months  of winter and you worry that you won’t get as much as you would in the summer or sell it as quickly.

Yet, just as you can’t control when you sell, there are always people looking to buy, even in the cold winters of Eastern Iowa. Granted, you’ll likely have fewer showings in the winter and the weather might not always cooperate with open houses, but people looking at this time might be more Selling a home in Dubuque during the wintermotivated to buy. There’s a reason they’re going out into the cold and snow to look at homes and it’s not just to occupy their time.

There might also be less competition in the market when your listing, which, depending on your price range, might be a good thing. With fewer options people interested in your home might act more quickly.

All this means is that you have to make the most out of the visits you do have to your home. It might mean a little extra work, but if you want to sell quickly and get a good price on your home it’s worth doing.

Here are some things you can do to make sure you get your listing price and not wait around all winter for it to sell.

Have Photos From The Summer On Display

With snow on the ground and no leaves on the trees, the outside can look a little depressing. Have some photos from earlier in the year when the grass was green and trees full of leaves. This way they can envision what it will be like when the weather turns warm. So if you know you might be putting your home on the market later in the year, take a number of pictures. Especially of nice features such as a deck or a pool.

Clean the Driveway and Sidewalk Completely

Especially on days when you have an open house you want to make sure the sidewalks and driveway are clear. The last thing you want is someone slipping when they’re coming in or out. Since your Realtor might be scheduling visits all throughout the week you’ll want to be prepared at all times. And if you’ve had to put down salt, make sure you vacuum well if it’s been tracked into the house.

Keep the Home Nice and Warm

No matter the temperature outside, keep the inside well heated. If they come inside from the cold and find the home nice and warm it will make a good first impression. If you have a gas fire place, then have it on to not only add warm, but ambience as well. If you have an older home you especially want to make sure all the rooms are warm. This means even before the snow falls, make sure your windows and doorways are caulked to prevent any cold air from getting in.

Have the Lights On

If it’s dreary outside you don’t want it to seem gloomy inside.  Have all the lights on. If you’re dealing with an older house that doesn’t have a lot of lights installed, then try to bring in some extra lighting brought in.

Staging the Home For Sale

Staging your home is always beneficial no matter the time of year, but especially in the winter. Since the outside might be cold and dreary, you want them to come into a place with color and style. If it’s near the holidays, then have some decorations up, just don’t go overboard. And do what you can to make the home look roomy. Often you’ve had to bring some things in from the outside for the winter, but don’t have the garage look like it’s overflowing and the home lacks space for storage. See if you can find somewhere else to put some belongings if necessary.

Don’t Have The House Smell Stuffy

With the windows closed the home can start to smell musty. Feel free to add some inviting smells to the home.  This is especially true if you have pets. It’s hard enough to control their smell in the summer, but it’s doubly difficult in the winter. Do what you can to cut down on their odors by having air fresheners throughout the home.

Utilize the Services of a Dubuque Realtor

You might be considering doing home for sale by owner, but in the winter time especially this might be a mistake. The main thing you want is to get as much exposure for your property and a Realtor can help with this. One of your biggest markets might be people moving to the area, so a Realtor will get you maximum exposure online. They can also get the word out on your home to other Realtors in the area. Finally, they can also help you determine the right price to list your home at. You don’t want you home sitting on the market for months. This is never good, no matter what the temperature outside is.

At American Realty we have experience with selling homes in the winter. We have Realtors who have served Dubuque and surrounding communities like Dyersville and Cascade for years and know what it takes to get home sold no matter what the time of year. Call us today at (563) 556-4577.

8 Questions To Ask Before Buying Your Dream House in the Dubuque Area

What To Consider Before Looking To Buy Your Dream House

by Theresa Neuhaus – Broker Associate, American Realty

Whether you’re going to be a first-time home buyer or your looking to move from your current home, deciding if now is the time to start searching for your dream home can be a tough decision. There are a number of factors involved before you start going to open houses or making an offer on a property.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before committing yourself to buying a new home.

Finding Your Dream House in the Dubuque Areafactors involved before you start going to open houses or making an offer on a property.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before committing yourself to buying a new home.

  1. Why Am I Buying A House

This is the first question you should ask yourself. Is it that you’re tired of paying rent each month with little to show. Or has your current home become too small or in some cases too big for you to live in. Whatever the case, remember that there will be a lot of work involved. Not just searching for the home, but later moving in. Are you motivated enough to go through with it, or is just something you started thinking about without having a real plan in mind.

  1. What Can I Afford

The problem with wanting to get the home of your dream is that you can’t always afford it. Figure out what your budget allows and use this to determine your price range. One of the first steps you should do is to meet with mortgage lenders so that they can sit down with you to go over your financials. They’ll help you determine what you can afford. And don’t just talk to one lender. Meet or call a few to determine what you’re closing costs will be. Getting pre-approved for your home will make home buying that much easier.

  1. What is My Credit Score Like

One of the things your lender will discuss with you is your credit score and that of your spouse if you have one. They may take the lower of the two scores so even if one is good, it might still be a factor. Even with a lower credit score you might be able to get a loan, but you might have additional fees and a higher interest rate. Your lender can advise you on whether you should wait to borrow and what to do to improve your scores.

  1. Where are Home Values Going

Housing prices in the area have been going up over the last couple of years, part of an overall trend in home buying. This means the prices for homes this year, might be higher next year. This could be motivation for you to buy sooner, rather than later. There is always a chance they’ll decline, but the economy in the Dubuque area has been pretty strong, thanks to tourism and to businesses moving into the area.

  1. Where are Home Mortgages Going?

Home mortgages are at a great point right now, making it an ideal time to get lower interest rates on homes. There is no guarantee they’ll remain that way, however. The Federal Reserve could always increase them, making now one of the best times to buy. This is again something a mortgage lender can help you decide on, even if they can’t predict what rates will be like in a few months or even a year.

  1. Where In Dubuque or Eastern Iowa Do I want to live

One of the motivations for moving might be to move to a different part of the city or the area. You might have decided you want to live in a smaller community like Peosta or Dyersville. Or maybe your job is closer to Cascade or Bellevue. Do you want to live in Dubuque or nearby Asbury? If you have no preference, you might have more opportunities, but chances are that whatever area you want to live in, you’ll be able to find something you like. Just in some cases, it might take longer or when a property opens up you might have to act fast. This is one of the first things to discuss with a Realtor if you’re working with one.

  1. What Kind of Home Do I Want

What style of home you want could also be a factor in your home buying. Do you prefer a ranch style home with fewer steps. Do you want a newer home or something older, with a little character. Your budget may influence what you can look at, as well as the size of your family. This is something you’ll want to discuss with your Realtor so that they know which types of properties to alert you to.

  1. What Can I Get For MY Old Home

Obviously, this isn’t something a first-time home buyer needs to concern themselves with. For most, however, it will come down to how much they can get for their current home and also is your buying contingent on your home being sold first. That home of your dreams won’t wait around while you try to get your sold. This is another thing to go over with your Realtor. It might be better to start searching after you’ve received an offer on your home. Or maybe you can set up a bridge loan so that you don’t miss out on your dream property.

If you’re wondering whether now is the time to buy a home in the Dubuque area, then contact one of the Realtors at American Realty. They’ll be glad to go over your options and listen to what you’re looking for in a home. We have offices in Dubuque, Dyersville and Cascade with agent’s ready to serve you.

To learn more about Theresa visit her bio.

What To Disclose About A Home When Your Selling Including Any Recent Damage

When a storm recently passed through the area, it did a lot of damage. Trees were knocked down, roofs were damaged, and some homes had issues with water in the basement. And some of these homes had for sale signs out in their yard.

It happens to many homeowners that just as they are thinking of listing their ho

The Home Disclosure Process

me, or even as they have it on the market, something unexpected happens. Or maybe they’ve had some issues a couple years ago and now wonder if it could be a factor in selling their home. It’s easy to say that this will affect your listing price or even your ability to sell it, but only if you take the wrong approach.

If the problem has just happened, then first get it taken care of. Get a contractor to take care of the roof or any other damage to the home. It doesn’t’ mean you have to take your home off the market or hold off on listing.  But it will be something you must disclose, even if you already completed this part of the selling process.

The Disclosure Process.

Most states have some sort of disclosure requirement when it comes to selling a home and Iowa is no exception. In Iowa “Sellers” are required to make a disclosure (see chapter 558A of the Iowa Code)  which consists of 21 questions. If any of the answers are “yes” there is a place on the disclosure form for an explanation. Health issues such as Radon, Lead Paint, etc. are covered on the disclosure. It is interesting that “mold” is not covered. However, the instructions on the form require the seller to “disclose all known conditions materially affecting the property”, and requires “additional” pages be attached to the disclosure if necessary.

With most of the questions you simply answer yes or no. If you do answer yes to something you do have the opportunity to answer the question in more detail. For example, if you had a leaky roof in the past you can mention the date it was repaired/replaced and that it has not been a problem since.

There are health risks you need to disclose as well such as:

  • Lead paint
  • Asbestos
  • Radon
  • Mold

It doesn’t mean you can’t list your home or that you can’t sell it as is.  It’s simply something that needs to be disclosed.  It’s up to the potential buyer whether these issues impact their buying the property. For many homeowners this won’t be an issue if it’s a property they love and that fits their budget.

Issues with Water A Major Problem to Disclose

If there is a major issue with many homes it is most often related to water. One question will be if your roof has ever had problems. Another if you have had water in the basement or any other part of the home. Even if it was just a trickle in the basement, then you still disclose it.

The good news is that if you’ve had a problem and resolved it, there is room to put that on the form.  In many older homes water might still seep into the basement, but if you have a sump pump then you can disclose that, as well.

Some older homes in the area may have older basements that aren’t completely finished. This could mean they may have some seepage of water. Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t sell the house, you just have to make sure potential buyers are aware of it.

Emerald Ash Borer

There is one additional form you need to provide information on and it relates to the emerald ash borer. As the form states, having trees on a property adds to its value. If the trees are ash and have been infected by the emerald ash borer, it can be expensive to have those trees removed.

Many people might not even know what type of tree is on their property, let alone if they have a problem with the emerald ass borer. This is something your Realtor will review with you.

Lead Based Paint

There is a federal law that requires sellers of certain properties (built in 1978 or prior) to disclose the presence of lead paint or if the seller has any documentation concerning lead paint on the property. There is a hefty fine for not making this disclosure properly.

Will Any Issues Impact My Listing Price?

If the problem has been resolved and everything repaired or replaced it shouldn’t impact your price.  Even such issues as water seeping into the basement, might be overlooked by some buyers who like your home and are satisfied that the water won’t prove to be a risk for their belongings.

When you meet with your Realtor disclose any issues that you think might impact your listing right away. They can thus do the research to determine how much impact, if any it might have on your listing price.

You Must Disclose Any Issues Or it Could End Badly

When you’re Realtor is preparing to list your home or property you need to be truthful. You might think about hiding some potential problems, but if they come to light later it could have serious consequences. First, your home will be inspected so the issue might be discovered then. If something is found, then the buyer can ask you to take care of it before the sale is final or they simply could walk away from the deal without any repercussions.

If something is discovered after the sale of the home is complete that was intentionally not disclosed, it could result in expensive litigation.

If you think you might be able to disclos

e something at the closing, it simply gives the potential buyer a chance to toss aside the agreement and walk away from the table.

What Happens If Something Happens After the Disclosure is Signed

As in the case of the recent storm, something could happen with your home after you’ve signed the disclosure. This will trigger a requirement to amend your original disclosure. If it’s something you can get repaired, then take care of it. Whatever the case you’re still responsible for anything that happens to your home until the moment you hand over the keys.

If you’re considering selling your home and have questions about potential issues with your home, then contact American Realty. Our Realtors can answer any questions you might have and what impact any issues might have on the sale or the listing price. We have been serve Dubuque and surrounding communities such as Peosta, Dyersville, Farley, and more for over 45 years. Call us today at (563) 556-4577 to speak to one of our experienced Realtors.

Why Asbury Iowa is the place people are looking at for homes for sale

One of the most popular places people look for real estate in Eastern Iowa is Asbury. This small community is adjacent to Dubuque, but has created it very own identity. In the process, it has grown at a rate that has caught even the census takers by surprise.

Real estate in Asbury Iowa popularity

Asbury Iowa

In the 2010 census the population 4,357, which was nearly double what it had been just a decade earlier. Yet, the city government knew that its population growth hadn’t slowed and so commissioned a special census to prove it. While it was expensive, it revealed the population had grown another 25% in just the six years since. This meant more road-use and local-option sales tax revenues, since these are dispersed on a per-capita basis.

Not surprising, it’s one of the 10 fastest growing communities in Iowa, with nearby Peosta also on the list.

There are many reasons for the influx of homeowners to Asbury, from available lots on which to build to beautiful neighborhoods that are ideal to raise a family or retire to.  There are many other reasons that make Asbury so appealing.

Here are 5 Features of Asbury That Make it So Popular for Homeowners

Many of the Homes are New

There are many reasons for Asbury being such a popular place to buy a home in, not the least of which is that so many homes aren’t that old. As the population growth suggests, most of its homes are less than 20 years old and many are much more recently built. Housing development hasn’t waned and new homes are being built regularly. It’s hard for the map makers to keep up as so many streets are only now being named. So many people looking to buy a modern home find the property of their dreams here.

The Schools are New

For families looking to send their children to public schools, they’ll find modern facilities. Two of the newest schools in the area in Dubuque are just at the edge of Asbury. George Washington Carver Elementary School opened in 2007 and has kindergarten through fifth grade. Completed in August 2005, Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School is for students in grades 6-8.

For parents wanting to get their child a Catholic education, there are also options close by. Resurrection Elementary School is just a couple miles down the road, while Mazzuchelli Middle School and Wahlert high school aren’t that much further away.

Parks and Recreation.

The city actually owns its own golf course, having purchased the popular Meadows a few years

Asbury Golf Course

back.  This beautiful 18-hole course was voted the best course in the Dubuque area in 2016.

The Sundown Ski resort is just off the edge of Asbury city limits and is one of the most popular destinations for skiers and snowboarders in the Midwest.

There are plenty of places to bike or just to take a leisurely walk.

The Asbury city park is always a favorite with families, but when it hosts music in the park or has a movie shown, it’s especially popular.

Plenty of Places to Eat

Franchises have caught onto the appeal of Asbury and in the last few years Popeye’s restaurant has opened, as has Buffalo Wild Wings. Red Robin and Culvers have long been popular places to dine in or take out. For lovers of Mexican food there is Pancheros, Los Aztecos, and Fiesta Cancun.

Jumble Schoolhouse Café offers great coffee and popular breakfast items and sandwiches. It’s also housed in the oldest schoolhouse in Iowa.

There are two of the most popular sports bars in the area. Buffalo Wild Wings and the locally owned Courtside, which not only has food and drinks, but indoor volleyball courts.

It’s literally minutes away from Dubuque

Even if Asbury doesn’t have all the amenities you’re looking for, you’re likely to find them in Dubuque such as shopping malls, tourist attractions, and even more places at which to eat and or drink. With Dubuque literally a few minutes away from Asbury, you don’t have to travel.

If you’re looking to buy a home in Asbury and need help in finding the home that you want, then contact the Realtors at American Realty.  We know the area and the housing market to help you find what you want, but also help get it at a fair price. Call us today at (563) 556-4577.

Improving the Curb Appeal of Your Home

If you’re planning to sell your home soon, then one thing you can do to help sell it is to improve its curb appeal.  After all a good portion of your potential buyers will make their first impression of your home by what they see from the outside. If you’re thinking of staging the interior, put as much thought into the exterior. A sale could be won or lost when a potential home buyer pulls up to your home.

Improve the curb appeal of your home..

Another factor will be the photos of your home that will be available online. These are what entice visitors to pick your home over others when they are planning their open houses.

Clean Up The Yard

One of the easiest tasks you can do is one that was probably on your to do list anyway. Clean up the leaves that are left over from the fall, the broken branches, etc. Pick up any trash and pull out any dead flowers or large weeds.

Do Some Landscaping

According to Home Advisor “a well-landscaped yard can raise the perceived value of a home by about 15 percent. As much as an attractive yard helps your home’s value, a poorly landscaped yard will take away just as much.”

This doesn’t mean you have to invest in a landscaping company or spend a lot of money, but even a small investment can make a difference, particularly if you are willing to spend a little time.

One way to brighten your yard is to add some flowers about the home’s exterior. To give it some color that it might not normally have.  You don’t even have to plant them if you don’t want to spend the time. Some plants in a pot will have an effect, as well.

If you have some time until you’re ready to sell, then do some repairs on the lawn. If you have some bare patches, then invest in some lawn patch kits you get at the hardware store or just put down some grass seed. A full green yard can do much to add to a home’s appeal.

Get Rid of the Junk

Whether it’s an old grill, a swing set that has long been out of use or just some debris from your last remodeling project, there is bound to be some junk in your yard. That old swing might not just be unattractive, but turn off buyers that don’t have kids. You’re likely making trips to the dump anyway as you clean out the interior so take care of the outside too.

Clean off the Dirt

If the exterior looks dirty and the deck and porch tracked with mud, then power wash it. It’s relatively cheap to do, even if you don’t have one. Many of the local hardware stores have one for rent.  According to this simple step can add a lot of value to many homes. This can also take care of cobwebs, debris the in the gutter.

Touch Up the House

Again you don’t have to spend a lot of time and money on the exterior. If your home has some chipped paint you don’t have to have the exterior completely repainted. If you don’t have the original paint color, then try to get a small patch and take it to your local home improvement store. It might not match perfectly, especially if the paint is old and faded. Yet, from a distance it might match enough and certainly look better than white patches.

If there is white trim on the exterior, then give this a fresh coat as it will make the white stand out that much more and costs little to buy.

Make the Door Stand Out

If the front door is faded or it has scratches and dings on it, then brighten it up with a fresh coat of paint. It could also be a color that stands out from the rest of the home and gives the home a whole new look.

Take Advantage of Your Exterior

Do you have a deck or patio, but the lawn furniture has seen better days? Consider borrow some or at least touching up what you have. You want buyers to imagine themselves sitting out there, entertaining friends and family. If you have an umbrella on your patio that is torn and dirty, people will think you never used the outdoor space.

Get Some Input From Your Realtor

Your Realtor will likely give you some advice as they tour the house, including things to do for the exterior.  Let them know your budget and they’ll let you know how to take advantage of it.

First impressions do matter when it comes to selling a home, so do what you can to make the right impression. This will attract the attention of more buyers and help you get the price you want.

If you’re planning to sell your home in the Dubuque area and want help getting the price you want, then contact one of the Realtors at American Realty. We serve not only Dubuque, but surrounding communities, such as Cascade, Peosta, Asbury, and Dyerseville. They have the experience to know what it takes to sell your home at the best possible price. Call us today at (563) 556-4577.

Common Mistakes Buyers Make When Looking for A Home In the Dubuque Area

The buying of a home is one of the biggest decisions a person can make. And it’s a decision they can’t get out of if they make the wrong one. It’s not like buying clothes, taking them home, and then deciding later you don’t like them. As long as you have the receipt you can take it back. If you buy the wrong home, however, you often have to live with it. Maybe for years, if not decades.

The other problem with house hunting is that your bidding on a one of kind item. If you miss out on the house you want, it’s not like you can go into a store and purchase the same model.

Buying a Home In Dubuque and what to know

Looking for a Home In Dubuque

When looking for a home you have to be cautious, but not too cautious. You don’t want to have buyer’s remorse, but you also don’t want to have buyers regret over the home of your dreams that slipped through your hands.

Here are some common mistake people make during the home buying process.

Not Getting Prequalified for a Loan

This is one of the biggest mistake you can make when house hunting. It helps to get preapproved for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you know what your price range is. Another reason is that if there is an issue with your credit history you want to learn of it in advance so you can do something to rectify it. You don’t want to find a home that you either can’t afford or can’t even get a loan for.

There are two things you can do. One is to get prequalified, the other is to get pre-approved. The first is rather simple, as you supply a lender with basic information such as your income, credit card debt, etc. From this they can give you a basic idea of your price ranged.

Getting pre-approved means going through the entire process and there is usually a fee involved.  They run a credit check, and go over all aspects of your debt. Once done, though, you’ll know not only what you can afford, but that you actually have a lender.

In Dubuque there are a number of excellent mortgage companies and banks that you can approach for a loan. Get a couple estimates so that you can find out what they offer and what they’re closing fees will be.

Trying to do it without a Realtor

We might be biased with this one, but trying to buy a home without the help of a Realtor can be problematic.  They can help you not just in your home search, but in all aspects of the closing as well. They can alert you to homes in your price range the moment they go on the market. They can also help with negotiations and in reviewing the home inspections reports.

The cost for a Realtor is often more than made up in helping you through issues that could either prevent you from getting your home or ending up with a home that has problems that should have been revealed during the closing process.

Having Too Big of a Wish List

Your Realtor will review with you what you’re looking for in a home such as number of bedrooms and baths you need and what style of home you’re interested in. It doesn’t hurt to give them as much information as you want in a home, but don’t be tied to all of it. Decide which elements are the most important to you in case you find that there aren’t homes available in your price range that meet your criteria.

Not Researching the Neighborhood

In Dubuque or in the surrounding communities this might not be too much of a big deal. Still you want to take into consideration the school district you’re in, the commute to where you and your family members work, and even how noisy the neighborhood might be. There could be a lot of dogs in the neighborhood that are constantly barking or its close to a highway. Maybe take some time and walk around the neighborhood a couple times to get a feel for the surroundings.

Deciding Too Quickly in the Home Buying Process

Looking for a home can be a time consuming process and sometimes stressful, but it’s also something not to rush. It could be that the first or second home that you look at is the home of your dreams, but take the time to view a few houses.  You might find the fifth or sixth house you look at is a much better choice.

Bidding Too Low

Negotiations are a part of the home buying process, but the last thing you want to do is bid too low in hopes of getting a better price.  Especially when it’s a seller’s market. You definitely want to counterbid, but don’t try to lowball them. This is where a Realtor is handy to help advise you on the bidding process.

Bidding Too High

Perhaps you’ve missed out on a couple properties because you were outbid. So the natural reaction might be to overbid on a home to ensure you get it. The problem with that is it might be worth more than it’s worth. It could be a problem later if you decide to sell and find you have to take a loss. Or it could be a problem during the closing when your mortgage company has a third party evaluate the home and appraise it a lower price.

Not Reviewing Thoroughly Reviewing the Inspection Reports

Once you’ve made an offer on a home and it’s been accepted, there are still things to be concerned about. You will have inspections done of the home and your mortgage lender will have an assessment done of the home. Often there aren’t any major issues in the reports, but review them carefully. There could be things that require you to go back to the seller to address them. Read our four-part series on home inspections to learn what to be looking for.

Not Having a Plan for Your Current Home

If you’re selling a home at the same time, what is your plan if you find a home you like. Are you going to carry a bridge loan to cover both properties until your home is sold? Or is the selling of your home a contingency of your buying a new home. It can be a complicated process as you might have to find you’ve sold your home and have to wait on moving into a new one. Or you might find yourself owning two homes for a while, meaning twice the costs. Is this something you can afford? This is where a Realtor can help you determine what the best option is for you.

If you’re looking for a home in Dubuque or one of the surrounding communities, then contact American Realty of Dubuque. We’ll put you in touch with one of our experienced Realtors to help you get through the home buying process.