What to Consider Before Buying a Home

What to Consider Before Buying a Home


Deciding whether you’re ready to purchase your first home is perhaps one of your life’s major decisions. Buying is a huge (not to mention expensive) commitment and isn’t a decision you should take lightly. Before you make the leap to homeownership, it’s imperative you know where you stand, what you want, and what’s realistic for you and your financial situation.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before buying a home:

  1. “How much can I really afford?”

One of the biggest mistakes first time home buyers make is stretching their budget and buying a house they can’t afford. Before you start looking for your dream home, you should sit down, write out a budget, and figure out exactly how much you’re comfortable paying per month.

Keep in mind that owning a home is more than just a mortgage payment. In addition to your mortgage, you’ll need to cover additional home-related expenses, like homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, property taxes, and maintenance.

  1. “What kind of shape are my finances in?”

Before you purchase your home, it’s imperative you take stock of your financial situation. The state of your finances plays a huge role in how much lenders will approve for your mortgage, and before they approve your loan, the banks will dig deep to make sure you’re a qualified applicant. Your financial situation will also affect the interest rate on your loan, which can save or cost you hundreds of dollars per month.

When deciding whether to approve your mortgage, the banks will look at:

  • Your credit history, including your credit score, delinquent payments, and overall balances
  • Your debt, including credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and auto loans
  • Your income
  • Your employment history, including your salary history and your length of employment
  • Your savings and the amount available for a down payment

Essentially, your lender is going to review your financial history to determine whether they believe you will pay back your loan. If they feel you’re a risky candidate, they’ll either approve a loan with a high interest rate – or turn down your loan application..

Before you apply for a mortgage, it’s important to get your finances in the best shape possible. Review your credit report and ask for any inaccuracies to be removed. Work on paying down your debt and padding your savings. The better your financial situation, the better deal you’ll get on your mortgage.

  1. “What are my must-haves, my nice-to-haves, and my can’t-haves?”

Before you buy a property, it’s important to iron out the details of exactly what you’re looking for. You should break down the qualities of your future home into three lists:

  • Must-haves
  • Nice-to-haves
  • Can’t-haves

Your must-haves are the qualities you absolutely need in a home in order to move forward with a purchase. A must-have might be a home in a preferred neighborhood, enough bedrooms or potential future bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate your family, or a backyard where your kids can play.

Your nice-to-haves are things you’d ideally like to have in a home but aren’t deal-breakers if they’re missing. Nice-to-haves might include an updated kitchen, a spacious master bedroom, or a finished basement.

Your can’t-haves are the qualities you absolutely don’t want in a property. These are the deal breakers that will keep you from purchasing a home. Can’t-haves might include a property that borders a busy street, a fixer-upper property that needs a lot of work, or a property that’s too far away from your job site.

Once you have these three lists, it will be easier for you and your real estate agents to judge potential properties and narrow down the list of homes to view.

  1. “Do I know where I want to live?”

When it comes to real estate, one of the more important things is location. And before you purchase property, it’s important you iron out exactly what you’re looking for in a location.

Do you want to live in the center of a city or out in the country? Do you want to live in a residential neighborhood or in a more developed area? Is it more important to be close to your job or close to shops, restaurants, and entertainment?

Once you know everything you’re looking for in a location, your real estate agent can suggest neighborhoods that match your criteria.

5. “When do I want to move?”

When you move is also an important factor to take into consideration. There’s no “best time” of the year to move, but different times of the year have different advantages.

If cost is your top concern, you might want to consider moving in the winter, when prices are traditionally at their lowest. If being able to see a wide variety of home choices is more important to you, then plan to look at properties in the spring and summer, when available inventory peaks.



Posted on January 7, 2019 at 10:55 am
John Hamilton | Category: Buying A Home, First Time Home Buyer, Uncategorized

Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Holding a garage sale before placing your home on the market is a great way to declutter.  Whether moving long distance, downsizing, or even upsizing, it is a great time to re-evaluate both what you want to bring with you to your new home, and what items is it time to let go of.  Whether you are moving, or not, a garage sale is an excellent way to earn some money from what you no longer need nor want.


If you have flexibility in scheduling when to hold a garage sale, the most popular seasons for garage sales are Spring and Summer. Since many people are paid on the 1st and 15th of the month, it is also beneficial if you can schedule your garage sale as close to those dates as possible.  Saturday mornings is the most popular time, but Friday afternoons can also be a good time for catching buyers who prefer getting an early start to shopping for deals.

Grouping Garage Sales

Bargain hunters prefer larger garage sales than stopping for a small one, especially if it is held in an out of the way location.  Consider asking neighbors, friends or family to combine garage sales to make it more attractive to buyers.


Most items sold at garage sales are priced at 10-20% of the retail price, based on condition.  If you are struggling to come up with a price, check similar items at a thrift store and price your item lower.  Use individual price stickers for each item, rather than have a sign for pricing multiple items.  It may be difficult later to determine where the item was picked up, or if it had been set down in a different area by another customer.  If you are combing items for a group garage sale, be sure to put the initials on the price tag to track the sales for each individual.  Keep a pad nearby, to document the sales for each seller.

If you are selling large items, such as furniture or appliances, and a person wants you to hold the item for them while they retrieve more money, or to get a vehicle to transport it, be sure to request a non-refundable deposit of $20.  Place a sold sign on the item, and remove it to an out of the way location to prevent reselling the item to a new buyer.

If a buyer offers a lower price than what you are willing to accept for an item, you may want to take their name and contact information to call back, if the item does not sell after the garage sale is over, and you are willing to accept their price.


Take advantage of free ads on Craigslist, local on-line sites and on social media sites.  Be sure to mention big ticket items, or general categories, such as dressers, sporting goods, tools, or baby items.  Be sure to check with your local ordinances about posting signs, so that they are in compliance of local laws and regulations. .  Make the signs easy to read, with large, dark letters and as few words as necessary, in order to provide essential information, such as date, time and location.

Be sure to move your cars away from your home to provide space for shoppers to park.  You may want to park your car where it can be used to provide notice for your garage sale with a sign on the front and/or back windows.


Keep in mind that many people will look as they are driving by.  Be sure to display the items to draw people in.  Take the time to organize similar items together.  If selling clothes, hang them up for a better display.  If you do not have a portable clothes rack, you could improvise by using other items that may be used to hang items, for example, a chin-up bar, a pole hung between two ladders, etc.    Tables and bookcases are great for showcasing items, but if necessary, even upside down boxes can be used as a table top.  If there is not enough table space, spread clean sheets or blankets to display items on the ground.

If you are selling an item in the original box, consider removing the contents to assure the buyer of the condition it is in.  Many people will not take the time to open the box to examine the contents.  If you are selling electrical items, have an extension cord available for buyers to test the item before buying.


It may be helpful to increase sales you have the ability to use a square credit card reader on your cell phone or tablet; if not, stick with cash only sales.  Be sure to start with plenty of change, with lots of quarters. One, five and ten dollar bills are essential to have on hand, as many buyers will not have the exact change.  Always have someone monitoring the cash box, or consider keeping the money in a fanny pack around your waist.  If you are accumulating large sums of money as the day goes on, be sure to periodically remove the larger bills from your money box and store inside your house.


Be sure to have plenty of newspaper (for wrapping fragile items), plastic bags and cardboard boxes for buyers to carry their purchases.  Other helpful supplies to have on hand include, note pads, pens, markers, masking tape and a measuring tape.


Having music playing in the background can make the time go faster, and helps create an inviting environment.  Try to select music with a wide appeal.

Posted on June 25, 2018 at 8:54 am
John Hamilton | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Travel Back In Time at the Provo Pioneer Village

Travel Back In Time at Provo Pioneer Village

Travel Back In Time at Provo Pioneer Village


As you walk through the gate at the Provo Pioneer Village, you will be greeted by friendly docents wearing period costumes, who will take you on a tour traveling back in time to how the early pioneer settlers lived, worked and played.  The village includes artifacts and original structures built by these pioneers dating back to 1849. The homes were tiny when compared to modern standards, but were filled with essentials to survive harsh conditions using their skills and grit.

One room school house at Provo Pioneer Village

One room school house

Other structures to tour include a one room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, wood shop, ox shoeing stock, granary, corn crib and more.  While visiting the General Store, you can purchase pioneer souvenirs or a treat to eat.

Provo Pioneer Village

Although some of the exhibits are roped off to preserve fragile artifacts, there are several hands on experiences for the children.  Be sure to pick up the scavenger hunt sheet as you begin the tour to ensure that you understand what each item is and how it was used.  A trunk full of clothes is available for children to dress up for selfies, and they can experience the games pioneer children played, including the climbing bear, ring toss, and hoop and stick game.  They can also test their balance using short stilts.

This Saturday, June 9th from 10 am to 2 pm, the Provo Pioneer Village will have a Craft Fair with demonstrations by Carpenters, Wheelwrights, Blacksmiths, Spinners, Weavers, Musicians, Rope makers and others.  For information on additional scheduled demonstrations and activities, check their calendar of events.

There is no charge for admission, but donations are greatly appreciated.  Although there are posted Hours , it may be possible to schedule a visit for special occasions or large groups at a time outside of their posted schedule.  The Provo Pioneer Village is 600 North 500 West in Provo, Utah.

Posted on June 4, 2018 at 5:29 pm
John Hamilton | Category: Places to visit, Uncategorized

Spring Home Maintenance Tips

Spring trees are blossoming in front of house

Spring has arrived and now is the time to inspect your home’s exterior for necessary cleaning, repairs and replacements to maintain your home.  Winter storms, snow, and wind can be harsh and can take a toll on your home.

It is important to have your roof inspected for cracked, worn, loose or missing shingles. This can sometimes be done with photos, but it may be necessary to climb a ladder to make a personal inspection – if this can be done safely. Another option is to hire a professional. You should also inspect the flashing around your plumbing vents and chimney to see if they need to be repaired or replaced.  Check the exterior of your chimney for signs of damage, including efflorescence, a white build-up.  Efflorescence is an indication that moisture is permeating the masonry.  Removing the residue is not enough. The underlying cause of efflorescence must be addressed, to maintain the structural integrity of your chimney.   Look for vegetation growing around your chimney.  Vines hold moisture against the surface of the chimney.  Overhanging branches from nearby trees and other vegetation can be a carbon monoxide or fire hazard. This is also a great time to hire a chimney sweep to clean and inspect your chimney, in preparation for next autumn and winter.

Look over your gutters to ensure that they are intact, and the ends have not become loose or disconnected.  Clean out leaves and debris, and make sure the downspouts are draining away from the foundation of your home.  You may want to purchase downspout extensions to ensure that the water does not pool-up near the foundation.

Check your concrete sidewalks, walkways, garage floors and parking pads for signs of cracking.  After filling in the cracks with concrete crack filler, power wash the concrete and re-seal it.

If you stored firewood near your home during the winter months, now is the time to move it to a different location.  Bugs and vermin often make their home in firewood during the warmer months.  It is best to store your firewood at least a foot off of the ground and at least a couple of feet away from any structure, to discourage squirrels and mice from setting up their home.

Inspect your trees for branches which may have been damaged or broken during the winter.  Trim back branches away from the house.  Either hire a professional, or do it yourself, if you are able.

Clean your deck.  Thoroughly sweep the deck.  Use an appropriate cleanser for the type of deck (wood, vinyl, or composite).  Chose a day when it is cloudy, so the deck will be cool and the sun will not evaporate the cleaner.  Let the deck dry before resealing.

Look for low areas in your yard, especially around your foundation.  Level any low areas with compacted soil to avoid having water pool in areas next to your foundation.  Pooling water not only causes damage to your home, but also is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects.

John Hamilton, Associate Broker of Windermere Real Estate, has nearly five decades of experience working with Buyers, Sellers, and other real estate professionals, and has sold more than 1,400 Utah properties.  He has the experience to provide you an edge in negotiating your real estate transaction.

Posted on April 4, 2018 at 5:39 pm
John Hamilton | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

All that Clutter is not Trash

stuffed animals, clothing clutter is not trash

Most of us have clutter.  The gifts that we never really wanted, but can’t bear to part with.  The impulse items purchased on special occasions, or on sale that we never used.  The older appliance that is stored away after being replaced with the newest model.

With the warmer temperatures of spring, it’s natural to think about shedding excess; whether it is the extra weight we gained over the holidays, or the accumulation of stuff stored away in our basements, garages, or overflowing in our closets.  Do you maintain a complete wardrobe in a variety of sizes, just in case you lose or gain weight?  Are you holding on to household items that you no longer use, believing that one day you will pass them on to a loved one, when they will need it?  Have you considered renting a storage unit or buying a larger house just to store everything?  Does looking at your stuff make you feel joy or depression?

Have you thought about eliminating what you aren’t using, but just don’t know what to do with it?  The act of letting go of possessions can be very challenging for some.   We often cling to our possessions, “just in case” we might need it again one day.  Intuitively, we may recognize that the items aren’t really trash and still have value for someone.  Clutter can be very costly, both in the space it takes up, and with the time we spend searching through it for what we need.  Rather than thinking about the giving up aspect, it may be helpful to consider what you will gain from purging it from your home.

Putting these items back into circulation can benefit you as well as your community, with many people seeking out bargains to help them to live within a tight budget.  The collection, restoration and selling of second hand merchandise also create jobs.  And your previously neglected possessions are freed from collecting dust, to renewing their life and purpose with someone else.

You could also gain some cash if you decide to sell your possessions. This could be accomplished either selling on-line, or with a yard sale.  If you happen to coordinate with friends or neighbors, you could plan a multi-family yard sale, to make it more enticing to shoppers.   If you prefer not to spend the time to sell it yourself, you may want to take your items to a second hand store.  Some stores will pay either in cash or trade for used items in good condition.

You may prefer to get a tax credit for a charity donation. In Utah, you can drop off donations at Deseret Industries  Big Brothers Big Sisters  or Friends of MS Charities.   If you are looking for options for having donations picked up from your house, you can check with Donation Town or Give It.  If you are not concerned about being paid or getting a tax write-off, you can offer to give it away for free through Freecycle, or other on-line classifies.

Wasatch Metal will pay cash by weight of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal, including scrap automobiles.  Watch for community events, like CHaRM pop-ups for the hard-to-recycle materials that would otherwise be sent to the landfill.

Check with Community Recycling to see the guidelines for your city for disposing of large or hazardous materials.  For example, residents of South Salt Lake can dispose mattresses at the Salt Lake County Transfer Station for free (restrictions apply).

You will feel triumphant after eliminating the things from your life that you no longer need or want, and knowing that others were able to find use from it.  Once you have shed the old clutter, be careful not to replace it with new clutter.  This is an excellent time to consider how you make future purchases.  For special occasions, you may want to focus more on sharing experiences rather than exchanging gifts.  You may decide to rent or borrow rather than purchasing items for occasional use.


John Hamilton, Associate Broker of Windermere Real Estate, with nearly five decades of experience working with Buyers, Sellers, and other real estate professionals and having sold more than 1,400 Utah properties.  I have the experience to provide you an edge in negotiating your real estate transaction.

Posted on March 24, 2018 at 8:35 pm
John Hamilton | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Favorite Millcreek Canyon Area Hikes


The Salt Lake area is a great place to live or visit if you enjoy access to a variety of urban activities, but it also offers easy access to some wonderful hikes, if you want to get away from the fast-paced city life, grab your hiking shoes from the closet and take a break to rejuvenate yourself and de-stress by getting out in nature as well as benefit from a bit of exercise. Even a 10-minute walk in some of the city parks can be helpful, but if you’re more ambitious and have more time, here are some of my favorite Millcreek area hikes

Grandeur Peak – This is a moderate hike – a 8,299 foot summit, that is dog friendly, and can take from about 3 to 4 hours. You can start from either the Church Fork trailhead in Millcreek Canyon, or take the more direct (steeper) route from the west. If you go up Millcreek Canyon, they charge a $3.00 fee when you leave the canyon, to help maintain the canyon’s facilities. The western route is great if you’re time is limited. You can take your dog with you, but they recently are asking for dogs to be leashed from the west. In Millcreek Canyon, dogs can be off leash on odd-numbered days and since you’re starting at a higher altitude, the hike is easier and not quite as steep. Grandeur is one of my favorites when I am looking for a quick getaway.  https://utah.com/hiking/grandeur-peak

Mount Olympus – is an easily accessed dog-friendly trail from Wasatch Boulevard that offers some spectacular views of the Great Salt Lake and the Salt Lake area. This hike would be a step above the Grandeur hike, the summit is 9,030 feet, and although there’s a moderate trail for the first third of the way, the trail does get somewhat steeper after crossing the creek. When you reach the point where the trail goes through the forested area just above the switchbacks, you are on your way to the upper ridge. From the upper ridge, you follow the trail north to some rock scrambling along the trail to the peak. There are some sections that you may have to help your dog get up the rocks.  https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/mount-olympus-trail

Pipeline Trail – if you’re looking for a relatively easy flat hike that is accessed in Millcreek Canyon. It is a popular hike for runners, bikers, and dog walkers and offers some nice views. Bikes are allowed on the trail every day but on the upper Millcreek trails they are only allowed on even-numbered days. Dogs can be off-leash on odd numbered days. The trail can be accessed from several trailheads – I usually start from just above and across from the Porter Fork trail. If you are ambitious enough to hike all the way (about 6 miles) to the western end there are some nice views of the Salt Lake valley.  https://www.trailrunproject.com/trail/7002438/pipeline-trail-burch-hollow-millcreek-canyon.

Salt Lake Overlook Trail – Is about a 4½ mile out and back easy to moderate Millcreek Canyon trail that is shaded for most of the hike and is also a dog-friendly trail. You will begin the hike at the trailhead next to the Mill Creek Inn and you will be taking the Desolation Trail. There are some nice views when you get to the rock outcroppings at the end of the hike. You won’t see as many people on this trail as on the Pipeline Trailhttps://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/desolation-trail-to-salt-lake-overlook

Mount Aire – this moderate hike is a little over 3½ miles out and back from the Elbow Fork trailhead in Millcreek Canyon. However, in the winter, the road is closed at the Maple Grove picnic area and the hike would be about 7 miles out and back. From the peak at 8,621 feet, you can enjoy some great views of Millcreek Canyon, as well as Parleys Canyon and the Salt Lake Valley. This would also be a great snowshoe hike in the winter that is safe from avalanches.

Dog Lake & Desolation Lake – A 5 mile out and back trail to Dog Lake is accessed from the upper parking area at the end of the Millcreek Canyon road. Dogs are allowed on the trail on odd days and bikes are allowed on even days to Dog Lake, but if you go all the way to Lake Desolation, dogs are not allowed. The trail is heavily used in the summer months, but is really peaceful in the winter for cross country skiing. However, in the winter, it is much longer because the Mill Creek road is closed at Maple Grove. The lakes can also be accessed from about 9 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon at the Mill D North Fork trail.  https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/dog-lake-trail

Alexander Basin & Gobblers Knob – Gobblers Knob, at 10,246 feet, is the highest summit on the ridge dividing Big Cottonwood Canyon and Millcreek Canyon. It can be accessed from either canyon, but I usually go by way of the Alexander Basin trail, where the trailhead is about 8½ miles up Millcreek Canyon road. Again, the road is closed in the winter so it’s easiest accessed in the summer months. It is another moderate hike to Alexander Basis where there are some great wildflowers, and a resident moose that likes to hang around the area. If you like great views of the Wasatch Mountains, go up from the basin to Gobblers Knob and from there you can hike west along the ridge to Mt. Raymond.  https://www.summitpost.org/gobblers-knob/152266

Posted on February 5, 2018 at 10:45 pm
John Hamilton | Category: Outdoor Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Making An Offer On A Short Sale: What You Need To Know

Posted on February 2, 2018 at 6:57 am
John Hamilton | Category: Buying A Home, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

4 Hidden Costs Of Not Owning A Home

Posted on February 2, 2018 at 6:51 am
John Hamilton | Category: First Time Home Buyer, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

7 Signs It’s Time To Downsize



For many people, a large, sprawling home is part of the American Dream. But with additional space comes bigger utility bills and oodles of upkeep. Depending on your lifestyle, you may suddenly find yourself with more house than you actually need or want.

While the thought of moving to a modest home can be daunting, you don’t need to sell off all your belongings and join the tiny home craze to downsize effectively. Also, as you shed square footage, you’ll find that you gain a range of benefits that make a big difference to some homeowners.

Wondering if it might be time to look for a smaller abode? Ask yourself these seven questions and you’ll have your answer.

Is routine maintenance taking up too much of your time?

If you find that your weekends suddenly slip away as you attempt to keep up with your landscaping or just maintain your home’s interior, you may be ready for a little less housework. Sure, you could hire someone to take care of these tasks for you, but that’s less money in your wallet.

Do you have too much house?

Are there some rooms in your home that you don’t enter for days at a time? Even if you’re not using them, you’re still paying to heat or cool them. (And did we mention dust and vacuum them as well?) Unless you’re planning to try your hand at AirBNB and rent out a room or two, you may want to think about downsizing.

Are your house-related expenses eating away at your savings?

If your income has shrunk due to retirement or an unforeseen unemployment, you don’t want to have to tap into your savings each month just to make ends meet. A smaller house will require less maintenance while lowering your utility bills. You can also consider downsizing in an area where the cost of living is lower so your overall expenses will decrease.

Has your home appreciated substantially?

Are homes in your ‘hood fetching top dollar? This could be the time to lock in your profit and
add that windfall to your retirement savings. Or, spend a little and see the world beyond your picket fence. Vacationing is easier when you leave behind a smaller home — especially one like a condo or townhouse where outdoor maintenance is handled for you.

Are you feeling isolated?

If the kids have moved away and your neighbors have also downsized, you may feel like you’re the last man standing on your block. If the only person you recognize in your area is your mail carrier and that leaves you feeling isolated, it may be time to plan a move to a place where you’ll see some familiar faces.

Has your lifestyle changed?

Even if you once reveled in the majesty of your two-story entryway, if the thought of climbing 28 stairs to get to your bedroom now leaves you wanting to sleep on the couch in the living room, it’s time to move. As many homeowners get older, they seek the ease and convenience of one-level living. If your house has become too large for you to comfortably and safely maneuver, make a change.

Are you sick of having too much stuff?

Whether you’re looking to explore the minimalist lifestyle or just wondering when and how you’ve accumulated so much stuff, you may want to consider streamlining your belongings. Holding a garage or estate sale is a great first step when thinking about downsizing. Organizations looking for donations abound online, with many offering free pickup and removal. Living in a tighter space forces you to really take stock of each item you allow through the door. Though it seems counterintuitive, having a smaller home may force you to really stay organized and not let clutter dominate your dwelling.

Posted on January 12, 2018 at 1:58 am
John Hamilton | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,


Going green is great for the environment, but that’s not the only benefit. When you make green upgrades in your home, it can also lead to saving a significant amount of money over time.


  1. Solar panels:  The upfront cost is big, but the long-term savings are huge. Solar panels will cost several thousand dollars to install, but ongoing maintenance costs are very low, and a typical system could save you hundreds of dollars per year. You can even sell your surplus electricity.


  1. Wood furnace:  Wood-burning furnaces are relatively inexpensive, and though the yearly savings aren’t as dramatic (about 10% on heating bills), it adds up over the long run.


  1. Insulation:  There’s a good chance your insulation isn’t very efficient, especially in older homes. Look into installing floor, cavity, wall, and loft insulation to reduce your heating bills.


  1. Rain barrels:  Rain barrels are extremely inexpensive, and provide gallons of free water to use when you wash your car or water your garden.


  1. Geothermal system:  OK, so the price tag is scary at first. A geothermal system uses the earth’s temperature to heat and cool your home, but can cost $30,000 to install. But tax credits allow you to get a lot of that money back, and the energy savings average about $1,900 per year. If you plan to be in your home for a decade or two, it’s a great investment.
Posted on January 11, 2018 at 6:50 am
John Hamilton | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,