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Every day, the world presents us with new technology. It seems like there isn’t much left that technology can’t do. Thankfully, with every advancement, many items have become more affordable. While a high-tech home may not be the choice for everyone, there are plenty of budget-friendly options to try out if you are interested in making your home a little bit more accessible. Here are 6 items to try:

  1. Smart Speakers

    Setting reminders, asking questions, and playing music on demand has never been so easy! Smart speakers are capable of making lists for you, looking up recipes, and so much more.

  2. Smart Plugs

    Left the coffee pot plugged in and need to turn it off, but you aren’t home? Smart plugs allow you to turn off (and on) something plugged in from your phone. These are also great for lighting systems like lamps or even holiday lights.

  3. Smart Doorbells

    Smart doorbells are an incredible investment. Monitor who is ringing your doorbell, when packages are dropped off, and so much more all with your phone!

  4. Smart Locks

    Lost keys? Need to let someone in to water your plants while you are out of town? Smart Locks allow you to use your phone to lock and unlock your door, or just use a keypad!

  5. Smart Switches

    Smart switches allow you to turn lights off and on with your phone. Next time you forget to turn off the kitchen light and you are already in bed, smart switches can save the day!

  6. Smart Bulbs

    Adjust the brightness of color in any room when you install smart bulbs. Great for kids or rooms where you want to be able to dim the lights!

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When Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

when to refinance mortgage

When mortgage rates begin falling, more and more homeowners decide to refinance their loans. Depending on a person’s individual situation, however, it isn’t always the best move. Here’s what you should know about refinancing, along with tips for deciding whether it’s right for you.

Why Do People Refinance their Loans?

There are several different ways to refinance a mortgage, and finding the right loan will depend on your financial goals. You might want to switch from your adjustable-rate mortgage to a standard fixed-rate loan with a steady monthly payment. On the other hand, you may want to shorten the term of your mortgage loan from a 30-year plan to a 15-year agreement to avoid interest charges. A refi can also allow you to escape the high costs of private mortgage insurance once you accrue 20% equity in your home.

The majority of homeowners seek straight rate-and-term refinancing that lowers their interest rates while providing a comfortable repayment term. Some are looking for lower monthly payments to free up cash for college tuition, auto loans or other expenses. Others want cash-out refinancing, in which they borrow more than they owe and use the cash to pay for home renovations, eliminate credit card debt or fund some other major expense.

When is a Good Time to Refinance?

Most people start thinking about refinancing their mortgage loans when they learn that mortgage rates are on the decline. While lower mortgage rates are definitely a key factor in determining whether you should refinance, there are other good reasons including:

  • You want to pay off your home loan quicker with a shorter term.when should I refinance my mortgage
  • You’ve accumulated enough equity in your property to refinance into a loan that doesn’t have mortgage insurance.
  • You are looking to tap some of your equity with a cash-out refinance.

In general, it’s a good idea to refinance if it will help you build equity, allow you to save money or pay off your mortgage faster. It’s best to consider refinancing if you will be able to lower your interest rate by about one-half to three-quarters of one percentage point since this can significantly lower your monthly payment.

Things to Consider

To gain noticeable benefits from refi, you need to make sure your total monthly savings will offset the overall cost of refinancing. It may not be a good idea to refinance your existing loan if you plan to move in the next 24 months since you won’t have a lot of time to recoup the cost.

While interest rates are a primary consideration when it comes to refinancing; it’s important to remember that they aren’t the only key factor. To qualify for the right refinance loan, you will need to have good credit. Mortgage interest rates are influenced by various market factors, including the current yields on long-term Treasury bonds, and the lowest rates and best terms will always go to borrowers with the best credit scores.

Is it Worth the Costs?

Anytime you refinance a home loan, you will typically spend an average of between 2% and 5% of the entire loan amount in closing costs. With this in mind, it’s very important to figure out how long it will take for your monthly savings to recoup those high costs. In mortgage refinance, this is often referred to as the “break-even point.” For example, it would take 40 months to break even on $4,000 in closing costs if your monthly mortgage payment were to drop by $100. If you decide to move during those 40 months, you will ultimately lose money in a refinance.

When deciding whether to refinance, don’t just think about current mortgage rates; think about whether your current home will continue to fit your lifestyle in the future. If you’re thinking of starting a family or headed toward an empty nest, there’s a chance you won’t stay in your home long enough to break even after refinancing.

Even if your new loan will lower your rate considerably, you should consider whether it’s worth taking on the added interest. If you’re already more than ten years into your loan, refinancing to a new 20- to 30-year loan will tack on interest costs since interest payments are front-loaded. The longer you pay on a mortgage, the more you pay toward the principal instead of interest.

Before going ahead with refinancing, ask your lender to run the numbers on a loan term that’s equal to the number of years you have remaining on your existing mortgage. You might end up lowering your payment, reducing your mortgage rate and saving on interest by deciding not to extend your loan term.

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5 Tips on Finding the Right Home Inspector

finding the right home inspector

A home inspection is a critical part of buying a home. Without an inspection, you could easily pay too much for a property in need of unseen repairs. The structure may also pose dangerous health risks, safety hazards or building code violations, which could jeopardize your family’s health and dent your bank account. But how do you find a reputable professional to inspect a home? Here are some tips to help you choose a knowledgeable, honest home inspector.

  1. Get a reference from your agent. If you have an experienced real estate agent, he or she should be able to recommend a reputable home inspector. A good agent should be very familiar with at least one or two home inspectors who will go through a home with a fine-tooth comb. Trustworthy agents won’t worry about whether choosing a “tough inspector” will comprise a sale; they will put their client’s best interests first and ensure that every detail of a home is revealed according to local and federal guidelines.
  2. Ask if you can tag along. It’s always a good idea to attend your home inspection. A good inspector will be happy to talk you through any issues as they are investigated. If the inspector won’t let you come along, look for someone else. Also, since time is of the essence when it comes to home inspections, be sure the inspector agrees to provide the report within an acceptable timeframe (24 hours is common).
  3. Find a company that is insured and bonded. Whether you go with a single inspector or a big company, make sure whoever examines the home is both insured and bonded. It may sound unlikely, but an uninsured home inspector could try to hold you or the homeowner liable if they happen to be injured during the inspection.
  4. Verify that the company only does inspections. Some home inspection companies also provide home repairs and renovations. This gives them an incentive to flag problems in a home. Avoid conflicts of interest by choosing a home inspection company that’s focused entirely on inspections. If you are interested in the cost of renovations or repairs, bring in an independent contractor after the inspection is completed.
  5. Ask what the inspection will include. It’s important to ask what the inspection will include and how long it will take. A good home inspection should involve a thorough look at every critical component of the home, including:
  • Electrical systemfind the right home inspector
  • Plumbing system
  • Structural condition
  • Heating and air conditioning
  • Attic and roof
  • Foundation and basement
  • Pests (including bugs and wildlife)
  • Evidence of grading issues and water penetration
  • Appliances and other various general components
  • Environmental issues such as radon, mold, lead paint and asbestos

Knowing what an inspector will look for allows you to shop around. Certain inspectors may only address the structure and nothing more, while others will take a more comprehensive approach. Make sure you know exactly what you will be getting before you agree to an inspection.

Things to Consider

When choosing a home inspector, it’s important to know what to expect. The typical home inspection will be a “visual only” appointment. The inspector will spend a few hours scanning the property for visual signs that something is amiss. That said, they aren’t going to tear off pieces of drywall to inspect for mold or dismantle a water pump to check for defects.

Depending on the home’s location and age, you may have reason to worry about radon, termites or mold, but inspecting for these issues will usually cost you more. Be sure to ask if the inspection will include a search for these problems; if not, ask whether the inspector will include these items and how much extra they will charge.

Most home inspections should take around two to three hours to complete. If you are buying a larger home, an older home or a fixer-upper, the inspection could take even longer. Never hire someone who says they can complete the inspection within only an hour or two. Even an experienced inspector won’t be able to do a thorough job in such a brief time span.

If you’re interested in buying a home, The Wheaton Team can help. For nearly 20 years, we’ve specialized in residential real estate in all of Colorado Springs and El Paso County. With more than six decades of combined experience, our award-winning real estate professionals can guide you through the complicated buying process so they can find the home of their dreams. To speak with one of our agents, contact us today!

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Are Interest Rates Going Down?

are interest rates going down

Mortgage rates play a huge role in determining the cost of a home loan. Recently, rates have been trending downward, creating great opportunities for affordable home loans. Here’s what you should know about current mortgage rates, along with some insight into what drives interest rates higher and lower over time.

How Low Are Current Rates?

A year ago, the benchmark rate of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan was about 4.05%. Since that time, it has been trending downward in a big way. As we head into the third and fourth quarters of the year, rates are hovering at or below 3.5%. This makes now a great time to buy as long as you understand how interest rates affect the overall cost of your mortgage loan.

Why Do Interest Rates Matter?

When you buy a home, the listing price, down payment and closing costs are only a small part of the cost equation. One of the smallest (but most significant) numbers home buyers need to understand is the mortgage interest rate. The interest rate significantly affects monthly mortgage payments and determines the total amount you pay for your home.

In essence, the interest rate on your loan determines how much you are paying every year to your lender for just having the mortgage loan. Basically, lower interest rates mean a lower overall cost for your real estate investment.

For instance, consider a $300,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan with an interest rate of 4.5%. Over the term of the loan, you can expect to pay an extra $247,220 in interest on top of the initial $300,000). You can also expect monthly mortgage payments of about $1,520.

interest rates going downNow, if you were able to get a loan at 3.5 percent, you’d only pay $184,968 in interest, and your monthly mortgage payments would be about $1,347. Although it may not seem significant at first glance, that 1% difference in interest could cost (or save) you around $170 a month and more than $60,000 over the life of your mortgage loan.

In addition to saving you money on a loan, lower interest rates allow you to look at homes that might normally be outside your price range. This is why it’s so important to pay close attention to fluctuating interest rates and strike when an ideal opportunity arises.

How Are Mortgage Rates Determined?

Contrary to common belief, mortgage rates are not actually based on the 10-year Treasury note; they are based on the bond market, meaning mortgage-backed securities or mortgage bonds. Mortgage-backed securities are essentially mortgage loans that are packaged into bundles or groups of securities and then sold in the bond market. The price of these bundled debt securities is driven by global and national news events, which also impacts individual mortgage rates.

While that may sound complicated, it simply means that there are a lot of factors that influence the benchmark rate of 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans. That said, just because national mortgage rates are low doesn’t mean you can expect to acquire a loan at an affordable rate. There are a lot of other things that work to determine the rate on each borrower’s loan. Individual lenders adjust mortgage rates based on how risky they judge a loan to be. The riskier the mortgage loan, the higher the overall interest rate.

When judging risk, lenders will consider how likely you are to fall behind on payments, and how much money they stand to lose if the loan goes bad. The major factors are loan-to-value ratio and credit score. Lenders may also charge higher interest rates for adjustable-rate mortgages, cash-out refinances and loans on condominiums, manufactured homes, investment properties and second homes because they are viewed as riskier.

Working with an Expert

When it comes to getting the best deal on a home, it’s important to take advantage of low interest rates. It’s also important to have an expert in your corner to help you make important decisions and navigate the complex home buying process.

With 60-plus years of combined real estate experience, The Wheaton Team specializes in residential real estate throughout Colorado Springs and all of El Paso County. Our considerate team of seasoned professionals can guide you through each step of the buying and financing process, so you can find the home you’ve always dreamed of. To learn more, contact us today!

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Does A Pergola Add Value to Your Home?

does a pergola add value to your home

Influenced by Pinterest and HGTV programming, more and more homebuyers are interested in pergolas which increase the comfort and enjoyment of outdoor living space. But do these features actually add value to a home? Here’s what homeowners should know.

Does a Pergola Increase Property Value?

Anytime you elevate your home in the eyes of buyers, you are essentially increasing property value. If a feature makes your property more enticing compared to similar inventory, it will allow you to command a higher asking price. 

Since outdoor living has become especially popular, the value of homes with pergolas has been on the rise. A safe gauge for a backyard improvement or deck is about 50% to 80% for your ROI. That said, to the right buyer, an alluring pergola could earn an even better return while providing the X-factor that attracts future buyers to your house.

Because they are open and airy, pergolas can help define your outdoor space without making it feel smaller or confined. Typically, the ground under the pergola is topped with some sort of flooring, whether it’s concrete pavers, brick flooring or even a deck, which combine with the pergola’s pillars and beams to further define your outdoor living space.

Pergolas are generally good investments because they effectively provide more “living space” outdoors. It’s similar to adding a gazebo or patio to serve as an exterior living room. While it won’t give you as much ROI as other hardscape additions, such as a patio or outdoor kitchen, a pergola can add value to your property. 

Getting the Most Out of Your Pergola

pergola add value to homeWhen it comes to maximizing ROI for your pergola, there are a few things to consider. While installing a pergola is one of the less expensive hardscape additions, the biggest factor affecting the overall cost is overall size and the kind of material used.

According to HomeAdvisor, the national median cost of a pergola is around $3,500. That said, you can expect to pay about $5,000 for a teal or ipe pergola, $3,000 for a cedar pergola and between $1,000 and $5,000 for an aluminum or fiberglass kit. If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can also opt to install a pergola yourself using a 10-by-10 kit that costs around $2,000.

Although wood is the most popular and beautiful option, it also requires more maintenance. You may have to repaint it, reseal it or repair hardware; and this could result in ongoing costs. With vinyl pergolas, on the other hand, you won’t have to worry about deterioration or maintenance. 

Vinyl pergolas won’t peel, chip, splinter, rot, warp, fade or become discolored when exposed to UV rays. Unlike wood pergolas, they can’t be infested by termites or other wood-boring insects. They also don’t require frequent maintenance or annual staining. 

The Bottom Line

When it comes to any home renovation, it’s important to consider all angles of the investment. If you’re looking to enhance your home’s outdoor space, there are a lot of good reasons to purchase a beautiful and durable pergola for your patio. In addition to boosting property value, these functional additions make your home more enjoyable while you’re still living in it. 

Bear in mind that how you choose to pay for your pergola will also affect your ROI. For instance, if you choose to finance the pergola with a loan, you will incur interest charges that may offset any potential increase in property value. So, it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits before purchasing a pergola for your home. 

It’s also important to remember that while a pergola could help you increase the asking price on a home; the increase isn’t going to be especially substantial. In some cases, it could increase the value of your home by a few thousand dollars. This depends on whether the pergola is part of a more extensive renovation that either extends your outdoor living space or defines it in a way that makes it more beautiful and more accessible.

If you’re planning to sell your home, The Wheaton Team can help. We specialized in residential real estate in Colorado Springs, Monument and the entire El Paso County. Let us help streamline the complex selling process and help you sell your home for a price that meets your expectations. To get started, contact us today!

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Selling a Home: 8 Questions to Ask Your Realtor

home selling questions to ask a realtor

Selling a house can be a complicated process fraught with all sorts of complications and potential mishaps. A good real estate agent can simplify the process and greatly improve your chances of success. To ensure that you enter the home-selling process with your eyes open, be sure to ask your agent the following key questions.

  1. What are your credentials?

If you’re thinking of selling your home, it’s important to hire a reputable agent with a state license. They should also belong to the local real estate trade association, which will give them access to the multiple listing service, or MLS, allowing them to list your property far and wide to attract more prospective buyers.

  1. Do you specialize in this area?

A local real estate expert can provide a huge advantage for sellers. Local agents are aware of available inventory, area market conditions and upcoming developments in the area. They will also know about plans for stores or other amenities that will impact the value of your home and determine how quickly it will sell. Local agents also know what local buyers are looking for in real estate. It’s important to remember that your agent needs to be able to sell not only your home but your entire neighborhood.

  1. What do I have to disclose to buyers?

While it makes sense to present your house in its best light, you must also be prepared to disclose some of its flaws. Colorado disclosure laws require sellers to alert buyers about the physical condition of a home, along with specific defects and the existence of dangerous materials or conditions. If you fail to adequately disclose specific facts, you could face lawsuits or various pending matters that could hold up the sale, impact property value or leave you liable for financial restitution. 

  1. Should I hire an inspector? 

Many buyers will include inspection contingencies in their offers. Sometimes, however, it makes sense for sellers to hire an inspector to perform a pre-inspection to check for potential problems before the property is listed.home selling questions for realtor

A pre-inspection can give you a chance to fix problems in advance and present buyers with a clean bill of health for the home. Since it will cost money, however, it’s best to check with your real estate agent to see if a pre-inspection is warranted for your property.

  1. How will you arrive at the listing price?

Few things are as critical to a seller than the price of a home. Your agent’s ability to set an appropriate listing price will go a long way toward determining your success. A home that is priced too high will languish on the market. If it’s priced too low, on the other hand, you may be leaving money on the table. It’s important to make sure your agent is an expert on the local real estate market and knows what similar homes have recently sold for.

  1. What is your sales plan?

A good real estate agent should have a written sales plan that identifies the marketing strategy to attract prospective buyers to your property. From listing services to social media to open houses, multiple marketing channels can help you secure a higher sales price. Make sure the agent is capable of providing professional photography, video and staging elements. This will make a better impression on buyers and improve the chances of a successful sale.

  1. What should I do to prepare my home?

Get your agent’s advice for necessary upgrades and repairs. Ask what hacks they might suggest for impactful, budget-friendly improvements that pique interest in buyers. Find out if they suggest whole-scale staging services or just some basic cleaning and decluttering.

  1. How will we communicate? 

Make sure your agent is willing to communicate according to your preferences, whether it’s by text, email or phone conversations. Knowing the frequency and method of communication can be important in selling your home. Your agent should be available to answer any questions that might come up along the way. They should also be willing to accommodate your schedule when it comes to planning open houses.

If you’re planning to sell your home, The Wheaton Team can help. We specialized in residential real estate in Colorado Springs, Monument and the entire El Paso County. Let us help streamline the complex selling process and help you sell your home for a price that meets your expectations. Contact us today to get started!

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The 9 Most Livable Neighborhoods in Colorado Springs

liveable neighborhoods

Colorado Springs consistently ranks among the most livable cities in all of America. With a great school system, diverse housing, gorgeous natural landscape and plentiful employment opportunities, the area is popular across diverse demographics. There are a number of great neighborhoods in Colorado Springs. Here’s a list of some of our favorites. 


  1. Briargate: Located in the city center, Briargate is one of the most popular communities for young families. The area is well-placed near excellent schools, shopping centers, restaurants and a YMCA. The local real estate mainly consists of large homes at competitive prices. The neighborhood is just a short drive of premier employment opportunities. Briargate is also situated near the Air Force Academy, making it popular among military personnel with families.


  1. The Broadmoor: Situated in the south part of Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor is one of the city’s safest and wealthiest neighborhoods. Most of the area’s residents are upper-middle-class, white-collar professionals who can afford larger properties. The neighborhood is home to the prestigious Broadmoor Hotel and Resort, known for its tennis courts, golf course and spa. The Broadmoor area features mature trees, manicured lawns, quiet, peaceful streets and an incredibly low crime rate. 


  1. Marksheffel: Situated Northeast of the city, Marksheffel has been relatively underdeveloped until recently. With a modern infrastructure now in place, the neighborhood is on the cusp of a growth explosion. It’s a great opportunity for buyers who are looking to grow along with their community; it’s also close to the Colorado Springs Airport.


  1. West Colorado Springs: Surrounded by public lands, private clubs and retail and commercial properties, West Colorado Springs offers more affordable real estate compared to other areas. This makes it a nice option for families who want to be surrounded by natural beauty liveable neighborhoods in co springswhile staying close to Colorado College, UCCS and the vibrant downtown area. 


  1. Northgate: Located at the northern edge of the city, Northgate sits near the United States Air Force Academy, Pikes Peak Community College and a popular school district. With great educational opportunities and thriving shopping centers, the area is a good neighborhood for families with kids of every age. With quick access to Monument, Briargate and the Black Forest, Northgate also plays host to InterQuest Marketplace, the Bass Pro Shop Center and Colorado Crossing, which features great shopping, distinctive restaurants and movie theaters.


  1. Black Forest: The communities in this woodsy area are perfect for parents who want their children to grow up outside amid endless outdoor activities. You can also take advantage of big-city amenities including nearby movie theaters and restaurants while still enjoying a quiet retreat from the fast-paced urban lifestyle. Black Forest is home to Black Forest Regional Park and Fox Run Regional Park. which both provide ample outdoor activities such as biking and hiking.


  1. Old North End: If you love history, check out this lovely area north of downtown. The neighborhood is a mix of large, stately properties built in the late 1800s along with several smaller homes built later. There are also a lot of great housing options along neighboring Wood Avenue and The Audubon neighborhood which are all within moments of popular downtown attractions.


  1. Flying Horse: This master-planned community offers luxury country club homes from custom builders. Residents enjoy neighborhood shops, local trails, a K-12 academic campus and a beautiful private, 18-hole championship golf course. Flying Horse sits at the northern edge of Colorado Springs and is 50 minutes from Denver. The neighborhood is also well placed near premier employment opportunities in a variety of different industries, including technology, tourism, aerospace and defense, medical, IT, military, manufacturing, sports and education. 


  1. Rockrimmon: Composed mostly of small-business owners, white-collar professionals and military families, Rockrimmon is a popular neighborhood for young families. Situated in the Northwest part of town, the area offers easy access to both downtown Colorado Springs and the U.S. Air Force Academy. While it does offer access to numerous modern amenities, the neighborhood also sits amid a gorgeous natural landscape. In fact, it’s not uncommon to spot deer, bighorn sheep and foxes due to the close proximity near several nearby wildlife parks.


If you’re planning to buy a home or need help selling your existing property, contact The Wheaton Team. For more than a decade, we’ve specialized in residential real estate in the top neighborhoods throughout Colorado Springs and all of El Paso County. Reach out to our skilled team of professionals and let us help you find the home of your dreams.

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evacuation plan for pets


An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.

Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.

Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.

Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!

Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.