Where Are The Top 10 Cities To Move To Right Now In The US?

Charlotte, NC ranked as one of the top 10 cities to move to in the US right now.

Do you ever have the urge to move somewhere new and aren’t quite sure where to go? Curbed, a website by Vox Media, has recently ranked cities across the US based on walkability, park access, diversity, housing costs, job opportunities, and more. These criteria add up to livability.

Two metro areas in North Carolina found their place on the “10 best cities in the US to move right now”, Charlotte and Raleigh.

Charlotte has long been associated with banking and skyscrapers. But recently the Queen City was noticed as one of America’s boomtowns by attracting workers and businesses to our area, especially millennials. The Queen City has added nearly 50,000 apartments attracting the young workers to Charlotte. Office construction has also been on the rise especially around the light rail line. The Rail Trail has created a walkable area for the residents around Southend to Uptown.

See our tour of Charlotte below.

Charlotte and Raleigh were also recently ranked by the website Numbeo for having the best quality of life in the world based on a study of factors that contribute to residents’ happiness.

Are you interested in learning more about life in Charlotte, NC? Our Director of Relocation, Catharine Pappas would love to hear from you and show you around the Queen City. Contact her today.

Top 5 Winter Home Projects You Can Do Now

top 5 winter home projects charlotte nc

There is nothing better than curling up on the sofa in your warm home when the weather turns cold. And, after the holidays the last thing on your mind is getting out the tools to check off your honey-do list.

However, the winter months are the ideal time to complete home improvement and maintenance projects, especially if you’re planning to list your home in the spring or summer. NOW is the time to get started with your home prep. We asked our top agents and these are the top 5 winter home projects to get started on to improve your home’s value when you are ready to sell.

Fresh Paint 

Give rooms, paneling, or cabinetry a fresh coat of paint. Paint is an inexpensive way to update your home to get ahead of the spring market. Many things can be painted to give your home a fresh look, tile, paneling, cabinets. Sprucing up these items can make a big difference. Pro tip: Manufacturers offer the best deals on paint during the late fall and winter.

Get Your Lawn Ready For Spring

Do you want to have the best lawn on the block? Preparing your yard in the fall and early winter guarantees a lush and beautiful lawn in the spring. Bermuda and bluegrass are two “cool season” types of grass that should be fertilized before the first freeze. To ensure that the grass won’t grow too tall in winter, and offer mice and other burrowing animals a warm hideout, be sure to mow the lawn before the first freeze. Be sure to pick up any items in the yard (logs, toys, furniture) before it begins to snow, as these can create dead spots in the grass in the spring.

Add Insulation

Looking for a way to save on utility bills? Adding home insulation can improve your home’s energy efficiency. While it isn’t the most exciting project, it could help make your home more energy-efficient which will benefit you by saving money in the long run. Start by checking your attic, basement, and crawl space to see if more insulation is needed.

Install A Programmable Thermostat

This is a simple do-it-yourself project that will end up paying off in the long run by increasing the energy efficiency of your home. The thermostats are wi-fi enabled and automatically adjust heating and cooling temperature settings in your home for optimal performance. They can also learn your temperature preferences and establish a schedule that automatically adjusts to energy-saving temperatures when you are asleep or away. There are many options available to fit any budget or lifestyle.

Channel Your Inner Marie Kondo

When Spring and Summer get here, you’re not going to want to spend your time going through the piles of junk in your basement, you’ll want to be outside, enjoying the fresh, warm air. Marie Kondo was the rage last year, and we gave our top lessons we learned from her here. Take a page from Marie Kondo’s book and tidy up! Winter is the perfect time to work on getting organized. Pro tip: Don’t try to tackle the entire house at once. Start small, and go slow.

These top 5 winter home projects are the perfect start to getting your home refreshed. Are you looking for advice on how to get your home ready to sell for the lest price this spring or summer? Give us a call and we can connect you with a professional, knowledgeable agent today.

Date Night in the Queen City

date night in the queen city

Plan the perfect date night with our staff’s favorite restaurants!

Do you want to plan the perfect date night in the Queen City for Valentine’s Day? Whether you will be with your significant other or your besties, have no fear friends, we’ve got you covered! Check out some of our staff’s favorite date night restaurants below, and what to order at each.

Soul Gastrolounge

Soul Gastrolounge, located on the edge of Plaza Midwood, is hip yet cozy and perfect for a one on one date night. They serve a variety of small plates, sushi, and handcrafted cocktails. After dinner, enjoy music until 2 am with one of their resident DJs.

What to order: Pork Belly Tacos, Ramen Bowl, Shells & Cheese, Fried Brussel Sprouts, Lamb Lollipops, Supernova Sushi Roll. Find the full menu here.

Barcelona Wine Bar

The cuisine is clean and rustic, with Mediterranean, Spanish, and South American influenced tapas. There are nearly 400 wines featured on the wine list, so there’s something for everyone. Located in South End just steps away from Jenis Ice Cream (the perfect place for dessert).

What to order: Mussels, Grilled Hanger Steak, Patatas Bravas, Brussel Sprouts. Find the full menu here.

Bistro La Bon

Bistro La Bon is described as a “one-of-a-kind dining experience that celebrates culinary influences from all over the world.” They have locations in both Plaza Midwood and Cotswold. They offer a selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes.

What to order: Pan Seared Gnocci, Lamb Shank, Bouillilabaisse, and wild mushroom ravioli. View the full menu here.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Firebirds is an American restaurant and steakhouse known for its scratch kitchen, bold flavors and inviting atmosphere, and perfect date night spot. With 3 locations in the Charlotte area, you are never too far away for an enjoyable dinner.  Make reservations while you still can for the amazing “Table for Two” menu being offered until March 1, 2020. See the special menu here.

Angeline’s

Angeline’s offers an Italian-influenced menu with house-made plates of pasta, wood-fired pizzas, and simple yet flavorful small plates. Stop by Merchant & Trade after for a rooftop drink overlooking our beautiful queen city!

What to order: They are offering a Valentine’s day special,  5 Course Beverage Pairing for $35 per Couple and the Shareable Tasting Menu is $85 for 2. View the Valentine’s Day menu here.

Other Staff Favorites:

Stagioni

Good Food on Montford

The Porter’s House

Jade Asian Fusion

2019 Agent Awards Breakfast – Celebrating A Record Year in Real Estate

Dickens Mitchener recently hosted its Agent Awards Breakfast in celebration of 2019 & 28 years as Charlotte’s best source for residential real estate! Kathy Izard, author, and advocate for the homeless inspired the crowd to listen to the “whisper” in their lives.

 

Our 2019 Top Producer & Spirit Award winner is Joan Goode. The annual spirit award is given to the team member who best represents Dickens Mitchener’s noteworthy culture, showing “exemplary spirit of positive attitude and sincere caring” as voted by the entire company. Marcy Basrawala was our Rookie of the Year. Congratulations to all our agents on a record-setting 2019!

 

 

We look forward to an even more successful 2020! To find your dream home in 2020, contact your preferred real estate expert today.

Can You Afford A Home If You Have Student Loan Debt?

can you buy a home if you have student debt

Is student loan debt holding you back from homeownership?

It doesn’t have to. Recent studies show that student loans are at an all-time high with the average student coming out of college with over $100,000 in debt. But, you can still realize the dream of homeownership by taking the steps below.

What is your credit score?

FICO credit scores range from 350-800. The higher the score the better to obtain credit. Pay your bills on time and keep your balances low to maintain a good score. A credit score under 600 is considered poor, and anything over 750 is considered high. To qualify for a mortgage and a low mortgage rate, you will need a good score. Check your reports frequently and if you see a mistake report it to the credit bureaus.

What is your debt to income(DTI) ratio?

Your debt to income ratio is your monthly debt payments as a ratio to your income. Lenders will use this information to determine if you will be able to afford a mortgage each month. Mortgage companies typically use a 28/36 qualifying ration to determine if you’re eligible for the best rates. This means that you are only spending 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses and no more than 36% on total debt.

Some lenders will still give you a loan even if your DTI is high, but be sure to consider if you are comfortable taking on the loan. There are ways to reduce your DTI. Refinance your student loans to lower your payments, take on a second job to pay off existing debt or use an income-based repayment program to repay your student loans.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Before you start looking for your dream home, talk to a mortgage professional first to see how much you can afford. To get approved, lenders will look at your income, assets, credit record and employment. Once you have your approval you will know how much home you can afford.

Look for a down payment assistance program.

There are many types of down payment assistance programs available for homebuyers throughout the country.

  • FHA loans: These are federal loans available through the Federal Housing Authority
  • VA loans: These loans are available to people who have served in the military.
  • USDA loans: These loans offer zero down payment for people who live in rural areas.

Special programs are also available through federal, state and local levels, so be sure to ask about any of those as well.

Is it the right time to buy a home?

After you have taken the steps above, consider these factors before you decide to buy a home while you still have student loan debt. Do you feel comfortable with your income? Are you in a profession where your income will be steady for a long period of time to support two large payments each month? Are you willing to cut back in other areas of your life to afford a mortgage and student loan debt? This can be as simple as not taking an extravagant yearly vacation or cutting back on retirement savings until your debt becomes more manageable.

Owning a home is a great investment even if you have student loan debt.

Homeownership is one of the best types of investments you can make in your lifetime. So, consider taking the leap even if you have student loan debt.

If you have been debating about getting started or are curious about market conditions in your area, we can match you with a Dickens Mitchener agent who can help you decide the best time to buy a home. Contact us here or call  704.661.2402.

Dickens Mitchener Ranked Best Residential Real Estate Firm

Dickens Mitchener Ranked Best Residential Real Estate Firm

Image Via Flickr

The results are in for the best residential real estate firms in the United States in 2018 as ranked by BrokerRate. Dickens Mitchener ranked at #514 out of 1000 brokerage firms on the list.

Each firm was ranked based on sales volume. Dickens Mitchener had 1,056 transactions in 2018 with $620 million in sales. We are so proud of this accomplishment made possible by our 100 real estate agents.

Dickens Mitchener has two offices in the Charlotte, NC area. The main office is in the Eastover neighborhood, minutes from uptown Charlotte. Our second office was opened in 2016 and is located near the Ballantyne area. Our agents serve all of the greater Charlotte, NC areas including portions of South Carolina that sit right over the southern border of North Carolina.

We must also mention our award-winning relocation department which contributes to our sales volume. The team has been recognized for its high achievements in moving people in and out of the Charlotte region and around the world. In 2019, Dickens Mitchener received one of the highest honors for the entire Leading Real Estate Companies of the World network. This network is comprised of 565 real estate firms from more than 70 countries. The department received the coveted 2018 Crown of Excellence award and a historic 7 award nominations in total. We continue to strive for excellent service and making your move as seamless as possible.

The full report can be accessed here.

Interior Design Trends for 2020

As we enter a new year, and a new decade it is time to say goodbye to the old and overdone interior design trends, and hello to new, bright and fresh trends that will lighten up your home. We have compiled a list of trends that lie on the horizon for the new year and new decade.

Goodbye Neutrals, Hello Color

interior design trends high fashion home

Instagram Image Credit: @highfashionhome

Say goodbye to boring neutrals and say hello to bold saturated hues! Dolley Levan Frearson, the co-founder of High Fashion Home, predicts shades of pink, soft peachy corals, terra cotta colors and golden yellow tones. Expect to see tile, cabinetry, and walls come to life with color.

 

Two-Tone Kitchens

kitchen trends 2020

Image Courtesy of Metropolitan Design Concepts

Can’t say we’re upset about the all-white kitchen trend fading out. While it is beautiful, it’s time to add some color and brighten up your living spaces. “2020 brings in warmer kitchens. Gone are the cold and sterile white kitchens, we are going to see warmer tones and softer colors,” Stacie Salisbury, Metropolitan Design Concepts.

Rattan and Wicker Furniture

wicker & rattan furniture

Instagram Image Credit: @hammock_town

Wicker and Rattan are a great balance of modern and traditional style. Whether it be chairs, tables or lighting it is a great way to add a warm and fresh touch to a room.

Grandmillennial Style

grandmillenial interior design

Instagram Image Credit: @meganevansinteriors

According to House Beautiful, Grandmillenial style is having its moment. Never heard of it? The look is described as a traditional design with a twist: blending elements of classic design like chinoiserie, scallops, natural fiber rugs with a contemporary edge (think: modern art and clean-lined furniture).

 

There is no better time to update your home than the start of a new decade. Let’s start the 2020’s with a home interior design refresh that will take you through the next interior design trends.

Charlotte, NC Ranks at #20 Best Places to Live in US

Charlotte, NC best places to live in the US

US News and World Report recently released the top 20 places to live in the US, based on the value of homes, have a strong job market and a high quality of life. Five cities in NC made the list with Charlotte, NC landing at #20.

Austin, TX topped the list as the best place to live in the US and also ranked #11 in Best Places to Retire. Raleigh & Durham, NC both came in at #10 on the list. They are known as part of the Research Triangle in NC and are home to several universities. The job market continues to grow in the area and also boasts a high quality of life. The cities landed at #28 on the Best Places to Retire list.

Charlotte, NC landed at #20 on the Best Places to Live list. The Queen City has grown out of the shadow of Atlanta and is now its own destination. Charlotte has been known for the banking industry but is quickly becoming a haven for tech companies as well. The bustling restaurant industry has brought culinary sophistication to the region. The old Southern charm is still here, but more and more people are moving to the area making it a diverse population. You no longer feel like an outsider as most people are transplants in the city. Charlotte was ranked #32 in Best Places to Retire.

Charlotte is also dedicated to adding more green space to the area in the next 4 years. There are currently 49 miles of greenways in the area and the plan is to increase that by 31 miles across the county. The city is also trying to build its own “Central Park” just outside of uptown. Charlotte Agenda has a great overview of this exciting project here.

Are you interested in moving to the Charlotte, NC area? Contact our Relocation Director, Catherine Pappas at (704) 661-2402 to get connected with an experienced agent.

Update: Can You Trust Zillow & Trulia?

can you trust zillow and trulia

Back in 2014, Zillow and Trulia were the 2 sites that people were talking about online when it came time to buy a home. They had an easy search tool to not only see homes for sale in a specific area but also homes that were not for sale. Zillow has the “Zestimate” tool available for homeowners to estimate how much their home is worth based on recent sales in the area you are searching in. We will talk more about that later. We even wrote a blog post about it here. This seems like the perfect time for an update to let you know the state of Zillow and Trulia now.

Should I search on Zillow or Trulia for a new home?

If you’ve ever used these websites to find your newly listed home you may have been surprised when it came up in the wrong neighborhood or may have shown the wrong school information. Why would this happen? It’s helpful to know how these listings are shown by going behind the scenes. Websites like Zillow and Trulia are known as real estate syndicators. The information is pulled from a local Multiple Listing Service or MLS. The MLS is accessed by realtors and contains all the necessary data for any given listing. The MLS is the most trusted source for real estate listings. Agents must subscribe to the service for a fee but it is worth it for the accurate content available.

If 3rd party sites pull information from the MLS, then why is some of their information incorrect?

Unfortunately, sites like Zillow and Trulia are not only using information from the local MLS, but also from other sources. Sometimes the information from the MLS can also be twisted and misrepresented. They often use information pulled from 3rd party sites, meaning they can host information that has been posted by anyone, regardless of the content. The information can be misleading with little accountability.

But, what about the “Zestimate” tool?

Many people will search for their home on Zillow to try to price their home before they are ready to sell by using the Zestimate tool. We always suggest calling a Realtor® to do this for you, as they will have accurate data available to use from the MLS to compare your home with other homes that have recently sold in your area. Zillow’s reported numbers show that 13% of home “Zestimates” are not accurate within 5% of the sale price.

The best places to search online for a new home.

Feeling overwhelmed with where to start your home search or how to sell your home? Zillow and Trulia are still extremely popular among home-seekers {and sellers} but if you are looking for a more reliable alternative, use the search engine on your local real estate broker’s website. Most of all, never hesitate to reach out to your local real estate agent with any questions you may have.

Do you have real estate questions?

Dickens Mitchener is your trusted source for residential real estate in the Charlotte area and beyond. Our affiliations with Leading RE and Luxury Portfolio can put you in touch with other professionals around the world. Contact Catharine Pappas at 704.661.2402 or your trusted neighborhood expert today to get started.

Renting VS Buying in Charlotte, NC

When moving to Charlotte, NC, many people have to decide which is better, renting vs buying. If this sounds like you, look no further— we are here to help! All our agents are experts in the current Charlotte real estate market and have broken down for us why buying makes more financial sense than renting.

1. In Charlotte, According to SmartAsset, a financial company that has crunched the numbers on home markets, it takes about 2.2 years for the cost of renting to surpass the cost of buying a home. That ranks Charlotte as the 23rd best place in the country to buy a home as opposed to renting.

2. Mortgage rates are as low as they have been in several years. They will not stay this low, so now is the best time to buy.

3. Currently, rental rates in Charlotte are higher than mortgage rates. At the end of the day, paying rent is covering someone’s mortgage, it may as well be your own!

4. Build your equity! When you buy a home, it may seem like your money is disappearing- but it isn’t. The payments you make on your home become equity, which is a degree of ownership in your home that can be used as collateral for other loans.

5. Tax deductions – When you buy a home there will be several income tax deductions that are not available to renters.

If you want to talk to a professional about whether or not its the right time to buy, contact a Dickens Mitchener agent today!