Residential Real Estate News, Reviews, Things To Do, Events, Neighborhood Information and Market Updates by Wes and Nicole Benwick

Feb. 13, 2019

What to Know About Staging...

The word "staging" often brings sellers to their knees because they usually think of one thing when they hear that word...MONEY. 

Why do you need to stage?  Isn't your home good enough with your own furniture or an even better an empty house? Will your home sell faster if it is staged?


Before we get into staging, here are a few things to know. When you sell your home, there are 3 factors that go into selling, TWO of them are out of your control...

1. Price-- this factor is controlled by the market, what a buyer is willing to pay for your home with the current market in place.

2. Location-- another factor you cannot change. 

3. Appearance-- THIS is the factor you can change! So be in control of displaying your home to look its best.

Knowing appearance is the one thing you can control, remember this-when potential buyers and Realtors search for homes, what do you think is the first and most important feature they see? THE PHOTOS! Photos are the most important feature on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and on other home websites. You want your home to show well to bring those buyers in.

Let's break down the facts about staging:  


1. What is staging?

Staging is the act of preparing and showcasing property for sale.

Staging means to have a professional come to your home and advise you about what looks best in your home. If you have zero furniture in it then he or she would be able to suggest the best staging pieces to put into your home. There is quite a science to it from a certain number of colors (main and accent), the placement (size and shape) of "knick-knacks", and what makes a room look its best. If your home already has furniture you may really be wondering why then would you need staging? Your furniture is not only a personal reflection of your taste (and that may be wonderful!) but it is good to have a stager come by to be sure each room looks its best. You may have a room that you use for a different purpose but buyers will want to see it as it is supposed to be (for example, a dining room some use as a playroom). You may have a large armoire that is a family heirloom but that big piece makes your room look smaller and may turn buyers off. Remember, these are professionals and knowing what pieces go where and how much to have in a room is their job. A stager may suggest you only take out a few of the bigger pieces in a room, simply move a few things around, or add some things. The point to this is simple; you want your home to be at its best to entice all buyers to want to live in your home. 

2. How much is it to stage a home?

I know you want a hard number, but there are so many factors that go into quoting prices with staging. One thing to remember is this, find a professional. Just because someone says they are a "decorator" does not mean they have the training to stage! Ask them a few questions too. How many homes have you staged? Do you have photos? Are you licensed and insured? Do you offer "pay at close"? 

3. Ok, ok, let's get to the cold hard facts.

  • Staged homes spend 90% LESS time on the market than unstaged homes
  • Staging a home is LESS THAN a price reduction. Time is money so this doubles in importance. 
  • According to the Real Estate Staging Association national stats, you will sell your home 78% faster when it is staged
  • You will get 6-10% more money. If your home is $300k you stand to gain $18-$30K (vs. losing on markdowns!)
  • 81% of buyers' agents felt home staging has an effect on a buyers' view of the home
  • 95% of buyers look online to decide which homes to go see. Great photos are a must..
  • According to Zillow your home will lose a minimum of 1% a month while on the market
  • If your home is not selling after about 30-45 days, your Realtor will likely suggest a price reduction. Home staging services for a home that is occupied costs approximately 1/4% to 1/2% of the home value-on a $300k home that is $750 spent that can save $9k to $15k on the first markdown! 
  • On a vacant home you are still paying the mortgage, lawn care, HOA, utilities, etc. Think about that each month vs staging! 

I recently attended a course on staging that the company Sell or Dwell offered. These photos are from one of our listings when we used this amazing company to sell this home. If you have any questions about staging call:

Adrienne Lord                                                                                                                                                                        Owner, Lead Stager                                                                                                                                                          President, Jacksonville Real Estate Staging Association

Selling is stressful. That is obvious. If you want to sell and have your home look its absolute best, consider staging. It is an investment you will not regret.  It's like anything else you want to sell, if you are selling clothes you want them washed and ironed before listing them, so why not do this for what is probably your largest investment?









Jan. 21, 2019

What is a Listing Presentation?

We are selling!

Ok you want to sell your home, so you start spreading the news to your friends. Next, you start hearing from Realtors (hopefully us!) telling you they want the chance to do a "listing presentation" at your home.

What is a listing presentation?

 A listing presentation is basically an interview for a Realtor to come to your home loaded with lots of information about your property.  OK, great, sounds good...they want to get my what?

What do I have to do?

You are already mentally packing & thinking about all you have to do, so know this is one part of the process you don't have to do too much when the Realtor comes to your home.

However, you should have your house free of clutter and clean so the Realtor can get a good image of your home. Also, be able to tell them about any upgrades you have done to the home, and any other changes that could affect the valuation of your home. Let them know about liens to the property or any other mortgages. Free of clutter can mean picking up toys to really taking down personal photos and tidying up all areas of your home. Cleaning can mean just what it implies all the way to painting and fixing up damaged items around the home. Obviously the better it looks, the faster it should sell for the most money. First impressions are KEY.

What Should I be Looking For The Realtor To Say To Me?

The Realtor you choose should know the market in your area. They should know the comps (comparables) of homes sold, currently active on the market, pending listings (those waiting to close), and expired listings as well (homes that were on the market but for one reason or another did not sell). They should provide this information because it shows they know the market and what is selling around you and for how much. They can tell you how many days the homes are (or were) on the market. This is just one of the factors that goes into determining the sale price your home should be priced at. 

Make sure you have a good rapport with whomever you choose to represent is probably your largest investment. They should be able to answer your questions and concerns at any time and you should never feel like you are a "number" or a bother.

I feel like my home is worth....

Yes, we as professionals can show you what your home is worth based on facts. We also are well aware you have an emotional connection to your home. We love that. You may feel like your home is worth more than the Realtor says it is. You own the home, so you can ask your Realtor to price your home at any price you want. We have heard sellers say "Well, I picked xyz because they said they would price my house at $300,000 when another agent said they would price it at $260,000.".  At that point you need to worry about one thing...CAN they sell your home at $300k when it is really worth $260k? Check out the facts that a solid and reputable Realtor should give.

Spring is coming up fast so read this if you plan on getting ready to sell this spring in order to have your home looking its best!

Jan. 18, 2019

Do You Think You Can't Afford To Move?

Thinking about buying a home but don’t think you can afford to move??

Here is some great information on loans and mortgages for the new year! Don’t wait! Call us now to get you into your new home.


It's 2019 and if home buying is on your list of goals we are here to help.


1. Cost of Waiting & Let's Talk Down Payment


If you are thinking of buying a new home in 2019, the sooner the better. Check out this calculator which shows just how much money you could be saving.


Based on a “Cost of Waiting” calculator:

 If your household decides to wait:

$7988 for a year

$15,326 for 2 years

$22, 423 for 3 years -<WOAH>


This is based on the cost of property appreciation and amortization lost on a $250,000 priced home.  *If you would like your numbers based specifically for your price point, just give us a call.*


Don't have 20% down yet? Don't worry, this is a common myth. It goes back to the days when lenders had far fewer options. Now, you can get a mortgage for as little as 3% down and still have a low monthly payment ( we even have options without mortgage insurance).

2. Increased Loan limits


The new year brings higher loan limits for FHA mortgages across the United States. The changes went into effect January 1st, 2019. Conforming loan limits went from $417,000 to $424,1001. This is good news for borrowers hoping to crack the current housing market with a FHA backed mortgage.


Want an even larger house?!? Jumbo loans aren't your only loan option anymore. You can now enjoy Conforming plus loans and this gives you the ease of conventional underwriting and lower rates with loans sizes up to $726,525.  


3. It doesn't have to take a lot of time


The Future Home Loans team can get you approved within hours. Our average turnaround time for closing is 15 days. This is unheard of with other lenders out there!  Just ask your big bank if they can honor a 15 day close...but...why does this matter?


This gives you extra leverage when negotiating with a seller. Not to mention we do the shopping for you, we search 100's of different financing options to ensure you are getting a fantastic rate. Make sure to arm yourself with a pre-approval prior to shopping with your Realtor ...and it's never too early to start.

4. You missed your chance at a low rate.


Right now, rates have been at a steady decline for the last 5 weeks. Our FHA and VA rates are under 4%, so don't delay because we have no idea how long this can last.

Rates change daily and sometimes hourly depending on the market, so call one of our very qualified loan officers for your personal rate quote.


5. I want to buy but I've been declined by a big bank...


They aren't the end all be all; in fact as a mortgage broker we have 100's of different loan options so we can find a product that fits you and your family’s needs the best. If you've been declined give us a call. We could very well turn that decline into an approval. How you ask? Well big banks sometimes have what is know as "overlays"and  these overlays can limit a person's approval. We have several lenders that go just off what the government requires and not what the big banks "credit risk team" thinks is important.


This article was written by Future Home Loans

**Future Financial LLC DBA Future Home Loans supports Equal Housing Opportunity NMLS ID# 1621953.Interest rates and products are subject to change without notice and may or may not be available at the time of mortgage commitment or at the time of rate lock.**




Jan. 14, 2019

Rent Vs Buy

We've often wondered... is it better to Rent OR Buy

Did you know that renting at $1,650 per month, compared with purchasing a similar home for $250,000 could cost you over $114,000!  Don't believe it?? The proof is right here:

Rent Vs Buy Slide

Posted in FAQ, Helpful Advice
Jan. 14, 2019

Cost of Waiting

We've all been there, it's decision time, should you move forward with your offer or sleep on it?  Is now the right time to buy, or is it better to wait things out.  The answer isn't always very clear, but we are always trying to help you find the best answer.  Our lending partners over at Future.Loans, have a great new way of putting some real numbers that may change the way you think.  Did you know that waiting just 1 year on a $250,000 home purchase could cost you nearly $8,000, and maybe more if you start to consider potential price increases!  Don't believe it, the proof is right here.  

Cost of Waiting Slide

Want to see it with your numbers?  Get it customized and personalize just for you.  We call it the Cost of Waiting Analysis, all you have to do is ask, compliments of our friends over at the fastest and smartest lender in the city, Future.Loans!  

Cost of Waiting Slide 2

Posted in FAQ, Helpful Advice
Jan. 8, 2019

iPhone Tricks

Who doesn't want to know how to optimize that expensive thing  we keep by our sides 24/7?  

Tricks for your iPhone:

  • Do you ever text or email and need to move the cursor? All you have to do is press down on the keyboard and when you see the keys disappear, you can slide your finger around in the space. 
  • Have photos you do not want others to see? In the photos app choose all of the photos you want to hide and hit the "share" icon. Then choose "hide". To see them again, simply go to your albums in the photo app.
  • Most of you may know but it bears reminding...while driving, use your "do not disturb while driving" button. Go to settings, control center, then customize controls.
  • Want to share something on your phone? Go to settings, control center, customize controls. Tap the screen record icon and it will turn red. Use as you wish then to stop it you can go to the icon in the control center and press the blue banner.
  • If you can't look at your phone a lot but need to know who's calling, simply make different ringtones for your contacts. Go to your contacts and find the person, choose edit and go to ringtone. Press the Default and enjoy customizing!
  • If you have to have one hand free and be able to type at the same time, open a text and find the emoji button, and from there choose the left or right handed keyboard option.
  • On the calculator an easy way to fix a mistyped number is to swipe either left or right at top where the number(s) is and it will erase your last number.
  • Who has a scanner? You do, on your phone! Go to your Notes, click the plus sign, choose 'scan documents'. Simply position the document and boom!



Enjoy! Use that phone to call us about a home for you! 904-477-7556 


Jan. 6, 2019

How to Homestead Your Home

If you bought a home last year, you should homestead the property you purchased.  What is that and how does it help me?

What does is it mean to homestead a home in Florida?

To declare your property a "homestead" in Florida means to reduce the taxable value of real property you own by up to $25,000 if you're single and up to $50,000 if you are married. The home must be your primary residence. The first $25,000 of the exemption applies to the property taxes and school taxes. The remaining $25,000 goes toward the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and to other non-school taxes.

You must have the legal title to the residence as of January 1 for the year you want to homestead and again, it must be your primary home that you live in. Also, the most important thing to remember is you must apply for homestead between January 1 and March 1 of the year you want the homestead exemption. There is a late file option (if you miss the March deadline) of September 18, 2019. (But really... there is no reason to procrastinate here!)

What do I need to file?

In order to file for homestead exemption, you will need proof of ownership, so the deed on record or tax bill, as well as your Florida's driver's license (with the primary residence on it). You will also need your vehicle registration with the primary address on it. *Check with your county's website for the exact documentation to provide.

What do I do first?

Visit your property appraiser's website to get more information..

Duval County

St. Johns County

Clay County

How do I know it's been taken care of?

Within 45 days of filing you should receive a receipt by mail. If you do not, you can always check your county website.

What happens if I don't file?

If you forget to file, or just don't file for your homestead exemption, not only will you have an increased property tax liability without the automatic deduction, your property will not be subject to the annual "cap" on increase, currently set at 3% or less.  So let's assume you bought your home for $200,000.00 last year and the previous owner's assessed tax value was $185,000 before any deductions. The appraiser for your county automatically reassesses all properties as of January 1st each year, and its likely the taxable value will increase as a result.  This will continue annually, and at a modest growth rate of 3 - 5% per year, after just a few years, without any cap in place, your home could be valued up to $231,000.  Without having any deductions or limits on annual gains, your tax bill will continue to increase every year, at a rate of $18-$20 per $1000 of value depending on where you live.  Your tax bill of $3600 would have increased to nearly $4200 by now.    

By filing, assuming you are married, your taxable value will be $200,000 minus $50,000, with a cap of 3% or less on the growth, your tax bill would be around $2700 - $2950, nearly a $1000 difference annually, and growing!

If you have any questions please give us a call. 904-477-7556...


Jan. 2, 2019

New Years...What Are Your Resolutions?

Happy New Year!!  

  Happy 2019!! We all made it through the holidays and are ready to take on the new year!     

What is it about a new year that makes us want to change, be better, and turn the proverbial corner because we turned the calendar? Was New Years Day always celebrated on January 1? Did YOU make resolutions? Why do we do this tradition year after year??

  About 4,000 years ago the Babylons celebrated the new year by promising to pay debts and return objects borrowed from others....but it was not January 1st.  It was in mid March when the crops were planted and during the spring equinox. However, by 46 B.C. Julius Ceasar changed it to what it is today; on January 1st, to reflect the new calendar that was in sync with the sun not the moon.  Also said the change to January 1 was in order to honor the Roman god of beginnings, "Janus". Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and looked ahead to the new year.  Some countries still follow a lunar calendar and thus celebrate New Years on different days.

The custom of making resolutions goes back about 2,000 years ago where Christians made resolutions to be better to others morally, as well as forgive past mistakes and promising to do better in the future. Nowadays, we tend to make resolutions to better ourselves such as losing weight, stopping a bad habit, etc.   

So, as much as we love the holidays, January 1st is here and the time to make those darn resolutions that we all hope to keep. We all want to turn that "corner" and make promises to ourselves to become a better person in many ways.  

Sadly only about 8% of those who make resolutions keep them, however 40-45% of us keep on making them!

Why not make a resolution to just be a better person one nice thing for someone else every costs you nothing!

May you and yours have a wonderful 2019 and best of luck with your New Year's resolutions!





Dec. 8, 2018

St. Johns County Schools Opens Spots

St. Johns County schools here in Jacksonville Florida boasts some of THE top schools in this country!

Even if you don't live in St. Johns County (which it is one heck of a county to live in!!) you can still apply for open enrollment!

If you want to apply you can do so January 24th-February 27th 2019.

The county will open up seats in three elementary schools and one middle school.

1. Ocean Palms Elementary School

2. The Webster School in St. Augustine

3. PVPV-Rawlings Elementary School

4. R.J. Murray Middle School in St. Augustine

Find out more at


Nov. 26, 2018

We Want YOUR Input!

We love traditions here at 

Simply put, we want to hear about your holiday traditions that you do now or used to do when you were a child. No matter the holiday we love to hear about different traditions. What you share may start someone else's new traditions!!

Drop us a note!! Happy Holidays!!!