Questions to Ask When Buying New Construction

Buying a new home is exciting. Buying a brand new home can be even more so with the realization of being the first owner and possibly being able to choose your own layout and finishes. The prospect of owning new construction is definitely exciting, but it doesn’t come without its own set of questions. If you’re in the market for a new home, and considering new construction, make note of the questions below when you begin your property search.

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WHAT ARE THE LONG TERM PLANS FOR THE COMMUNITY?

Unless you’re looking at custom homes on acreage, it’s likely new construction in your area will be located in a new development or in a master planned community. With this in mind, feel free to ask about the plans for the community. If it’s a large area, find out if any subdivisions are planned. If there are only a few houses built so far, it’s likely to mean lots of construction in the months to come – which means a lot of noise and construction traffic. Also ask about the builder – if they’re well known and respected, it’s unlikely they’ll lose funding and the community will likely continue on as planned.

WHAT ARE THE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION’S RULES AND REGULATIONS?

Many new developments and master planned communities come with a set of rules and regulations set by a homeowners association. If you’ve never lived in a community with a HOA, it’s important to find out the rules before investing in it. The bylaws and the CC&Rs will let you know what is and isn’t allowed in the community (especially when it comes to the exterior of your home). You’ll also want to find out when the HOA fee begins – in some communities, it can start before the home is even finished.

DO YOU OFFER ANY BUYER OR FINANCIAL INCENTIVES?

If the community or development is still in the early stages, there might be incentives (like a buyer discount, builder upgrades or other financial incentives or freebies) for buyers. Sometimes these offers come with a catch – where something is expected from the buyer in return for the incentive – but it’s important to ask about any offers that may be available, especially if the community is still up and coming.

DO YOU PROVIDE WARRANTIES?

New homes often come with different warranties. Ask if a workmanship and structural warranty come with the home. A workmanship warranty (or builder’s warranty) is a warranty for newly constructed homes that offer limited coverage on workmanship and components of the home like windows, siding, roofs, doors, plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Traditionally a workmanship warranty will cover a one or two year period; another likely warranty is a structural warranty, which covers the structure of a home. If a warranty is provided, make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered and how much you’re responsible for in case of any issues.

CAN YOU CONNECT ME WITH SOME CURRENT HOMEOWNERS?

Just as you would check reviews before buying an item online or booking a service, the same can be said for a home builder. Just because the product that’s being offered is a shiny new home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and check references before making a large investment. While it’s likely that the builder will provide glowing reviews, checking reference and review websites and even knocking on the doors of current homeowners will provide additional information and give you a wider understanding of the builder and its practices. Talking to current homeowners will provide information about the actual community.

New construction is exciting, but you want to make sure you have all pertinent information before you go through with a home purchase. Your real estate agent will be able to help navigate the waters of new construction. Reach out to your agent with any questions you may have about buying new construction in your area.

If I could tell you only one thing when it comes to buying new construction it would be HIRE YOUR OWN REALTOR!  The builders and their real estate agents are only looking out for themselves usually. 

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Common Mortgage Myths

For the average person, mortgages are super confusing.  They are always changing and every lender has different programs and rates.  The best thing you can do before you start searching for a home is to have a meeting with a reputable mortgage lender in person, not a company that you apply with on a phone app.  My two recommendations would be Doreen Hansen with HomeServices Lending, soon to be Prosperity ( a Berkshire Hathaway company).  Doreen has been in the mortgage business for over 15 years here in Kansas City and is great to work with with.  The other mortgage lender I would suggest would be Katie Grimes with Fountain Mortgage.  Fountain Mortgage is a locally owned mortgage company and they take care of their clients and customers better than anyone else in the business.

Common Mortgage Myths

For most Americans, being able to buy a home or property with cash is not a reality. Because of this, banks and other lenders offer mortgage loans to those that qualify. A mortgage loan isn’t a bad thing – for millions of Americans, it’s a way for them to have their own home. As with any popular subject, there are some common myths surrounding mortgage loans. While not every buyer will need a mortgage loan, it’s important to discern the myths from the facts when it comes to mortgages in the United States.aerial-photography-architecture-building-1546168

“YOU NEED TO HAVE 20 PERCENT FOR A DOWN PAYMENT”

This is probably one of the most popular myths surrounding mortgage loans, and it’s also one of the most outdated. While it may have been a requirement generations ago, a buyer does not need to have 20 percent of a home’s purchase price in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. While it may be financially better to put down 20 percent (the total loan amount will be less with a bigger down payment amount), there are a number of different loans and options that allow potential buyers to get a mortgage with less than 20 percent down. An FHA mortgage for first-time buyers requires 3.5 percent down; VA mortgages allow for zero down; USDA home loans require nothing down; and a number of other programs allow buyers to put anything from 3 to 10 percent down. If you’re thinking of buying a home and you know you’ll need a mortgage loan, don’t be fooled by the 20 percent down myth – there are way more options out there now than there used to be.

“ONCE YOU’RE PRE-QUALIFIED YOU’RE GUARANTEED THE LOAN”

It may seem like, with the steps you go through to get pre-qualified, that a mortgage loan will be a sure thing. But that’s not the case. Pre-qualification is not pre-approval. Pre-qualification is the initial step in the mortgage process, and while it’s an important one as it can give a person an idea of a mortgage loan amount they may receive from a lender, it is not the actual approval. Pre-qualification usually does not include a credit report analysis or an in-depth look into one’s ability to buy a home. Because of this, being pre-qualified is not a sure thing and it’s not a guarantee of a mortgage loan. There have been buyers who have been pre-qualified only to be told they were not actually approved for the mortgage loan itself. All of this being said – if you’re looking at homes and know you’ll need a mortgage loan, get pre-approved before you decide to make any offers. Even pre-approval comes with certain conditions, but is much better than a pre-qualification.

“YOU NEED EXCELLENT CREDIT AND NO DEBT TO GET A LOAN”

There are a number of factors that go into mortgage approval, and while creditworthiness and debt-to-income ratio are both considered, you do not need to be ‘excellent’ in either of these areas in order to get a mortgage loan. The minimum credit score necessary for a conventional loan is 620, and an FHA loan with 3.5% down requires a score of 580. With the median FICO credit score in the U.S. at 700, a buyer doesn’t need to have excellent credit in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. As for debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: while it’s best to have as little debt as possible when looking to purchase a home, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government-sponsored agencies that publish standards for conventional mortgage approval) have the maximum allowable DTI at 50 percent, meaning those with current debt are not at a loss when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage loan.

“30-YEAR FIXED-RATE MORTGAGES ARE THE BEST OPTION”

The financial and housing crisis that occurred in the U.S. in the late 2000s left a sour taste in the mouths of many Americans when it comes to non-traditional mortgage loans. Adjustable rate mortgages and mortgages other than fixed-rate were seen as bad and predatory. While some lenders took advantage of hard working Americans and many people lost their homes, non-traditional mortgage loans are not a bad thing, especially for certain buyers. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is a great option for someone that plans on staying in his/her home for many years, but for someone that knows they’ll likely move within five to seven years, an adjustable rate mortgage might be a better option. Fixed rate loans also come in other than 30 year terms; shorter lengths have a higher monthly payment but can save a lot of interest charges. Those buyers looking to retire soon may be better off with a shorter loan length than someone who is younger and still has many more years in the job force. If you’re in the market for a mortgage, it might be worthwhile to look at all the options available and see which one best aligns with your personal and career goals – it may not be the traditional mortgage loan.

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“EVERYONE RECEIVES THE ADVERTISED INTEREST RATE”

It’s often said if it’s too good to be true, it generally is. The same can be said for mortgage interest rates. When looking for a loan, interest rates will be listed online, in newspapers and wherever else they advertise. Those advertised rates will likely look great and will be incredibly low, but the reality is that most of the time, advertised interest rates are only reserved for those who have a perfect credit score, have an incredible debt-to-income ratio, and are likely putting down a very large down payment. Interest rates are influenced by a number of factors, which of course aren’t included in the advertisement (just in the incredibly small fine print); because of this, take all advertised interest rates with a grain of salt and go into the mortgage loan process with the understanding that you may not receive the advertised interest rate.

Mortgage loans can be confusing and intimidating, especially with the number of myths out there about them. If you still have questions, your agent can help or refer you to someone with more knowledge – they may even have a lender they’ve worked with and recommend. Buying a home with a mortgage loan is still widely popular in the U.S. – don’t let the myths fool you out of achieving the goal of home ownership.

Sell Now or Wait Until Spring?

As with every decision in life, there are pros and cons, and choosing when to sell a home is no different. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before deciding when to sell a home. Many homeowners believe selling a home during the fall or winter months is not a good idea and that the spring is the only time a house should be sold. This is the furthest from the truth. Certainly, most real estate markets across the United States experience a “spring market rush” every year. There is no doubt that the “spring market” is a great time to be selling and buying real estate, however, the fall and winter seasons may be the best fit for you for many reasons.

 

Here are several reasons why choosing to sell your home now may be a better decision than waiting until the spring:

 

1.    Less Competition, If Any!
One way that you can tell the spring real estate market has arrived is by driving down a street in your local community. In all likelihood there will be For Sale signs up all over the neighborhood! One great reason to sell your home now and not wait until the spring market is there is sure to be less competition.  The fewer number of comparable homes for sale, the greater the probability that a buyer will look at your home.
Simply put, it’s the supply and demand theory. If there are less homes for sale, there are less homes that a potential buyer can choose from, therefore increasing the demand for your home. Not only will less competition increase the probability for showings, but it will also increase the probability that an offer will be received, and you will get the maximum amount of money for your home.
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2.    Serious Buyers Are Out There
Homes are sold and bought 365 days a year, period!  Many homeowners believe that buyers aren’t out there during the fall and winter months. This simply is not the case. Serious buyers are always out there!  Some buyers may stop their home search because it is the fall or winter, but serious buyers will continue to look at homes, no matter what time of year it is.
 
3.    The Best Agents Are Always Up to The Challenge
Any real estate agent who tells you that the fall or winter months are a bad time to sell is not someone you want selling your home! A great real estate agent will know how to adapt to the current season and market their listings to reflect that.  A great real estate agent can make suggestions and give some of their tips on how to sell a home during the fall or winter seasons. If a real estate agent doesn’t have any suggestions on making your home more desirable for the current season, you should be concerned about the creativity they are going to use when marketing your home.
 
4.    Staging for The Holiday Season
Many sellers believe staging a home is the main reason a home sells.  While staging certainly helps sell homes, some buyers have a difficult time envisioning themselves in a home no matter what you do. However, there are some buyers who can easily be “sold” on a home because it is staged.  Simple “seasonal” staging such as adjusting the color of the decor or having an aroma in the air that is relative to the time of year can go a long way with some potential buyers and possibly be the difference between a home selling or not.
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5.    Mortgage Rates Are Low
If you’ve read about real estate in the past year, it’s likely you’ve read that the mortgage rates are very low.  You also probably read that there is an expectation that the rates will increase very soon. Since mortgage rates are so low right now, buyers are able to afford more expensive homes.  If mortgage rates increase over the fall and winter months while you’re waiting for the spring market, it could cost you thousands of dollars as it could eliminate many buyers from the real estate marketplace!  Less demand for your home will mean less money. Bottom line: take advantage of selling your home while the rates are this low.
 
6.    Quicker Transactions
Right now, there are fewer real estate transactions than there will be in the spring.  The fewer number of transactions means the mortgage lenders have less loans to process, attorneys have less closings to do, and home inspectors have fewer inspections to do.  
All of these factors should lead to a quicker transaction and closing for all the parties involved.  One of the most frustrating things for a seller to deal with while selling their home is not getting answers in a reasonable amount of time. A quicker transaction is going to be less stress for you.

 

By considering all the reasons above, you will be able to determine whether now is a good time to sell or if you should wait until the spring.

Happy Holidays

It’s that time of year again, holiday parties, holiday events for children, booze, food, and presents!  I do enjoy the holidays because we get to see so much of our families and my girls love any chance they get to see all their cousins.  Well, for me, their is always delicious food and drink around as well.  Let’s just say that if you are a master at making peanut butter balls, I would love you forever.

So this year I started my new career in real estate and it has gone pretty well I think.  I have learned A LOT and realized that there is much more stress than I was expecting.  One thing I have learned that carries over to both my personal life and my career, surround yourself with like-minded people.  People that make you better as a person.  People that have similar goals.  People that have similar morals. People that will make me better.  Once I realized that I was letting the same people in my life upset me or make me feel bad about myself, I walked away.  It took me years to finally realize that nothing was going to change on its own, I had to do the changing.  Now, I’m surrounding myself with some awesome people and there is almost zero drama.  I am almost 37 years old and there is no room for drama in my life (unless it’s from my 6 or 8 year old).

I truly believe that it should be the same in your professional life.  The reason I choose my current brokerage is because I wanted to work with some of the best people in real estate.  I wanted to pick the brains of all these multi-million dollar producers who had been in the business for over ten years.  My motto was, if I’m going to be the best, I have to work with the best.  I think a lot of real estate agents get a bad reputation for being snotty, standoffish, and selfish.  Believe me, there are plenty of those still in the business but for the most part, the successful agents are there to help.  I have learned a lot from my fellow associates at RE/MAX and I don’t think I would have been as successful my first year if I had gone somewhere else.

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In the past couple months I have jumped on the Rachel Hollis train and I’m loving it!  If you haven’t read Girl, Wash Your Face then you are missing out.  She also has a podcast that is fun and inspiring to listen to.  I’ve been staying positive, setting goals for myself, and holding myself accountable more.  I’m still working on the whole “working out everyday” thing but I’ll get there (hopefully)!  What I’m trying to say is that, she has inspired me to be better and sometimes that is all we need.  I have big plans for myself in 2019, and I can’t wait to start crushing it.  Stay tuned…

October Newsletter

The Scariest Thing About Being a First Time Home Buyer

One of the scariest things about being a first-time buyer is the unknown. It’s probably one of the main reasons 90 percent of all buyers do hours of online research before deciding to buy a home.

The entire process can be stressful. It’s complicated. It’s filled with paperwork. It’s most likely the biggest financial decision of your life. And it’s peppered with deadlines and boxes that must be checked or the entire deal can fall apart!

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Real estate agents are here to uncomplicate the buying process for you. An agent is your matchmaker: he or she will help you define the qualities of your dream house and work hard to turn that dream into a reality. And since they’re pros, they’ll manage the deadlines and check those countless boxes for you so you can make an offer on your dream house with confidence.

A home purchase may be your largest financial transaction to date, so it’s important to make the right decisions and to keep an eye on the details. With the assistance of your Residential Mortgage Lender and real estate agent, it should be an efficient, pleasant, and ultimately rewarding experience.

Count On Your Real Estate Agent To:

  • Preview available homes to weed out those that are overpriced, or undesirable in some other way.
  • Present the homes that suit your needs as you’ve defined them.
  • Help you determine the difference between a “good buy” and a property which, because of its nature (neighborhood, market appeal, etc.), might have to be discounted if you decide to sell in the future.
  • Negotiate the best deal for you. With a Pre-Qualification letter from us in hand, your Real Estate Agent will be able to demonstrate that you are a qualified and capable borrower. This will strongly influence the Seller, and may make the difference between the Seller accepting your offer or someone else’s — even if your offer is lower!

Count On Your Loan Officer To:

  • Assist you in selecting the best loan to meet your personal situation and goals. (This single decision can save you thousands of dollars throughout the years!)
  • Keep you informed of your loan status throughout the entire process.
  • Keep your Real Estate Agent informed of our loan progress (Note: your personal information is always kept confidential between you and us; only deal points and progress are shared).
  • Get the appropriate loan for you at the best rates and fees. This will save you significant money “up front” and throughout the years to come.

Count On Yourself To:

  • Keep your Real Estate Agent informed of any questions or concerns as they develop.
  • Keep the process moving by providing documentation and decisions as soon as reasonably possible. By doing so, many of the details are taken care of early in the process so you can comfortably concentrate on any last-minute details or events that require your attention.
  • Enjoy purchasing your home, but do remain objective throughout — to make the business decisions that are best for you.
  • Make sure you are pre-approved as early as possible. This will put the power of financing behind you so you can concentrate on selecting your home.

I am not a mortgage lender and I will never pretend to be.  I ALWAYS encourage my clients to make an appointment with a reputable lender and actually sit down to go over all options.  There are so many options out there other that just the typical Conventional, FHA, and VA loans. Contact Tracy Geer at First State Bank Mortgage for more information.  Find her pre approval link on my website.

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My October Obsession: Carrot Cake

CARROT CAKE
INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 1/4 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 cups Sugar
4 Large Eggs
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 cups Grated Carrots
3/4 cup Chopped Pecans
3/4 cup Coconut (I don’t use coconut because I think it is disgusting!)
1 8oz can Crushed Pineapple (put in strainer and let juice drain. I used a fork to press out more liquid.)
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line the bottoms of 3 (8inch) or 2 (9inch) round pans with wax or parchment paper, grease with shortening and flour the paper and pans for easy release when turning out……carrot cake has a tendency to stick so be sure to use the paper.
Whisk together for 30 seconds the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set Aside.
In a mixing bowl, add 2 cups sugar , 4 eggs, 1 cup oil and 1 tsp. vanilla. Mix 2 to 3 minutes at medium speed until well blended and light colored.
With a spoon stir in the flour until moistened, then add the carrots, pecans crushed pineapple and coconut.
Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Refrain from opening the oven door or touching the center of the cake to test for doneness until very near the end of baking time or it could cause the cake to sink slightly in the center.
Makes 6 1/2 cups batter
Cool cake layers in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack then turn out. Cool completely before frosting.

It’s healthy because it has carrots.  Just go with it.

Places to visit in October in Kansas & Missouri:

  1.  Weston, Missouri- Weston Red Barn Farm, O’Mally’s Pub, and Pirtle Winery
  2.  Parkville, MO- Wines By Jennifer A hidden gem in downtown Parkville.  Stop in to taste their featured wines of the month and listen to the stories of their travel.  Don’t forget to join the Wine Club!
  3. Lawrence, KS- Lawrence is so pretty in the fall.  Walk down Mass Street and check out all the local shops.  Make reservations at 715 for dinner, my FAVORITE!

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September Tips for Home Owners

Landscaping Tips That Can Help Your Home Sell

For some properties, landscaping can make or break a deal. Unless you’re selling a real fixer-upper, your home’s yard is an important part of the real estate equation. If you’re looking to put your home on the market, or you’ve already listed and you haven’t had a lot of interest, use these quick and easy landscaping tips to help your property stand out from all the others.

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COORDINATE WITH COLOR

If your home has a yard, don’t be afraid of adding accents with pops of color. Many buyers prefer a nice green lawn; if you don’t have a sprinkler system, your local home improvement store will have easy-to-use and affordable sprinkler units you can hook up to a garden hose to help revive any dying grass (unless you live in an area where summer water usage is limited). You can also add color with flower pots: plastic or terra cotta pots filled with annuals are an easy, cheap and quick way to spruce up a drab entryway, driveway or front porch. You don’t have to go overboard, one or two pots can do wonders.

PRESSURE WASH

Sometimes a landscape or outdoor area doesn’t need a complete overhaul to look brand new. When it comes to decks, fences, driveways, and any other outdoor surface that can accumulate dirt and grime, an easy way to freshen things up is with a good pressure wash. Pressure washing is cleaning a surface with a powerful stream of high-pressure water, much stronger than a typical garden hose. The water is strong enough to get rid of months and even years’ worth of dirt and debris on wood, masonry, brick and concrete.

You don’t have to go out and buy a pressure washer – many home improvement stores rent them out, and for the cost of the rental and a couple hours of your time, your home could look like new! It’s important to note that you will want to test the pressure on the washer prior to spraying your home since very high pressure can remove worn paint. Sometimes all a home or a patio needs is a good wash and it looks just like new!

 

 

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LEAD THE WAY WITH LIGHT

While it’s highly unlikely you’ll have many people come and view your home at night, a great and easy way to add to your current landscape is with lights! Whether it’s adding a new outdoor lamp, or putting in walkway or path lights (solar ones are readily available and environmentally friendly!), buyers love to see little details put into homes. Pathway lights are often overlooked by homeowners, but a home with outdoor lighting will always speak volumes to potential buyers. Spotlights are also a great and easy addition – LEDs can highlight specific areas, and complete units can be found for under $30.

DITCH THE DEAD PLANTS

A nice manicured yard always rates highly among buyers. But if half of your yard is dead, despite being landscaped, it’s a good idea to ditch the dead plants. Take a couple of minutes each day to check out your yard – grass, flower beds, pots, etc. – and pull out anything that’s dying or dead. While it’s definitely a plus to have flowers and shrubs, if they’re dead, you’re better off getting rid of them than keeping them around because dead plants do not add to a landscape.

MAKEOVER YOUR MULCH

Flower beds are a great focal point for any yard, especially when they’re a real show stopper. But if your beds look weathered or rough, they can be a definite turn off to potential buyers. An easy, affordable and sure fire way to spruce up a tired flower bed is by adding new mulch or other ground covers like bark chips or gravel to help make the beds look fresh and new. A yard that has fresh mulch will always draw in a buyer’s eye because the yard looks put together and cared for.

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Summer is a popular time for real estate and an even more popular time for your yard. If your home can benefit from a little yard TLC, don’t hesitate. The tips above are easy, quick, and they’ll certainly help your home stand out from the competition. In the past I have put new mulch out in the spring but forgot this year.  The local home improvement store, such as Lowe’s or Menard’s, usually has great sales on mulch in the fall.  Don’t forget to grab some colorful mums to brighten up your front porch.

Not a DIY type, ask your friends and family if they know any local landscapers.  You might be surprised how affordable they are!

The Plaza Art Fair

Once again Fall is quickly approaching and the first thing that comes to my mind is The Plaza Art Fair.  This outdoor event takes place every September on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.  Nine city blocks are blocked off and hundreds of artists booths and Restaurant booths line the streets.  The atmosphere is amazing!  Although the event is considered family friendly, a word of advice; don’t take your small children (especially strollers) on Friday evening. Friday evening is considered the kick-off event and the streets are lined with everyone from the young adults to the older ones enjoying adult beverages.  By 9pm, it’s extremely hard to move around the streets.  Don’t forget to check out the 3 Live Stages with local and national talents.  And wear your dancing shoes, you will need them!

 

My favorite part of the art fair are the restaurant booths!  The top eateries on the Plaza make special hand held sized portions of their main dishes for a great price.  A steak sandwich with herbed goat cheese and balsamic onions from The Capital Grille.  Yes please. Carnitas Tacos from The Oliver.  Sure.  Truffle Bacon Popcorn from Rye.  Hells yes. Did I mention all different types of local beer, margaritas, and sangria? The fact that you are able to walk around the streets of the Country Club Plaza and try award winning food without having to spend an arm and a leg at the establishment itself.  Perfect time to share with a friend and try it all while looking at some of the best artwork in the country.

This year the event takes place on September 21st-23rd.  Parking is crazy so I recommend taking an Uber or Lyft that evening so you don’t have worry about parking.