Blog


  • What are the advantages of owning a home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    There are many. Among the most appealing: you own it, which gives you, instead of a landlord, control of your living space. Other benefits stem from potential tax savings and the build up of equity as your property likely appreciates in price over time. Equity can be used to help put children through college, purchase a second home, or make home improvements.The mortgage interest paid on a home loan is tax deductible, as is the local property tax. If you get a fixed-rate home mortgage loan, you also can invest more wisely knowing your monthly mortgage payment, unlike rent, will not change substantially. […]

  • What is the first step to buying a home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Make sure you are ready - psychologically and financially. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I have steady income? Is my debt lower than my total income? Do I have enough money to pay for the down payment and closing costs? Am I working hard enough to improve bad credit?A house needs constant care and attention. Also ask yourself if your budget will allow for unexpected repairs and upkeep. Once you can honestly answer "yes" to these questions, you are several steps ahead of the game and that much closer to becoming a homeowner. […]

  • How much can I afford?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The general rule of thumb is that you can buy a home that costs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. A good REALTOR® or lender can determine how much you can afford and estimate the maximum monthly payment based on the loan amount, taxes, insurance and other expenses. […]

  • Is it best to save for the ultimate dream home or begin with a less expensive starter home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    It can take a long time to save for that perfect dream home. Meanwhile, the market has been flooded with some of the most favorable mortgage interest rates in years. Low rates make housing more affordable, which is why so many buyers have jumped on the home buying bandwagon.Home-price appreciation has also been strong, making very solid gains in communities across the country. In fact, home prices are expected to increase 2.5 percent to 3 percent annually over the next five years.If you purchase a starter home today, you can potentially begin to build value that can lead to the purchase of a larger, or more desirable, trade-up home in the future. […]

  • How do you decide whether to add on to an existing home or purchase a new one?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    There are a few things to consider, including cost, individual needs, and what will add value down the road. Also important: your emotional attachment to the existing home. As designer and builder Philip S. Wenz, the author of Adding to a House: Planning, Design & Construction, notes, an addition is much cheaper than building a new home and can offer a "new" home without the heartache of moving.Other considerations:Can you finance the home improvement with your own cash or will you need a loan?How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?Explore your options. Make sure your decision is one you can live with - either under the same roof or under a different one. […]

  • What is the best way to find a REALTOR®?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Begin by asking someone that you know. Friends, relatives, co-workers, or neighbors who have recently purchased a home can give you a firsthand account and attest to the agent's professional abilities. Sometimes an agent you contact will refer you to another one who works more closely with buyers and sellers in your neighborhood. Once you have a list of names, interview at least three agents and ask questions about their community knowledge, professional experience, and commitment - some agents work full time; others only work at nights and on the weekends. […]

  • What can I expect from a good REALTOR®?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Competence, efficiency, and ethics. According to the All America's Real Estate Book by Carolyn Janik and Ruth Rejnis, good agents take the time to qualify buyers and show properties in their price range. They plan showing routes carefully and have pre-inspected most properties. They have a thorough knowledge of financing options, are up on the latest housing trends, and share with prospective buyers data on the local housing market and home sales.Good agents also adhere to a strict code of ethics. They avoid high-pressure sales tactics, refrain from showing properties that do not fit your needs or goals, and alert you to problems about the condition of the property. And they show respect for other agents and real estate firms by not "bad mouthing" them. […]

  • Is there anything I should not tell my agent?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Most definitely! Never reveal the top dollar you are willing to pay for a home. It will severely undercut your chance to negotiate the home price with the seller. While an agent may spend a lot of time showing you homes and sharing information, the reality is that she works for the seller, who ultimately pays each and every agent involved in helping to complete the home sale. The seller pays the agents in the form of a commission, a percentage of the proceeds from the home sale. The exception is hiring your own real estate professional, now commonly known as a buyer's agent or a buyer's broker. […]

  • What does a buyer's agent do?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A buyer's agent represents the buyer exclusively. This means he works to protect your interests in the transaction and helps to negotiate the best purchase price and terms. More information about buyers' agents is available by contacting the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents at (609) 799-4382, or log on to www.naeba.org. […]

  • Can I use an agent to purchase a newly built home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Yes. In fact, some builders pay agents to find prospective buyers. But you also can use a buyer's agent to help negotiate the price and upgrades on a new home. An agent can be particularly valuable directing you to newly built developments that match your needs, as well as helping you select reputable builders who are financially sound and respond promptly to buyers' concerns.Builders normally require an agent to be present on your first visit to the site. This is a sensible procedure that allows the agent to be paid a commission should you decide to buy. Otherwise, if you find a development on your own, make a first visit without the agent, and later make a purchase, the builder may refuse to pay the commission - even if, at some point, the agent became involved in the process […]

  • Why do I need an agent if I can find a home by myself on the Internet?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    While more buyers now use the Internet to gain access to listings, or available properties for sale, it is still a good idea to use an agent. The agent brings value to the entire process: he or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in the real estate transaction. […]

  • Are buyers protected against housing discrimination?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    By law, REALTOR®'s may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. They also cannot follow spoken or implied directives from the home seller to discriminate. If you suspect you have been discriminated against, a complaint may be filed with the local Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office nearest you. You may call HUD's toll-free number, 1-800-669-9777, or visit its web site at www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm. […]

  • How do you determine how much a home is worth?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The short answer: a home is ultimately worth what is paid for it. Everything else is really an estimate of value. Take, for example, a hot seller's market when demand for housing is high but the inventory of available homes for sale is low. During this time, homes can sell above and beyond the asking price as buyers bid up the price. The fair market value, or worth, is established when "a meeting of the minds" between the buyer and the seller takes place. […]

  • Are there standard ways to determine how much a home is worth?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home's value.Your REALTOR® can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpaying.A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.Lenders normally require an appraisal - which run between $200 to $300 - before they will approve a mortgage loan. This protects the lender by ensuring the home is worth the money you want to borrow.You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home's potential worth. […]

  • What is the difference between list price and sales price?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The list price is a seller's advertised price, or asking price, for a home. It is a rough estimate of what the seller wants to complete a home sale. A seller can price high, low - which does not happen very often - or very close to what they hope to get. A good way to determine if the list price is a fair one is to look at the sales prices of similar homes that have recently sold in the area.The sales price is the actual amount a home sells for. […]

  • What about appraised value and market value?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A certified appraiser who is trained to provide the estimated value of a home determines its appraised value. The appraised value is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property, and several other factors.Market value is the price the house will bring at a given point in time, once the buyer and seller establish a "meeting of the minds" on price. […]

  • What does a home inspector do?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A home inspector is a paid professional - often a contractor or an engineer - who checks the safety of a home. Home inspectors search for defects or other problems that could become your worst nightmare later on. They focus particularly on the home's structure, construction, and mechanical systems.It is not the inspector's job to determine whether you are getting good value for your money. He does not establish value, only whether the home might collapse in a storm or if the roof might cave in.A home inspection typically takes place after a purchase contract between the buyer and seller has been signed. […]

  • Should I hire a home inspector?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    By all means. Buying a home without getting expert advice is risky. Once a home inspector uncovers major plumbing and electrical problems, for example, you may decide you do not want to spend several thousand dollars on repairs.Always include an inspection clause in your written offer. This clause gives you an "out" from buying if serious problems are detected. It also gives you another chance to negotiate the purchase price if repairs are needed. The clause can even specify that the sellers fix any problem that is uncovered before you settle, or close, on the home.You also may want to consider hiring experts to inspect the home for a number of health-related risks like radon gas, asbestos, or possible problems with the water or waste disposal system. […]

  • How do I select a home inspector?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Begin by only hiring one who is qualified and experienced, someone who belongs to an industry trade group, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This organization has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Also, membership in ASHI is not automatic; members must have demonstrated field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems. […]

  • Do I need to be at the inspection?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    No, but it is a very good idea to be there. Following the check-over, the home inspector can answer your questions and discuss problem areas with you. This is also an opportune time to get an objective opinion about the home from someone who does not have emotional or financial ties to the property. […]

  • When is the best time to sell a home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The best time to sell is when you are ready, or when you must. That is, when you have outgrown the space in your current home, or you prefer to trade down to something smaller. Perhaps your martial status has changed, which necessitates a move, or you need to relocate for a job.Market conditions also play a role, as do seasonal conditions. For example, your chances of getting top dollar for your home are more likely in a seller's market, when demand outweighs supply, than in a buyer's market.Local and national economic factors also may dictate when to sell. If a major employer in your area is laying off workers, it may not be a good time to put your home up for sale. People will be cautious about buying when the future seems so unpredictable or bleak.Most agents agree the best time to sell is in the spring. This is when the largest number of potential buyers hit the market. Your home is likely to sell faster and at a higher price, although sales begin to pick up as early as February and start to slack off in July, the slowest month for real estate transactions. […]

  • What should I do to prepare my home for sale?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Start by finding out its worth. Contact a REALTOR® for a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Or get a certified appraiser to provide an appraisal.Next, get busy working on the home's appearance. You want to make sure it is in the best condition possible for showing to prospective buyers so that you can get top dollar. This means fixing or sprucing up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows.The "curb appeal" of your home is extremely important. In fact, it is the first impression that buyers form of your property as they drive or walk up. So make sure the lawn is pristine - the grass cut, debris removed, garden beds free of weeds, and hedges trimmed.The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs and fix-ups, especially if there are few homes on the market but many buyers competing for them. On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your home in a down market. […]

  • What else should I know?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Once your home is available to be shown strive to keep it in tip-top shape. This will require a lot of effort on your part, but you want buyers to feel welcomed and not turned off by unmade beds, cluttered floors, and grungy bathrooms.Realize, too, that your life will be temporarily inconvenienced. When an agent - yours as well as others - calls wishing to bring a buyer to see the home at the last minute or on the same day, respond favorably. Remember your goal is to get the home sold, and that can only be accomplished if people get to see it. Flexibility is the key to a quick sale.Plan not to be present when buyers pass through. It is awkward and unsettling for them to have the owners present. If you cannot leave, sit in the backyard. But do not attempt to have conversations with the buyer. Speak only when spoken to; be brief and polite.Finally, pay special attention to pets, particularly dogs. They can be intimidating. Put them on a leash and in the backyard. Better yet, when possible, take them with you. And be keen to pet odors. They can turn buyers away. […]

  • Should I sell my home first or wait until I have bought another home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market.If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements. If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel.On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price.The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting the existing home on the market.On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once.Talk with your agent for advice. Discuss the pros and of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures. […]

  • Are there tips for selling a vacant home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Yes. Once furniture is removed from the home, you will notice all kinds of imperfections you never paid attention to before - rips in the carpet, holes in the walls, and dinginess. In an empty house, everything stands out. What you see is what potential buyers will also see. So you may need to paint, tear up old carpet, and replace the kitchen floor.To get rid of the "empty house" feeling, leave a few pieces of furniture behind - simple things like a lamp, chairs, and a table will do.Pay special attention to maintenance. Someone will need to dust and vacuum, leaves will need to be raked, and the grass cut.In the winter, consider having the heating system shut down and drained to save money. But keep the electricity running because lights will be needed to show the house.Watch out for that musty smell, particularly during the summer months, that settles in from having the windows sealed and locked. And beware of pests such as mice, squirrels, ants and bats. […]

  • How can I get a quick sale, particularly in a slow market?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    One of the most important things to consider is price. You may want to reduce the price of your home or, at the very beginning, set it at a low price that will generate more buyer interest.Cash is often an incentive, both for the buyer as well as the agent. You could offer the buyer a $1,000 to $2,000 decorating rebate upon closing the deal. It is also not uncommon to offer the selling agent a $500 bonus. However, some brokers - who supervise agents and run real estate offices - may prohibit such incentives, as do some Realtor boards. Check to find out.Other common incentives: paying for the property inspection and warranty policy and getting your home preliminarily approved for FHA and VA loans, thereby making it more attractive to a larger number of buyers. Contact a lender who writes FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed loans. […]

  • What are some costs associated with selling my home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Besides the costs related to making repairs and improving the overall appearance of the home, as the seller you will also need to pay the following:A real estate commission, if you use an agency to sell.Advertising costs, marketing materials, and other fees if you sell the home yourself.Attorney, closing, or other professional fees.Title insuranceExcise tax for the sale.Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, homeowner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.Any other fees normally paid by sellers in your area, including points, survey, and appraisal fees.To get a better handle on all costs, ask a REALTOR®. Agents deal with this information daily and can give you a pretty good estimate of the closing costs you can expect to pay. […]

  • What are some costs associated with buying a new home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Basically, the costs are no different from when you purchased your existing home. They include moving expenses, loan costs, the down payment, a home inspection, title work and policy, and paying for a new hazard insurance policy. Your lender can give you a disclosure of estimated costs when you apply to be pre-approved for a home loan. […]

  • Do I need an attorney to sell a home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Although most sellers can handle routine real estate purchase contracts, some experts say it is a good idea to be represented by an attorney, particularly if you are selling on your own. You should choose one with expertise in real estate transactions. Before hiring someone discuss all the details of the transaction, including all legal costs you will incur. A good attorney will assist you in completing the deal swiftly and with confidence. […]

  • How do I find the right agent for me?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    To begin with, think local. Select someone who is very familiar with your neighborhood and the properties for sale in it. Then, if you are selling, say, a condominium, choose an agent with expertise selling apartments to potential homeowners.Because you will want the widest possible exposure for your home, you also will want a real estate firm that works with other agencies to get your property sold. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) used by Realtors, licensed members of the National Association of Realtors, is still the most common and effective form of cooperation used today.Beyond these parameters, select an agent who is competent, efficient, and ethical. Perhaps the agent who first sold you your home would be a perfect candidate. If not, ask family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations, or choose a firm headed by an individual who is known in your community. […]

  • What questions should I ask an agent interested in selling my home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Interview at least three local agents who sell homes in your community. Grill them about the following:The worth of your home. The agents should inspect the home and prepare a written comparative market analysis.Marketing plans. These are a must. Make sure they include regular newspaper ads, the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) - which gives your home maximum exposure to all local agents - and Internet marketing through the agent's Web site.Length of the listing agreement. A 90-day listing is reasonable for marketing your home. Experts advise against signing a listing for more than 90 days unless it contains an unconditional cancellation clause. If you like, you can always extend the contract later.Number of listings. Find out how many listings the agent now has and how many she normally sells. Too many listings - more than a dozen - with a low sales rate, may not be a good sign.Get references. Ask for the names and phone numbers of recent home sellers. Call them and ask if they were satisfied with the level of service delivered by the agent. […]

  • What is the most common type of contract for listing properties?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The exclusive right to sell. It gives the real estate broker the exclusive right to sell your home during the term of the listing. If a sale occurs - even if you sell the home yourself - the broker gets a commission. The broker may share the listing with other brokers on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to get the widest possible exposure for your home. If you request that the property not be listed on a multiple basis, only the broker named in the contract and his or her sales agents can market and show it. […]

  • What if I am not happy with the listing agent and want to terminate the contract?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Experts say unhappiness is not a legal reason to terminate a valid home sale-listing contract. Legally, to cancel a listing, you must be able to prove the agent's lack of "due diligence." This means the agent isn't taking the normal steps to properly market your home, such as putting your listing into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), advertising on the Internet and in local newspapers, and posting a for-sale sign on the property.If your home is overpriced, perhaps you need to consider reducing the price to spark buyer interest. Otherwise, you may need to meet with the listing agent and his or her supervising broker to discuss the problem. If the agent is doing an awful job, you might suggest the listing be transferred to a more effective agent within the same brokerage firm.Remember, limit the listing contract to 90 days, in case you become unhappy and would like to get another agent after the contract expires. […]

  • Do I really need an agent?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Most home sellers hire REALTOR®'s to list and sell their homes. Most of those who do not are known as For Sale By Owners, or FSBOs. They market and sell their homes themselves.However, a small number of people sell without marketing their homes. They include homeowners who transfer property to family members or landlords who directly offer tenants the first right to purchase property before they place it for sale on the market.In the end, most FSBOs eventually hire an agent because the agent will handle all the details of a successful home sale - including the contract, forms, and disclosure statements - and expose the home to the widest range of prospective buyers through the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). […]

  • Is the commission negotiable?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Yes. There is no standard commission. They are not set by law and vary depending on service, customer needs, and company policy. In general, agents charge between 4 percent and 8 percent for full service. Some agents prefer not to offer sellers' the option of paying a fee for an individual service.If you insist on overpricing your home, an agent may well insist on a higher commission to cover the added marketing expenses and time that are needed to sell it.Think of a commission as a point you must negotiate and evaluate. […]

  • How do you determine how much a home is worth?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The short answer: a home is ultimately worth what is paid for it. Everything else is really an estimate of value. Take, for example, a hot seller's market when demand for housing is high but the inventory of available homes for sale is low. During this time, homes can sell above and beyond the asking price as buyers bid up the price. The fair market value, or worth, is established when "a meeting of the minds" between you and the buyer takes place. […]

  • Are there standard ways to determine how much a home is worth?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home's value.Your REALTOR® can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpricing your home or underestimating its value.A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home's potential worth. […]

  • What is the difference between list price and sales price?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The list price is your advertised price, or asking price, for a home. It is a rough estimate of what you want to complete a home sale. A good way to determine if the list price is a fair one is to look at the sales prices of similar homes that have recently sold in the area.The sales price is the actual amount the home sells for. […]

  • What about appraised value and market value?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A certified appraiser who is trained to provide the estimated value of a home determines its appraised value. The appraised value is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property, and several other factors.Market value is the price the house will bring at a given point in time, once you and the buyer establish a "meeting of the minds" on price. […]

  • Do I have to disclose information about my home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Disclosure could protect you from a lawsuit. Today, home sellers in most states must now fill out a form disclosing material facts about their homes. Material facts are details about the home's condition or legal status, as well as the age of various components.If your state does not require a written disclosure, the real estate laws probably require sellers to disclose any known problems with the home they are selling. […]

  • What is a mortgage and how does it work?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A mortgage makes homeownership possible for most people. In the simplest terms, it is a loan that is secured by real property. The lender holds title to the home until the loan is completely repaid. If you fail to pay up, the lender has a right to take the property, sell it, and recover the money that is owed.The amount of a mortgage will vary greatly depending on the down payment you make to reduce the amount of money that is needed to finance the home. You may put as much money down as you like, or you can sometimes pay as little as 3 to 5% of the purchase price, or sometimes nothing at all. The more you put down, the more you reduce the amount that is financed, thereby lowering your monthly payment.The monthly payment consists of both principal and interest but also typically includes additional amounts to cover property taxes and insurance-specifically hazard insurance and private mortgage insurance, the latter of which is required for down payments less than 20% of the purchase price.Home buyers in the U.S. have access to several different types of mortgage loans. […]

  • How do I qualify for a home loan?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Top 5 Members have information on lender loan requirements and will be able to calculate a rough monthly figure you can afford based on the maximum monthly payment for the loan, taxes, insurance, and any type of maintenance fees. This pre-purchase evaluation by the agent can save you a lot of time spent looking at properties you cannot afford.Lenders also routinely calculate what you can afford and can pre-qualify you for a loan even before you begin your home search. This way, you know exactly how much you can afford to buy.Lenders generally stipulate that you spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment or 36% on total debts.Ultimately, the price you can afford to pay for a home will also depend on other factors besides your gross income and outstanding debts. They include the amount of cash you have available for the down payment, your credit history, current interest rates, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender, and the type of mortgage you select. […]

  • What's the best way to choose a home loan?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A lot will depend on the length of time you plan to live in the home, other financial obligations, and potential savings gained from comparing the monthly costs of a home against the upfront costs and closing costs involved with a particular loan.Also, you will need to be comfortable with whatever choice you decide to make. Trust your instincts and do not be pressured into signing for a loan that will not really work for you. […]

  • Where can I get a mortgage?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    You can get a home loan from several different sources-a credit union, commercial bank, mortgage company, finance company, government agency, thrift (which includes savings banks and savings & loan associations), mortgage broker, and even the seller.Note, however, that most lenders have tightened their credit standards in light of increasing foreclosures and higher delinquency rates. Begin your search by calling at least half a dozen lenders to inquire about the types of financing available, current rates on each loan type, loan origination fees and number of points, other loan features and their credit requirements for borrowers.Once you actually apply for a mortgage, the lender will pull a recent copy of your credit report. That inquiry and any and all others are recorded and become a part of your credit file. Normally, several inquiries during a short period are viewed negatively, as a sign you are trying to open several new accounts. Such a move lowers your credit scores; and lower credit scores mean you will be offered a higher mortgage interest rate.However, there is a caveat. Credit scoring software generally detect that you are shopping for a single mortgage, if you shop within a short, 30-day window. So multiple inquires pulled roughly within this time frame will only count as one inquiry and should not affect your FICO or credit score.Checking your own score also will not lower your credit score. […]

  • What does a mortgage broker do?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Much like a stockbroker helps you buy stocks, a mortgage broker can help you purchase a home loan. Because the broker has access to many lenders, you will be able to select from a wide variety of loan types and terms that fit your specific needs.Note, however, that brokers are not obligated to find the best deal for you. Of course, if you agree in writing to have one act as your agent, that is an entirely different story. This is why it is important when looking for a broker to contact more than one, just as you would any other lender.Compare their fees and ask questions, particularly about how they will be paid. Sometimes their fees appear as points paid at closing or the compensation is factored into the interest rate, or both. In any event, haggle with the broker and the lender for the best deal.Real estate agents normally maintain contact with several brokers. Ask your Top 5 Member for recommendations. […]

  • What things do lenders view positively and negatively during the application process?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    When you apply for a loan, long, steady employment is always seen as a plus, as is a large down payment, a good credit rating, a history of regular savings, and property located in a 'good' neighborhood.Not so good in the lender's mind: frequent job changes without salary increases, self-employment in a new venture, bad debt history, no previous borrowing record, and dilapidated property.Do not be discouraged. These are standard lender pre-dispositions when evaluating your application, but when it comes to making a loan decision, most lenders will tell you nothing is completely carved in stone.Consider, too, that credit you have qualified for-say, credit cards-can work against you, even if never used. This is because those credit cards are looked upon as being open credit lines-and while they have not been used, they could be used, and potentially used up to the maximum dollar amount allowed by the credit card companies. As a result, their perceived risks lower your credit, or FICO, score. […]

  • Why do lenders require a down payment?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    It protects them should you default on the loan, especially if you fail to make payments in the early years of the loan when more is owed on it. Foreclosure, property fix-up, and resale costs could result in a loss on the mortgage loan.That is a bad situation the lender wants to avoid. So they have historically required cash down payments of 20% of a home's purchase price.However, if you purchase private mortgage insurance, the down payment requirement can drop to 5% or 10% of the purchase price.Few lenders will lend the full value of a home unless they have special guarantees, such as that offered by the Veterans Administration (VA) under its mortgage assistance program. […]

  • Is it possible to get a no-down payment loan?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Builders will typically offer no-down payment loans to sell properties in a slow-moving development or a depressed market. Desperate sellers also may commit to finance the down payment for the buyer to move a hard-to-sell home or to make a quick sale. And veterans may buy a home with nothing down through the Veterans Administration's home loan program. And members of some pension funds also may avoid making a down payment. […]

  • What about low down payment loans?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Such loans are offered by government agencies and private lenders, including nonprofit groups and employers. In fact, there are government programs at both the federal and state level to help cash-strapped buyers. Under many state housing agency guidelines, borrowers must usually be first-time home buyers or have a limited family income to qualify for low-down payment loans.The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers several programs through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that require down payments of 3 to 5 percent. Fannie Mae, the nation's largest supplier of home mortgage funds, has many programs for low- and moderate-income home buyers. For the most current programs available, please visit www.fanniemae.com. […]

  • Should I put more or less down, if I can afford it?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Putting down as little as possible lets you take full advantage of the tax benefits of homeownership. Mortgage interest and property taxes are both fully deductible from state and federal income taxes. Also, making a small down payment frees up cash that you can use to meet unexpected home improvements.Some real estate experts contend it is more economical, however, to make a larger down payment, thus reducing the amount of debt financed over the life of the loan. A borrower could potentially save several thousand dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars. […]

  • Can I make an all-cash purchase instead of getting a mortgage?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    That certainly is an option, although not one most people can afford. Unless you're independently wealthy or have hit the jackpot, it may be difficult to make a 'no-mortgage' investment. And an investment is exactly how you should view it because you get to save on mortgage interest that is usually paid over the life of the home loan-interest that could amount to several thousand dollars, conceivably hundreds of thousands of dollars.With an all-cash deal, you also save by avoiding loan origination fees, an appraisal, some closing costs and other charges imposed by the lender. You enhance your negotiating position with the seller and get to bypass the rather lengthy loan qualification process, which helps to close the deal quickly. But if you want to use the home as your primary residence, forget about taking advantage of the tax breaks available to homeowners with conventional loans. By paying cash, you basically forfeit those tax breaks.To determine whether a no-mortgage purchase is right for you, compare it to other investments, weighing the risk, return, and liquidity. […]

  • What is the difference between a conforming and non-conforming loan?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Conforming loans have terms and conditions that adhere to guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two, big quasi-government corporations that purchase mortgage loans from lenders then packages them into securities that are sold to investors.Their guidelines are far-reaching and as such set borrower credit and income requirements, as well as the down payment, and maximum loan amounts.Non-conforming loans are for buyers, such as the self-employed or people with poor credit histories, who do not qualify for mainstream loans. […]

  • What about the difference between a conventional and non-conventional loan?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    They are the same as conforming and non-conforming loans. A conventional, or conforming, loan is one not insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Veterans Administration (VA), two federal government agencies that make homeownership possible and generally more affordable for a large segment of the population.However, that said, many major banks and private lenders now offer non-conventional, or non-conforming, loans for lower-income borrowers and those with blemishes on their credit. […]

  • What are conventional loan limits?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    These are limits imposed on the amount of money you can borrow to finance a home purchase. The loan limit generally increases each year and applies to single-family homes in the 48 contiguous states, with higher limits in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands and on homes with two, three and four units.There are also loan limits for owner-occupied homes under the FHA 203(b) program, the most common FHA option. The limits vary depending on whether you live in a 'high cost' or 'low cost' area, as well as the number of units that are being financed. […]

  • Is it true some lenders grant loans based on very little documentation?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Not too long ago, they offered in abundance what are called 'stated income loans', more commonly referred to as 'no doc' or 'low-doc' loans, mortgages that require no documentation or little documentation to verify the borrower's income and assets. In return, the borrower, who must have very good credit, make a big down payment-generally 25% or more-and pay a higher interest rate.Given current market conditions and the sub-prime debacle, these loans have become more difficult to find, cost more, and are mainly funded by hard money lenders who do not conform to bank standards.The loans are common among self-employed borrowers who have difficulty substantiating all of their income and service industry employees, such as waiters and hair stylists, whose pay is hard to pinpoint exactly. Borrowers also may use no-doc loans when they derive most of their income from commissions or when they have very complicated income structures.In reality, calling the loans 'no-doc' and 'low-doc' are misnomers. Some 'low-doc' loans require plenty of documentation, such as tax returns and profit-and-loss statements. Even 'no-doc' loans require a credit report and a property appraisal. […]

  • Are there such things as no-cost and no-fee loans?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    You see promotions for them all the time. But banking regulators have gone after lenders who misrepresent these loans. The reality is that no-cost and no-fee loans may actually cost the borrower more over the long term because costs are often hidden by rolling them into the new loan through higher principal or interest.The rates on no-cost loans are usually about 1/2 or 5/8 of a percentage point higher than the 'full cost' rate.A typical no-fee loan includes points and all fees in the loan principal, so the borrower does not pay or 'see' these expenses at the closing. Instead, the borrower pays them over the life of the loan.If you are looking to refinance, it may be possible to get a no-cost program that will lower your rate at no expense to you. Today, lenders are paying all closing costs, such as title fees, appraisal fees, and credit report fees. There are no loan fees or points, and nothing is added to your loan balance.However, many lenders may charge a loan application fee and some restrictions may apply depending on the size of the loan. […]

  • What is an assumable mortgage?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    It is a mortgage held by the seller that can be taken over by the buyer when a home is sold. Such loans are hard to find because most lenders stopped voluntarily writing them many years ago. Most new assumable loans today are adjustable rate mortgages.An assumable mortgage may be attractive if the interest rate on the existing loan is lower than the rate the buyer could otherwise get on a new mortgage, either because of current market conditions or the buyer's poor credit history.To determine whether to assume an old loan or apply for a new one, pay close attention to the possible assumption fee, usually one point, and other terms of assumption set forth in the existing loan. One plus: there are generally few closing costs with an assumable loan.While an assumable mortgage can speed up the property sale, sellers should be careful about letting a buyer assume their mortgage. Depending on the state and terms of the mortgage, a seller may remain liable for the loan until it is paid off in full. Or the lender may go after both the seller and the buyer if the loan is not paid. […]

  • Can I split my mortgage in two and pay biweekly?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The biweekly mortgage has become increasingly popular as more people favor paying off their home loan early and reducing interest charges.Monthly payments on these loans are split in half, payable every two weeks.Because there are 52 weeks in a year, you actually have 26 half-payments, or the equivalent of13 monthly payments per year instead of 12.Under the biweekly payment plan, a homeowner can save tens of thousands of dollars in interest and pay off their loan balance in less than 30 years. […]

  • What is a two step mortgage?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Not to be confused with a biweekly mortgage, this type of home loan is also known as 5/25s and 7/23s. It has one interest rate for part of the life of the mortgage and a different rate for the remainder of the loan.Two steps are 30-year mortgages. They can either be convertible or nonconvertible. The 5/25s have a fixed interest rate for the first five years and either convert to a one-year adjustable rate or a 25-year fixed loan. The 7/23 has a fixed interest rate for the first seven years and then converts to a one-year adjustable rate or a 23-year fixed loan.The initial rate on the two-step is lower than on a 30-year fixed mortgage, but higher than a one-year adjustable. Also, because the adjustment interval is longer, there is less risk initially than with an adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM. […]

  • Is equity sharing a good idea?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A shared equity mortgage, or partnership mortgage, can be a good way to purchase a home with little or no money down. In such an arrangement, the borrower/home buyer has an absentee partner who, as the investor, provides all or some of the down payment.Equity sharing is not as popular in a slowly appreciating real estate market as in a rapidly appreciating one when equity investors are easy to find. A type of equity sharing called tenants-in-common partnerships is becoming increasingly popular, especially in high-priced markets.First-time buyers are usually most interested in a TIC arrangement because it gives them a way to buy property collectively with an unrelated partner.Loan underwriting standards are more complicated with these types of deals because lenders have more than one party's financial situation to assess.It is a good idea to hire an attorney to help draft a shared equity agreement. […]

  • Is it true you never really stop fixing up a home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    From the day you move in to the day you sell your home, there will always be something that will need to be repaired or remodeled. You may want to undertake some changes simply to elevate your comfort level - like installing central air conditioning - or spruce up the home's aesthetics, such as adding a few stained-glass windows.But other work will need to be done to maintain the property and minimize problems later on. For example, replacing a hazardous roof, fixing broken windows, and repairing leaky pipes. These are all necessities. Left undone, they can lead to major problems and damages within the home.If you decide one day to sell, other improvements will likely be made to increase the home's value and appeal to potential buyers. […]

  • Is there anything I should pay special attention to?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    From the very beginning, get in the habit of taking an inventory at least once every year of every nook and cranny of your home to check for potential problems. Examine the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring - basically everything. Try to fix trouble spots as soon as you uncover them. This proactive approach will help you avoid larger expenses later on, so leave no stone unturned when taking your inventory. […]

  • What about the unseen problems like toxic gases?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Problems with your chimney, mechanical devices on your heating appliance, and pressure within the home can all cause combustion spillage, the unwanted flow of combustion gases into your home. Present in these gases are toxic elements such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.The best way to prevent spillage is to hire a professional - preferably one who specializes in building inspection, indoor air quality, ducting, chimneys and heating equipment - to do a yearly maintenance check of all your combustion appliances. These appliances include a gas-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, an oil-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, and a fireplace.The service professional can check for heat exchanger leakage, evidence of start up spillage, and condensation in the chimney. Maintenance normally includes a tune-up, or in the case of a chimney, clearing it of debris and fixing cracks on the inside wall. […]

  • How much, on average, can I expect to spend on maintenance?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows, and routine system repairs and maintenance.An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home's value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property's condition and its market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.Also, adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousands dollars. […]

  • What are the main reasons why homeowners remodel?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    There are many reasons. Home remodeling can improve the appearance of your home, enhance its value, add to your quality of life, and appeal to future homebuyers. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, the top four reasons homeowners remodel is to obtain more space, avoid buying a new home, enjoy more amenities, and adjust to lifestyle changes. […]

  • What should I weigh before considering an addition to my home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Thoroughly assess your space. You may find you have the room you need, particularly if there is unused or under utilized areas in your home. Perhaps a garage, attic, side porch, or basement can be converted to fit the use you have in mind. Or, maybe, a small area can be carved from a larger area like a kitchen or living room to create a powder room. These improvements are certainly cheaper than a major construction job. […]

  • What should I consider once I decide to add on?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    If you must construct new space, ask yourself the following questions:Can I finance the home improvement with my own cash or will I need a loan?How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.Should I make the improvement myself or hire a contractor? […]

  • When should I tackle the job myself or call in the pros?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A lot will depend on your time, level of expertise or willingness to handle the job, amount of help from friends or relatives, and how much you want, or need, to save by doing the job yourself. You could save up to 20 percent of the project cost through your own hard work.There are several do-it-yourself books that offer guidance, and some home improvement stores, such as Home Depot, offer classes that can be helpful getting you on the right track.Be aware, however, that you may end up spending more time, and up to double your estimated budget, if problems arise. Also, you may have difficulty selling your home if the workmanship looks shoddy.Unless you are very experienced, home improvement experts suggest that you stick to painting, minor landscaping, building interior shelving, and other minor improvements.Remember, too, that you may need to deal with local agencies to get permits, inspections, variances, and certificates of occupancy. […]

  • Are there ways to save money when adding new space to my home?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The direction in which you build can make all the difference. Experts say building up is normally less expensive than building out on the ground level. Adding an expensive wing or addition requires a new foundation. It is less costly to extend plumbing and other mechanical systems upward, as opposed to installing new ones. So using the "air rights" over your house may be your best bet. […]

  • What kind of return can I expect from home improvements?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Some improvements offer a greater return than others do. This will vary greatly depending on the type of work you have done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual "Cost vs. Value Report'' that can answer this question in more detail, based on the top 15 home improvements. A recent study it conducted says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from siding and window replacements, major kitchen remodeling, bathroom and family room additions, and mid-range master bedroom suites. […]

  • Is there such a thing as "over improving"?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Yes. The last thing you want to do when undertaking a home improvement is go overboard. This means fixing up the home to the point where it becomes worth far more than nearby neighborhood properties.Down the road, when you may want to sell, potential homebuyers will be reluctant to pay, say, $200,000 for your home when others are priced at $150,000. If they want to pay that kind of money, they will likely make a purchase in a neighborhood where most of the homes sell in that price range.Carefully measure the cost of any improvements you want to make against the overall values in your neighborhood. Otherwise, you may not recover your costs or increase your property value significantly. […]

  • What do zoning regulations do?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Zoning is the government's way of controlling the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put.Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes - although they also can allow for more than one use in a given jurisdiction.Designed to protect you, your neighbors, and the community from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws in many communities can be very rigid and inflexible.On the other hand, they can protect your property value and give you a piece of mind. This is particularly true in instances where the community debates whether to locate a prison in your neighborhood or a neighbor illegally builds a second story onto his home that blocks your view of the lake or mountains.Before you begin any remodeling jobs, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project. […]

  • How can I find out how my property is zoned?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Zoning ordinances and maps are a matter of public record. Visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board and get a copy of your local ordinance.In some areas, if you have a legal description of the property (name, address, tax map, and parcel number), you can call the zoning office or city hall, or even e-mail your request for information.Some communities also have their zoning maps and ordinances online and in local libraries. […]

  • What is a variance?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    It is a request made to your local jurisdiction to deviate from current zoning requirements. If granted, a variance will allow you to use your land in a way that is normally not permitted by the zoning ordinance.However, do not view a variance as something that changes the zoning law because it does not. Rather it waives a certain requirement of the zoning ordinance. For example, it may allow the owner of an odd-shaped lot to reduce slightly the setback requirements in order to accommodate a building, or permit the building of a gazebo in the back yard. […]

  • How do building codes work?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design, construction, use and occupancy, and maintenance. The codes are established and enforced by local politicians and government officials, who also tend to modify them constantly. The codes are usually enforced by denying permits, occupancy certificates, and by imposing fines.While codes vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next, specialized codes generally exist for plumbing, electricity, and fire. Each usually involves separate inspections and inspectors.There are building codes for most remodeling jobs. So if you have done significant remodeling, make sure you save proof of the permits involved in the project. There is a good chance potential buyers may request them. Failure to obtain the appropriate permits before you undertake a project could later result in fines or other serious consequences, such as having a structure ordered to be torn down because it was constructed improperly. […]

  • Should I always get a permit before making home improvements?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    To save both time and money, some people avoid getting building permits. But most cities require them. Besides ensuring safety during construction - housing inspectors sometimes stop by to check on the progress of projects at key points - they are also a source of revenue.Cities charge a fee when a building permit is issued. Also, work done with a building permit can result in an increase in the homeowners' property taxes because, in general, a home improvement increases the assessed value of the property.Permits are usually required when any structural work is planned or the basic living space of a home is altered. They generally cover new construction, repairs, alterations, demolition, and additions to a structure. Some jurisdictions require the permit to be posted in a visible spot on the premises while the work is being done.Besides structural changes, permits also may be needed to cover the installation of foundations for tanks and equipment, as well as the construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems, or standpipe systems.By law, all buildings must have a building permit and a certificate of occupancy before they can be used. […]

  • Are there different types of contractors?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Home improvement professionals vary. Who you hire also will depend largely on the size and complexity of your project. What follows is a brief description of the different contractors who do work for homeowners:General contractors - they manage all facets of the project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining building permits, scheduling inspections, and working with architects and designers.Specialty contractors - these are the folks who install products, such as cabinets, bathroom fixtures, and bookshelves.Architects - they design homes, additions, and major renovations.Design/build contractors - they offer one-stop service and will see your project through from start to finish. […]

  • What guidelines should I use to find a contractor?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Use caution. Your home is your most valuable financial asset. You will want someone who completes the job, not botch it up. It is important that you find a competent and reliable contractor who will successfully complete your home improvement project.Here's what you can do:Avoid the Yellow Pages. Check with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations.Contact local trade organizations, such as the local Builder Association or Remodelors Council, for the names of members in your area.Deal only with licensed contractors. The state licensing board and local Better Business Bureau also can tell you if there are any outstanding complaints against the license holder.Interview each contractor, request free estimates, if possible, and ask for recent references. Make sure bids are based on similar project specifications. And do not automatically settle for the lowest bid.Ask for proof of worker's compensation insurance and get policy and insurance company phone numbers so you can verify the information. If the contractor is not covered, you could be liable for any work-related injury that takes place during the project. Also check to make sure the contractor has an umbrella general liability policy. […]

  • How do I avoid being ripped off by a less than reputable contractor?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several ways to spot less than reputable contractors because these hucksters tend to do the following:Only accept cash payments;Pressure you for an immediate decision;Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front;Solicit door-to-door;Offer exceptionally long guarantees;Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job;Ask you to get the required building permits;Not list a business number in the local telephone directory;Offer you discounts for finding other customers;Suggest that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam - a sure way to lose your home. […]

  • What if the job is botched?
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    If you are displeased with the results for obvious reasons, keep after the contractor to make the needed repairs. When that fails, contact your local consumer protection agency. Make sure you have a copy of the contract, receipts showing payments, and photographs of the work.Although it has no legal authority, you also may want to contact the Better Business Bureau, as well as your state's Contractor License Board. And you can take the contractor to Small Claims Court to recover amounts usually under $2,000. […]

  • Patio Panic: From Frustrating to Fab in 1 Hour
    on June 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Whether it’s an intimate al fresco dinner date or a backyard bash, there’s nothing quite like outdoor entertaining. But if your patio is in sore shape, you might be tempted to relegate guests to the inside. Don’t be intimidated by your patio’s disarray and miss the opportunity to take the party outside. With these quick tips, your outdoor space can be entertainment-worthy in less than an hour. Task the trimmers. Give the branches, grasses and shrubs surrounding your patio a nice, neat haircut before guests arrive. Not only will this make the area look manicured and orderly, it will make your patio feel more spacious. Fire up the leaf blower. Who said these wonderful tools are just for leaves? A quick trip around your patio with the leaf blower will remove the trimmings you just cut, along with other dirt and debris, in seconds. Freshen up the furniture. After you’ve gotten dust and leaves off the furniture with the leaf blower, use a big sponge or mop to wash down your tables and chairs with a quick solution of liquid dish detergent and water, then hose it all down. Flip cushions to the reverse side. Work some magic. Nothing turns your outdoor space from ordinary to spectacular faster than a little outdoor lighting. Think tiki torches, large candles in hurricane lamps, string lights and solar lanterns. Finagle some florals. You don’t have to find time to run to the florist. Quickly clip an assortment of flowers, grasses, pine boughs and even bare branches from around your yard to make stunning and natural arrangements. Gather them in mason jars, tin cans (labels peeled off, please) or painted buckets for a homey look, or raise the bar by bringing some of your indoor crystal vases outside. Rearrange the furniture. Help the flow of the party by strategically placing chairs and tables in spots where you want people to gather. Set up the bar in its own area and place nibbles on a variety of resting spots so everyone doesn’t clutter around one food area. This will not only add visual appeal, but help steer the flow, encourage conversation and show off your patio’s best features.  For more real estate tips, contact me today.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • Before You Kick Back, Make Sure Your Home Is Summer-Ready
    on June 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Summer allows us to slow down, stop and smell the roses and take a break from the rapid pace we usually run during the rest of the year. But before you hit the hammock and fire up the grill, take a look around your home. There are a few important maintenance checks that need to be made first. According to Travelers Insurance, it’s important to take care of any damage that might have been caused during the winter months as soon as possible, before they become more daunting and more costly projects. Conduct an inspection both inside and outside your home and look for the following: Doors and windows. Make sure locks are functioning properly and check your window screens for any holes. Go outside and check window and door frames for any evidence of damage. Electrical outlets and cords. Look for any fire hazards such as frayed wires or ill-fitting plugs. The plumbing. Look for leaks or problems with the float valve in your toilet and check all of its pipe connections. This is also a good time to check washing machine hoses, replacing any that show signs of wear and tear. The furnace. Clean or replace your furnace filter, your dryer vent and the space under your dryer, all of which can present fire hazards. Outdoor wooden structures. The wet weather of winter and spring can take a toll on steps, decks and playground equipment, so look carefully for rot, deterioration and protruding nails. The roof. While there may not be any visible damage to your roof, it’s a good idea to have a professional inspector check for any potential leaks. The perimeter. Take a stroll around your entire home and look closely for any other signs of damage, especially to gutters, shingles, trees and the foundation.  Now that you know your home is safe and sound, head over to that lounge chair and start soaking in the summer. Contact me today for more real estate tips and information.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • Closing Cost Primer: Know Your Terms
    on June 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Buying a home is undoubtedly one of the most expensive ventures of your lifetime. But it’s important to understand that much more goes into budgeting for a new home than the price of the house itself—like closing costs. Closing costs are fees charged by the lender at the closing of your real estate transaction, and usually amount to thousands of dollars. Your real estate agent can explain and estimate what all of your particular closing costs will be, as they vary by state, but here is a handy list of terms and definitions from Bankrate.com to help bring you up to speed. Real estate lingo can be confusing, so becoming familiar with these terms in advance will help demystify the closing process.Origination, broker, lender or originator: A fee charged to create a home loan. It's often a set percentage of the mortgage amount.Discount points: A fee in the form of mortgage interest paid upfront. In exchange for this fee, the lender reduces the interest rate. One point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.Appraisal: A fee that is passed on to a company that renders an opinion about the real value of the home, independent of its listing or negotiated price. That value is then compared against what the borrower has agreed to pay.Credit report: A fee charged to order a history of your financial life. It includes details about your behavior as a bill payer, the amount of debt you owe, your available credit and any inquiries that companies make to obtain this information, such as your mortgage lender. A good credit report means better loan terms.Tax service: A fee to cover the cost of hiring a company to verify the amount of real estate taxes due and making sure they're paid.Flood certification: A fee that covers the assessment of whether a property is in a flood zone. If it is, the new homeowner must buy a flood insurance policy.Title services: Charges for administrative costs (such as title search) associated with the delivery of title insurance, as well as the services provided by a title or escrow agent.Title insurance: A policy that guarantees that an owner has the title to a property and can legally transfer it to someone else. Should a problem arise, the title insurer pays any legal damages. A policy may protect the mortgage lender, the homebuyer, or both.Attorney, closing or settlement: The amount paid to an attorney for witnessing the mortgage loan transaction. Document preparation: A fee a lender charges to a borrower for producing the documents signed at the closing table.Inspections (pest, etc.): A fee paid to a certified person who searches the dwelling for termites and other destructive creatures.Postal/courier: This fee covers what it costs a lender to send paperwork to the other entities involved in the mortgage transaction.Survey: A fee charged to hire a licensed surveyor to get an accurate measurement of the property and its boundaries.Wire transfer fee: The amount charged to transfer funds needed to close on a home loan. Contact me today for more valuable real estate information.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • For Millennial Parents, Finances Weigh Heavily
    on June 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Not all millennials are the free-spirited, independent go-getters we imagine them to be. Some of them are parents with real-world concerns, such as finances. In fact, according to a study from Microban in conjunction with Turner Research Network, 64 percent of millennials surveyed cited finances and money as their No. 1 worry, and 92 percent of the millennial parents surveyed agreed that being financially secure was a significant concern. The online survey of more than 1,000 U.S. millennial parents revealed that the group is not only concerned about being able to provide what their family wants and needs, but job stability as well. Fifty-six percent said financial security, including having more money, a better job or a job that pays better, and a new house or place to live, were things they wish they could change. Like many in today’s frenetic culture, 75 percent of millennial parents are also concerned about not having enough time to do the things they’d like to do, such as spending more time with their family, friends, spouse or partner, hobbies, exercise or home improvement projects. When millennial parents do manage to secure some free time, chores take a back seat—74 percent report being worried about keeping a clean house. Is financial freedom out of reach for millennial parents? Not at all. Here are some ways to create a more comfortable future: Commit to paying down debt, starting with your highest interest-rate credit cards. Strive to make more than the minimum payment each month. Pay yourself first by putting a set amount into your savings from every paycheck. Set a household budget and stick to it. Tracking your expenses each month will reveal where you can cut back and save. Start a retirement account. It’s never too early to do so, even if you can only contribute a small amount to start. Consider a side gig. While you don’t want to spend even more time working, put your passion to good use with freelance or contract work. Then devote all of those earnings to your savings.  Interested in real estate tips? Contact me today for more information.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • In this Edition: Get Your Home in Shape for Summer
    on June 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines simple ways to ensure your home is ready for the upcoming summer season. Other topics covered this month include quick tips to transform your patio and important real estate lingo you should know before you get to the closing table. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • What Tax Reform Could Mean for Homeowners
    on June 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    There is so much information swirling out of Washington, D.C., these days, it’s hard for the average person to keep up, let alone determine how they will be affected by various changes to legislation. When it comes to tax reform, however, it’s important to get a handle on how proposed changes will impact your wallet—especially for homeowners. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), tax reform proposals may actually mean a tax increase for many middle-income homeowners. According to the study, “Impact of Tax Reform Options on Owner-Occupied Housing,” homeowners with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would see their taxes rise by an average of $815. The study also estimates that combined tax savings from claiming the mortgage interest deduction and real estate property tax deductions would drop 82 percent between the 2018 and 2027 period. The study, which was commissioned by NAR and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), estimates that this tax increase would result from the interaction of several provisions in the reforms under consideration. For many homeowners that currently benefit from the mortgage interest deduction, the elimination of other itemized deductions and personal exemptions would cause their taxes to rise, even if they elected to take the increased standard deduction. For others, the elimination of the state and local tax deduction alone would result in higher federal income taxes. In addition to increasing taxes on many middle-income homeowners, the report finds that such a proposal could cause home values to fall by an average of more than 10 percent in the near term. In areas with higher property taxes or state income taxes, the drop could be even greater. Although the study doesn’t directly analyze the “Better Way for Tax Reform” plan or the recent White House outline, it examines a proposal with many similar elements. Those elements include lowering and consolidating marginal tax rates to only three rates, setting a top income tax rate of 33 percent, doubling the standard deduction, eliminating all itemized deductions (other than charitable contributions and mortgage interest) and personal exemptions, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, and capping the tax rate on pass-through business income at 25 percent. PwC estimated that roughly 35 million households will claim the mortgage interest deduction in 2018, three quarters of which have incomes between $50,000 and $200,000. According to NAR, roughly 70 percent of those eligible for the mortgage interest deduction claim it in a given tax year. Once tax reform is finalized and passed into law, be sure to consult with your accountant before filing your taxes to ensure you’re taking the proper deductions. For even more valuable real estate information, contact me today.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • What Mom Wants: A Home for Grown Kids
    on May 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    As housing costs rise and student loan debt grows, mothers are becoming increasingly concerned about their children’s ability to afford a home. According to a recent survey of 1,000 mothers by The NHP Foundation, a not-for-profit provider of affordable housing, many are concerned about the ability of their adult children to live on their own. Nearly a third (29.86 percent) of the moms surveyed are anxious about their grown children needing to stay with them for an extended period of time.   These concerns are no surprise, considering that 53 percent of the moms surveyed make family financial decisions either alone or with “some input” from a partner. These moms often act as CFO of the family, taking a more active role than ever in the household’s finances and investments.   Many women are also living with extended family. In fact, 17 percent of those with a partner and children also report parents or other relatives living with them, emblematic of the modern “sandwich generation.”   Here are some other interesting findings from the report: Nearly 63 percent of moms say their adult children are not fully prepared to live on their own. Only 30 percent of moms say that their adult children who live with them are actively looking for other places to live, and less than half (41 percent) say their kids pay rent. One positive note: 67 percent of adult children help around the house, and 65 percent of them are employed. Mothers are very aware that their grown children don’t have it easy. Ninety percent are concerned about rising housing costs, with 43 percent saying they are “very concerned” on their kids’ behalf. Nearly 40 percent of moms worry at least once a day about their adult children’s ability to afford desirable housing. Once kids do move out, only one-third of moms would co-sign a loan for their children, and even fewer (24 percent) would help subsidize rent or a mortgage. Nearly 36 percent say they aren’t prepared to help their adult children financially in any way.  To combat these and other rising concerns about housing affordability, The NHP Foundation is looking to the government to continue programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and to new private and public partnerships designed to increase its stock of quality affordable housing. The NHP Foundation has also been selected by the University of Virginia School of Public Policy as part of a study seeking new models to help ensure that this and future generations are able to afford desirable places to live.  Source: www.nhpfoundation.org   Interested in real estate tips? Contact me today for more information.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • 5 Ways to Redecorate Without Spending a Dime
    on May 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    You know the feeling. You look around your home and are struck with a case of the blahs. The immediate thought is to set out on a shopping spree for new rugs, new lamps, new linens or whatever it takes to revamp your space. Unfortunately, your wallet may say otherwise. But don’t despair. With a little creative thinking, you can update the look and feel of your home without spending any money at all. Here’s how:  The old switcheroo. Believe it or not, switching furniture from one room to another can completely change the look of a room. Try swapping out a living room end table with your bedroom nightstand. Or move that stately floor lamp from your den into your dining room. With just a little muscle, you will instantly arrive at a brand-new look.  Find buried treasure in your linen closet. If you’re like most homeowners, it’s more than likely been a while since you’ve cleaned out your linen closet. And I bet you won’t believe what you’ll find in there. Curtains, tablecloths, throws and bedding that was tucked away years ago and forgotten about can be reintroduced to various spots in your home for a brand-new look.  Enlist old paint. Remember all those half-full cans of paint leftover from various projects over the years? Put them to use to change the look of a room by painting one wall, a piece of accent furniture or even cabinet doors. You saved them because you thought they’d come in handy someday. Well, today’s that day.  Get digging. Want to switch up the flow of your yard? Look around and see what plants, shrubs and small trees can be relocated to a brand-new spot. Be sure to do some research online ahead of time in order to determine the correct way to transplant certain items to ensure your green friends survive the move. You can do this even more easily by repositioning container plants and patio furniture.  Embrace the online community. Before you spend money on new furniture and décor items, check out some of the increasingly popular websites for scoring free stuff. The Freecycle Network, for example, is made up of 9 million members worldwide. The nonprofit describes itself as a grassroots movement, comprised of local volunteers who moderate activity to keep dealings on the up-and-up. Membership is free to boot.   With the right mindset and a little creative thinking, your home will be on its way to a brand-spanking-new look.   Contact me today for more real estate tips and information. Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • Tax Refund? Spend It at Home
    on May 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    According to a recent study from Edward Jones, only 6 percent of Americans are planning to invest their 2016 tax refunds this year. The study, which surveyed 1,004 respondents across various age groups, regions and income levels, found that the majority of Americans (53 percent) plan to put their tax refund toward necessary expenses, such as student loans and credit card payments. Thirty-one percent of respondents plan to save their refund, and 9 percent plan to put it toward something fun, like a vacation or entertainment. For homeowners, however, investing your tax refund to improve your home—and increase its value in the process—can be the smartest move of all. Quicken Loans suggests looking at these key areas of your home, which often translate directly to the bottom line:The kitchen. New appliances or countertops are a great way to invest your refund dollars. Also consider giving your kitchen a less-expensive facelift by painting the cabinets.The bathroom. Bathrooms are high on the list of priorities for homebuyers, so use your refund to make sure yours is up to par. Consider adding new faucets, a low-flow toilet or a new sink counter.The walls. One of the most important—and most affordable—home improvements is a fresh coat of paint. A sunny shade or calming neutral will instantly change the look and feel of any room.The windows. An important investment for not only the look of your home, but its energy efficiency as well, new windows are always a smart investment.The exterior. Whether it’s building a patio, repairing the roof, or installing new siding, improving your home's exterior is never a bad idea.   Putting your tax refund into your No. 1 asset will not only improve your home’s value, it'll also go a long way toward enhancing your living environment. In the end, any way you slice it, it’s an investment for years to come. Contact me today for more tips on improving your home's value.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]

  • Vinyl Siding: Know Your Options
    on May 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    One of the most popular choices for your home’s exterior, vinyl siding has made considerable advancements—both in design and technology—since it first debuted in the 1970s. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Remodeling Impact Report, the $12,000 national median cost of a vinyl siding replacement job returns a solid 83 percent on investment, should you decide to sell your home. Here’s a primer from vinyl siding experts Ply Gem on what makes siding a great choice for your home: Design options: Today’s vinyl comes in a wide range of colors—from pastels to rich hues—profiles, architectural trim and accessory products to assist architects, builders and homeowners in customizing home designs. Improved durability: One of the most attractive qualities of vinyl siding is its durability over other exterior home options. Homeowners should look for a siding option that's resistant to every element, including rain, wind and sun. Quality siding should be able to resist the harshest of weather conditions, maintaining its strength and color for the lifetime of the home. Energy savings: Research shows insulated vinyl siding contributes to savings in energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Look for siding made with premium recycled content. Savings over time: Vinyl siding is a long-term investment. Because vinyl siding can be installed faster and requires little maintenance without the need to paint, stain or caulk, over the lifetime of the product, it's less costly when compared to other siding options, including fiber cement, brick and wood.  Source: Ply Gem   Contact me today for more real estate tips and information.Published with permission from RISMedia. […]