Archives for August 2018

How to Keep Your Jewelry Safe While You Sell Your Home

How to Keep Your Jewelry Safe While You Sell Your Home

It’s an unfortunate fact that thieves often target homes on the real estate market. Sometimes these thieves are serial offenders, but they can also be prospective buyers or real estate agents gone rogue.

To minimize temptation, store your valuables, especially fine jewelry, in a safe and secure place whenever you have potential buyers or agents in your home. Avoid leaving valuables unsecured in easy-to-access areas. We’ve outlined several ways to avoid mistakes and keep your valuables safe before and while you sell your home.

Before Listing Your Home

Protecting your belongings starts before your home even goes on the market. Complete these simple tasks ahead of time to ensure that you can protect yourself and recover any losses if something goes wrong.

1. Make sure you have a detailed receipt or appraisal for each piece of jewelry. A detailed receipt will have information about each item’s metal and diamonds or precious gemstones. It should also have the price you paid or a current estimate of the piece’s value. These documents will be very useful in the event something does happen to your valuables.

2. As you begin the process of listing your home and staging your house for pictures or virtual tours, take jewelry boxes off the counters and remove jewelry cabinets or armoires from view. Criminals often case homes using the listing photos, so don’t leave any signs of fine jewelry in these promotional images.

3. We’re focusing on your precious jewelry and valuables, but you can also apply these tips to any item someone may be tempted to steal.

While Your Home is on the Market

Now that you’ve appraised your jewelry and removed it from sight, let’s talk about how to protect your belongings while strangers visit your home.

Lock it up — Most real estate experts will tell you that the best way to keep any item safe is to lock it up. It’s not as simple as “out of sight, out of mind”; you don’t know who might open drawers or cabinets during an open house. Find a secure place that you can store your valuables, such as a safe or a locking drawer. If you don’t have a safe or secure place to lock away your jewelry, consider renting a safety deposit box while your home is on the market.

Find a friend — Your friends and neighbors will be sad to see you go, but you might be able to ask them for one last favor. Ask a trusted friend to babysit your valuables temporarily. Explain that you’d like to keep them out of the house while strangers are present, and be willing to reward them with homemade treats or a bottle of wine for their generosity. But before you ask, make sure they’re a good candidate for the job. Do they have small children who get into everything, or do they have contractors or other strangers in their home? No matter what, secure your pieces in a locked box before you take them over.

Take it with you — This won’t work for everyone, as some agents bring prospective buyers over when you’re out of the house. But if you require your agent to give you notice whenever they schedule a visit, this option may be the perfect fit for you. Keep your valuables ready to lock up and take with you before the appointment begins. This option may be the most difficult in today’s housing market, since many buyers want to see your home on short notice.

Whichever solution you choose, make sure to put your pieces into soft velvet pouches, jewelry boxes, or small plastic bags. This storage technique will keep each item separate and safe from scratching, tangling, or other damage. Check your homeowner’s policy to make sure your policy covers valuables. Your diamonds may be covered against chipping, cracking and loss from the mounting by your jeweler, but loss and theft of the entire ring may not be covered. If you need additional coverage, it’s best to know as soon as possible.

Selling a home can be a stressful time, but these steps will save you from worrying about your valuables. With some creativity and planning, you can rest assured knowing that prospective buyers won’t be tempted to take anything that’s not theirs.

Dan Decker is the charismatic, romantic, and knowledgeable Customer Care Manager for Robbins Brothers. He has been with the company for nearly 20 years and enjoys helping customers fulfill their engagement dreams. When he’s not working, it’s all about quality time spent with his daughter and lovely wife of 20+ years.


Source: How to Keep Your Jewelry Safe While You Sell Your Home

There Are Tax Benefits With Home Ownership

There Are Tax Benefits With Home Ownership

Homeownership has always been the “great American dream”. And Congress — with one exception — did not take it away when it passed the tax reform bill last December.

To foster and encourage this dream, Congress has consistently enacted — or preserved — tax legislation which favors homeowners. Indeed, much has been written that our tax laws discriminate against renters, by giving unfair and unequal tax benefits to those who own homes.

Every four years, some candidate for high political office tries to focus our attention on equalizing the tax laws, and repealing the homeowner benefits, but these arguments have consistently fallen on deaf ears.

For those of us who own homes, here is a list of the itemized tax deductions available to the average homeowner. Every year, you are permitted to deduct the following expenses:

Taxes. Real property taxes, both state and local, can be deducted. The one exception referenced above: tax filers can deduct on Schedule A any combination of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes but only up to a total of $10,000. Interestingly, married couples who file their own separate tax return can only deduct up to $5000.

However, it should be noted that real estate taxes are only deductible in the year they are actually paid to the government. Thus, if in year 2018, your lender held in escrow moneys for taxes due in 2019, you cannot take a deduction for these taxes when you file your 2018 tax return.

.Mortgage lenders are required to send an annual statement to borrowers by the end of January of each year, reflecting the amount of mortgage interest and real estate taxes the homeowner paid during the previous year.

Mortgage Interest. Interest on mortgage loans on a first or second home is fully deductible, subject to the following limitations: acquisition loans up to $1 million, and home equity loans up to $100,000. If you are married, but file separately, these limits are split in half. But note that for new loans taken out after December 14, 2017, the limit on deductible mortgage debt is reduced to $750,000. Loans in existence prior to that date are grandfathered.

You must understand the concept of an acquisition loan. To qualify for such a loan, you must buy, construct or substantially improve your home. If you refinance for more than the outstanding indebtedness, the excess amount does not qualify as an acquisition loan unless you use all of the excess to improve your home. However, any other excess may qualify as a home equity loan.

Let us look at this example: Several years ago, you purchased your house for $150,000 and obtained a mortgage in the amount of $100,000. Last year, your mortgage indebtedness had been reduced to $95,000, but your house was worth $300,000.

Because rates were low last year, you refinanced and were able to get a new mortgage of $175,000. Your acquisition indebtedness is $95,000. The additional $80,000 that you took out of your equity does not qualify as acquisition indebtedness, but since it is under $100,000, it qualifies as a home equity loan.

Several years ago, the Internal Revenue Service ruled that one does not have to take out a separate home equity loan to qualify for this aspect of the tax deduction. However, if you had borrowed $200,000, you would only be able to deduct interest on $195,000 of your loan — the $95,000 acquisition indebtedness, plus the $100,000 home equity.

One more caveat: the proceeds of a second mortgage — or a home equity loan — are still deductible but only if the money is used to substantially improve the property.

The remaining interest is treated as personal interest, and is not deductible.

Points. Because mortgage rates are still considerably low, not too many borrowers are paying points. When you obtain a mortgage loan, in order to get a lower rate mortgage, you would pay one or more points. Whether referred to as “loan origination fees,” “premium charges,” or “discounts,” these are still points. Each point is one percent of the amount borrowed; if you obtain a loan of $170,000, each point will cost you $1,700. And the interest rate on your loan will be lowered.

The IRS has also ruled that even if points are paid by sellers, they are still deductible by the homebuyer. Points paid to a lender when you refinance your current mortgage are not fully deductible in the year they are paid; you have to allocate the amount over the life of the loan. For example, you paid $1700 in points for a 30 year loan. Each year you are permitted to deduct only $56.66 ($1700 divided by 30); however, when you pay off this new loan, any remaining portion of the points you have not deducted are then deductible in full.

Needless to say, if you have any questions about these tax benefits, discuss them with your financial and legal advisors.


Source: There Are Tax Benefits With Home Ownership

Home Buyer Assumptions Are Expensive

Home Buyer Assumptions Are Expensive

Based on what John and Lee (privacy protected) learned about real estate from friends and online searches, these first-time buyers believed that location is less important than price.

Do they know what they’re talking about?

John and Lee currently rent a spacious apartment in the city where they both work. They thoroughly enjoy their urban, walkable neighborhood and its proximity to work and to all that matters to them.

Ready to move onto the next phase of their lives, the couple recently decided it’s time to invest in real estate. They are attracted to a less-pricy real estate market in the smaller, more-rural center across the state line because they feel they’ll get more house for their money there.

List price can dominate decision making for buyers, but is it always a clear indicator of where value lies? List price is the price—based on each seller’s own criteria—that sellers indicate they may consider selling for as part of their public offering.

The couple’s decision to move to a cheaper real estate market is based on key assumptions they’ve made, not on a drive to dramatically change their lifestyle. If you’re a wanna-be buyer or have recently purchased, do any of the couple’s Five Real Estate Assumptions, below, sound familiar to you?

# 1. Square footage is their immediate focus since the couple plans to start a family once they are homeowners and assume they’ll need more space.

# 2. Commute time or expense is not a big concern to them, even though living in a community across the state line will force them to battle often-unpredictable bridge traffic—Lee each week day and John several days a week.

# 3. Older, more established neighborhoods appeal to this couple, even though neither of these long-time renters have any hands-on experience with living in or maintaining an older property, or paying others to do so.

# 4. Interest rates have been low for so long, these eager buyers—John a self-employed entrepreneur and Lee a teacher—assume that they’ll get the mortgage they need once they find the right property.

# 5. The couple is confident they can “figure out real estate” by asking friends and checking things out online. They assume that they’ll always act in their own best interest.

Based on your own experience, do you have any concerns about their assumptions and related decisions and perspectives? Could anything go wrong for them? What should their first step be?

John and Lee made assumptions that are common buyer limitations. Watch enough real estate TV shows, follow enough buyers on social media, and check out enough online listings and you can feel like a real estate expert. If it were that easy, no one would ever buy the wrong house or choose a poor location. Nor would anyone arrange a poorly-suited mortgage or fail to arrange necessary financing.

The big question for buyers to consider before they begin the buying process is, “What can’t we afford to learn in hindsight?” (Hindsight, or looking backward to second guess yourself, is 20:20; however, the knowledge gained always arrives too late to act on.)

Buying a house, condominium unit, recreational property, or even vacant land is complicated by the fact that each real estate property is unique, so comparison shopping is tricky at best, especially for uninitiated buyers.

Everything may go smoothly for John and Lee during the buying process or it may seem to. However, if they are wrong about any one or more of their 5 assumptions above, they may not discover the full impact of these failings until long after they move in or when they want to sell and use the expected profit to up-grade to their next home.

Real estate professionals will tell you that each of these common buyer assumptions raise many questions and concerns that should be resolved before buyers sign on the dotted line.

Here’s Five Key Real Estate Realities tied to the Five Buyer Assumptions:

# 1. Square footage: Buyers may gain more square footage in lower-priced real estate markets, but those properties will usually not increase in value as quickly as more prized locations, if they do at all. For instance, market value is also strongly tied to local schools and amenities, so proximity to top-notch schools will drive real estate appreciation, even for owners who do not have school-aged children.

Assumptions that big houses are better are distracting. Space-efficient design and layout can make smaller homes more cost-effective and more pleasant to live in.

# 2. Commuting: Commuting is expensive in terms of time, money, stress, and lost time with family, friends, and favorite past-times. Location, in the form of proximity to work and play, adds value to real estate properties through walkability, reduced transportation costs, and improved life balance. Buying into a different lifestyle and stretching your life between two location can add costs, inconveniences, and missed opportunities that may out-weigh the apparent savings in price.

# 3. Condition: Modernized properties carry more value because they are more comfortable and economical to live in and maintain, and they can look more appealing.

# 4. Mortgages: Rural properties can be harder to finance than similar urban homes. Self-employed individuals may discover that qualifying for a mortgage is more difficult than it is for those with standard employment histories.

# 5. Real Estate Knowledge: Learning the hard way can be expensive in real estate. What we don’t know that we don’t know or fully understand can result in missed opportunity, over-paying, or being taken advantage of—if not being subject to out-right fraud. Real estate professionals can explain—relative to the buyer’s situation—how and why location is the key determinant of real estate value and appreciation over time.

Buyers can benefit from starting their home search by discussing, with real estate professionals who work in their preferred location, buyers’ often-unconscious real estate assumptions and conclusions about their online research. These professionals can help buyers weigh alternatives and effectively expand their search area, as necessary, after the professional fully understands buyer needs. Professionals can also explain how market value, not list price, is the key factor when buying.

With professional ingenuity and support, buyers can transform assumptions into knowledge and the potential for hindsight disappointments into forward-thinking strategies aimed at investment in financial and real estate security.

Additional Resources by PJ Wade


Source: Home Buyer Assumptions Are Expensive

How Much Do Home Alarm Systems Affect Resale?

How Much Do Home Alarm Systems Affect Resale?

Home alarm systems can be particularly hard to calculate into resale value or return on investment (ROI) because their job is to prevent loss rather than achieve gains. You purchase a home alarm system with the hope that you never need to use it.

The reality is that a burglary is reported to police every 14.5 seconds. But robbery isn’t the only thing that alarms can save you from. Smart alarms can detect smoke and hazards.

More than ever, homeowners want to feel safe in their homes. A built-in alarm system may be just what it takes to get your house off the market.

1. Alarm Systems Aren’t as Expensive as They Used to Be

According to HomeAdvisor’s survey, most homeowners invest between $330-$1,040 when purchasing and installing home alarm systems. However, with the advent of smart, connected technology, home security is more affordable than ever.

Products like the Nest Cam Outdoor monitor your home in 1080p high definition video that you can access from your smartphone 24/7. This monitor also has a two-way audio feature, meaning you can use your voice to scare off intruders or give live instructions to a delivery service. Smart products allow you to monitor your home yourself, which cuts down the cost of hiring a security company to do the monitoring for you.

Smart products send security alerts right to your phone, allowing you to act fast and take control. Monthly security subscriptions on smart products are usually a fraction of the cost of subscribing to a traditional security service.

2. Add Resale Value

Owning a safe and secure home is appealing to every home buyer, from frequent travelers to families. That means pre-installed cameras, smoke detectors, and smart locks can be huge selling points. The more convenient and easy-to-use the security, the better.

One of the most desired security features for homeowners is motion sensor lighting over the driveway. Not only does it scare away late-night intruders, it also helps homeowners navigate in the dark. Buyers want added safety and convenience in their everyday lives, and the right security system can provide both.

3. Home Security Lowers Neighborhood Crime

In 2016, Rutgers University released a study that found that neighborhood crime rates dropped significantly when alarm systems were installed in multiple neighborhood homes.

Burglars are less likely to break into homes that are protected with home security, and that fact carries over when applied to entire neighborhoods. Safe neighborhoods are highly desirable to homeowners and can help your home sell faster and at a higher price.

4. Alarm Systems Can Reduce Your Homeowners Insurance

If you financed your home with a mortgage, you are most likely required to have home insurance. While the price of home insurance varies, most companies offer discounts to homes with security systems.

With a home monitoring system installed, you can save up to 20% on home insurance. Those savings can amount to hundreds of dollars per year or the cost of the security system all together.

5. They Save Money in the Long Run

Burglaries can cost you, not only in the possessions stolen from your home, but also in the damage that many homes incur during a burglary.

Most burglars enter homes through the front or back door or first-floor windows, usually breaking them in the process. The cost of fixing a broken window or kicked-in door can be even more expensive than the valuables taken.

It was found that when burglars enter homes with security systems, they are much more likely to leave quickly, taking fewer items with them.

While security systems aren’t foolproof, they do offer the benefit of safety and security. Whether you’re installing a system for yourself or for future homeowners, the peace of mind it offers is the ultimate ROI.

Written By: Katy Caballeros


Source: How Much Do Home Alarm Systems Affect Resale?

Ready For Staging: 4 Repairs You Need Before Selling Your Home

Ready For Staging: 4 Repairs You Need Before Selling Your Home

Selling your home is a complex process that may take weeks to complete. This is partially because your house may need to be updated or renovated before it can go on the market. What are some of the most crucial fixes that you should make before listing your property?

Update the Exterior

The first thing that you will want to do is make sure that the home’s exterior is in good condition. This may involve landscaping work such as removing trees or shrubs that are dead or dying. It may also involve inspecting the roof, siding or other exterior components that may need to be repaired or updated to make the house easier to sell. At the very least, a fresh coat of paint should be applied before putting the house on the open market.

Check the Air Conditioning

If you have a central air conditioning unit in your home, make sure that it works properly. This means that it should start easily and produce an even amount of cool air throughout the house.

Ideally, you will have it inspected once a year by someone like Doctor Fix-It. However, inspecting it and making repairs prior to selling your home should be considered mandatory. It may also be a good idea to check the furnace and clean the ducts before you show the home to buyers.

Make Sure the Floors Are Adequate

Whether your home has wood floors or carpet, make sure that they are in good condition. If necessary, wax and clean the wood or put down new carpet in areas where it may be frayed or dirty. If you are going to replace your carpet, make sure that it is the same color and style throughout a given space.

Check the Plumbing and Electrical Systems

Buyers aren’t going to want to put an offer on a home that has poor water pressure. They are also unlikely to want to make an offer on a home that has dangerous electrical wiring. If the fixes to either system are relatively minor, you can do them yourself. However, it may also be a good idea to call a professional to make sure that the job is done safely.

Selling your home can be a great way to help you downsize or lock in profits. However, if the process is not done right, it could reduce the sale price of the home or result in the home staying on the market longer than you anticipated that it would.

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.


Source: Ready For Staging: 4 Repairs You Need Before Selling Your Home

How to Say Goodbye to Renting and Hello to Home Ownership

How to Say Goodbye to Renting and Hello to Home Ownership

Becoming a first-time homeowner takes a lot more than a desire to buy a house. It takes a lot of effort on your part to save up a down payment — which is usually a pretty good sized chunk of change — research neighborhoods, get pre-approved for a loan and other steps. Fortunately, it is quite possible to say goodbye to renting and hello to homeownership, especially when homeowners-to-be consider the following tips:

Focus on the Down Payment

In order to leave the land of rent, you are going to need a down payment — plain and simple. While it is common to put down 20 percent, some lenders now allow a much smaller amount, and first-time home buyer programs may go as low as 3 percent. While a smaller down payment may sound enticing, a 5 percent down payment on a $200K home is still $10,000 — not exactly a small sum. If saving money does not come naturally for you, don’t worry. With some relatively minor lifestyle changes you can speed up the down payment savings process. Come up with a savings plan to determine how much you need to set aside every week or month and then find ways to “find” that money in your budget. Using the $10,000 example from before, if you are determined to buy a home in two years, you’ll have to come up with about $415 a month to stash into your down payment account. Take a close look at your monthly bills and determine what you can pare down or eliminate — maybe you are paying $75 a month for a gym membership you rarely use, or you pay $40 extra for premium satellite channels that no one watches. These services can be cancelled and the money can go directly into your savings account. Eat out less, have Starbucks twice a week instead of every day and if you need to, consider a side hustle on the weekends to reach this magical monthly amount of $415.

Avoid Identity Theft

Unfortunately, the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft increase when you are buying and moving into a new home. The stacks of documents that are part of buying a home and that are filled with your personal information may accidentally fall into the wrong hands, and once you move, mail may not be routed correctly and thieves may steal your mail and your identity from your old mailbox. Prevent this situation from happening by purchasing an identity theft protection program; find a trusted company that will help safeguard your personal data. In addition to letting you know when a bank pulls your credit report and asking if you have authorized this inquiry, certain services will monitor your financial activity and alert you if anything is amiss.

Check Your Credit Report

When you start the pre-approval process for a loan and then move on to the Big Kahuna of applying for an actual mortgage, your credit report will be pulled numerous times. Your credit score will then be used to determine if you are approved for a loan, and what type of interest rate you will get. Please do not wait until you have the down payment saved and you are champing at the bit to go look at houses to check your FICO score — check your credit as early in the process as you can. If you have a credit card that has been issued through your bank, give them a call and see if they can run your report for you for free; in the cases of some credit cards, they also offer a free monthly FICO score check. Read through the report and check for any errors; this includes credit lines you never opened and delinquent payments that you know were made on time. Dispute any mistakes that you find and look for ways to boost your credit score, like paying down credit card bills and setting up automatic bill pay so you are never late with your payments.


Source: How to Say Goodbye to Renting and Hello to Home Ownership

How To Get Free Money Or Make Easy Money For Your Down Payment

How To Get Free Money Or Make Easy Money For Your Down Payment

Want to buy a house but short on cash to get the deal done? It’s a common problem that is keeping countless potential buyers on the sidelines. “Money issues often stand in the way of homeownership,” said Bankrate. “A survey by rental service Apartment List found that 80 percent of millennial renters want to buy a home, but most say they can’t afford to.”

A recent story in Apartment Therapy titled “How I Saved $40K in 5 Years for a Down Payment” piqued our interest. Their tip: Get a side hustle and sock all that money away. Those are some Impressive saving skills, but if you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t even want to wait five months, let alone five years”, we have some tips that can help. None of them are quite as hardcore as working a second job late into the night (but if you’re just that committed, more power to ya!). Instead, we’re focusing on ways to get free money or make easy money.

Get down payment assistance

Many people don’t think about looking for down payment help (beyond asking their parents, anyway). And many of those who do think about it don’t realize they might be eligible. Yes, many grants and other programs are specifically for low income borrowers, but others have surprising income caps that could spell the difference between buying now and having to wait a while.

“Grants and loans help you cover the upfront costs of purchasing a home,” said NerdWallet. In Nevada, for example, prospective homeowners can qualify for a grant of up to 5% of their mortgage to put toward a down payment and closing costs. District of Columbia residents can qualify for a down payment assistance loan of up to 3.5% of their mortgage. The loan needs to be repaid only if you sell, refinance or vacate the property within the first five years. Help isn’t reserved for low-income borrowers. Nevada’s grant program is available to those with an annual income below $98,500. The D.C. program caps income eligibility at just over $132,000.”

Move your money around

You may be aware of intro offers on credit cards that allow you to do a balance transfer to a lower (or zero) interest rate. While these are great options to take advantage of if you are trying to pay off an existing balance at a higher interest rate, be sure to check with a lender before you take on any new credit; if you’re looking to buy a house soon, this could ding your credit and make it harder to get a loan.

Credit cards aren’t the only place you can take advantage of great offers to save – or make – some money. Open a Chase Total Checking account and you could get a $200 bonus; a new savings account with them could add another $150 if you meet the requirements for both. Discover has a similar offer.

Sell your stuff

You might be shocked to learn how much you can make just by selling the stuff you already own – and probably don’t want to take with you to your new place anyway. Garage sales can yield a couple hundred dollars, depending on the crowd and the goods. Craig’s List is a great place to list items you don’t want to let go of for a couple bucks at the crack of dawn on a Saturday. Everything from gold and other jewelry to silverware and old phones can be listed online. Furniture, art, and designer clothing can fetch more money at a consignment shop.

Switch providers

Seeing great deals out there for cable/satellite and Internet that are far better than what you’re getting? Packages that offer super low prices to everyone but existing customers are frustrating. Don’t be afraid to look around, even if you’re planning a move in the next few months. Providers typically have a moving package that will allow you to transfer your service to your new address for free.

If you called your existing provider and you’re getting stonewalled, call again and ask for the loyalty department. Our recent call to DISH resulted in a $70 monthly savings and upgraded equipment at no cost. This was a far better deal ($65 a month better, and no $100 new equipment fee) than we were offered by customer service.

Ask your boss for a flexible schedule

Working from home one day a week can save on gas, tolls, and even daycare if you’re in a situation where your young child could behave while you’re working alongside her and your daycare will work with you on price for using them four days per week instead of five. Some employers will also allow you to work more flexible hours on a daily basis so you could leave in time to pick your child up from school and forgo after-school care. Letting them know you’re saving for a house may help elicit the cooperation you need.

Collect plastic bottles

If you drink bottled water and are accustomed to putting all the bottles in your recycling bin, collect them and sell them back to make a little extra cash. Will it be life-changing money? No. But it may be enough to enjoy a meal out here and there during your super-saving mode, or pay for a few knickknacks after you move. “The number of bottles that recycling centers will pay per bottle depends on the type of plastic, as well as how many you have,” said Small Business. “Michigan pays 10 cents a bottle whereas most other states pay anywhere from a few pennies to 5 cents for each bottle. Check with the recycling center that you intend to use for its rules. Some prefer that you keep caps on the bottles or if they don’t accept them at all.”

Negotiate your closing costs into the deal

This isn’t exactly free money because you end up paying for the closing costs anyway (albeit over 30 years), but if you’re a little short on cash getting in, adding the closing costs into the mortgage could get you where you want to go faster. Even better: If the seller will pay the closing costs! This could save you thousands of dollars upfront.

Research alternative mortgages

It could be that a different kind of loan than the traditional 30-year mortgage or FHA loan could greatly cut down on your down payment and also save you money monthly. USDA loans for homes located in certain rural areas may require no down payment. VA loans offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs “help active-duty military members, veterans and surviving spouses buy homes” with zero down payment, said Bankrate. HUD’s Neighbor Next Door program “is designed to encourage renewal of revitalization areas by providing an opportunity for law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and teachers to purchase homes in these communities,” according to the HUD site. “HUD provides a substantial incentive in the form of a 50% discount off the list price of eligible properties.”


Source: How To Get Free Money Or Make Easy Money For Your Down Payment

Go West…Err, Midwest, To The Hottest Housing Markets In The Country

Go West...Err, Midwest, To The Hottest Housing Markets In The Country

Call it “The Heartland.” Or “America’s Breadbasket.” However you choose to refer to the area between the Rockies and the Appalachians, you can also assign an important new descriptor: Home to America’s hottest housing markets. In the latest market report from Realtor.com, California cities that once dominated the list have been replaced by several Midwestern cities, like Fort Wayne, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Detroit, Michigan.

“Fast-growing Midwest markets are overtaking pricy California cities on property search website realtor.com‘s hottest markets report, which looks at the areas of the country in which properties are selling at the fastest rates (by days on market),” said Inman. “The July list…named seven midwest markets and five in California.”

So what’s responsible for the geographical shift? Blame (or credit) continually rising prices and inventory issues, which is driving homebuyers to less costly markets.

“With the median home list price hovering at a record level, affordable markets are very attractive for buyers, which is contributing to the popularity of many Midwestern markets,” realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale said in a statement, per Inman. “Although construction is increasing in many regions, inventory remains scarce due to strong buyer demand and years of underbuilding. Even these affordable markets run the risk of what we’ve seen elsewhere if they aren’t able to keep pace with new construction.”

Added Mansion Global: “The shift to the Midwest underscores the severity of the housing shortage in some areas, where developers have built very little besides high-end homes since the Great Recession.”

The Realtor.com list is based on listing views and median days on market. “Properties in the 20 markets chosen moved 17 to 30 days more quickly than homes in the rest of the country,” said Inman. “Homes in these 20 markets spent four days fewer on the market on average than this time a year ago. Listing views were 1.8 times higher than the national average and 16 percent higher than last year.”

The No. 1 market on the list remains West Texas oil town Midland, Texas – the fourth month in a row the city has been at the top. “With rising fortunes in the West Texas oil patch, demand for homes is booming in Midland and houses sell in less than a month on average,” said the Dallas Morning News.

At No. 2 is Fort Wayne, Indiana, followed by Boise City, Idaho; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California; Columbus, Ohio; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan; Racine, Wisconsin; Vallejo-Fairfield, California; and Rochester, New York. Janesville-Beloit, Wisconsin; Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts; Pueblo, Colorado; and Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan are also in the top 20.

“Formerly depressed areas of the country, particularly in the Midwest Rust Belt, have watched prices soar over the past year as more homebuyers are entering markets where there’s been very little new home building since the housing bust of 2008-09,” said Mansion Global. “The situation in Boise highlights the severity of America’s affordable housing shortage. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, found there are 10 times more buyers looking for a home in Boise than available homes for sale. Median days on market was down to only 34 days.”


Source: Go West…Err, Midwest, To The Hottest Housing Markets In The Country

6 Surefire Ways To Get Your House Sold

6 Surefire Ways To Get Your House Sold

We’re coming to the end of summer, and that means that families seeking to buy a new home before school starts have likely already done their thing. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re looking to sell. Whether you’re just getting ready to list your home or haven’t had any bites on your existing home for sale, these tips will get it – and you – moving.

Price it right

This is the most obvious, but also the most contentious, tip when it comes to selling a home. Everyone wants top dollar. But rule No. 1 about a house that isn’t selling is to lower the price. (Likewise, listing a house now at an unreasonable price likely won’t get you the sale you’re looking for, especially when kids go back to school and sales naturally slow down.) ABC News has a good piece on how to tell if your home is overpriced, but…if it’s not selling, and your showings are limited, and your real estate agent has already talked to you about this (maybe more than once, including when you first discussed the list price), you probably already know why it’s not selling.

Here’s how to get past the disappointment of having to list your home at a lower price than you want or lower it when it’s sitting on the market: Your ultimate goal is to get the home sold and get on with your life, right? Maybe that means buying a larger home. Perhaps you’re looking to downsize or even move out of state. Whatever your plans, you’re delaying them by letting your home stay on the market.

Every month it doesn’t sell is another month you’re in a holding pattern. And, it means you’re spending more money on carrying costs if you’ve already moved to a new home before your old one has sold. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what your happiness or peace of mind is worth. Chances are it’s more than the money you’ll miss out on if you sell for less. Once you’ve come to that realization, it should be easier to make a price adjustment.

Choose the right REALTOR®

Another “Duh” statement here. But the reality is that the right agent can make or break your sale. You may be inclined to list your home with a friend who’s just getting into the business or a cousin twice removed due to family pressure, but consider this move carefully. When you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars, you want to make sure you have someone in your corner who has the knowledge and experience to navigate professionally and successfully through every step of what can be a very complicated process. While your pal or relative may be eager, they might not have the depth of understanding of sales trends to strategize the best listing price, or the negotiation skills to get the deal done. The relationships a seasoned agent has with other industry professionals is also key to a quick and profitable sale.

Paint your front door

We all know the value of curb appeal, so getting your front yard in order is a must-do when listing your home. (If it’s not selling, perhaps a little more sprucing up out front is in order.) But don’t skip your front door while you’re trimming bushes and laying down new mulch. A refreshed (or new, if needed) front door regularly tops the list of improvements providing a good return on investment on the annual Cost vs. Value Report. It’s an easy DIY update, too.

But, before you run off to buy paint, carefully consider the color. Choose wrong and you could turn off buyers. Choose right and you could actually get more for your home.

“When it comes to paint color, homeowners may have reason to go back to black. Houses with front doors in shades of black – from charcoal to jet – fetched $6,271 more than expected when sold, said MarketWatch. “Pops of color are especially important for front doors. It often forms the first impression in a prospective home buyer’s mind and can determine how they will view the rest of the property when touring a home. A door paint in a popular color can help make buyers feel that the property is well cared for.”

Take half the stuff out of your closets

Yes, your overstuffed closet can kill a sale. If a potential buyer feels like they won’t have enough space for their stuff, they won’t be a potential buyer for long.

Put your personal stuff – and your personal taste – away

“Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. You’ll have to do it eventually anyway when you move, and buyers tend to have a hard time seeing past personal effects. You don’t want your potential buyers to be distracted. You want them to be able to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they can’t do that if yours are there,” said The Balance. “This goes for furniture items, too, painful as that might be. Not everyone will share your taste, so if you have your bright red sofa screams, “I’m unique!” you might want to remove it for the time being. Try to stick with your more understated pieces.” 

Keep your emotions out of it

Selling your home can be an emotional experience, especially if it was your first home or it’s otherwise filled with memories. But emotions can get in the way of a home sale, and waylay your objective, which is to move up or move on.

“Once you decide to sell your home, it can be helpful to start thinking of yourself as a businessperson and a home seller, rather than as the home’s owner,” said Investopedia. “By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you’ll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling the property that you’ve undoubtedly created many memories in. Also, try to remember how you felt when you were shopping for that home. Most buyers will also be in an emotional state. If you can remember that you are selling not just a piece of property but also an image, a dream and a lifestyle, you’ll be more likely to put in the extra effort of staging and perhaps some minor remodeling to get top dollar for your home. These changes in appearance will not only help the sales price, but they’ll also help you create that emotional distance because the home will look less familiar.”


Source: 6 Surefire Ways To Get Your House Sold

Ready to Talk About Real Estate?

Ready to Talk About Real Estate?

Just the other day, it happened again.

I ended up face to face with a real estate myth I thought had been debunked out of existence in the last century.

And yet, there I was in a popular “resto,” waiting for my lunch companion and half listening to the two articulate couples chatting at the table behind me, when I heard it.

Like so many of us today, the two couples were raising lots of questions about what was up in the real estate market and concerns they had regarding what to do next with their homes. Then, one of them said: “I’d love to get the low-down on all of this from a realtor, but I’m afraid they’d end up selling me something.”

Mumbled agreement from the others ended their discussion.

Is that how you feel?

Do you shy away from asking a real estate professional about real estate because you think they may talk you into something you do not want to do?

If you don’t ask real estate professionals about real estate, who are you going to ask? Your best friend? Your grocer? Google? Siri?

Ask anyone or any digital thing about real estate and you’ll get an answer.

Everyone has opinions. Every digital resource from search engines to artificial intelligence technology can always spit out links to matching keywords.

But the real question is, “Are you receiving answers you can rely on because the information is directly relevant to your personal situation and your specific real estate requirements?”

Real estate professionals are among the few professionals who do not usually charge for answering questions or explaining real estate issues or terminology. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to enlighten yourself and verify the reliability of what you’ve picked up online?

In the process of chatting with professionals, you’ll probably meet a few you trust to understand your situation. When you’re ready to buy or sell, you will probably choose one of them to help.

When preparing to talk real estate, clarify exactly what you want to know and why you want to know it. Here are Six Conversation Starting Points to adapt to your situation and the real estate conversations you’d like to have:

1. Do you want to know specific facts about real estate?

If it’s factual information, like how listings or mortgages work, ask away and take notes. There is too much false or out-dated information online. Before savvy buyers and sellers act, they verify, with an experienced real estate expert or two, the accuracy of what has been discovered online.

2. Are you after details on your choices if you decide to sell or buy in the next six months versus next year?

Answers to queries like these would blend fact and opinion. Not even real estate professionals know exactly what will happen in six months, never mind next year. They can tell you what appears to lie ahead in the short term and what real estate forecasters project ahead. The key to understanding real estate is exploring how real estate market values are locally influenced relative to your specific property. That interpretation is what real estate professionals can help you with. Ultimately, you’ll need to arrive at your own opinion of the economy and what may evolve, so talk to a few professionals to sample a cross-section of perspectives.

3. Do you want to know what’s going to happen with interest rates?

Amazingly, real estate professionals do not know exactly what is going to happen to interest rates over the months and years ahead. They do understand the financial services industries and monitor economic patterns, so some may feel confident offering educated guesses in the short term. Many will explain what the current situation is, what the implications are for possible changes, and include other details which would provide you with background to form your own opinion relative to your situation.

4. If you’re not social media or tech savvy, don’t shy away from talking to real estate professionals who are both.

They may be very useful in helping you understand the advantages and disadvantages of online real estate sources and using calculators and other digital tools, relative to your real estate ownership. Just keep in mind that they are busy professionals working hard for their clients, and they are not teachers. Since most are committed to helping consumers receive the information they need to make confident decisions, real estate professionals often have suggestions on third-party resources that can help demystify online real estate content and online practices.

5. If you don’t know whether you can afford the next real estate step you’d like to take, don’t shy away from talking to real estate professionals.

Real estate professionals are not debt counselors, investment advisors, or estate planners, but they do understand how real estate and money fit together. Most are very good problem solvers and creative thinkers, who

have well-developed resource networks to call on. They will each have had different experiences with income-generation, co-ownership, and other real estate options. All this adds up to a lot of possibilities, so your persistence pays off.

6. If don’t know exactly what you want to do next, don’t shy away from talking to real estate professionals.

Most of them concentrate on specific neighborhoods and consumer lifestyles, so when you discover a professional who’d consider you a match for their expertise, they may guide you in your search for choices. Again, talk to several for a range of ideas and experience. We are all pioneers in this never-before-in-history time. Make sure you avoid assumptions and explore all available options. Perhaps, you’ll invent one or two for yourself. Look for those who feed your curiosity with their own.

The vast majority of real estate professionals are honest, hardworking people who are eager to assist you. That said, and in view of the encouragement above, I add a note of caution: In every profession, there are wide ranges of professionalism, ethics, commitment to developing expertise, focus on staying current, and honesty. The real estate industry is no different.

Always act in your own best interest. Take notes or record conversations for future reference. Meet in the real estate brokerage, so you gain first-hand experience with the business supporting the real estate professional. Protect your personal information and privacy. When in doubt or if you feel uncomfortable, leave. These usually-short conversations should be enlightening and enjoyable.


Source: Ready to Talk About Real Estate?

Don't Let Your Home Search Break Your Heart

Don't Let Your Home Search Break Your Heart

For those who are house-hunting, it can be a whirlwind romance that’s hot from the minute you see the home’s curb appeal. But don’t let the seduction of a good-looking landscape make you want to tie the knot without a bit of courtship.

House-hunting for the “perfect” home in many ways is like looking for that perfect romance – very seldom does everything about your proposed mate match your desires. Things you love at first may later get on your nerves and become what you don’t like so much later on. Does that mean the house is wrong for you? Not necessarily. It could be, but if you understand your tolerance level–what’s most important to you in a home, and what you can’t deal with at all – you are less likely to want to buy the wrong home.

Keeping these terms clearly defined and always on your mind will help you make smart choices even when some areas of the home tug at your heartstrings and say “buy me!”.

House-hunting should be like dating. Take your time. Understand the critical must-haves, the not-so-important-but-I-kind-of-want-it, and the no-way, not-going-to-happen-in-this-lifetime.

One thing you can do to help streamline the process is to start making a list about the things you like about your current home. If you’re renting, there may be features about the home, apartment, or planned-living development that you want to find again in the neighborhood where you’re going to buy your home.

For instance, you might want a gated community or a townhouse that has certain luxury amenities. Moving to an isolated home that doesn’t have the same type of amenities could be a real turn-off. Also, it might mean you have to pay more to get those same amenities that used to come with your rent. While this might not be a deal-breaker, it can certainly change the way you’re used to living your life.

So, be sure to take it into consideration. Walking a short distance down the street to go to the gym, the pool, the steam room will be different from having to drive 20 minutes or more to go to a gym/spa that you also have to first pay an extra monthly membership.

Another thing to consider is how many times you’ve seen the home. Just like dating, you might have an instant attraction, but the more times you see your date, the more you discover. With a home, (just like with a prospective mate!) you need to see it a few times and at different times of the day.

This way you’ll discover which rooms are dark and when or how loud the traffic is during rush hour. You might notice that there’s a lot of commotion around the neighborhood because of nearby schools. Does this work with your lifestyle? Viewing a home and the surrounding neighborhood at various times of the day can be an eye-opener and can reveal just how much this home is a match with your lifestyle.

Just as you wrote down the things you like in your present residence, you should also make lists of things you want to avoid in the future and new things you hope to gain.

Remember, courtship doesn’t have to last forever. Just as with romance, “the good ones will be gone if you wait too long!” So put a ring on… or rather, put an offer on that house!


Source: Don't Let Your Home Search Break Your Heart

Moving? Avoid Making These Mistakes

Moving? Avoid Making These Mistakes

Whether moving across town or across the country, packing up and moving can be stressful, costly and full of surprises. From shady movers and inaccurate price quotes, to overpacking or not allowing enough time to get the move set up, every step of a move has the potential for mistakes that can make a move a nightmare.

These tips will help anyone preparing for a move, whether they currently live in a house, an apartment, a dorm, with friends or with mom and dad.

1. Hiring a shady mover.

We’ve all heard horror stories about moving scams, and perhaps maybe you’ve been the victim of a moving scam yourself. You can steer clear of a less-than-upstanding mover by doing your homework. The Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, your state transportation regulator and the U.S. Department of Transportation — and even your relatives, friends, neighbors and colleagues — are all good sources of information about whether a moving company is on the up-and-up. Doing some homework online can save you a lot of heartache on moving day.

If you’ve done your research and still aren’t confident in the movers you’ve come across, you always can go the DIY route — just be sure you’re up for the task.

2. Messing up the quotes.

If you hire a mover, you should be able to have someone from that company come to your place for an in-home moving estimate. If a moving company won’t do an in-home estimate, you should think about shopping around for another mover.

Along those lines, don’t rely on just one quote from one mover. Contact several movers for quotes. If you really like one mover over another but your favorite company is a little pricey, try negotiating for a lower price. Always make sure to get a moving estimate in writing.

3. Packing too much stuff.

Do you really need those old boxes of baby clothes that you haven’t laid eyes on since your 6-year-old was in diapers? Before you move, you need to “edit” your belongings. Think about whether you can trash some of your possessions, donate them to charity, or give them away to friends and relatives. Perhaps you could hold a garage sale to clear out some of the clutter. If you haven’t seen, worn or used something in a year, it’s best to think hard about whether you need to keep it — and whether you need to haul it to your new place.

4. Failing to schedule your move well in advance.

During the summer months, good moving companies are booked up quickly. Rather than waiting till the last minute, make sure your move is scheduled weeks — or, better yet, months — in advance. You don’t want to be scrambling to find a mover the day before you’re supposed to head out. Moving already is stressful enough without adding that frustration.

5. Ignoring the need to pack ahead of time.

You’ll find very few people who’ll say that packing is fun. In fact, a survey commissioned by SpareFoot found that people who’d moved in the past year identified packing and unpacking as the biggest hassle in the process.

You can lessen the load by beginning to pack well before moving day comes along. Start by boxing up stuff that you won’t need right away — for instance, if you’re moving in the summer, pack up your winter clothes so that they’re out of the way. Also, be sure to carve out time in your schedule to check items off your packing to-do list.

If you get down to the wire and need help with packing, enlist friends, neighbors, relatives or colleagues to lend a hand. Make sure you’ve got plenty of food and beverages as a “thank you” for your volunteer helpers. If you can’t rustle up any free help, consider hiring laborers to do the packing for you; that may be a small price to pay to alleviate moving-related stress.

Need help finding that perfect storage unit? Click Here


Source: Moving? Avoid Making These Mistakes

The 6 Most Important Things Every Senior Should Ask Their Real Estate Agent

The 6 Most Important Things Every Senior Should Ask Their Real Estate Agent

Seniors who are looking to buy a new house, apartment or condominium can often have great luck by working with a real estate agent. A professional real estate agent can not only help seniors find the properties they are looking for but close the deal on the home of their dreams. According to the AARP, there are many seniors who purchase homes even after they have retired.

However, there are so many different factors that go into finding the right senior living arrangement. This is why any elderly adult looking to buy a new home needs to be prepared and know some of the most important questions to ask their real estate agent. The following six questions are essential to helping any elderly adult find the home that fits their needs now and into the future.

  1. 1. “What is the turnover like in the area I’m looking in?” For most seniors looking to buy a home, they are considering purchasing a property that is going to be more of a short-term home. This likely won’t be the “forever home” they bought when their children were growing up. Anyone looking to buy during their retirement years should make sure they talk to their real estate agent about the neighborhood they are looking in and how that neighborhood is performing. It should be a place where they feel confident they can quickly sell again if they need to.
  2. 2. ”What is the demographic of the area?” Most seniors are going to want to be in a neighborhood where they can enjoy being around their peers. Chances are, you won’t want to be surrounded by young people who will be up all night or families with lots of young kids running around. A real estate agent should be able to provide this type of information for anyone looking to buy a home.
  3. 3. “How safe is the area surrounding this home?” While looking at a home, it is important that you ask the real estate agent for more information on the neighborhood or area you are considering—especially when it comes to safety. Many seniors who buy after retirement are living alone and it is important to make sure that the home they will be living in is safe.
  4. 4. “Are there any additional fees?” Fees such as HOA costs can make up a majority of a monthly mortgage payment and seniors need to be fully aware of what these fees are before they get too set on a home. For example, seniors looking to buy into a retirement community, need to be clear on the additional costs and HOA fees that go into this purchase. Speaking of HOAs, seniors who are buying in a HOA community should be clear on what things are and are not covered with the association including shoveling the sidewalks or any exterior maintenance.
  5. 5. “How much are the property taxes and utility bills?” For seniors who are happily retired and no longer working, it is important to make sure that any home they buy is well within their budget—so they don’t have to worry. While a home may seem affordable on paper, it is important to be clear on the cost of property taxes and what the current owner is paying for their utilities. An agent should be able to secure this information for any prospective buyer.
  6. 6. “Are there any warranties on the property?” Before buying a home, seniors should make sure they have as much information as possible on the property, including what appliances are new and if they have any warranties as well as structural improvements or big-ticket items like the roof. It is important for most seniors to be able to find a home that will require very little work and upkeep. While older homes do have a lot of charm, they are also going to require a lot of work—especially when compared to newer properties that are still covered by certain warranties.

Buying a home as a senior can be a rather complex undertaking. Seniors have a great deal to think about when buying a new home as they need to make sure it not only meets their needs now, but that it is a place they can comfortably age in place in well into their future. Any older adult buying a home not only needs to keep these questions in mind, but make sure that they are partnering with an established real estate agent that has worked with seniors in the past.


Source: The 6 Most Important Things Every Senior Should Ask Their Real Estate Agent

All The Single Ladies: Why Are So Many Older Single Women Buying Homes?

All The Single Ladies: Why Are So Many Older Single Women Buying Homes?

Millennials, millennials, millennials. It’s all we’ve heard about in the real estate market for the last several years, with a sprinkle of Baby Boomers thrown in. But here’s who we should be talking about: Women. Older women, to be exact.

New data from the U.S. Census that was analyzed by economist Ralph McLaughlin “suggests single woman over 55 are the fastest-growing demographic of home buyers,” said Builder Magazine. That doesn’t mean they comprise the predominant buyer group; that goes to married couples, at 65 percent. But the numbers are interesting, nonetheless, especially when you consider that home purchases by single women last year measured 18 percent compared to only seven percent by their single male counterparts.

We’ve famously written about female homebuyers before, back in 2015. Back then, Our Living Single: Buying a House Without a Spouse article focused on this growing niche of homebuyers regardless of age, noting that “the National Association of Realtors reports that since the mid-1990s, single women have purchased homes at nearly twice the rate of single men. Last year, single female homeowners made up 18 percent of household composition in the association’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, compared to 10 percent for single men.”

The new U.S. Census Current Population Survey, which covered 60,000 households, showed that “the share of home purchases by single women in 2017 – including never – married individuals, widows and divorcées — hit 22.8 percent, the highest on record,” said the Washington Post.

Perhaps most surprising is who comprises the largest percentage of single female buyers according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Generational Trends Report: 72 and older.

When it comes to real estate, Gramma’s got it going on.

So what’s behind the trend? A number of things.

They’re downsizing. Women live longer than men, statistically, so many of these home purchases could be driven by the death of a spouse and/or the desire to trade a pricey and/or too large place for something better suited for one person. The study did not take into account how many of these buyers were already homeowners with a residence to sell.

Investment potential. “Primarily, older women are choosing to invest in real estate,” said CNBC.

Longer lifespans mean more confidence in longevity. A couple of generations back, it would have been unheard of for a single woman to buy a home by herself, let alone at the age of 72. The dream of so many of our grandparents was to pay off their home and be free and clear. Entering into a 15- or 30-year mortgage at an age when many are already retired is no longer a deterrent for these trailblazing women.

“They want stability. They want to have control over their monthly expenses,” said CNBC. “They’re going to be where their children or friends are. They’re not whimsical at that age.”

They’re looking for a multi-generational living situation. This is a trend that’s been on the rise for many years, and the numbers don’t lie. According to the Census, one in five home buyers between the ages of 53 and 62 purchased a multi-generational home.

Rents are pricey…and still rising in many areas. The data shows that 23 percent “of single women cited rising rents as a ‘trigger’ motivation behind a home purchase,”  said the Washington Post. This is far beyond the average for all buyer groups, which is 16 percent.


Source: All The Single Ladies: Why Are So Many Older Single Women Buying Homes?