How to Deal with Cranky Toddlers During the Move

How to Deal with Cranky Toddlers During the Move

Moving is an overwhelming experience. It is difficult to say whether you are excited about the new place or melancholic about the one you are leaving behind. You are trying hard to handle all those jumbled up emotions, along with the stress of getting everything done on time. The last thing you need is the background score of a wailing child.


Moving can get messy if you have a toddler in the house. Parents often complain that their kids get extra cranky during the move. While some of them will just cry and whine a lot, others might act out and throw tantrums. With everything lying around in boxes, your precious bundle of joy becomes an irritable bundle of distractions.

It may be difficult to deal with a cranky kid during the move but not impossible. Like a good parent, you need to investigate the cause behind this behavior first.

So, Why Do Kids Hate Moving?

According to various studies, moving can have a psychological impact on kids of all ages. While school going kids are sad about leaving their friends behind, toddlers can feel the lack of attention. When parents are too busy with packing and moving-related hassles, it becomes impossible to give kids the same amount of attention as before. Cranky behavior may be a sign that your child can tell the difference. In a way, it is your child’s call for attention.

Another reason toddlers become so difficult during a move is that this is the age when kids recognize change around them, and they are usually not thrilled about it. When you are moving things around and packing them in boxes, a toddler cannot tell what is going on but they can sense that something is definitely happening. Their minds are not ready to deal with the confusion and it stressed them out. Yes, toddlers’ stress is real and kids act out in response to that stress.
Now that you know that your child’s behavior is but a natural response to the change happening around, let’s see how you can deal with it in the most effective manner.

Stick to a Checklist

We will not mislead you into thinking that you can eliminate the possibility of your toddler creating a fuss. In fact, it is a possibility you will have to stay prepared for. Make sure you have a proper new apartment checklist to keep things organized. This way no matter how much fuss your toddler creates during the move, you can make sure that every box is checked at the end of the day. No amount of distraction will keep you from getting things done.

Seek Help

There is nothing wrong in asking for help from friends and family. You can always ask your kid’s favorite aunt or uncle to pay a visit or even stay a day to keep your child distracted from whatever is going on around them. If that is not possible, hire the nanny or babysitter who looks after your child when you are absent, If you take turns with whoever is looking after the toddler, they won’t feel deprived of the much needed parental attention. Avoiding help during this critical period will help neither you nor your child.

Manage Your Emotions

There is a high chance that your kid is unhappy because you don’t seem too happy either. Toddler’s age is one of learning and observation. They can feel the emotional energy around them. They can tell a frown from a smile. They can read the sign of stress on your face. More importantly, they look at how you deal with stress. As a parent, you can try to conceal signs of stress and frustration on your face or in your attitude. See if you are agitated. Try to display a positive behavior and attitude and your kid will walk to walk.

Don’t Disrupt the Routine

Moving doesn’t happen in a day. It is days and weeks of preparation and packaging. It can throw your entire routine upside down. While you may be big enough to deal with the disruption, your kid might not like it. Kids become difficult to deal with when things aren’t the way they are used to. Toddlers need sleep and meals as per their regular schedule. They also get used to things like family game time or TV time. Try to keep things as normal for them as possible. Naptime, especially, should remain undisturbed because a sleep-deprived toddler can wreak havoc around the house.

Give them Control

Toddler loves control. They love it when you let them be a part of what you are doing. You can use this fact to your advantage. Think of smaller tasks that your toddler can perform. You can start with their own stuff, like toys. Give them a box and tell them to safely put their toys in that box. You can make things even more interesting for them by letting them draw on the boxes. That will keep them busy and distracted, and they will take part in the process. However, for the sake of maintaining the routine, make sure your baby’s room is the last one you pack.

The Final Piece of Advice

While we talk about keeping the child distracted and routine undisturbed, it doesn’t imply that your child should be kept in darkness about the move. It is important to prepare them for the change, and more importantly, get them excited about it. A sudden change is not at all healthy for your toddler. It might disturb their sleeping and eating patterns and result in bad behavior. Try to ease them into the idea by paying a few visits to the new place before moving. Also, let them say goodbye to their old room so that they are more aware of the situation. Remember, your child is not being unreasonable. The crankiness is just a natural response to the change and lack of attention. Tend to them wisely and they will be as calm as a clam.


 JennyHarrisonJenny Harrison is a passionate home and lifestyle blogger. She loves to engage with readers who are seeking home and lifestyle-related information on the internet. She is a featured blogger at various high authority blogs and magazines in which she shared her research and experience with the vast online community. Currently associated with NYC moving company ‘All Around Moving Services Company Inc.’ Specializes in arranging and assembling services of professional and skilled local movers locally in New York City as well as areas in New Jersey, Connecticut and the Miami Dale area in South Florida for their blog operations. Follow her on twitter @MJennyHarrison for more updates.


Source: How to Deal with Cranky Toddlers During the Move

Is There Anything Left to Flip?

Is There Anything Left to Flip?

So you want to flip a home. Yeah, well, you and everybody else.

“Just more than 207,000 homes were flipped in 2017, according to a new report from Attom Data Solutions, which defines a flip as a property bought and sold in the same 12-month period,” said CNBC. “That is the highest number of flips in a decade. The number of people or companies flipping homes, 138,410, also jumped to a decade high.”

And therein lies the problem. With so many homes flipping and home flippers competing for the same properties, how does one even go about finding a place to buy these days?

We have some ideas.

Work with a savvy real estate agent

This is key because your exposure to distressed properties will be limited. Also, a savvy real estate agent may have connections—the kind of connections that could find you a flip before it hits the market.

Keep your eye on really distressed properties

Pass by an eyesore on your way to work every day? Is there a house down the street with an unkempt lawn and noticeable deferred maintenance? You never know what’s going on inside, but your Realtor may be able to find out. You could be in the right place at the right time to get a great deal and even help out someone who needs a hand by getting them out from under the home before it’s taken by the bank.

Go where the projected growth is

It may already be too late to score in a place that’s on one of those fastest-growing cities lists. Prices may have appreciated past the point of potential profit on a flip, and inventory is likely low. Instead, pay attention to cities that are projected to be on the rise so you can get in before everyone else does.

Look for estate sales

“What they could do to make it easier is combine the two. You know, Mr. Kline died yesterday, leaving behind a wife, two children, and a spacious three-bedroom apartment with a wood-burning fireplace.” — Billy Crystal’s Harry on the difficulty of finding a place in NYC in When Harry Met Sally

Turns out Harry was on to something. If you’re looking for a house to flip, you have to get creative. Poring through the MLS for a house may yield a winner here and there, but the competition from other would-be flippers is gonna be fierce. That probably means that if you do find something flip-worthy, you may end up paying more because you’re bidding against other people, and that will reduce your potential profit. Does that mean checking the obits? Probably not. But estate sales…now that’s another story.

Check in with landlords

Are there any rentals in your neighborhood? Maybe one of the owners would be willing to unload an underperforming home. Maybe that same individual doesn’t want the hassle of getting it ready for sale.

Don’t be afraid of the city

Dingy downtown areas in many cities across the country have turned many a would-be real estate investor into a flipping pro. In many cases, these buyers took a chance on an area that many would have described as “iffy.” Investors often call these “transitioning areas” and some pros, like Christina El Moussa from Flip or Flop, go right ahead and call them bad neighborhoods. These areas can provide great bang for the buck if you choose right.

“It seems like one year a particular neighborhood will be really ‘bad’ with a lot of vacancies and a high crime rate,” said El Moussa on Real Estate Elevated. “The next year the crime rate will be a little lower, and there’ll be fewer vacancies. The year after that, it’ll be an affordable neighborhood, and before you know it, people are paying a lot of money to get houses in the area.”
Don’t be afraid of the suburbs
Have you heard? The ‘burbs are hot, even with millennials, who many thought would always embrace the city lifestyle. One thing millennials want, however, is an updated, move-in ready property (unless they’re flipping, too!). You can grab their attention with a well-done property in a nice family neighborhood.

Watch for moving trucks

There’s a scene in the Sex and the City movie where Miranda, in searching of a new apartment in New York, runs into a building to inquire about a vacant apartment because she saw men loading up a moving truck out front (Apparently, all of our best ideas for finding a flip should come from movies filmed in New York!). While no one is recommending you go running into a home as someone is moving out, the moving truck is something to look out for in target neighborhoods. Someone who’s moving out under curious circumstances—no one in the neighborhood knew the home was for sale, it’s late at night, etc.—is someone you may want to pay attention to. It could be a foreclosure situation or some other opportunity you want to take advantage of before someone else does.

Look at auctions and foreclosure listings

“The first step in successful fix-and-flipping is finding the profitable property in the first place. You can call it investor’s common sense to look for properties in the best areas selling at low prices,” said Do Hard Money. “However, many new real estate investors come up empty-handed month after month until they finally give up in frustration. This is because they’re all doing the same thing: they’re looking in the same place. Most of the new flippers look on the MLS for potential properties. Dare to do differently. Look for properties by lesser-known means, such as foreclosure listings, estate sales, short sales and real estate auctions.”

Check the schools

Don’t have kids? Doesn’t matter. Your buyer may, and that means the schools are important. And, in truth, even buyers who don’t now or may never have kids still seek out good schools because of their positive impact on home values. “If you’ve found an affordable home in a neighborhood that’s on its way up, your next step is to research the local schools,” said Money Crashers. “Homes in good school systems sell faster, and command higher prices, than homes in mediocre or poor school systems. Use websites like GreatSchools, SchoolDigger, and Niche to see rankings and reviews of local schools.”


Source: Is There Anything Left to Flip?

Halloween Decorating and Marketing Tips For Selling Your House

Halloween Decorating and Marketing Tips For Selling Your House

Planning to deck your house out with ghosts and skeletons and every last one of the pumpkins and gourds in your supermarket’s produce department? If you’re also planning to sell your home, you might want to rethink that strategy.

There are mixed opinions on how much to decorate for Halloween—or if you should at all—when selling your home. Can it actually help you sell a home if you turn the holiday into a marketing opportunity? Possibly. We took the temperate of the industry for some guidance.

When should you put up your decorations?

You may want to keep an eye on your neighbors for this one. If you’re the first house on the block to decorate, your home may stand out for the wrong reasons. If you’re still worried that your Halloween décor may distract from the home, follow Mass Realty’s advice. “Overall, you won’t want to put up spooky Halloween decorations until the night of Halloween and make sure to take them down the next morning,” they said. “Instead, it’s alright to put up seasonal decorations, such as pumpkins, bright leaves, or colorful corn cobs. That way, no one gets offended and you can keep them up for weeks to feel the spirit of the season.”

Should you continue your annual spooky theme?

You may be known for your elaborate displays that have a different theme (Friday the 13th, Carrie) each year, but perhaps it’s best to forgo that when trying to sell your home. “If Halloween is your holiday, it is best to take a break this year,” said Shorewest Realtors. “Over decorating will hide your home and turn off potential buyers. Instead think of how you will decorate your new home!”

If you do want to add some Halloween-specific decorations, use common sense. “Experts say keep Halloween decorations neutral,” said Lyst House. “So what Halloween decorations should you avoid? Well for starters…clowns, dead children, blood and gore, and rotten pumpkins.”

Time your listing photos right

Be careful with your listing photos if you do decorate for Halloween. If your home is still for sale come Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and even Valentine’s Day, your photos will look extremely dated. This will likely turn off buyers, who may wonder what’s wrong with you home because it’s been on the market a while. A good tip is to use spring photos, if possible, said Fortune Builders. “If you can, try to take property photos when the sun is shining and you can take advantage of all the great natural light that spring has to offer. It will help your property stand out in a cold (and gloomy) market.”

Don’t miss a marketing opportunity

“If you must decorate for the holiday, hold a Halloween open house to attract buyers with children or those young at heart,” said Mass Realty. “Set the date for the weekend before the spooky holiday to bring in more potential buyers. Offer homemade cookies and a $10 gift certificate to an ice cream shop for the adult with the best costume who registers at the door. Take photos to compare costumes after the open house. Have your real estate agent contact the winner to pick up the prize, giving the agent time to discuss the home with all who registered.”

Turn it into a party

We love this idea from Opendoor, who threw Halloween Open Houses in three Arizona cities on Halloween night last year. “We greeted trick-or-treaters at three Opendoor houses in Glendale, Gilbert, and in North Central Phoenix,” they said. “We gave out more than 1,000 candy bars…as well as other tasty treats. We had games and activities for the whole family, including a fun real estate trivia game. The big hit, though, was the haunted GIF photo booth to capture the fabulous costumes of our visitors—we had lines at every house! The event was a huge success. We saw more than 1,200 guests across all three homes and, more importantly, we brought our neighbors across the valley together on Halloween night.”


Source: Halloween Decorating and Marketing Tips For Selling Your House

Buy Real Estate Now

Buy Real Estate Now

Don’t have the resources to purchase real estate on your own? Do what I did, buy real estate with partners.

I will have an entire series on this subject soon if there is an interest. We call it “Syndication” and it may be your key to financial freedom and a successful real estate business.

Considerations When Purchasing Property With Others

Whenever you consider owning property jointly, there are long-term considerations to bear in mind. We have highlighted a few important points to clarify before going to contract:

1. Look at the relationship of all the buyers. As college roommates, the longevity of the relationship may be limited to a few years. Project what will happen if one party wants to be bought out at a later date. Can one of the buyers handle the mortgage payment and buy out alone? Often times it will take both incomes to support the payments. If one party opts for a change, where will that leave the other owner? Will you be forced to sell? It may be prudent to build in a “notice” clause in your agreement to allow for time for one party to sell their interest. Do you, as the remaining buyer have a right of “first refusal?” What if the other buyer sells to someone you are not comfortable with? These are questions that may dampen the initial enthusiasm of home ownership but are critical to harmony later on when the relationship may shift for any number of reasons.

2. Provisions on an agreement might need to address additional persons one or the other of the owners may want to bring into the jointly owned property. If buyer #1 brings in another person to live with, that makes buyer #2 crazy, then it is better to have some kind of provision for settlement prearranged for possible problems or complications.

3. Decide how the title will be held prior to purchase. As joint tenants, if one party dies, the other party enjoys the right of survivorship. However, if the title is held in a tenancy in common, one party can dispose of their share to whomever they choose, leaving the other divisional owner at a possible disadvantage depending on the circumstances.

4. Outline a set of guidelines for repairs in advance. If one party wants to put on a new roof, and the other party doesn’t want to invest the money, what happens? Delineating specific points of repair or replacement can make improvements an easier subject to deal with. Keeping track of which owner has contributed the investment/improvement dollars can make reimbursement at the time of sale easier and clearer.

These are just a handful of the questions you may want to ask yourself before investing with others in the homeownership/real estate investment game.


Source: Buy Real Estate Now

Scary New Trend: Lying About Income on a Mortgage Application

Scary New Trend: Lying About Income on a Mortgage Application

Would you lie about your income to qualify for a mortgage? According to CoreLogic, lots of people are. “Mortgage fraud risk jumped more than 12 percent year over year at the end of the second quarter, said CNBC of the CoreLogic findings. “One in every 109 mortgage applications is estimated to have indications of fraud.”

With high home prices and rents, rising mortgage rates, and heavy competition for available properties, potential buyers are feeling more pressure to own a place than ever. “As a result, an increasing number of buyers are lying and cheating,” they said. CoreLogic’s six fraud indicators include: “identity, income, occupancy, property, transaction and undisclosed real estate debt,” and they noted the highest percentage of mortgage fraud risk in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Washington, D.C., and New Mexico.

The property data and analysis company found that fraud related to income reporting was up 22 percent in an attempt by borrowers to circumvent strict debt-to-income limits for mortgage lending. “Ominously, most of it is not traceable to criminals trying to bilk lenders out of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars through traditional loan swindles,” said the Washington Post. “Rather, it’s increasingly what researchers call ‘bona fide’ borrowers who don’t have the income to qualify but are determined to get a home mortgage, even if they have to mislead the lender.”

They’re accomplishing this through Internet sites that help borrowers fudge their income and even provide a confirmation service on cross-check. “A casual search will result in any number of online services that will not only generate fake pay stubs, but will also answer phone calls and ‘confirm’ income verbally, all for a fee,” said CNBC. Another scam involves borrowers who claim to have received an interest-free down payment gift from a relative and who are able to disguise these borrowed funds with a faux gift letter they found online.

The Washington Post also noted that, “Fannie Mae recently warned lenders via several alerts about a loan-fraud technique in which applicants claim to work for specific companies and provide income and employment information that appears to be bulletproof but turns out to be totally bogus. Applicants frequently claim to have been students immediately before their current employment. This makes it difficult or impossible for lenders to pull tax transcripts from the Internal Revenue Service for the year spent as a ‘student.’”

The risk is high all around

Borrowers may think of padding their income as a harmless white lie that has little downside if they’re able to meet their goal of buying a home, however mortgage fraud carries with it some serious risks. “What are the possible consequences? Getting turned down for the mortgage is the least of them,” said Credit.com. “If your falsehood is discovered after you get the loan, your lender could boost your interest rate or even demand immediate repayment in full. Tax-related falsehoods could get you in trouble with the IRS. In addition, penalties for mortgage fraud—which is what lying on a mortgage application is—range as high as 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. You likely won’t face a penalty like that for a small exaggeration or omission, but you could still end up with a fine and a conviction.”

And then there’s the risk to the housing industry if this current fraud trend is at all responsible for causing another crash; CoreLogic found a “far higher risk for fraud in loans coming from wholesale lenders or brokers—which don’t fund the loans but instead gather a borrower’s information and shop it to lenders,” said CNBC. “That implies brokers are also committing fraud. This was common during the last housing boom, when mortgage fraud helped bring about one of the worst financial crises in U.S. history.”


Source: Scary New Trend: Lying About Income on a Mortgage Application

Buying a Rental Property? Here’s What You Can Expect

Buying a Rental Property? Here’s What You Can Expect

If you run across someone who owns multiple rental properties, it’s very possible that individual never intended to own so many. In addition, those who own a rental property might also be “accidental” landlords after having inherited a property or renting out their current home while buying another.

Real estate investors can often find themselves quitting their current job and buying and renting real estate full time. Real estate is an asset that can both appreciate in value while at the same time providing a monthly cash flow. You’d be hard pressed to think of any other physical asset that can do that. So why is not uncommon to meet someone who owns several rentals? It might very well be due to qualifying for a mortgage to buy and finance an investment property.

Conventional financing will ask for a down payment of at least 20 percent of the sales price and with a 25 percent down payment the terms get a little better. Interest rates for rentals are slightly higher compared to an owner occupied property. Investors have the choice of both fixed and adjustable rate mortgages ranging in terms from 10 to 30 years. But with the first rental being purchased, the buyers don’t benefit from the income derived from the rental when qualifying. Instead, the buyers must qualify based upon the new mortgage payment, including property taxes and insurance, without adding rental income into the mix. This is in addition to any current mortgage payment. But all that changes with the next property.

Subsequent purchases of investment real estate do in fact use the income from the rental to help qualify. Investors want to cash flow on their investments each month and if the rents received from a potential investment aren’t enough to cover the new mortgage payment, the investor will likely pass. This means the next rental property is no longer an expense but instead generates monthly income. Who wouldn’t want that type of investment? Yes, property values rise and fall but in time values do rise, contributing to the owner’s equity position. One caveat, you’ll need to own the first rental for at least two years showing you can both manage the property and the unit provided regular income.

Speaking of managing the property, when you become a landlord, you’ll have the occasional tenant issue. Remember when you first rented and the sink disposal went out? Did you go to the appliance store and buy a new one? No. You called the landlord. You can expect the same when you buy your first rental. But when you buy your next one and the next one you might want to think about hiring a property manager to take care of these issues for you.

You can think of your first rental as a learning experience. But once you’ve owned that first rental for a couple of years, don’t be surprised if you start shopping for your second.


Source: Buying a Rental Property? Here’s What You Can Expect

Decorating Tricks for Hiding Kids’ Messes While Selling Your Home

Decorating Tricks for Hiding Kids’ Messes While Selling Your Home

Keeping the house together during the selling process is a challenge. Making sure everything is just right for showings and open houses can be exhausting and overwhelming Throw kids into the mix, and things can get downright chaotic. Fortunately, a few small decor choices can help conceal kid clutter—changing your “for sale” sign to “sold.”

Hide in Plain Sight

With overflowing toy boxes and tea-party set-ups overtaking the living room, it may be unrealistic to banish all kid stuff to other rooms. Instead, make use of your furniture’s built-in compartments and drawers. Have a storage ottoman next to the sofa? Fill it with everything from action figures and dolls to coloring books, art supplies, stuffed animals and more. Divide the credenza in the family room so that your little ones can store toys behind its closed doors. Accent the open shelves with ceramic vases, family photos, decorative carafes and other appealing decor items.

If your built-in storage is already in use, opt for two or three woven baskets with lids instead. Place them wherever you want, whether it’s next to the loveseat or on the bottom shelf of a console table. Buyers will be too busy appreciating your home’s cleanliness and open floor space to think about what’s inside.

Hide Within Reach

Families in smaller living spaces might consider another strategy—underbed and attic storage. While the underside of your child’s bed may be already home to all sorts of tchotchkes, encourage kids to neaten it up with rolling plastic or rattan storage bins. Discreetly stow away everything from dress-up clothes to seasonal clothing in multiple containers. Slide them out of sight, then help your little one make the bed with an oversized quilt that conceals what’s hidden below. The best part? These containers can still be used after moving into the new bedroom or playroom.

For toys that are too big to fit in this space, such as kids’ teepees and play tents, consider collapsing them and stowing behind a dresser. If the dresser has legs that makes it easy to spot what’s behind it, opt for a chest instead.

Rotate Toys in Longer-Term Storage

Consider storing bins of toys longer-term and swapping them out every few weeks. In addition to the attic and basement, the back corner of a deep closet is a great place to stack storage tubs filled with everything from building blocks and board games to miniature cars and pull toys. Strategically hide them behind long coats so a quick peek inside the closet doesn’t give anything away. Better yet, switch out the storage tubs for suitcases. Rotate the toys in storage every few weeks–kids will have renewed interest when they come out of hiding.

Minimize and Add Some Style

Rather than attempting to conceal every toy, consider downsizing. Prior to the first showing, help your little one sort through toys, determining what still gets played with and what doesn’t. Sort into “keep,” “donate,” and “throw away.” This streamlines the cleanup process and makes it easier to stow away what remains. Bonus? You’ll have less to move when the time comes. For every item your children give up, consider rewarding them with small change or a trip to a favorite restaurant or ice cream shop.

For kids’ areas like bedrooms and playrooms, embrace the playful nature and just add a little style. Choose bookcases and desks with useful cubbies and shelves, and dress up the space with vibrant and unique artwork. Inspire imagination in potential buyers (and keep the space useful while your home is on the market) by choosing a few colorful supplies and knick-knacks to display.

Strategically rearrange home decor to hide kids’ messes while your house is being shown, and potential buyers will see a clean space that they’ll want to make their own.

 

Heather Cordonnier is a writer for Crate and Barrel. She specializes in sharing her style-savvy tips on DIY and lifestyle blogs.


Source: Decorating Tricks for Hiding Kids’ Messes While Selling Your Home

Study Says Buying a Home is Cheaper Than Renting

Study Says Buying a Home is Cheaper Than Renting

As Canada’s homeownership rate drops for the first time in 45 years, a new study says those who buy a home are better off financially than those who rent.

If you can afford to buy a home, do it. That’s the message from a new study by Mortgage Professionals Canada, which compared the costs of buying versus renting in 266 scenarios across Canada.

“The report demonstrates that the money Canadians are spending on monthly rent, if used instead to finance a home, would be a very beneficial investment over time,” says Will Dunning, author of the report. “The costs of owning and renting continue to rise across Canada. However, rents continue to rise over time whereas the largest cost of homeownership – the mortgage payment – typically maintains a fixed amount over a set period of time. The result is that the cost of renting will increase more rapidly than the cost of homeownership.”

“Buying a home also has more long-term upside than renting,” says Dunning. “Everyone wants to save for their future, but rising costs, including rent, are making that more difficult. The lower life-time costs of homeownership mean that owners have more ability to save for retirement than do renters. The financial benefits of homeownership go beyond equity accumulations.”

The report comes as Canada’s homeownership rate is dropping for the first time in 45 years. A report by Point2Homes found that 11 of 13 provinces saw the share of homeownership drop in the 2016 Census, according to Statistics Canada.

Homeowners still outnumber renters by more than two-to-one. The homeownership rate hit a high of 69 per cent in 2011 but dropped to 67.8 per cent in 2016. The number of renters rose from 31 per cent in 2011 to 32.2 per cent in 2016.

Dunning acknowledges in the report that it’s not easy for first-time buyers to come up with a down payment, due to rising house prices and government housing policies such as the mortgage stress test. It requires borrowers to qualify for a mortgage at two percentage points higher than the posted mortgage rate.

The study determined that across the dataset of 266 locations and different dwelling types, the total cost of homeownership is an average of $3,052 per month, compared to $2,511 for renting the same property.

“However, the cost of ownership includes a substantial amount of principal repayment ($990 in the first month). Since this results in a reduction in the amount of mortgage owing, it is a form of saving,” says Dunning. “There is, therefore, a net cost of homeownership that excludes the repayment of the principal. This net cost of $2,062 per month is lower than the cost of renting by $449 per month. On this basis it is, on average across the dataset, currently cheaper to own than rent.”

He says that since the homeowner is tying up a lot of capital with the down payment and closing costs, they should consider the rate of return on that investment.

“In this data set there is a negative rate of return (-5.2 per cent per year) when the total cost of homeownership is calculated,” he says. But when calculating rate of return, “the repayment of principal must be taken into account (since it is a legitimate component of the return on investment). On this basis, the rate of return at the beginning is an annualized rate of 4.3 per cent.”

While some people might consider this “inadequate,” Dunning says that since buying a house is a low-risk investment, a high return on investment shouldn’t be expected. His calculations did not include any capital appreciation on the home, since there is no guarantee that house values will go up. “In most situations, homeownership is justified financially without any need to expect price appreciation,” he says.

Another advantage is that homeownership in Canada has a tax-free rate of return, which other investments do not.

In Dunning’s scenarios, if the mortgage interest rate does not change, in 10 years the cost of ownership will be lower than the cost of renting in 263 out of the 266 cases. If the rate rises a full percentage point after five years, owning will still be cheaper than renting in 92 per cent of the cases, and if the rate is up by two per cent after five years, 82 per cent of the homeowners in the scenarios still come out on top.

“Looking even farther ahead, by the time the mortgage is fully repaid in 25 years or less, the cost of owning will be vastly lower than the cost of renting in every one of the 266 cases,” says Dunning.

He also looked at data from Statistics Canada to compare the wealth of homeowners versus renters and found that homeowners ìare distinctly better off financially compared to tenants who are similar in age and level of income. The difference is not just in terms of their home equity. Owners have more non-housing wealth than tenants. This may reflect that because owners have lower lifetime housing costs than tenants, they have more opportunity to accrue other savings.î

Dunning adds: “In this light, is it any wonder that Canadians remain highly interested in homeownership? Contrary to what might be asserted by some ‘housing bears’, home buying is not the result of a ‘cult’, a ‘mania’ or a ‘delusion’. It is the result of a reality that, even at much higher house prices, and even with the risk that interest rates may increase substantially, in most situations Canadians, over long periods of time, are still much better off as homeowners than as tenants.”


Source: Study Says Buying a Home is Cheaper Than Renting

5 Mistakes Home Sellers Make

5 Mistakes Home Sellers Make

There’s no shortage of advice for home buyers. Getting approved for a mortgage or how to keep on top of a credit report is certainly good advice but there should be just as much attention given to those who are selling their home. After all, home sellers also typically turn around and become home buyers. For most, selling the home means coming up with the necessary funds for a down payment and closing costs. Here are five common mistakes home sellers make.

 

Wrong Price

The first misstep is to price the home wrong. Either too high or too low. Getting the price “just right” means getting the most out of your home while at the same time not pricing it out of the market to the point where very few, if any, potential buyers reach out. If you have some time to sell, you could list your home on the higher side compared to recent sales in your area. If you need to sell quickly, the lower end can help. You should contact a couple of real estate agents and ask for a Comparative Market Analysis.

Flying Solo

Some home owners think they can save a few thousand dollars by selling a home without a real estate agent when in fact it can cost someone thousands of dollars by not using a real estate agent. You simply can’t provide the reach that a licensed real estate professional can. When a home is placed into the local Multiple Listing Service, the home is then available for potential home buyers all across the country and not just your neighborhood. A deeper buyer pool means more offers.

Show Ready

One thing you’ll need to keep on top of is the selling condition of your home. This means both inside your home and out. How’s the curb appeal? When someone first pulls up to your home are they automatically drawn in? Or maybe the lawn needs some work and the shrubbery is a little ragged. Keep the lawn trimmed and free of clutter. Power wash the sidewalk, driveway and front porch. Inside, you also need to de-cluttter. Open up each room by placing bulky furniture into a storage unit. Take down family photos and portraits. When buyers walk into your home they want to be able to visualize it being theirs, and having an instant reminder that it’s not by having family photos all around detracts from that.
Inspection Home buyers are advised to have a potential property inspected to discover anything that needs to be fixed, updated or repaired. But you too should hire an inspector to perform a complete run-down from basement to attic looking for anything that needs your attention. The buyers will order an inspection so you want to know what they’ll discover before they do with their own.

Getting Anxious

Don’t get too anxious and don’t jump at the very first offer. Your sales price will probably be much higher than what you originally paid for it, but take a deep breath when that first offer comes in. Give your agent plenty of time to list your home and hold open houses to gain a wider audience and have some patience. If you accept an offer very early on in the process, you might be costing yourself thousands of dollars and no more offers.


Source: 5 Mistakes Home Sellers Make

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

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

Hard Money Basics: What Everyone Should Know About These Loans

Hard Money Basics: What Everyone Should Know About These Loans

When it comes to real estate lending options, there is no shortage of different types of loan products available in the market today. However, one of the most common, and often most misunderstood, are hard money loans. If you aren’t familiar with these loans they are a unique type of lending opportunity that can help both buyers and investors get the financing they need.

These transactions are most commonly used in fix-and-flips, rent-stabilize-refinancing deals, cash-out refinancing, land scenarios, construction deals, bankruptcy or foreclosure payoffs or transactions when the deal is particularly time-sensitive. In fact, one of the biggest perks of using hard money loans is how quick they are when compared to traditional banks.

So, What Exactly Are Hard Money Loans?

Hard money loans are fast—but there is more than that to these lending options. Simply put, hard money loans are an alternative to a mortgage and are designed for borrowers who need money quickly and who only wish to hold on to a property for a short period of time. Hard money loans can be used in a variety of settings, but are perhaps most common for those taking on fix and flip projects and who want to invest in real estate in an effort to make some quick cash.

Typically, these loans are meant for short-term only (most commonly 12 months), but that doesn’t always have to be the case.

These loans are also becoming a popular option for borrowers who are unable to get a conventional real estate loan. Lenders do not use a traditional underwriting process, and instead look at every situation individually. For borrowers who have had foreclosures or issues in the past, this can be great news as many hard money lenders won’t even look at the borrower’s credit history—they only concentrate on the property that is being invested in.

Hard money loans are financed by private hard money lenders. Typically, they are private individuals or small groups that lend money to those who need it. Since these loans aren’t funded by a bank, they are typically much more flexible.

The Loan-to-Value Ratio

When you apply for a hard money loan, chances are you will hear a great deal about the loan-to-value ratio. Hard money lenders will lend money based on the property you are buying, instead of your credit score and background. Instead of looking at assets or equity alone, the primary thing the lender will look at is the property being purchased. This is the main collateral that the lenders will use. This does make it riskier for lenders so they will typically look for a loan-to-value ratio of around 50-75%.

The term “value” in the loan-to-value amount is actually based on what the lender could expect to get for the property in a one to four month selling time. This is why these loans are so popular for fix and flip properties.

Important Facts About Getting a Hard Money Loan

If you think that a hard money loan may be the right option or you, there are a few things you should know about the application process and what goes into securing one of these loans.

The first is that the applications are simpler. Everyone who has ever gotten a mortgage before knows how complex a mortgage application can be. The good news is, hard money loan applications are much simpler. This also means they can be approved much faster. In fact, many of them are approved in just 24 hours. Closing can typically happen within 10 days.

However, while hard money loans are significantly easier to get than mortgages, lenders are still going to need some basic information. This includes:

–    The location of the property
–    Recent appraisals
–    Inspection data
–    Purchase price of the property
–    Planned resale price of the property
–    Estimated remodeling costs—if applicable
–    Borrower’s credit score
–    Total assets and income of the borrower
–    Level of real estate experience from the borrower

Once you are fully aware of what goes into a hard money loan and how it may be able to help you secure the finances you need—it is time to find a hard money lender. The good news is, there are many hard money lenders out there that are available to provide those who need it with the financing they are looking for.

Hard money loans aren’t for every situation, but they are a very popular and very reliable form of financial backing for those who need to quickly and easily get a large sum of cash.


Source: Hard Money Basics: What Everyone Should Know About These Loans

What Do New Home Buyers Want? The Surprising Results

What Do New Home Buyers Want? The Surprising Results

When it comes to new home design, are current floorplans and features meeting or anticipating buyers’ needs? A recent survey of future homebuyers – those who intend to purchase within 10 years – from Florida, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia builder Ashton Woods produced some interesting responses that could influence how new home builders approach home design and how buyers respond to them.

While we can review the survey results with a liberal grain of salt, knowing that different buyer segments in different areas may have varying wants and needs – and also knowing that what people say they want prior to buying, and what they end up choosing when factors including budget and practicality are woven in at the time of purchase – the Ashton Woods survey is still useful in examining what may be shifting buyer preferences.

Here are some of the, perhaps surprising, results of the survey.

Buyers are over white kitchens. Or, at least, they don’t top their must-have list. “All-white kitchens are now second choice,” said the Washington Post. “The survey found an overwhelming majority of buyers prefer natural wood cabinets for their kitchen, pushing white cabinets to second place followed by distressed wood cabinets.”

Buyers would trade bedroom space for more living space. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed had this preference!

Bye bye, bonus rooms. Buyers still want bonus space, but they want it to match their lifestyle pursuits, and they’re willing to pay for it. Think hobby rooms personalized for yoga, crafting, or wine tasting. “76 percent of the homeowners surveyed said they would spend extra to incorporate a hobby room in their next house,” said the Washington Post.

Home offices remain a priority across all age groups. Almost 70 percent of those surveyed want a designated space, not just wireless capabilities that allow them to work on the couch or at the kitchen table.

Additionally, “Personalization is a priority. When choosing a builder, 75 percent of those surveyed said they are more likely to select a builder that offers design options, and 67 percent said they are willing to pay more for those options,” said Professional Builder.


Source: What Do New Home Buyers Want? The Surprising Results

The Best Time to Sell Your House, Based on Real Estate Market Data

The Best Time to Sell Your House, Based on Real Estate Market Data

It’s summertime and you’ve been thinking about selling the house. The weather is great which makes it easy to show your home, and the kids are out of school to help you pack everything up (or just eat ice cream and watch you do it).

If you’re wondering the best time to sell your house and want to take advantage of the current sellers market, then we’ve got the answers for you below.

When to List to Get the Best Price and Sell the Fastest

Every day real estate surges forward with a new abundance of real estate tech tools. These tools are the building blocks of the future of real estate and help to predict the temperature of the market.

We’ve used one of these tools to give you the best time to sell your house based on cold, hard numbers.

If you need to put your home on the market now, you’re in luck. Nationwide housing market data shows August as the best time to list a house in order to get the highest sale price. August was the best time to list overall from 2014 – 2017. Real estate transactions often take a few months to close, which means that homes listed in August will most likely close in November. Homes that closed in November over 2014 – 2017 sold for 4.04% higher than the national average.

If you want your home to sell quickly, aim for a close date this month or a close date in August. Overall from 2014 – 2017, homes that closed in July and August closed 7 days faster than the National average.

You can also predict the best time to sell your house in your local market by searching your city and state in this tool and state in this tool. For example, the best time to sell a house in Las Vegas is the Summer, aiming for a Fall close date.

Current State of the Market: Sellers Hold the Cards

If getting out while it is good is your goal, then it may be in your best interest to sell your house now. Currently the nation is in a sellers market, which means that the demand for homes exceeds the number of homes on the market. Basically, there are more buyers in need of homes than there are people selling.

The problem is that some people are predicting a cooling of the real estate market in 2018. According to USA Today, home buying may be less accessible in 2018 because of higher interest rates and rising home prices. The National Association of Realtors predicts interest rates around 4.5-4.6% for this year.

If you need to sell, it might be best to list the home now for fear of the market leveling off and a big loss of buyers in 2018.


Source: The Best Time to Sell Your House, Based on Real Estate Market Data

Important Clauses In Your Real Estate Contract

Important Clauses In Your Real Estate Contract

You have just found your dream house, and would like to buy it. What do you do now?

When dealing with real estate matters, the law is clear: everything has to be in writing. Thus, you will need a sales contract, which will spell out all of the terms, conditions and special requirements which you may need in order to conclude the transaction and go to closing (settlement) on the house.

If there is no real estate agent involved, your attorney should be able to assist you in preparing the contract offer. If there is a real estate agent, you can get a form sales contract from the agent. In fact, the agent should be able to assist you in preparing the document for presentation to the seller, although your attorney should review it before you sign.

. Typically, the buyer makes a written offer to the seller. The seller has three alternatives:

1. The contract can be accepted;

2. The contract can be rejected in its entirety, or

3. The contract offer will be countered, with different terms.

It is rare that the seller will opt for alternatives one or two; in most cases, the potential buyer will receive a counter-offer. Then, the buyer has the same three alternatives.

There are certain things which must be included in any sales contract.

1. The property must be clearly identified, preferably by street address.

2. The contract must be contingent upon your obtaining financing. You should allow yourself some time — usually 30-45 days — in which to make application from a mortgage lender and get a written commitment that you have been approved for the loan.

3. Unless you are an experienced contractor, it is advisable you make the contract contingent on your obtaining a satisfactory home inspection. You should give yourself 5-7 days after the contract is signed to have the property inspected. If you are not satisfied for any reason after you receive a written report from the inspector, you should have the right to terminate the contract, and get back your earnest money deposit. Although another option is to give the seller three days to let you know if any or all of your issues will be corrected.

4. How much earnest money should you put up when you sign the sales contract? There is no magic formula and no law dictating a certain percentage of the purchase price. When you sign a contract, in order to make it a valid, legal document, the buyer should put up some money as a good faith earnest money deposit. These funds will be held by the real estate broker or the settlement attorney until settlement takes or until either the buyer is entitled to a return of the deposit (because the contingencies cannot be met) or the buyer is in breach of the contract, in which case the moneys would go to the seller.

Real estate agents and brokers usually ask that the buyer put up 10 percent of the purchase price as this earnest money deposit. However, buyers can put up more or less, so long as the seller agrees with the amount. Indeed, in many real estate contracts, the earnest money deposit consists only of a promissory note signed by the buyer, to be redeemed at the settlement itself.

Buyers should understand that although everything in real estate is negotiable, the earnest money should be large enough to convince the seller that you are seriously interested in going forward with the purchase. I usually recommend this deposit be approximately five percent of the purchase price.

5. Finally, the contract should be contingent upon the buyer obtaining — no later than the date of settlement — a “termite” letter. This is a report from a licensed pest inspection company indicating that the house is free and clear of termites and other wood-boring infestation. Some contracts require the seller to obtain and pay for this report; other contracts put the burden on the purchaser. Either way, this is a critical report which all buyers should receive — and carefully review — before settlement is completed.

Many of these contingencies are time-sensitive. You — as buyer — have so many days in which to get financing and so many days in which to complete the home inspection. Mark your calendar with these due dates, and make sure you act on these contingencies before the time has expired. Otherwise, it will be too late and you will be legally bound to comply with the terms of the contract, and proceed to settlement.


Source: Important Clauses In Your Real Estate Contract

Hey, First-Time Buyer: This Is Where You Should (And Shouldn't) Buy A Home

Hey, First-Time Buyer: This Is Where You Should (And Shouldn't) Buy A Home

If you’re looking for the perfect place to buy your first home, you’re likely overwhelmed with the “what,” “where,” and “when.” Many places across the country have seen growth that has pushed prices far beyond what a typical first-time buyer can handle. But that hasn’t stopped them from getting into the market.

“Buying a home for the first time is an exciting and important milestone for many Americans,” said WalletHub. “Their purchases make up a sizable chunk of the market, too. In 2017, 38% of all U.S. single-family home purchases were made by first-time buyers.”

So where should you be looking if it’s time for you to put an end to rent? WalletHub’s new list of “Best & Worst Cities for First-Time Home Buyers” can help.

“WalletHub compared 300 cities of varying sizes across 27 key indicators of market attractiveness, affordability and quality of life,” they said. “Our data set ranges from cost of living to real-estate taxes to property-crime rate.”

Beyond their overall score based on an affordability rank, a real estate market rank, and a quality of life rank, we’re looking at their top five and further breaking down the pros and cons of living there.

No. 1: Broken Arrow, OK

Pros: “Broken Arrow offers both small-town charm and big-city amenities” since it’s close to Tulsa, said Livability. “Some of Oklahoma’s most scenic natural areas surround the community, making it a top spot for outdoor activities, while its cultural attractions draw people seeking arts and entertainment, especially in downtown’s Rose District. Broken Arrow also includes a thriving business climate, three renowned hospitals, and excellent public and private schools.

Cons: Potential for tornados and earthquakes, the latter attributed to aggressive fracking. High sales tax – Oklahoma’s average tax rate of 8.72 percent is the fifth-highest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. It’s 8.417 percent in Broken Arrow.

No. 2: Tampa, FL

Pros: Tampa oozes charm with historic neighborhoods you might not find in other first-time buyer cities. Their overall real estate market rank by WalletHub is No. 4. There is always something to do, with tons of ongoing activities, festivals, and special events. There’s no state income tax and property tax is also incredibly low, at two percent. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll also love the fact that there are four professional sports teams in Tampa.

Cons: “Common complaints include a relatively flat landscape and streets that are lined with a multitude of chain retail plazas,” said Life Storage. “Traffic can also be a nightmare. As the lightning capital, you can expect daily thunderstorms throughout the summer, and you’ll most certainly want a hurricane emergency plan.”

No. 3: Centennial, CO

Pros: Mountains! A lovey downtown! Arts, culture, and recreation! And friendly people to boot.

Cons: “Compared to the rest of the country, Centennial’s cost of living is 35 percent higher than the U.S. average,” said Best Places. And while homes are still more affordable than in many places in the country, the growth of the area continues to push them up. That growth also means more and more people discovering the area, and more traffic on the roads. If you’re looking for a private, serene retreat near the mountains, this isn’t it.

No. 4: Boise, ID

Pros: If you’re looking for open space and beautiful scenery, with great access to recreation (Hello, Greenbelt!), you’ll find it here – despite the ongoing growth.

Cons: Winter weather. Lack of a professional sports team (Get used to rooting for Boise State University!). Slower pace – a “pro” for many, but a fact of life that might be harder to embrace for someone craving the vibrancy of big-city life. And a low real estate market rank of 169 by WalletHub.

No. 5: Grand Rapids, MI

Pros: Access to water. If the idea of being landlocked in some of the other cities on the WalletHub list has you in a panic, Grand Rapids could be a possibility since it’s under an hour from Lake Michigan. Low traffic. The list ranks quality of life at No. 142, but if you love beer, you’re in luck because there are great breweries in town (The city even won USA Today’s Best Beer Town poll.).

Cons: If you don’t love cold weather, don’t even think about it. Winters can be brutal. There’s also a notable lack of walkability unless you’re in downtown.


Source: Hey, First-Time Buyer: This Is Where You Should (And Shouldn't) Buy A Home

Newly Listed: Would You Buy The Brady Bunch House?

Newly Listed: Would You Buy The Brady Bunch House?

The Brady Bunch house hit the MLS last week, sending generations of TV watchers into a tizzy. While there will likely one be one buyer – unless hordes of fans join together to pony up the $1.885 million asking price – hundreds, or more likely thousands, will be making their way to the home just to have a peek.

They probably won’t get in unless they’re legitimate buyers; there will be no open house. But that won’t stop many from making the trek to L.A.’s Studio City to at least snap a pic. And, we can’t say we blame them. The Brady Bunch house is beyond iconic. For many of us, it’s where our childhood dreams and memories live, right there in that orange and avocado green kitchen.

Except that the house bears little resemblance to what we saw on TV from 1969 to 1974 (and in reruns that continue today). It’s not that the current owners, who purchased the home at 11222 Dilling Street in 1973 for $61,000, according to reports, overhauled it; there are still mid-century touches throughout.

“The Brady Bunch house comes with its fair share of preserved ’70s style, according to its real estate listing,” said TIME: Money. “Photos show wood-paneled walls, beamed ceilings and lively wallpaper throughout the split-level home. And, save for a fence, the home’s facade looks nearly identical to its on-air appearances.” Take a look at the current interiors and let us know what you think!

What may come as a disappointed surprise to Brady Bunch fans and prospective buyers is that interiors for the show weren’t even filmed here. No, Mike, Carol and the gang never sat around the dining room table in this house. All interiors were shot at a studio.

Will that matter to buyers? It’s hard to know at this point whether someone will be seduced by the nostalgia factor or by the home itself, which does have its issues:

Size: The home definitely isn’t configured for a blended family with six kids, plus Alice. It only has two bedrooms and three bathrooms in 2,477 square feet, plus a converted garage that is now a recreation room. It is on a 12,500-square-foot lot, though. Hey, just add on!

Price: Some are musing that the home is overpriced by about $500,000. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the house will get its listing price.

“For all the fan attention they draw, famous Hollywood homes don’t always command a premium on the market,” said the Los Angeles Times. “When the ‘American Horror Story’ house, a Gothic Tudor-style home in L.A.’s Arlington Heights area, sold three years ago, it did so after years on the market and roughly $14 million below the $17-million original asking price. But for every horror story, there is a happy ending: Two years ago, a much-publicized Alhambra home featured in the movie ‘Father of the Bride’ sold for the asking price. Last year, a Venice compound made famous on the show ‘Californication’ sold for $14.6 million, setting a record for the area.”

Condition: While listing agent Ernie Carswell from Douglas Elliman described the property as, “a postcard of exactly what homes looked like in the 1970s,” not everyone is going to be keen on living in a time capsule. In fact, much interest in the home has been from developers looking to tear it down and rebuild – something the area is known for. “But the owners will give first consideration to bidders who want to keep the home intact, Carswell said to the L.A. Times. “We’re not going to accept the first big offer from a developer who wants to tear it down. We’re going to wait a few days, in case there are others who want to purchase it as an investment to preserve it.”

Fame: Listing agent Carswell expects the home to generate an “avalanche” of interest – “upwards of 500 calls a day.” And once the home is sold, there’s no guarantee that interest will die down. “The buyers of the Brady house will inherit more than just television history. They’ll also own a major neighborhood tourist attraction,” said Yahoo.

The Brady Bunch house is reportedly the second-most photographed home in the country – The White House is No. 1. Sitting in third: “The San Francisco home used for exterior shots in the TV series Full House and spin-off Fuller House, said CNN. Neighbors have complained about the large number of vehicles – including tour buses – that clog the street, creating chaos, traffic, and dangerous conditions.

“Neighbors reportedly came to a meeting with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency…armed with a timelapse video that showed the congestion on the street, estimating that 1,000 to 1,500 people per day come through the area on busy days,” said CNN. They are now “hoping a new city measure banning commercial vehicles with nine or more seats from the street on which the home is located will curb the number of tourists making their way to the location.”


Source: Newly Listed: Would You Buy The Brady Bunch House?

Selling Your Home? Consider These Five Landscaping Ideas

Selling Your Home? Consider These Five Landscaping Ideas

You’ve probably heard how important curb appeal is when you’re trying to sell your home. The first thing buyers look at when they pull up to your home is the big picture — the house, the yard, the trees, the flowers. It’s the impression that counts, and all it takes is one thing to ruin the effect — a cracked walkway, dead branches in the trees, leggy bushes.

As you look around at all the things you need to fix or update to sell your home, it can be overwhelming. Many sellers struggle with the costs, the decisions, and the time it takes to market their homes. Since most landscaping isn’t permanent, you may think it’s not as important as other projects that need to be done, but you should strongly consider putting it in the marketing budget.

You can do some of the work yourself or you can get help. But here are five jobs you can do that help you make the most of your home’s drive-up appeal.

1. Get rid of anything dead. Dead leaves, flowers, and trees do nothing for your curb appeal. Snip it, rake it and bag it. As you finish, you’ll see blank areas. Fill these in with fresh flowers, small bushes, potted plants or yard art. No Gnomes or flamingoes need apply.

2. Cut and weed the grass. If you mow your own lawn, make sure it’s freshly mowed every week. Pull or spray weeds so the texture of the grass will be more pleasing.

3. Replace or hide leggy bushes. Nothing makes a front entry look more dated than bushes with longer legs than torsos. Pull them out and replace them, or if it’s more expedient, plant boxwoods or other small bushes in front. You can also cover a lot of blank areas with mulch, wood chips or gravel.

4. Improve both hardscapes and softscapes. Decorative stone, tile, brick, concrete or wood can add a lot of appeal to the softer elements such as flowers, plants, grasses and ground cover. Landscaping doesn’t have to end at the porch. Bring color and vitality to the entry with potted plants and flowers.

5. Light the way. Landscape lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. Lanterns to line the walk, or the occasional uplight for the trees can have a glamorous effect on the exterior of your home. Lighting provides security as well as spotlights what you want to call attention to — a beautiful tree, a flower bed or an architectural element of the house.

If you’re not sure where to begin, go to your local supply with a sketch or photo of your home and ask for ideas. Explain that you’re selling your home and you need help with curb appeal. You may get a lot of free advice that’s really helpful.


Source: Selling Your Home? Consider These Five Landscaping Ideas

Goodbye, Saving. Why Not Crowdfund Your Down Payment Instead?

Goodbye, Saving. Why Not Crowdfund Your Down Payment Instead?

You can crowdfund your medical expenses. You can crowdfund your honeymoon. And now you can crowdfund your down payment. Savings, shmavings.

Seriously, though. For people who are having trouble coming up with a down payment or just need a boost, HomeFundMe is a Godsend. Provided through California mortgage bank CMG Financial, HomeFundMe is helping people realize the dream of homeownership by eliminating what, for many, is the biggest barrier.

The idea of crowdfunding a down payment is not totally new, but cooperation with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which signed off on the program, has smoothed out potential wrinkles for both buyers and donors. “HomeFundMe is approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a down payment crowdfunding platform because it allows for a fully transparent and verifiable crowdfunding effort,” said Mortgage Orb.

How it works is:

Buyers first get prequalified, as they would to kick off any homebuying process. This will give them an idea of how much they need for a down payment. “Borrowers typically aim to raise 3 percent of the purchase price, which is the minimum down payment for conventional mortgages bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Benzinga. “Donors can give as much as $7,500. For contributions of $500 or more, donors must sign a gift letter.” DocuSign can be used to make that process easier.

Crowdfunding works on the power of social networking, as we’ve seen with popular platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, so the program recommends connecting user accounts to Facebook and actively sharing. “Write a summary of your goals and publish updates to share your story,” said HomeFundMe. “Upload images that help others get to know you or even showcase your dream home. You also have the option to film and share an ‘Intro’ video. We recommend adding visual content like images and video to give potential contributors a better idea of who you are and what you are trying to do.” HomeFundMe also assigns each buyer a fundraising coach who can help maximize their social outreach.

Once a HomeFundMe campaign is active, the clock starts ticking. Once buyers receive their first gift, they have 12 months to close on their home and use their funds. Gifts can come from anyone – friends, family, strangers, even Realtors. “HomeFundMe has partnered with wedding registries so couples can ask for down payment assistance rather than flatware and dishes,” said Benzinga. “The site also opens the door to Realtors rebating some of their commission for down payments, a practice that’s normally prohibited. A “variance” from Fannie and Freddie “allows Realtors to divert part of their fee to the buyer’s down payment.”

In addition, HomeFundMe has launched Affinity Portal, “a new program allowing employers to add HomeFundMe to their benefit packages to assist employees in overcoming the down payment obstacle,” said Mortgage Orb. “The HomeFundMe Affinity Portal allows employers to add HomeFundMe to their benefit packages, with the option to elect to match donations in any amount.”

Borrowers taking part in the HomeFundMe program can earn more than their goal amount, and donors can also make their gifts “conditional,” so their funds are returned should the home purchase not occur within the 12 months. Also, there are no fees on contributions and no charges for payment processing; by comparison; GoFundMe charges a 2.9 percent payment processing fee.


Source: Goodbye, Saving. Why Not Crowdfund Your Down Payment Instead?

Building Your Home Equity Now

Building Your Home Equity Now

There are three ways to build equity, or ownership, when you buy a home. One is to put money down in a down payment. The second is to pay your lender back, and the third is to take advantage of market upswings.

It’s no secret that market momentum has been helping homeowners for a few years. Sales volume is still climbing, says the National Association of REALTORS®. You can still take advantage of low housing supplies and low interest rates to invest in a home.

One way to build equity is to put more money down on the home you want to buy. Lenders have returned to tried and true models of income to debt ratios and requiring that borrowers put more money down when they purchase a home. The more you put down, the more instant equity you have. Putting more money down also helps lower borrowing costs because it lowers risk for the lender.

As you make your house payments, you build equity slowly because interest payments at the beginning of a loan are much heavier than the money paid toward principal. The longer you own your home, the less you’ll pay in interest and a greater share will go toward ownership, or building equity.

For example, if you borrow $250,000 at 5%, your monthly payment is $1,342.05. The first month you’ll pay $1041.67 in interest, and only $300.39 toward reducing your principal. At that rate, building equity may seem like it takes forever. But only two years later, your interest rate lowers by $30 a month allowing $30 more to go toward reducing what you owe your lender.

You can build equity faster by adding a little more to your payment, which removes hundreds of dollars in interest and allows you to own your home in full much faster.

The other way to build equity is to allow the market to do it for you. Home values historically beat inflation by one to two percentage points, but the last decade has been anything but typical. However, all markets return to the norm, so assuming a normal market is on the way, on the modest side, your home should appreciate approximately one percent annually.

In theory, if you purchased your home for $300,000, your home should gain $3000 in value in one year. Home values are expected to rise about seven percent in 2015, so if you buy a home now, you could still do well.

Market variables from the weather to the Fed can all play a part in how quickly your home builds market equity. But one thing is certain, you can’t build equity unless you’re invested.


Source: Building Your Home Equity Now

5 Tips for Staging Your Home

5 Tips for Staging Your Home

If you’re in a tough seller’s market or just looking to get top dollar for your home, you want to do any little thing you can to make your house stand out in a potential buyer’s mind. Staging is one of those things that can make the difference between a sold sign and a house that lingers on the market.

The National Association of Realtors suggests that staging has a real impact on home sales. In fact, a majority of realtors report that staging increases the sales price of a home anywhere between 1 and 10 percent. However, the real impact of staging seems to be how quickly a home is sold, with 39 percent of Realtors stating that it greatly decreases the time spent on the market. Buyers’ agents confirm the positive impact of staging, stating that 77 percent of buyers were better able to picture a home as their own when it was staged.

Of course, there is an art to staging a home, and a poorly staged home can have a negative impact on a potential sale. Here are five tips for staging your house that will have you putting up that “SOLD” sign in no time.

1. Declutter and Clean

Before thinking about decorations or furniture placement, the No. 1 suggestion of realtors is to declutter and deep clean. Clear countertops and other surfaces, and pack away anything that is not essential. Your goal is to remove anything that will distract buyers from seeing the positive aspects of your house, which is why realtors often suggest removing family photos and overly personalized decorations (like your giant bobble head collection). Remember, decluttering includes removing excess furniture, which help make your rooms feel bigger.

2. Group Furniture

Once you’ve removed furniture that is unnecessary or too large for the space, group furniture into conversational groups away from the wall, instead of pushing sofas and chairs to the corners. You want there to be a flow to each room, and keeping the walls clear of big furniture will actually make the room feel bigger, says HGTV.

3. Accessories in Odd Numbers

Although you’ll need to declutter, you still want your space to feel like a lived-in home. Do this by decorating with groups of accessories like vases, books or plants. Staging professionals often recommend grouping similarly hued objects in odd number pairings of varying heights and shapes.

4. Add 1 or 2 Bold Accents

While you want to keep your staging décor fairly neutral, adding one or two bold accent pieces will help highlight a particularly great feature of your home. Adding a dramatic chandelier that matches the style of your home to a dining room, entryway or even a fabulous bathroom will not only add light to a room, but bring architectural interest to the space as well.

5. Use Mirrors

Mirrors can help brighten a dark hallway, bring light into a room and make a room seem larger, says Forbes. For a big impact, get a cheap mirror and add a decorative frame, or group a lot of small mirrors in differing shapes and sizes. In a room with a window, place mirrors across from the window to reflect the sunlight.

Staging is all about helping potential buyers create an emotional connection with your home. Help buyers picture themselves living in the house by decluttering, grouping furniture and accessories, adding one or two bold accents and using mirrors. Now get ready for the offers to roll in.


Source: 5 Tips for Staging Your Home

6 Don'ts When Buying Your First Home

6 Don'ts When Buying Your First Home

These are exciting times. You’ve finally outgrown apartment life or living with your parents or sharing a place with waaaaayyyyy too many roommates, and you’re ready to take the leap to homeownership. Now it’s time to prepare. As you embark on this journey, beware of six important don’ts that could potentially derail your purchase.

Don’t think it’s too early to get prequalified

So, you’re just going to go out “looking” at houses, you say? The time when you just expect to drive around a little and maybe visit an open house or two is obviously the time when you’re going to fall in love with a house and want to make a move on it right away. If you’re not already prequalified with a lender, you may not have a chance at it. Competition is fierce across the country thanks to low inventory, and well-maintained, move-in ready homes do not sit if they’re priced right. Talk to a lender now to make sure you can qualify – and learn your max budget – even if you just think you’re casually looking (because that can change in a hurry!).

Don’t wait to the last minute to check credit

As a continuation of the casually looking conversation…you want to check your credit the second you start thinking about buying a home. You never know what’s going to be on there. Even if you’ve never missed a payment and have always done a good job of managing your outstanding debt, there could be errors on your report that you’re unaware of or even something from many years ago that you didn’t realize had been reported to a credit agency. Those little boo-boos, accurate or not, could be hurting your score, and a low score could keep you from getting a mortgage at all. Give yourself time to correct errors or fix blemishes; every tick upward can help you get a better rate and make your home more affordable.

Don’t forget about PMI when calculating your monthly expenses

The idea of putting as little down as possible on your new home is attractive, especially if you’re not a natural saver. Today, that can mean just three percent of your purchase price, depending on the loan. For FHA loans, it’s three and one-half percent. The problem with making the minimum down payment is that you then have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

“PMI is a fee you pay on your mortgage until you owe 80 percent or less of what your home is worth. It’s one reason why so many experts advise homebuyers make a 20 percent down payment; if you do, you avoid the evils of paying PMI,” said Student Loan Hero. “PMI can cost between 0.3 percent and 1.15 percent of your loan annually. Depending on how much you borrow, that can mean thousands of dollars in extra costs until you can cancel your PMI.”

Don’t ignore the closing costs

Many of us micro-focus on the down payment when getting ready to buy our first home, but there is another important expense related to the purchase: The closing costs. Closing costs encompass a wide variety of fees, some or all of which may apply to you depending on where and what you’re buying. They can include everything from the application fee and appraisal to the escrow fee to the home and pest inspection to the recording fees. You’re looking at between two and five percent of your purchase price for closing fees, which can definitely add up. Many first-time buyers fail to factor this in when getting ready to purchase, and you don’t want something that could amount to a few thousand dollars or more to come as an 11th-hour surprise.

Don’t forget to factor in all the monthly expenses

New-home communities often quote a monthly payment that looks quite affordable and that can entice buyers who don’t look more closely. That’s because the payment is based on principal and interest only (Typically, you’ll see a star next to the payment that tells you there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the page.). If you take a look at the small print, you’ll see that there are also taxes and insurance to factor in. In some cases, there is also a homeowner’s association fee. That monthly payment may not be looking so good anymore.

If you’re buying your first home and coming from an apartment or other rental property, you may not have worked things like a gardener into your monthly budget. You’ll also want to consider that if you’re going up in square footage, there could an increase in your utilities, and you may be taking on payments for things like water and trash that were covered by your rental. It’s best to have a true idea of what your monthly expenses are going to look like when buying your first home so you don’t end up in over your head.

Don’t think you can go it alone

Can you buy a home without an agent? Sure. Is it a good idea? Not usually. It could be that you are looking to buy a home that is for sale by owner. “In the industry, we call these types of sellers unrepresented,” said The Balance. “Beware if you are trying to buy a home directly from an unrepresented seller. Odds are the seller won’t know what she is doing or she might be taking advantage of you; either way, it could be problematic.”

Unless you are a real estate attorney or are otherwise connected to the industry and aware of the laws, contract issues, etc., it’s best for you to have representation, regardless of what type of home you are buying.


Source: 6 Don'ts When Buying Your First Home

Steps To Building Wealth

Steps To Building Wealth

It’s never too late to secure your financial future. At BuildingWealth.org, a public service offered by the Dallas Federal Reserve, you can learn how to reach your life goals by budgeting, saving and investing, building credit and controlling debt.

When you understand the difference between assets and liabilities, you know that owning a home, contributing to a retirement plan, and creating savings are all assets in the making because they increase in value or provide a return. Automobiles, clothing, smartphones and furniture are not assets because they depreciate in value. Liabilities are debts that you owe to credit card companies, mortgage lenders, hospitals, etc.

It doesn’t make sense to go into debt to buy possessions that aren’t assets, unless it serves a necessity like a car that gets you to and from work. That’s why lenders look at your credit history to see how sensibly you spend money and if your finances fall within their income-to-debt guidelines. You don’t want them finding that all your free income goes to eating out and mall shopping. No matter how much money you make, you shouldn’t have more than 42 percent of your income going to pay liabilities and that should include credit card debt, rent, car payments, student loans, etc.

So the first step is creating a budget that enables you to save money. Track your spending and see where money is wasted so you can cut back and create savings. If your company offers a 401K plan, contribute as much as you comfortably can. Give yourself a goal to eat out once a week instead of five times a week. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll build savings.

Owning a home is one of the foundations of wealth. With rare exceptions, the longer you own your home, the more equity, or ownership you’ll have. Equity is created three ways – when your home rises in market value, when you pay down or pay off your liability, and when you make repairs and improvements that raise the value of the home.

Home ownership is like a forced savings account. Until you sell the home, you’re not going to touch the equity you’ve built unless you take on a liability by refinancing your mortgage to make improvements.

To figure out what you need to do to buy a home of your home, you should create a budget and a gameplan and then calculate how long it will take you to save the amount you need. If you want to save $20,000, that will give you a 10 percent downpayment on a $200,000 home. Saving $200 a month, you’ll be able to buy a home in just over eight years, but it’s likely that you’ll save much more per month with as your income increases, your spending habits improve, and your investments start to show returns.

All it takes is time and money.


Source: Steps To Building Wealth

Sneaky Ways To Find A Home That's About To Be Listed For Sale

Sneaky Ways To Find A Home That's About To Be Listed For Sale

Coldwell Banker just rolled out some exciting new tech that’s meant to help determine when someone is about to list their home for sale. What may sound Big Brother-y to some is being lauded by others as the Big Data answer to next-level real estate success. Call it the high-tech version of going door-to-door asking if owners are looking to sell their home. Also, call it a great lead source for agents and a potential boon for buyers looking for an “in” after repeatedly getting shut out of homes thanks to ongoing inventory issues.

“In a real estate market facing a severe lack of homes for sale, agents could really use a secret weapon – something to shake up the status quo of the listing and selling game…something to help them compete in a low inventory market,” said RISMedia.

Coldwell Banker’s solution: CBx Seller Leads, which can identify homes that are most likely to be sold before an agent ever becomes involved. “Coldwell Banker has taken it to the next level, expanding the value of big data for real estate by adding proprietary algorithms and machine learning to the data in the original CBx product to fuel the entire CBx Technology Suite and give brokers and agents access to market intelligence they can’t get anywhere else.

Skeptical? Consider this: “Coldwell Banker piloted CBx Seller Leads in 16 different markets; during the pilot, leads converted at twice the industry average.”

The potential advantage to the agent is undeniable, but we also love the benefit to buyers. Agents who nurture those leads may be able to find a gem for a client without having to fight other buyers in a crowded market where inventory is at a premium. But CBx Seller Leads isn’t the only way to get an early beat on new homes that haven’t yet been listed. Here are some more tips that could help you find that elusive home.

Stalk your preferred neighborhood

Sure, the workmen outside that cute corner Colonial could mean the homeowners are doing some updates to make the house function better for them. Or, it could mean they’re making updates to get the home in better shape so they can list it. You don’t know until you ask. Your real estate agent may recommend leaving this task to them for best results, and, you never know – it could turn out that you end up shaking on an as-is property that gets you into a desired neighborhood, gets you a great deal, and gives you the opportunity to fix it up the way you want to.

Work with a connected REALTOR®

If a listing doesn’t get posted to the MLS or the big listing sites like Trulia and Redfin, how do you find out about pocket listings? The first step is to ask your real estate agent. Tell them that you’re interested in pocket listings and that you’d like to expand your search beyond the homes on the MLS. Encourage them to reach out to other realtors to see if there is a hidden gem on the market. It’s a lot more work than scouring the online listings, but sometimes it can really pay off. In addition to working with an agent, there are also sites getting into the pocket listing game, such as PocketList, which specializes in unlisted homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Zillow also has a “coming soon” search feature, which allows you to check out homes that have not yet been posted on a listing service.

What you’re looking for in a real estate agent is someone who is going to work hard for you, obviously. But, especially when you’re trying to find a home in a hot market where there aren’t a lot of available homes, working with someone who has a large base of connections in the industry and a great working relationship with other agents is crucial. Those relationships may yield early notice on a new home about to hit the market or pocket listings you’d never know about if it weren’t for your agent.

Look for an unkempt yard

Could be an overwhelmed homeowner, could be the owners are on an extended vacation…or it could be that the home is about to be foreclosed on.

Track “Notices of Default”

Finding a pre-foreclosure property isn’t as easy as driving down the street in your preferred neighborhood, looking for signs on the lawn. There is no complete list that aggregates listings of homes subject to a notice of default, and it can be a process to find these potential buys. A savvy agent who hustles to find properties in default can be a real asset to a buyer, especially if they are able to cultivate a relationship that ends up with a great home and a great deal for their buyer and an “out” for the seller.

“The easiest way to buy a pre-foreclosure home is to help the seller to make up the back payments and then arrange to buy the home directly from the seller,” said The Balance.


Source: Sneaky Ways To Find A Home That's About To Be Listed For Sale

Ten Mistakes That Will Keep Your Home From Selling

Ten Mistakes That Will Keep Your Home From Selling

When you’re selling your home, you need every advantage you can get. And there are few homes that are magically market ready without a little help. If your home needs a touch more than a little help, it’s time to get focused. After all, listing your home when it’s not in the right condition to sell will probably only end in frustration. And, in this case, frustration means: your home sitting on the market for months with no offers or the errant, offensive, lowball.

If you want to make sure you get home sold quickly and for the right price, you’ll want to avoid listing it with the following:

1. Excessive damage

Maybe the home you’re selling was used as a rental and trashed by frat boy tenants, or maybe you just haven’t kept it up as you should. Either way, those holes in the wall that look like the living room was used as a boxing gym, the scratched-up wood floors on which dinosaurs have clearly been racing, and the yard that’s barren except for those two-foot-tall patches of weeds are not what buyers are looking for. Unless you’re planning to offer your house for a price that will make buyers emphasize the good and ignore the bad and the ugly, it’s going to need some attention.

2. Carpet in the bathroom

It’s just gross. And everyone who walks into that bathroom is thinking one of two things: 1) There’s gotta be mold under there; 2) There’s gotta be pee on the floor around that toilet. This is one update you’ll want to do before you list. Or, if you’re already listed and your home’s not selling.

3. Big, nasty stains

A buyer shouldn’t know where your dog likes to mark or where your kids spilled the entire bowl of holiday punch. If the stains on your carpet are that bad, potential buyers will stroll in and run right back out. No one wants to buy a pigsty. Invest a few bucks in new carpet. You’ll make the money back since you won’t have to drop your sales price.

4. Pet smells

Speaking of pets…they smell. You probably don’t notice since you live with them everyday, but buyers will, and it might be enough to turn them off. Deep clean the carpets and the upholstery, invest in some air fresheners, and remove cat boxes from the house for showings. The last thing you want is a potential buyer referring to your house as “the stinky one.”

5. Loud dogs who bark every time someone approaches the home

One last word on pets. Barking happens, whether it’s your dog or one that belongs to a neighbor. But you don’t need that on the day of your open house. Offering to pay for doggie day care for a neighbor’s pooch can eliminate the issue and help create the serene setting buyers want.

6. Your dead lawn

Lack of curb appeal won’t necessarily kill a deal. In many cases, you won’t even get potential buyers to get out of the car. If the front yard is a mess, buyers will naturally think the mess continues inside.

7. A bad agent

Face it. Not all of them are winners. If your agent is: rude, uninformed, lazy, uncommunicative, belligerent, or unwilling to take your opinions into consideration, get a new one. An agent who isn’t giving their client the right type of attention probably isn’t going to get the job done.

8. Your sloppiness

Those drawers and cabinets you shoved everything into when you cleaned off your kitchen and bathroom cabinets could be a deal breaker for picky buyers. We all know buyers open stuff. They look in drawers, they open cabinets, they examine closets. If these spaces are messy and overstuffed, they may assume there’s not enough storage space.

9. Unreasonable sellers

Big problems in your house can be deal killers, but they can also be deal sealers, if you are reasonable. If your inspection uncovers plumbing, electrical, or roofing problems (or all three!) and you’re unwilling to negotiate, you can kiss that sale goodbye.

10. Bad Taste

Your poor decorating choices and failure to keep up with trends from this year – or century – may haunt you when it’s time to sell. If it’s true that many buyers have no vision—and all you have to do is watch House Hunters and observe a buyer getting hung up on a paint color to know that’s true – then you are really in for it with your crowded house full of ugly, outdated crap. A few simple updates can help it to look fresh and give buyers something to fall in love with. Not sure where to start? Check out FrontDoor’s 15 Updates That Pay Off and HGTV’s 10 Best-Kept Secrets For Selling Your Home.


Source: Ten Mistakes That Will Keep Your Home From Selling

Patios Can Appeal To Buyers

Patios Can Appeal To Buyers

Depending on where you live, a patio might not be the kind of thing you think about during the cold, and maybe snowy, winter months. But a patio is what many people enjoy on a sunny warm afternoon. It just feels good to sit outside and sip some iced tea or lemonade. That’s the picture your real estate agent would want to capture when listing your home for sale.

Patios are appealing because they can create a sense of peace, open space, freedom, and they can seem to extend the square footage of livable space on those good weather days.

Set out on your patio some simple but comfortable patio furniture when you’re listing your home and you might find that prospective buyers take a seat and think about your home. Good! Let them soak in the energy of the home. The way it feels. The way it allows them to relax. Set some brochures out on a side table. Maybe even a good book. You’d be surprised what these buyers pick up. If they enjoy themselves while sitting on your patio, you’re likely to have piqued their interest in your property.

So, what if you have a backyard but no patio; is it worth investing in one? The answer depends on your financial situation but there’s no doubt that having a patio or a deck – a space outdoors to relax – is a plus.

However, here are a few tips about creating that patio space. If you have a small backyard, you don’t necessarily want to take up the entire space with a concrete patio. The reason? Greenery is also appealing. Basically, you want to have the patio proportionally sized to your yard. So you don’t want to have a huge yard and tiny patio nor the opposite.

Your patio should be located close to an entryway to the home, typically the kitchen. This is so that if there is grilling or eating outside, people can easily access the kitchen as opposed to walking through some other room in the house first.

Patios also should be located in areas where there is some level of privacy. A patio is most appealing when you can sit back, relax and enjoy a good meal, book, or conversation without feeling like you’re being watched. So the backyard is usually the best location.

Buyers often consider a well-built and maintained patio a plus and may create a higher selling price for your home.

To cover or not? Often when homeowners put in patios, they question if adding a covering would help increase the value of their home. That really depends on many things such as if the covering is well built and maintained and if it’s aesthetically pleasing, not blocking views, etc. In the case where it’s crafted and maintained well, the patio and its covering can increase the appeal of your home. That could translate to a higher selling price as well as a faster sale.


Source: Patios Can Appeal To Buyers

10 Things To Do After Relocating To A New City

10 Things To Do After Relocating To A New City

Free at last! The backbreaking work of moving large furniture from one side of the house to other is finished. No more do packed boxes line the house. It’s a great feelings of accomplishment. Enjoy your reprieve for a night as you’ve earned it. After giving yourself a day of rest it’s time to get back to work!

1. Get Connected to your New Neighborhood: Probably the most anxious part of moving is meeting your new neighbors. It’s essentially a crap shoot as they could be wonderful people that you will eventually trust and perhaps they will become a vital asset once you become settled in. Or possibly they could be the Neighbor from Hell. Regardless going out of your way and introducing yourself to the neighbors will go a long way as we know first impressions last a lifetime.

2. Update your address with the important contacts: Emergency contacts, banks, family members, and collectors must all be made aware of your address change. This can be a bit tedious, but you must make sure everything is in order as you would hate for some meaningless bill go into collections due to sheer negligence.

3. Register your vehicle: Go to dmv.org and get new tags, a license plate, and a registration card. If you don’t and you get pulled over you will be very sorry. You will most likely have to waste a day in court to appeal whichever fine may have been levied on you.

4. Re-register to vote in your new location: Follow http://www.eac.go. It’s important that you do this as states rules and regulations vary when it comes to establishing residency.

5. Find a doctor/dentist: Click here to find a Doctor or Dentist near you. Make sure to do a quick check of ratings as well.

6. Update your insurance: Compare Auto Insurance now! You would be surprised to see how much auto insurance can vary state-to-state, but it certainly make sure you get the best and most advantageous rate.

7. Check your commute to work: Try at least two different routes and time how long it takes you to go each way. As good as Google maps is becoming, it’s still better to be prepared and know multiple ways to get to work in case an unfortunate event were to happen causing you to be late to work during your first week.

8. Get acquainted with your new city! Try new things: Go to new grocery stores. Check out urbanspoon.com and see which restaurants are the best in your area. Look up TripAdvisor and see which attractions are closest to you.

9. Review your moving company: Perhaps it was a pleasant experience perhaps it wasn’t. If you indeed had a bad experience make sure other people don’t make the same mistake that you did.

10. Schools: If you have children make sure to get them registered and set to go for school. Also make sure to check for sports leagues, clubs, or extracurricular activities to get them involved.

Source: Buying tips