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5 Simple Tips to Secure the Necessary Down Payment Funds

April 17, 2015 8:33 pm

Purchasing a home is an expensive proposition, and for many buyers, securing funds for a down payment is a challenge in and of itself. But before you cross the idea of ever being able to afford a house off the list, the following ideas will go a long way toward helping you come up with the money you need to get into your dream home.

1. Family Matters. Don’t be too shy or stubborn to ask your parents or other family members for help. Often, your relatives will be more than happy to help you get the home of your dreams. After all, they probably received help from family members themselves when they went to buy their first home. If you do get help from a family member, the lender will ask you to sign a form called a gift letter, attesting to the relationship. The lender may also require mom and dad to explain where they got the money and prove that they are financially able to make such a gift.

2. Dig Into Your IRA. Assuming you’ve started a retirement account with your job, this may be an easy way to get the money you need quickly. Whether it’s a 401(k), a Roth or traditional IRA, first-time homebuyers are allowed to borrow up to $10,000 for a down payment on a house without incurring a penalty. For those who are self-employed, you can also borrow up to $50,000 from your retirement fund and pay yourself back over five years at a low interest rate.

3. Add It to Your Registry. If you’re getting married, doesn’t it make more sense to ask for some help in getting a house rather than a toaster or coffee maker? Numerous mortgage companies allow those getting hitched to set up a down payment registry and many guests think it’s a great way to celebrate the joining of two people they love.

4. Take Advantage of Grants. Down payment assistance and community redevelopment programs offer affordable housing opportunities to first-time homebuyers, low-income and moderate-income individuals and families who wish to achieve homeownership.

5. Propose a Lease/Purchase Agreement. Homeowners who need to sell their home quickly may be amenable to cutting a deal with buyers on a lease/purchase agreement where the buyer rents the home they want to purchase with a percentage of the rent applied toward the down payment. If you go this route, make sure you get a contract outlining all the details so both parties are safe.

If you find that none of the above options work for your individual circumstances, there’s always the old-fashioned idea of setting up a rainy day fund by putting aside 10 percent of your paycheck each week and making your lunch instead of going out. Forget that vacation and walk or ride your bike instead of using the car. It may seem like a lot, but the sacrifice will be well worth it when you’re inside your very own home.

Contact our office today for more tips on finding the funds for your down payment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Preparation Key to Interior Painting Success

April 17, 2015 8:33 pm

One of the easiest ways to give a room a quick makeover before putting your home on the market is by adding a fresh coat of paint. While picking the right color is typically an exciting part of the process, it’s crucial that you prepare well ahead of time by formulating a plan of action for your interior painting project.

If you’re tackling the paint job yourself, one trip to the local paint store or hardware supply store should be enough to find everything you’ll need for the job. In addition to the paint itself, you’ll need rollers, brushes (of various sizes), a trim edger, paint sticks, protective cloth and a paint pan. Additional items that may come in handy along the way include a tape measure, screwdriver, sandpaper, sponges, household cleaner and drop cloths.

To properly prepare the room, set aside some time to clean it first. This includes removing any small items or furniture that can easily be cleared from the space. For larger items that are too much trouble to move, bring them to the center of the room and cover them with plastic cloths to keep them from getting covered with paint. Next, use blue masking tape to protect light fixtures, switch panels, hinges and knobs, and a drop cloth to protect the floor. It’s also a good idea to keep a window open for ventilation.

Any surfaces that aren’t being painted will have to be masked off with tape as well. This includes the trim on doors and windows, bookshelves and baseboards. The corners between walls and ceilings may also need to be masked off.

As for the walls that are being painted, examine the drywall to see if there are any holes, as these must be repaired before painting. Once drywall repairs are made, the area must be sanded and primed before the paint is applied. If the plaster has any cracks, they’ll need to be fixed with a paste that can be made from Plaster of Paris and water. Be sure to remove any nails from the wall as well.

If the walls have never been painted before—or they were previously painted a dark color/stain—priming is an essential part of the process that can’t be ignored. The primer will help conceal the old color and any unsightly stains that may otherwise show through the new paint.

Once all this is done, it’s time to paint. Bring in some friends and family members and make it fun. Blast some good music, order some pizza for lunch and make it a painting party no one will ever forget.

For more painting preparation tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Down Payments

April 17, 2015 8:33 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines the importance of formulating a plan of action before undertaking a painting project. Other topics covered this month include simple home improvement projects to take care of this spring and how choosing the right countertops will go a long way toward attracting prospective buyers. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Hover Near 2-Year Low

April 17, 2015 12:24 am

According to Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey, mortgage rates pulled back this week, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate dipping to 3.79 percent and the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate inching lower to 3.03 percent.

The jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage set a new record low of 3.90 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) were mixed, with the 5-year ARM nosing higher to 3.08 percent and the 10-year ARM drifting down to 3.54 percent.

Mortgage rates are at a 23-month low, a fact which could motivate buyers off the sidelines, particularly with the likelihood of higher rates later in the year. As evidenced by recent uneven data, the cold winter put a chill on the economy. The softness in economic releases continues to keep everyone guessing about the timing of the Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Smart Homes Met with Mixed Attitudes

April 17, 2015 12:24 am

Though consumers expect smart homes to “arrive” well before smart cars or wearable tech, their enthusiasm is tempered by some confusion around the smart home concept, according to research firm iModerate. This stems from concerns over price, ease of use and physical and data security.

Participants in a recent iModerate study said they think a smart home would be most beneficial when they’re away from home. Specifically, they said a smart home would alleviate worries of leaving an appliance on, help lower energy bills and reduce burglary concerns.

However, consumers see the smart home as something of a double-edged sword: they believe it will offer peace of mind to them and their families, but they are wary of the security and privacy issues a smart home could expose. They like the idea of being able to peek in to their homes, to remotely control home functions, and to receive alerts if there is an attempted intrusion or mechanical problem that occurs while they’re away.

Conversely, consumers are fearful that security measures could backfire, data collected by smart home systems could be exploited, and smart locks could be easily hacked.

“We found our conversations with consumers fascinating in terms of how eager people are to embrace the smart home,” says Adam Rossow, partner, iModerate. “They perceive the technology would generally better the home experience. Only 7 percent indicated concern that it would make their homes feel cold and uninviting, whereas the majority envisioned smart home technology as a silent task-master, freeing up time they’d typically spend on household chores and, in turn, allowing them more time with their families.”

Source: iModerate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Breaking Down Spring Home Project Costs

April 17, 2015 12:24 am

(Family Features) Before you grab your toolkit or enlist the help of a professional for spring projects this season, do your wallet a favor and conduct some research.

HomeAdvisor’s most recent True Cost Report found that 38 percent of homeowners don't know how much it will cost to hire a professional for home projects, and nearly 70 percent are concerned about overpaying as a consequence of not having reliable cost information.

If you’ve got any of these projects on the agenda this spring, keep in mind these tips.
  • Repairing the roof: Maintaining the roof protects a home from the elements and can raise property values. Small repairs keep a roof in good shape for several years and help avoid costly damages. Most homeowners assume repairing a roof can be costly. In fact, the average roof fix only costs $550, according to the True Cost Report.
  • Remodeling a kitchen: Kitchen remodels boost a home's resale value and add functionality to the most utilized space in a home. Many factors go into remodeling a kitchen, including flooring, plumbing, appliances and electrical, so bear in mind these additional costs when budgeting.
  • Remodeling a bathroom: Homeowners can choose from different types of bathroom remodels, depending on style preferences and budget. The average cost of remodeling a bathroom is $9,000, says HomeAdvisor.
  • Painting the home's exterior: Painting the home's exterior not only boosts its curb appeal, but it also acts as a home's primary defense against weather, insects, and other damage. Consider your region’s climate before selecting a color and/or finish.
  • Installing landscaping: Landscaping can dramatically change the look of a house and property. Adding landscaping such as an outdoor patio, flowers or shrubs can increase the value of a home. The True Cost Report points to an average cost of $2,938 for landscaping.
Source: HomeAdvisor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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HUD Grants to Assist 1.5 Million Households

April 16, 2015 6:21 am

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is helping individuals and families get smarter about homeownership with $36 million in counseling grants to hundreds of national, regional and local organizations to assist with housing needs. The counseling grants are expected to help over 1.5 million households locate housing or prevent future foreclosures and make more informed housing decisions.

The grants will help homebuyers:
  • Reevaluate their readiness for a home purchase
  • Understand their financing and down payment options
  • Locate affordable rental housing
  • Become financially literate, especially if struggling to repair credit issues
  • Seek reverse mortgages or HECM, especially if elderly
  • Review loan documentation
  • Avoid potential mortgage scams, unreasonably high interest rates, inflated appraisals or unaffordable repayment terms
  • Prevent foreclosure through expense reduction, negotiation with lenders and loan servicers and loss mitigation
Recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Urban Institute continues to find substantial benefits to housing counseling for families who purchase their first homes and those struggling to prevent foreclosure.

To locate a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, visit HUD.gov.

Source: HUD

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Ceiling Trends That Raise Rooms to New Heights

April 16, 2015 6:21 am

(BPT) - Want to infuse your home with architectural interest? Start at the top, says Brian Patrick Flynn, owner of FlynnsideOut Productions and whose interiors are regularly featured on HGTV.com.

"The ceiling is the most overlooked design element in a space, hands down," says Flynn. "Just like people, rooms need different layers to be one-of-a kind. That includes a ceiling that makes people look up and scan the entire space."

The largest solid surface in a room - besides the floor - is the ceiling. Instead of leaving it bright white or builder beige, convert this blank canvas into a decorative canopy of color and texture with these hot ceiling trends.

Layer on the Luster – Stamped metal ceilings have added shine and sophistication to American homes since they were introduced in the 1880s. Besides beauty, metal ceilings offer practicality. They resist mold and mildew, offer sag resistance and last longer than plaster or drywall. Regardless of the finish, the texture of the tiles creates a tactile top layer to the space.

Mix and Match Styles – Some interior designers are combining different decorating elements at the top, such as inlaying the recesses of coffered ceilings with gold or copper tiles. Flynn says he's also a fan of tongue-and-groove ceilings accented with beams. "This adds a ton of visual interest to the room, and can make it feel much larger.”

Create Character with Wood – From rustic timber to sleek teak, wood hues help set the tone in a room. Besides imparting a sense of warmth, the grains and knots in wood panels add a textural layer that contrasts nicely with smooth surfaces like painted walls and granite countertops.

Add Architectural Depth – Coffered ceilings first appeared in Roman architecture, and their geometric elegance has graced grand buildings ever since. Today, the cost and complexity of building coffered ceilings have been reduced by lightweight materials and easy-to-install prefabricated systems.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Tips for Greener Home Maintenance

April 16, 2015 6:21 am

Did you know certain home maintenance tasks can be a detriment to the environment? If you’re one of the millions of homeowners who have maintenance on the agenda this spring, consider introducing eco-friendliness to your routine. Here are six ways to get started.

Dump toxic cleaners: When spring cleaning indoors, use water-based or organic household cleaners. Do not pour chemicals down the drain – recycle them at your nearest hazardous waste collection center. To find one in your area, visit your state’s website.

Open the windows: Nothing freshens up a home faster than outdoor air. If weather permits, open your windows to allow air from the outside to sweep away harmful indoor pollutants like radon, secondhand smoke and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – the latter are typically found in the building materials of existing homes.

Inspect plumbing
: A leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water every day. To conserve water, conduct an inspection of your home’s plumbing system and repair any dripping fixtures immediately. To reduce bills, consider installing a low-flow faucet or shower head in at least one bathroom.

Ready the HVAC system: For those using an A/C this summer, clear the area surrounding the unit of any overgrown shrubbery or debris from winter storms. Obstructions to the unit can lead to increased energy consumption, resulting in higher utility bills.

Restore the lawn
: Patchy areas of your lawn can lead to higher erosion levels if left unrepaired, so restore any grass gaps as soon as possible. To really give your yard a boost and do good for the environment, spread grass clippings on your lawn – the nutrients will benefit the grass underneath and eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.

Compost waste
: If you’d rather not leave clippings on your lawn, consider composting them instead. You’ll save time and money on water usage because composted soil absorbs and holds moisture better than store-bought mulch.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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11 Ways to Boost Your Emergency Fund

April 15, 2015 6:21 am

Personal finance experts tell us everyone needs an emergency fund; a little stash of cash you can tap for unexpected car repairs, a lost or stolen smartphone, or any other little emergency life throws in your path.

But stowing away that stash can be easier said than done. From Lars Peterson, editor of consumer finance blog Wise Bread, here are 11 tips to help you begin:
  • Keep a spending book – track every dollar you spend for a month. Take a close look at the numbers. Where can you eliminate spending and put the savings away?
  • Eliminate budget busters – Can you step down to a cheaper cable package? Drink fewer Starbucks lattes? Use coupons when you shop for groceries and put the dollars you saved away.
  • Renegotiate what you can – Call your service providers and credit card issuers and ask for a cheaper rate. If you don’t get it, shop around.
  • Bank the savings – That’s the key. Once you’ve nipped away at your costs, you need to bank the savings.
  • Sell your old stuff – eBay, Craigslist, even garage sales. Sell the stuff you no longer need and stow the proceeds in your emergency fund.
  • Sell other people’s old stuff – Thrift stores and garage sales offer lots of good, used stuff at prices so low you may be able to resell it on Craigslist or eBay. Be alert to great buys on used household goods, jewelry and more.
  • Get a side job – Can you wait tables? Work retail? Take freelance gigs from Fiverr or TaskRabbit? Working an extra few hours a week can build your fund up fast.
  • Check your withholding – While it's nice to get a check from the IRS every spring, it's nicer to have the money now, going into your emergency fund every month. Use the IRS withholding calculator and adjust accordingly.
  • Offer to walk dogs or babysit for friends or neighbors – Stash the fees into your emergency fund.
  • Rent out your extra room – Make your place available on Airbnb for short-term housemates, or rent a room to a boarder, who may also help out with utilities.
  • Sign up for focus groups – Marketers and pollsters are so interested in what you think that they'll pay for your opinion. Visit a site like FindFocusGroups.com, and earn $50 to $150 for speaking your mind.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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