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Organizing Finances to Buy a Home

February 20, 2015 5:03 am

Buying a home is a major life decision. You’ll want to do everything in your power to make sure you’re financially secure enough to tackle the investment. If you’re planning to buy a home in the near future, organization is key.

“Buying your first home can be a complicated and intimidating process, both emotionally and financially,” said Steve Trumble, ACCC. “Buying a home is one of the largest investments consumers will ever make, and it’s critical that they prepare financially before they take the leap.”

The ACCC suggests the following:

Pay your bills on time – Your credit history plays an important role in the homebuying process. This includes rent and bills. If you have a history of paying credit cards, utilities, student loans and other bills late, it can damage your ability to secure a mortgage. Create a schedule and budget so that you can pay bills on time as they are due.

Pull your credit report – It’s critical that you know what your credit score is since it is one of the first and most important items a bank looks at when determining whether to grant a mortgage. When examining the report, make sure to look for inaccuracies or mistakes. If there are any, you’ll have to address that with the credit bureaus. If your score is lower than it should be, spend the time necessary to improve your score long before you are going to buy.

Trade lines – Most lenders prefer if you have three or more trade lines (credit cards, student loans, car loan, etc.) that have been open for at least a year. It’s also important to avoid closing these trade lines because it will negatively affect your credit score.

Save as much money as possible – A larger down payment (20 percent) or more can save you hundreds in additional insurances and give you more buying power.

Do your research – There are many other factors you have to consider when buying a home in addition to the purchase price of the house. Property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, maintenance, condo fees and repair can add up very quickly. Make sure to research interest rates to determine the best time to buy.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Moving? Choose a Safe Self-Storage Facility

February 20, 2015 5:03 am

The Self Storage Association (SSA) notes that 1 out of every 10 households in the United States currently rents some kind of storage unit, including portable on-demand storage (PODS). That represents a significant increase from 1 in 17 U.S. households in 1995.

If you’re considering renting storage space when moving, look for a safe facility that meets these guidelines:

The facility is clean and well-maintained. If a storage facility is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned, there is a good possibility no one is monitoring for pest infestations. Verify that the facility has a permanent, reliable extermination contract in place before you trust them with your belongings.

The facility is secure. Ensure the facility has minimum security measures, like fencing that secures the entire property and access control. Ideally, the storage building should also have onsite features like 24-hour video surveillance cameras and coded security pads. Find out about the facility’s procedures in cases of fire or flooding.

The units are climate-controlled.
Very high or low temperatures, as well as dampness, can quickly cause damage to appliances and furniture. Make sure that rising groundwater from snow or rain is unable to penetrate the unit.

The facility offers insurance. If your renters or homeowners insurance does not provide off-premises coverage, you may want to opt for one of the company’s coverage options. Keep in mind that any facility should have its own insurance to cover damages to the property or injuries that occur on the premises.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Stand Out from the Competition with a Staged Home

February 19, 2015 8:27 pm

Staging your home is a surefire way to help your home stand out from the competition. While the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms are three areas that shouldn’t be overlooked, the remaining rooms in your home are just as important.

Take the dining room for instance. While it’s true that many millennials might prefer to give up the room altogether for a larger entertainment room or office space, for other prospective buyers, a dining room is an important component of a house.

After all, the dining room is where most of the family meals are eaten, and the space where guests are entertained. Plus, the dining room can act as a wonderful showcase room for your china, glasses and other flatware.

The best way to stage a dining room is to showcase it as if it’s being decorated for a fancy dinner party. Put out your best place settings, use fancy linens, add some decorative candles, and play on a buyer’s emotions. Give them the chance to envision what it would be like to host their own elegant dinner in the room.

Chairs should be pushed completely under the table so people aren’t blocked from walking around. Paying attention to this simple detail will also give the room a larger feel. And the dining room table should be cleaned and polished so that it shines.

Depending on the size of the dining room, additional furniture can be added, especially if there’s an opportunity to show off a nice china cabinet. However, be sure to avoid having extra chairs or a wine rack in the corner, as this will only make the room look smaller.

Most dining rooms are lit by chandelier, an item that can go a long way toward attracting a prospective buyer’s eye. If your current chandelier is dingy or doesn’t give off much light, now’s a good time to think about an upgrade. Chandeliers don’t cost too much and a new one can make a world of difference. Plus, you could always take it with you (as long as the buyer knows it’s not part of the package). If you don’t plan on incorporating new lighting into the area, make sure whatever lighting you have in place works properly. You’ll also want to ensure that it’s clean, and that it doesn’t hang too low.

And last but not least, consider your window treatments carefully. If your dining room features heavy curtains that block the window, be sure to tie them back before prospective buyers visit. If you’re willing to throw the curtains in with the house, make that clear up front.

For more dining room staging tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Lockboxes and Their Role in the Real Estate Process

February 19, 2015 8:27 pm

Selling a home can be a time-consuming process, but as any real estate professional can attest, making sure the space can be seen at all times—and ensuring agents have a way to enter—are two crucial ingredients that can ultimately go a long way toward helping the home sell faster. And one way to achieve this is by installing a lockbox.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a lockbox is a small metal box that’s fastened to the front door (or another secure part of the home). Housed inside the lockbox is another box that contains the key to the home. A code is required to get the key, providing a safe and secure way for real estate agents to enter the home and show it off to prospective buyers.

In fact, real estate professionals will tell you that installing a lockbox will not only result in more views by qualified buyers, they can also play a major role in speeding up the selling process. After all, your house isn’t just being shown by the agent you listed with. Instead, it’s available to real estate agents from all over. And, in the end, if they don’t have an easy way to show your house to their clients when you and/or your agent aren’t available, you’re more than likely going to miss out on showings.

While lockboxes are designed to allow access to your home 24/7—depending on the lockbox hours you and your agent set—making the process easier for everyone involved, it’s important to keep in mind that you ultimately have control over when someone can and can’t see your home.

If you’re still not sold on the lockbox idea, keep in mind that by not utilizing this technology, you’re making it so that both you and your agent need to be available when someone comes to see the house.

It’s also important that sellers not overlook lockboxes simply because they used them in the past and had a less than stellar experience. Today’s lockboxes are much more technically advanced than they used to be. Unlike the lockboxes of a decade ago, lockboxes today have a tiny microprocessor inside in order to record the time, date and which agent showed your home. Taking this one step further, the lockbox then notifies your listing agent so that they can quickly get to work on your behalf.

Remember that there’s nothing to fear about an uninvited guest breaking into the box and stealing your key. Not only does a lockbox require an electronic key to open it, but the only way to get a key is to become a member of the local MLS. Each key has a unique identifier and agents are forbidden to let other agents use theirs.

For more information about lockboxes, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Slow and Steady Wins the Race - How to Approach the Final Walk-Through

February 19, 2015 8:27 pm

One of the most exciting times in a prospective buyer’s life is when they get ready to move into a new home, however, it’s important to not let the novelty of a new space cloud your judgment when it comes time for the final walk-through.

A critical step in the process, the final walk-through is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to making sure the house is the way it’s supposed to be and in the condition agreed to for the sale. While most buyers are eager to get the process over with so they can sign their name and move in, real estate professionals across the board caution against taking the final walk-through lightly.

While most walk-throughs are typically conducted on the day of the sale, a few hours before the scheduled closing, some people prefer to schedule the walk-through earlier to build in time for any issues that may need to be fixed.

When it comes to the actual walk-through, it’s important to test all the appliances to make sure they’re in working condition. It’s also a good idea to run faucets and check for leaks, test the air conditioner and heating unit and make sure all items have been removed from the basement, attic and garage.

You’ll also want to examine anything else that was in the contract that the seller was supposed to fix. For these particular items, ask the seller to provide receipts and warranty information in case something does go wrong after you move in.

And while it’s not a requirement, some prospective buyers choose to bring their home inspector to the walk-through. While this typically costs about 25 percent of the original fee, it could be worth it if major items were supposed to be fixed.

If a problem does present itself during the final walk-through, especially a serious matter that could cost thousands of dollars to fix, you can get your real estate lawyer involved and have them try to work with the seller’s lawyer on a proper settlement, or leave it to your agent to renegotiate. Another option is to ask for a credit from the seller, a side document to deal with the problem or an escrow of the sales proceeds. If the seller isn’t willing to work with you, you may need to threaten to walk away.

Remember, a final walk-through is not meant as an opportunity to renegotiate—although that can happen in some cases. Instead, think of it as more of an inspection to not only make sure nothing has changed since the time you agreed to buy the home, but to ensure everything the seller was supposed to repair has been taken care of.

For more information about final walk-throughs, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Searching for a Home

February 19, 2015 8:27 pm

As the spring home-buying season approaches, now’s the time to make sure you have everything in order so that you can hit the ground running once the warm weather arrives. To ensure the process is as simple and painless as possible, take the following advice to heart as you search for your new home.

1. Be Willing to Walk Away. You may have found the home of your dreams, but that doesn’t mean you should pay way over asking price or make concessions that you don’t want to make. If the negotiations begin to head in a direction you’re not comfortable with, take a step back and really consider the deal. Always keep an open mind and remember that there are other homes out there—some that might even fit your needs better. Plus, when a buyer walks away from a deal, more often than not, the seller’s agent is more inclined to reach back out and be more willing to work with you.

2. Set Reasonable Expectations. Everyone has an image of the perfect house in their mind, but depending on budget, location and many other factors, finding a home with everything you’re looking for may be impossible. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to make a list of the things you desire in a new home and arrange them from most important to least.

3. Look at Homes You Can Afford. This may seem like a no-brainer, but prospective buyers often house hunt and bid on properties that are way out of their price range. While it’s okay to look at a wide range of homes, including some that may be just above your price range, don’t waste your time looking at homes that are priced anywhere from 25 - 50 percent over what you can afford.

4. Know Your Budget. Before you get too invested in the home search process, figure out exactly what you can afford by making a list of all your expenses, including taxes and insurance. It’s also a good idea to get pre-approved on a loan before you even begin looking at homes. A pre-approval will not only be instrumental in determining the amount you’ll be loaned, it may also help you get a leg up on any competition for the home if there’s a bidding war.

5. Understand Your Financing Options. There are many different types of mortgages available for those looking to buy a home, including several special loans one may qualify for. With so many financing options out there, it’s crucial that you do your homework to ensure you’re getting the best rate. The last thing you want to do is jump at the first offer from a mortgage lender.

Contact our office today for more home-buying tips.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Build Equity Fast with the Wealth Building Home Loan

February 19, 2015 8:27 pm

From 15-year loans to 30-year loans and everything in between, prospective buyers have a lot of options at their fingertips when it comes to choosing the loan that’s best for them. And now, buyers can add one more option to the list: the Wealth Building Home Loan (WBHL). Not only does the WBHL help lower-income borrowers build equity fast, it also protects them against any future crash in values. Plus, there’s no down payment, no closing costs and no mortgage insurance.

The Wealth Building Home Loan is the brainchild of Edward Pinto and Stephen Oliner of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who sought a way for borrowers to get the equity benefit of a 15-year fixed mortgage with the affordability that comes from a 30-year loan.

The key feature of the WBHL is a sharply reduced interest rate on a 15-year term. Instead of requiring a down payment, banks allow borrowers to use their money to pay interest upfront, a practice that’s often referred to as “buying down” the rate.

In order to keep monthly payments down and maintain home buying power, the AEI notes that a conventional 15-year fixed loan is priced around 0.75 percent below the going rate for a 30-year fixed FHA loan.

The new WBHL also allows for zero down on financing, with only five percent required in down payment funds repurposed for a permanent 1.25 percent rate buy down. This allows borrowers the chance to pay down their mortgages faster.

It’s also important to consider these numbers: In the first three years with a WBHL, 77 percent of the monthly mortgage payments pay off the principal, creating huge amounts of equity, compared to a 30-year loan, where 68 percent goes toward paying interest. During the same three years, the WBHL (with 0 percent down) amortizes to an 82 percent loan-to-value ratio, while a 30-year fixed rate FHA loan with a 4 percent down payment amortizes to a 91 percent LTV.

Candidates for the new loan are those classified as low- and moderate-income borrowers seeking to buy modestly priced homes. This includes many millennials who will get more out of buying a smaller home on a 15-year term than a larger house on a 30-year loan.

As far as requirements for obtaining a WBHL, borrowers cannot own any other existing home. In addition, the space must be a one-to-four-unit property, and they must live in it themselves after purchase.

While this may not appeal to borrowers looking to lower their taxable income with interest deductions, the loan is a good option for those who don’t benefit greatly from writing off their mortgage interest come tax time.

With the WBHL, you own your home free and clear in 15 years, so it’s definitely something all homebuyers should look into.

To learn more about the Wealth Building Home Loan, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Lockboxes

February 19, 2015 8:27 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 Wealth Building Home Loan and how it can help lower-income borrowers build equity fast. Other topics covered this month include simple tips to keep in mind to take the stress out of the home search process and how to stage your dining room to appeal to a wide range of 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.


E-Cycle Your Household Gadgets

February 19, 2015 5:03 am

With advancing technology, sleeker, shinier and faster cell phones, computers, tablets, mp3 players and televisions are finding their way into the hands of American consumers. But what about the old ones that are still perfectly functional? Think e-Cycle, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Rather than making products from scratch, recycling electronics keeps harmful toxins out of landfills, recovers valuable materials that can be reused, conserves virgin resources and results in lower emissions, including greenhouse gases which contributes to climate change.

Smartphones make up a large portion of the waste stream. For every one million smart phones recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered and reused.

The good news is many retailers and manufacturers now take back old electronics for recycling by certified electronics recyclers. By using certified recyclers, you can rest assured that your old electronics will be recycled responsibly. To find such locations near you, go to and enter your zip code.

In addition, many states, cities and counties sponsor collection events for electronics during the year, or they may offer a permanent drop-off location with certain hours of operation.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Hiring a Tree Care Professional

February 19, 2015 5:03 am

To care for trees on your property, doing your homework is imperative to ensuring quality, safe work, avoiding scams and saving money, according to the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

“With hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars at stake, not to mention the integrity and appearance of your property and your personal safety, make sure that you take the time in deciding which company you should hire,” cautions Peter Gerstenberger, TCIA. “Disreputable companies are renowned for ripping gutters off, breaking fences and bird baths and even dropping trees on houses. Then they typically fold up and leave, never to be seen again.”

Before beginning your search for a tree care professional, understand that the credentials for someone who uses the title “arborist” can vary widely. An arborist is a professional who cares for trees and other woody plants by pruning, fertilizing, monitoring for insects and diseases, consulting on tree-related issues and occasionally planting, transplanting and removing trees.

Homeowners searching for qualified tree care companies should look for:
  • Proof of Insurance – Ask for current certificates of liability and workers’ compensation insurance, if applicable. If the tree company you hire doesn’t have insurance or is not a legal company, you, the homeowner, could be held responsible as a contractor.
  • Good References – Ask for local references, and check the quality of their work and level of service. Don’t feel rushed by a bargain and never pay in advance.
  • Solid Reputation – Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business organizations.
  • Comparisons – Get a second opinion and quote. Always get estimates in writing.
  • Up-to-Date Knowledge – Ask if they follow ANSI standards. A professional arborist will be aware of the current safety, pruning, fertilizing and cabling standards.
  • Contract – Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates, when work is to be performed and exactly what is to be done.
There are also inherent dangers for one attempting tree care or removal – pruning limbs, felling trees and especially climbing into trees are hazardous activities even for trained professionals. For safe and efficient work, hire a tree care professional with experience, expertise and equipment to safely take down or prune damaged trees.

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.