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Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval: What You Need to Know before the House Hunt Begins

November 15, 2013 6:21 pm

Planning ahead and being prepared is the name of the game when it comes to finding real estate success. Therefore, before you begin seriously shopping for a home, it’s always a good idea to go over your finances and determine what you can truly afford. Having an exact figure in mind from the beginning will go a long way toward making it easier for you and your real estate agent to seek out the best house in your price range.

That’s why getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage is so valuable, especially in today’s competitive market. However, it’s important to understand the difference between these two terms, as they don’t mean the same thing.

When a homebuyer is pre-qualified, the lender determines how large a loan the buyer can afford by looking at basic information related to income, balances and payments on current debts, and how much money has been saved for a down payment.

From there, qualifying ratios are applied to the numbers and the lender offers an estimate of what percentage of your gross monthly income can be used to pay for the home loan and attached expenses.

The key thing to remember here is that the lender is offering an estimated amount it would approve, meaning there’s no guarantee. It’s merely an educated guess on the part of the lender based on a quick appraisal of the facts. And if you’re not honest when it comes to sharing your financial information, it could come back to hurt you in the end.

On the other hand, when a mortgage is pre-approved, it involves a much more stringent examination into your finances. During pre-approval, the lender examines and verifies your debt, income, savings, assets and credit report to ensure you can repay the loan amount. Taking the time to go through this process shows sellers that you have indeed been approved for a loan of a certain amount.

While pre-qualification is really just an educated guess of a homebuyer’s purchasing power, a pre-approval goes one step further, guaranteeing that the prospective borrower would be approved for the loan. That’s why sellers prefer to negotiate with pre-approved buyers because they already know the buyer is financially qualified to obtain the financing they need to close the transaction.

Going through the pre-approval process also lets your real estate agent know you’re serious about purchasing a home and won’t have any last-minute financial problems that could hold up a deal.

In the end, it’s important to remember that pre-qualifications simply provide a quick way to show a seller that you’re a viable candidate for buying a home. Additionally, a pre-qualification will get your mindset focused on gathering all the financials you’re going to eventually need. Once you’ve been pre-qualified for a mortgage, it shouldn’t stop you from taking the extra step and getting a pre-approval letter.

Contact our office today to learn more about pre-qualifications and pre-approvals.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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No Matter the Market, Open Houses Still Provide an Edge When It Comes to Selling Homes

November 15, 2013 6:21 pm

Even as prospective buyers continue to turn to the Internet to search for their dream home, most agents will argue that open houses are still the best way for house hunters to see and feel if a home is the right fit. And nothing beats actually walking through a house and seeing it firsthand.

Plus, for older buyers—who may not be comfortable looking at homes on the Internet—the only way they’re going to discover the home of their dreams is to go see it in person.

When it comes to open houses and getting homes sold in today’s market, there’s growing concern among those in the industry that the housing downturn is a primary reason as to why open houses can be ineffective. During the housing boom, it was more common for buyers to make an offer at an open house because they were worried that another buyer would beat them to it. Today, this rarely happens.

If you’re planning on incorporating an open house into your home-selling strategy, real estate professionals suggest hiring a professional stager who’ll be able to offer advice when it comes to decluttering your home. Whether it’s moving stuff into storage, improving lighting or simply creating an inviting home, stagers will prove to be a beneficial asset throughout the entire process.

Open houses will also go a long way toward attracting a wide range of prospective buyers as they typically draw a cross section of people from nosy neighbors to those who are just starting their search. While you may not get serious offers from those who are just beginning the process, open houses are a great way to draw attention to your home, especially if it’s priced right. Buyers who have been pounding the pavement, searching for their dream home might finally find what they’ve been looking for, and since they know what else is out there, it could lead to a sale.

Additionally, having your neighbors show up for your open house can prove to be a benefit in disguise. While they’ve most likely been telling their friends about the merits of the neighborhood for years, your home being on the market may be the icing on the cake when it comes to them finally being able to enter the community.

To learn more about open houses, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Pinterest

November 15, 2013 6:21 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 open houses when it comes to finding success in today’s market. Other topics covered this month include the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval and why today’s market and economy in general offer much to be thankful for this holiday season. 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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Energy Efficient Window and Door Installation Tax Credits Expire December 31

November 15, 2013 3:57 am

If you have been considering an upgrade in windows and doors to make your house more energy efficient, now is the time according to the experts at Green Light Window Films. Several tax credits are set to expire on December 31, 2013. Turning some of your last minute home improvement and energy efficient upgrades into a reality sooner rather than later may be a good idea.

The tax credit is part of a provision in the recent "Fiscal Cliff" Legislation that has created a tax credit opportunity for window films installed in residential structures. Under the legislation, the qualifying credit is 10 percent of the film cost with a maximum total credit of $500. The new policy is retroactive to January 1, 2012 and expires December 31, 2013.

Individuals that should be considering the installation of solar window film on their home's windows would be those that are experiencing higher than desired heating and cooling bills, fading to floors, furniture and artwork, or those that are looking to add privacy to their windows. Window films also block 99.9 percent of harmful UV rays from the sun. This is significant for homeowners looking to protect their families, or those that have been diagnosed with any form of skin cancer.

Advances in window film technology have produced products that are optically clear. The traditional dark window tint is still an option but not always the best solution.

For homeowners interested, calling a top quality window film company as soon as possible is recommended in order to avoid scheduling problems that would prevent you from taking advantage of this program and the tax credit expiration date.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Fall Fertilizing is Best for Nourishing Your Lawn

November 15, 2013 3:57 am

When you think “fall lawn care,” raking leaves may be the first image that comes to mind. However, fall is also the most important time to fertilize lawns, particularly in cold climates like the Midwest. Ensuring an enviable, green lawn this spring begins now. Fertilizing in late fall brings more benefits, thanks to these conditions: Grass regains strength following dormancy in summer heat when morning dew brings hydration.

Just as Mother Nature inherently revitalizes grass, natural fertilizers work with nature by increasing the soil's ability to retain water and nutrients, improving the health and strength of the soil and grass.

Natural fertilizers are also environmentally-friendly. Synthetic fertilizers contain salts that can seep into ground water. With no toxic ingredients, a natural lawn food can be an eco-friendly, non-burning fertilizer that promotes lush, green lawn, offering the same efficacy as a synthetic without the harmful ingredients.

Look for lawn food that contains no manure, no biosolids (i.e., sewage) and no added phosphorous. There are no restrictions on re-entry time after application. Children and pets can play on the lawn immediately. No manure means there's no unpleasant odor.

Ready to reveal your lawn's potential next spring? Incorporate fall fertilizing into your fall lawn care routine now.

Source: Purely Organic Products

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep the Heat in Your Home: How Super-Insulating your Attic Can Save Energy and Money

November 15, 2013 3:57 am

Many are doing everything they can to cut down on the amount of energy used around the house. One of the best ways to do this, while also reducing your environmental footprint and lowering your monthly utility bills, is by ensuring your attic is well insulated.

Adding insulation to an attic is a lot like putting on a hat when it's cold outside. Insulation helps keep the heat inside the home where it belongs, so you can stay warm and cozy without spending a fortune. Insulating and air sealing an attic can also help prevent icicles from forming at the roof edge.

To help save money while keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips on how to super-insulate your attic:

• First, create an air barrier by having all gaps and holes that pass through the ceiling into the attic sealed. A good air sealing job will help prevent warm, moist, house air from escaping into the attic. This is a very important first step to any attic insulation project. Ceiling electrical boxes, exhaust fans, pot lights, wiring and duct penetrations, attic hatches, vent pipes and chimneys are locations that should be inspected and properly sealed.

• If you don't need frequent access to your attic and if space permits, consider having at least a 71-centimetre (28-inch) layer of blown-in or batt-type insulation added over top of existing insulation. Make sure the new insulation does not block the ventilation spaces needed to permit air to move freely from the eaves into the attic. Insulation dams or guards can be installed to ensure this ventilation space does not become blocked by the new insulation.

• In restricted spaces, such as the eaves where the roof passes over the exterior walls, spray-foam insulation may provide a better air seal and insulation level than can otherwise be achieved with batt-type or blown-in insulation. Spray foam insulation can also help prevent "wind washing" of the insulation in this area which can reduce its insulating value and create cold spots along the ceiling-wall intersection below the attic.

• To stop heat from escaping through the attic hatch, insulate the hatch with RSI-5.3 (R-30) or similar high-R-value solid board insulation. Add compressible weatherstripping and a couple of latches to the hatch to ensure an airtight seal.

• If you think you will need access to different parts of your attic, have planks installed through the roof truss members above the insulation layer to provide a surface to crawl over.

• In some cases, due to the condition of the roof, limited space, or a desire to change the appearance of the house, it may be possible to install a new roof over top of the existing roof. This can provide an opportunity to add more insulation than would otherwise be possible.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fun and Creative Kids' Activities for Fall

November 14, 2013 3:57 am

(BPT) - Each year autumn marks a time for change - leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. -The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children in school, it's important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

- Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree seeds — this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.

- Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.

- Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.

- Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you're making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To: Avoid Overspending During Thanksgiving

November 14, 2013 3:57 am

While Thanksgiving may be intended as a day to give thanks for everything life has to offer, many Americans view it as a day to overcook, overeat, and overspend. Below are a few tips you can use to practice moderate spending and eating, so that you don’t break your budget—or your belt--in order to enjoy the celebration.

Here are five tips to follow so your Thanksgiving is fun, but not expensive:

1. Don't go in cold turkey – Plan a realistic budget well in advance, one that considers what you can really afford to spend on the holiday (in cash), not what you'd "like" to spend.

2. Think like a Pilgrim – The fairytale version of early Thanksgivings included a focus on saying thank you, and not trying to impress those in attendance, so be modest and frugal.

3. Remember the trimmings – not the stuffing, the decorations! Don't buy them, make them! Look online and you'll find easy-to-make, inexpensive ways to decorate your home and table.

4. Ask everyone to give thanks – Ask family and friends to bring a prepared dish, dessert or the wine, and build those items into your budgeting and planning.

5. Involve the natives – Invite your children, or some who may be attending, to prepare decorations, easy-to-make snacks, or lead after-dinner games rather than spend on entertainment.

Source: www.InCharge.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hard vs. Soft Water - What Do They Really Mean?

November 14, 2013 3:57 am

In a nutshell, hard water, which to one extent or another is most of the water that flows through our neighborhood pipes, is water that contains an appreciative amount of dissolved minerals. Soft water is treated water in which the only ion is sodium.

As rainwater falls, it is naturally soft. But as it makes its way through the ground and into our waterways, it picks up minerals like chalk and lime and a lot of calcium and magnesium.

Hard water is to blame for dingy looking clothes, dishes with spots and residue, and bathtubs with lots of film and soap scum. Because soap is less effective in hard water, it takes more soap and more shampoo to achieve acceptable results, and even appliances will work harder and use more energy in the process.

Most consumers prefer using soft water because chores can be performed more efficiently. Lather is rich and bubbly even when using a minimal amount of soap or shampoo. Glasses will sparkle, hair will look healthier, and the shower curtain will be scum-free.

Soft water users will also save money. In addition to saving on detergents and soaps, appliances have to work less hard, prolonging their productive lives, and energy bills are noticeably lower in households with soft water systems.

There is a downside to soft water in that it is not as healthy to drink. In the softening process, as minerals are removed, sodium content increases. Soft water not only tastes salty, but research shows the risk of cardiovascular disease is lowest where water has the most mineral content.

But the conundrum may be easily solved. Consumers may enjoy all the benefits of softened water while safeguarding their health by bringing bottled water into the home for drinking purposes – or by installing a reverse osmosis system, which may be installed under the kitchen sink for less than $500.

If you are on a municipal water system, the water supplier can tell you the hardness level of the water they deliver. If you have a private water supply, you can have the water tested for hardness. They can also help you evaluate the significance of the test results, so that you can make an informed decision about how – and where – to opt for softened water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Easy-to-Install Window Trim Options

November 13, 2013 3:57 am

On the “what’s in and what’s out” list for homeowners, naked window exteriors are definitely out. Easy-to-install decorative accents like mouldings, window crossheads and shutters are now trending for homeowners across the country.

“With so many options for enhancing window exteriors using lightweight polyurethane products, even the most novice do-it-yourselfer can change a window exterior from boring to beautiful in a short time,” says Niki Decker with Fypon. “If you can use a tape measure, a hammer and a caulk gun, you can transform your window exteriors!”

Options for homeowners to use include:

Crossheads – Decorative crossheads sit on the top of a window and add a regal look. They can be plain or detailed with keystones in the center to draw attention or detail trim along the length of the crosshead to suit traditional home styles. There are also crosshead arches and eyebrow crossheads that provide a softer, curved look when installed above a window.

Pediments – Stylish and eye-catching, pediments also sit above windows. From curved and peaked sunbursts to triangular peaked caps, acorn and rams head styles, pediments are the most dramatic way to draw attention to your window exteriors.

Pilasters – Not all window enhancements sit on top of the window unit. Usually intended to flank the sides of entry doors, pilasters can also be cut down to run vertically up the sides of windows. Pilasters can be smooth and plain, or have a “fluted” recessed design. They generally have plinths at the top and bottom to balance out the window design and add style to the window surround.

Mouldings - Perhaps the easiest way to surround a window is with flat or decorative trim and plinth blocks. This quick project requires no miter cuts because the plinth blocks are put in all four corners of the window exterior and butt up to straight cuts of smooth, paintable trim pieces. Many homeowners use this technique as a “starting point” and then add in other elements such as pediments and shutters to create their own personal window statement.

Shutters – Another popular way to draw attention to the sides of windows is to add a set of decorative shutters. Available in louvered and raised panel styles that are smooth and paintable, shutters provide the perfect way to carry an accent color throughout the exterior of your home. Or, timber shutters in board, plank and louvered styles can be stained to imitate the look of wood on a home without all the maintenance hassles of real wood.

Window Panels – To add depth to the look of a window, flat and raised panels can be added below the window unit and then enclosed entirely with trim. Window panels tend to fill in space between the bottom of the window and the ground, helping the windows gain more presence and focus on a home exterior.

Pot Shelves – Available in both timber and stone styles, a pot shelf is placed below the bottom window sill. Oftentimes they’re used to balance out an entire window surround with a finished look.

Source: Fypon, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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