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Simple Plumbing Fixes Can Keep Your Home Sale from Going Down the Drain

April 4, 2012 3:56 pm

While prospective buyers don’t often check the plumbing when out looking at homes, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore your home’s plumbing system when getting your home ready to be listed on the market.

In fact, during an open house, you may get a prospective buyer who flushes all the toilets, turns on all the faucets and checks out the showerhead, or you might get a more seasoned “expert” who looks under the cabinets for leaks or checks for water spots in key areas. However, the last thing you want is for a sale to be ruined because you didn’t take the time to fix a simple plumbing issue.

Major plumbing renovations may be huge selling points, but sellers can get just as much credit by simply fixing leaks and changing out a few faucets.

Before allowing prospective buyers into your home, make sure you have strong water pressure and that there are no stains on any of the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain to remove, you may want to hire a local housecleaning company on a one-time basis, as they often have the materials to get rid of tough stains.

When it comes to making sure your home’s plumbing is up to par, if you do nothing else, be sure to take care of any leaks in your plumbing system, as these can be an instant deterrent for buyers. You should also check as much of your plumbing as possible for corrosion or rust. Take the time to thoroughly check any plumbing that’s easily accessible, since potential buyers will likely be checking for signs of any problems here too.

If your house is more than one story, prospective buyers will more than likely look at the ceiling to check for water stains from leaking pipes. Even if there was a problem that was fixed long ago, take the time to paint over the area on the ceiling where the leak was visible so no alarm bells go off.

You should also make sure that sinks and tubs are draining easily, and if not, there are plenty of un-clog solutions you can buy at your local supermarket. You can also clean the drain yourself of any hair and debris.

When prospective buyers come into your home for a tour, they tend to focus on things where they can use their hands, so make sure all the hot and cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do, replace the washers.

Not only is it important to make sure everything is up to par and working before prospective buyers come into your home, it’s also crucial to make sure everything looks nice and neat. For instance, having nice shiny fixtures makes a good first impression and it doesn’t cost much to replace old, outdated ones. Taking the time to match the faucets with the decorating scheme in the bathroom will also give the house a polished, finished appearance.

No prospective buyer wants to run into problems when they are consider purchasing a home, so taking care of these simple plumbing issues can keep a sale from going down the drain.

To learn more about getting your home ready to sell, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


HARP 2.0 to Provide Underwater Homeowners a Lifeline

April 4, 2012 3:56 pm

While underwater homeowners may still be a common theme today, the government recently enacted a new Home Affordable Refinance Program to help eligible participants pay down the principal on their home mortgage loan without having to pay mortgage insurance.

The new HARP 2.0 Refinance Program was made available to U.S. homeowners as of March 17, 2012 and those eligible have until Dec. 31, 2013 to refinance.

“You can use HARP even if you’re really far underwater on your mortgage. There is no loan-to-value restriction under the HARP mortgage program so long as your new mortgage is a fixed-rate loan with a term of 30 years or fewer,” said Dan Green, a loan officer with Waterstone Mortgage in Columbia, Md. “If you use HARP to refinance into an adjustable-rate mortgage, your loan-to-value is capped at 105 percent.”

The original HARP program (also known as the Making Home Affordable program) was started in April 2009 and changes were rolled out by the Federal Home Finance Agency on October 24, 2011, and confirmed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on November 15, 2011.

The original version of HARP had several roadblocks that made it difficult for homeowners to refinance. Originally, the program only assisted those with mortgages with a loan-to-value ratio between 80-125 percent, but in many hard-hit housing markets across the country, homes have lost more than 50 percent in value, making those homeowners ineligible for the program.

To be eligible today, a loan must be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and the mortgage must have a securitization date prior to June 1, 2009. If you have an FHA, USDA or jumbo mortgage, you are not HARP-eligible.

One of the changes within the new HARP 2.0 program is that borrowers will now be able to refinance regardless of how far their homes have fallen in value. Previous loan-to-value limits were set at 125 percent.

Appraisals and underwriting have also been eliminated, as most homeowners will no longer be required to get an appraisal or have their loan underwritten, making the refinance process smoother and faster.

In addition, certain risk-based fees for borrowers who refinance into shorter-term loans will either be eliminated or modified.

It’s also important to note that the program will only work on a first mortgage.

“HARP 2.0 is meant for first liens only,” Green said. “Second liens are meant to subordinate. You’ll get to replace your first mortgage and your second mortgage will remain as-is. Just be sure to mention your second mortgage at the time of application so your lender knows to order the subordination for you.”

Remember, the Home Affordable Refinance Program is not meant to save a home from foreclosure. It’s meant to give underwater homeowners a chance to refinance without paying PMI.

For more information about HARP 2.0, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Spring Staging Basics You Can't Afford to Overlook

April 4, 2012 3:56 pm

No matter the season, staging your home before listing it on the market is an important part of the process that shouldn’t be overlooked. While the basics of staging—keeping things clean, clutter free and colorful—typically remain the same throughout the year, with the arrival of spring, there are a number of things you can do both inside and outside the home to take advantage of the beautiful weather.

“In the spring, it’s a great idea to incorporate color around the entryway,” said Barb Schwartz, Creator of The Staged Homes Concept and Home Staging Industry. “An easy way to do this is to place a large pot on each side of the door, fill it with greenery and then add color by integrating daisies or tulips.”

Moving past the entryway, it’s crucial to bring spring colors into the home as well. This can be easily achieved with accessories like throw pillows, area rugs, artwork, towels and bedspreads.

“You can change accessories and the whole house changes. For example, changing pillow cases on decorative pillows that are on a sofa can give a whole new color look to the room,” Schwartz said. “This year, nature colors are really in; green is really big and hot orange is an accent that is strong.”

Designers also recommend bringing spring indoors by incorporating the colors of pears, eggs, sea shells and nature in general into your interior decorating scheme. In addition, fabrics with leaf patterns, wicker, real leather and rust metal as contrast can also be utilized.

Schwartz said it’s also a good idea to replace the drapery panels in a home or office to achieve a fresh look for the spring. In fact, she recently overhauled a den by swapping out a blue daisy pattern and integrating plain cream panels that went from floor to ceiling. “The whole room looked bigger and more elegant,” she said.

Of course, every room in the house is important and there are ways to liven up each one. You want the buyer to buy the whole house, not just one or two staged rooms, so it’s important to create a somewhat cohesive design.

“All homes have to be staged to sell all year long, and spring is a good time to sell because people are out looking again now that winter has passed,” Schwartz said. “It’s important to keep in mind that two things sell a house: one is price and the other is staging.”

In addition to creating a fresh look within the home, homeowners should take the time to clean up the outside of the home as well. Be sure to clean up the yard, remove all leaves and dead plants and even trim bushes and hedges. “More often than not, with the arrival of spring, our homes are still cluttered with gifts from the holidays,” Schwartz said. “I recommend that when one new thing comes in, one other thing is packed up, given away, or donated. Otherwise, the house just gets filled with more and more clutter.”

While the spring season typically brings out more prospective buyers, make sure to take advantage of all the season has to offer.

For more tips to stage your home for spring, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Restoring the American Dream: HAMP Extension Offers Homeowners Hope

April 4, 2012 3:56 pm

During President Barack Obama’s most recent State of the Union address, he spoke about the American Dream of owning a home and how that dream has been shattered for many due to the collapse of the housing and mortgage markets over the last few years. However, Obama offered hope to homeowners recently by extending the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which can help many homeowners refinance and take advantage of historically low interest rates.

HAMP also offers incentives to mortgage lenders to encourage them to refinance and modify existing mortgages by lowering interest rates and reducing mortgage balances to the current value of the property.

Launched by the federal government in 2009, HAMP was slated to expire on December 31, 2012, but was extended for one year until December 31, 2013. The extension of the program included an expansion of the eligibility rules to make it available to even more homeowners.

It is believed that millions of additional homeowners will now be eligible to take advantage of the federal program to bring down the costs of owning a home and even help many avoid foreclosure altogether.

In February, new eligibility criteria were released to mortgage lenders and servicers and homeowners may begin submitting applications under the new rules in May. Until then, homeowners can submit applications for modifications under HAMP to their lenders under the existing eligibility guidelines.

There are several changes to the HAMP guidelines that homeowners should be aware of:

-Homeowners found to be ineligible under the current debt-to-income ratio of 31 percent may now be eligible under the new criteria.

-Previously, non-owner occupied homes and owner-occupied homes with tenants were not eligible. However, the new guidelines would allow tenants in part of the home as long as the home is owner-occupied, or the owner intends to take occupancy. It is believed that approximately 700,000 landlords will be eligible under the revisions to HAMP.

-People who were approved for a HAMP trial period, but did not make the payments as scheduled, would be eligible for consideration for a modification under the new eligibility criteria.

-Homeowners who missed payments under an approved HAMP modification, as opposed to a trial period, would be eligible to reapply under the new rules.

In addition to the HAMP extension, the Obama administration announced that it would triple incentives to owners of mortgages that reduce home loan debt and expand eligibility to borrowers struggling under the weight of other liabilities such as medical bills. The extension will apply to all loans, including those held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage financiers.

For more information about the new HAMP guidelines, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: HARP 2.0, Spring Cleaning

April 4, 2012 3:56 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 how the recent extensions to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) will help homeowners refinance and take advantage of historically low interest rates. Other topics covered this month include simple plumbing fixes that will keep your home sale from going down the drain and staging basics you can't afford to overlook this spring. 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.


Case-Shiller House Prices: A Tale of 20 Cities

April 3, 2012 3:56 pm

Eye On Housing—The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes were released recently with data through January for the 10 and 20 city composites (and component cities). The national index, which is calculated quarterly, and the Charlotte, NC metropolitan area, due to delays in data reporting, were not included in the release. The composites were both down [...]


Reology Announces Results for iThrive Wellness Program

April 3, 2012 3:56 pm

Realogy Corporation, a leading provider of real estate and relocation services, has announced the annual results of its iThrive employee wellness program, which also garnered recognition by a renowned organization and its own employees. Realogy’s iThrive program focuses on promoting and sustaining a healthy lifestyle through diet and nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention, and access [...]


Facing Foreclosure? Know Your Deductions and Credits

April 3, 2012 3:56 pm

According to NPR, more than half the nation saw a spike in foreclosures last month. With more and more homeowners facing foreclosures, experts at The Tax Institute at H&R Block offer the following information on credits and deductions, which can provide assistance to individuals prior to and after this unfortunate circumstance. • Mortgage Debt Forgiveness: [...]


Stewart Honored as One of America’s Most Trustworthy Companies

April 3, 2012 3:56 pm

Stewart Information Services Corp. (NYSE-STC) was recently recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 100 Most Trustworthy Companies in America. Stewart was selected based on an independent audit of 8,000 companies listed on the U.S. stock exchanges. “Stewart is extremely proud that the integrity with which we’ve operated for well over a century has [...]


Spotlight on Mobile: Leading to Tablets

April 3, 2012 3:56 pm

Last week I had the opportunity to attend one of my favorite real estate events of the year; the Leading Real Estate (LeadingRE) Companies of the World Annual Conference. What makes this event different from others in my opinion is the level of engagement by the broker/owner or main decision maker themselves throughout the entire [...]