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Archive for the ‘New Homes’ Category

heatingNow that temperatures are dropping across the country, its time to think about how you can slash your heating bills for the season. Here are five low-cost and/or no-cost moves to help you save money while staying comfortable at the same time.

1. Add insulation. Adding insulation and weather stripping can slash your annual energy costs up to 30% by keeping out the cold or heat and minimizing the stack effect. Start by sealing large gaps around the chimney, furnace flue, plumbing pipes, ductwork, light fixtures, and soffits in your attic. Then lay insulation between attic-floor joists and on the hatch or door, or add more if it’s already there. Look for insulation that’s become dirty, a sign of air movement that reveals other gaps you must fill. Also, insulate ducts running through the attic.

2. Seal up the leaks. Caulking and weather-stripping cracks and gaps around your home are some of the most cost-effective steps you can take to conserve heat. Focus on the attic, basement, windows, and doorways. Also. check near pipes, vents, or electrical conduits that go through the wall, ceiling, or floor. When sealing leaks, use “no-VOC” or “low-VOC” caulking to minimize potentially harmful indoor gases. Look for these products at your hardware store or online.

3. Program thermostats for savings. Shave up to 20% off your heating costs by lowering the thermostat 5 degrees F at night and 10 degrees F during the day if no one is home. Most electronic setback thermostats let you set different schedules for weekdays and weekends. Some automatically switch from heating to cooling, and many tell you when it’s time to change your furnace or air-conditioner filter.

4. Save money on hot water. Insulating hot-water pipes and lowering the temperature on your water heater from 130 degrees to 120 degrees can help you save up to 5% on your energy bills.

5. Shorten showers. Showers account for two-thirds of your water-heating costs, so even shaving off a few minutes can help. Replacing a showerhead that’s more than 12 years old with a low-flow model can save up to half the hot water used for showering.

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Saving for a home

Selling your home for more money is always top importance for sellers. However, sometimes they don’t know how to add value to their home. Not all remodeling and maintenance projects increase the value of your home. Some may not even provide equal return on investment, at least not initially. Think solar. That may take a while to recoup the expense of the installation.

The following are remodeling and maintenance projects that tend to increase not only the value of your home but also its mass appeal to buyers:

1. Updating electrical and plumbing,
2.Bathroom remodel,
3. Kitchen remodel,
4. Painting,
5. Outside maintenance.

When you think about what buyers are looking for, it’s easy to understand why improving these areas would bring increased value. Moving into a home that has major, or even minor, electrical and plumbing issues can be a real headache. Electricity and plumbing are two major necessary conveniences in the home. When they’re malfunctioning it’s often not only time consuming to fix but possibly costly. Take time to note the areas of your home that have electrical and plumbing issues. It may just be a minor issue such as an electrical outlet needs fixing. If that’s the case, fix it before you have buyers coming through your home.

During home inspections, many things are noted. Then the buyer studies that report and often wants to have the seller fix the issues and/or take money off the sale price. Be a step ahead by taking care of the issues you know are problems. Better to cross them off the list rather than wait for the buyer to discover them and add them to their list of reasons the home should have a lower price.

Bathroom remodels are projects that are often long overdue. It may be that a bathroom is very tiny and an expansion is desperately needed. Or it might be that there’s mold behind the shower walls and must be properly removed, cleaned, and replaced with better products, or, maybe, the bathroom simply needs an updated look, or just a maintenance repair such as fixing a leaky faucet or toilet. I recognize that most people don;t want to remodel their bathroom only to turn around and sell their home. However, fixing problem issues is always a good idea. And, if you’re planning to stay in our home for a few years, then giving some thought to a bathroom renovation might be to your benefit. That way you can enjoy it for the time that you remain in the home and then recoup the expense when you do decide to sell. Be careful not to go for extreme trendy materials and patterns that will give the bathroom a dated look in the years to come.

Kitchen remodel. This is attractive to nearly everyone, even those who don’t cook! There’s something really appealing about a beautifully remodeled kitchen. Again, remodeling an entire kitchen to then immediately sell isn’t in the budget for most sellers.

But simple things can help like new paint on the kitchen walls and throughout the house. It can brighten and freshen up even a very old home. Resurfacing the cabinets or giving them a good cleaning can also make a big difference. Then clearing clutter from the shelves, cabinets, inside the pantry and refrigerator will help make the kitchen feel cleaner and look bigger.

Outside maintenance is one of those areas that is a must do. Why? Because it’s outside and it’s often the largest and first area buyers see. Yes, curb appeal matters. If your home doesn’t look inviting from the outside, chances are, no matter how cute it is on the inside, buyers won’t look at it. Call it unfair, but that’s the way it goes. First impressions count. So, make your home as charming as possible from the outside in.

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tax-creditWhen you are looking to sell your home, there are a lot of fees that can be associated with it. Some of these you cannot avoid, some you can and others you can reduce. Today, we are going to look at how to reduce the closing costs on selling a home.

Since the lending industry is highly competitive, many of them are willing to offer a reduced closing cost when finalizing the sale. It’s similar to buying a car in the way that you can negotiate down from a sticker price when you threaten to go to another dealership.

Use your own bank

If you are already a member of the bank that you are attempting to get a mortgage from, it will be a lot easier to reduce these closing costs. Many banks offer this as a way of customer retention (which is the most important part of business since new customers cost more to acquire.)

If you say that paying a closing cost is a deal breaker and that going to another bank is a possibility, your bank is likely to waver and give you the deal you want. It can seem like it’s the wrong thing to do, but you have to be competitive in a competitive finance world.

Acquire a Good Faith Estimate

Lenders are now required by law to give out a Good Faith Estimate to anyone that is borrowing money from them. This will help prevent mortgages that may be deemed as taking advantage of customers by means of nickel and diming them.

What is a Good Faith Estimate? It is the estimate of all costs and fees that are involved with a sale, and can not exceed 10% of the price. There’s a short time frame in which the lenders are required to give out a Good Faith Estimate after a customer applies, so you can quickly look to save a few hundred dollars on the closing costs.

Be assertive

Have the lender explain in detail what fees you are being charged and why you are getting charged in the first place. Too many people blindly agree to a mortgage without getting the details first.

Asking why the fees are there will keep the lender on their toes so you know you are getting the best deal and not being taken advantage of. Now, some of the fees are not actually charged by the lender, but you can possibly have them reduce the fees in order to seal the deal.

Just don’t accept the first deal on the table and always ask questions. Being assertive can save you hundreds if not thousands overall.

Make it part of the loan

There is a way in which you don’t have to pay any closing costs right away by making it part of the overall mortgage. Closing costs aren’t always cheap and can be up to 5% of the overall cost. If you plan on staying in the house for a considerable amount of time, this may be the way to go as it is included in the monthly payment.

It’s not as likely to have the closing costs reduced if you do this method, but if you are unable to dish out the large closing fees before moving into the property, this may be the only way.

It’s always important to really do your homework before getting involved with a mortgage. Always shop around for the best deal that has the lowest fees and interest rates. Skipping over the details can cost you thousands over the course of a mortgage. Stay knowledgeable and you will save money in any form of business.

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loansComparing mortgage loans is one of the most important things you can do when you’re buying a home. The decisions you make will determine the size of your monthly payments, how much you pay upfront, and how much interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

You might find it simpler to compare loans if you ask each lender a series of questions, including:

  • What is the loan’s interest rate?
  • Will I be charged points?
  • What are the closing costs and all other fees?
  • What is the annual percentage rate, or APR – the rate you’ll pay per year for all the costs associated with the loan?
  • Is there a pre-payment penalty?
  • How is the loan amortized, meaning how quickly is the principal paid off?

Find out the answers to these questions no matter what type of loan you’re considering. Each can affect the overall cost of your loan.

If you are considering an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, you can compare loans by asking:

  • When does the rate adjust?
  • How often does the rate adjust?
  • Is there a cap limiting the amount by which the rate can adjust? What would my monthly payments be if my interest rate hit that cap?
  • What is the index and margin that will determine my rate? How has the index changed over time?

ARMs are inherently more risky than fixed-rate mortgages because you’re gambling on whether interest rates will go up or go down before your rate adjusts. Understanding the best- and worst-case scenarios can help you weigh the pros and cons as you compare loans.

But there’s one other big question to consider before you get an ARM:

  • How does the discount introductory rate compare with rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans?

If there’s not much difference when you compare the two, the fixed-rate loan might be a safer bet. You won’t save much in the short-term, and could save a lot over the long term. Plus, you reduce your risk if interest rates shoot up and you can’t refinance before the rate adjustment.

Finally, to truly compare loans, you have to ask yourself some questions:

  • How long do I expect to stay in my home?
  • Are my job and income secure over the long term?
  • Will I be able to afford higher payments in the future?
  • How comfortable am I with risk?

In the end, the best loan is the one that works for your needs.

Written by Lending Tree on Monday, 07 October 2013 13:30

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downpayment

To successfully purchase a home today, you will need a down payment of at least 3.5 percent of the purchase price. Gone are the days of no down payment alternatives, down payment assistance and seller-offered programs to come up with the money needed to buy a home. Instead, let’s look at the five ways you can come up with a down payment to seal the deal.

1. Gift Money: Gift money is simply that — a gift from family or documented close relationship. The giftor needs to provide a gift letter and paper trail for the monies they are gifting for the benefit of the buyer. In other words, they’ll have to provide a bank account showing that they had the ability to gift the money. In short, gift monies cannot be funds sitting at home in a safe.

2. 401(k)/Retirement Loan: Typically, borrowed funds for a down payment are a no-go, but the exception is a 401(k) or equivalent retirement account (or current home equity line). If you can borrow money from your 401(k) for your down payment, this is accepted for obtaining a purchase mortgage loan. Note: Depending on the terms of your loan, this could be counted as a liability and factored into your debt-to-income ratio.

3. Sale of a Good: Believe it or not, you can sell your recreational vehicle and use the net proceeds from the transaction as your down payment. Let’s say that you decide to sell your motorcycle for $10,000. You’ll need to provide the full bill of sale — as well as the bank statement depositing those funds, matching the bill of sale — to your mortgage lender. Same goes for any other recreational vehicle, or other item that “makes sense.” The key is as long as it’s plausible and passes the litmus test and you can paper trail the monies from start to finish, you should have no problem using those monies for the house purchase.

4. Trust Funds, Settlement Awards, etc.: If you come into a chunk of change via an inheritance, settlement, lottery winning, trust fund disbursement, family buyout, even a gambling victory, all of these monies can be used for the down payment as long as the sourcing of the monies is fully documented from A to Z with no stone left unturned. Matching of the amounts of monies used to the original deposits will be required when it comes time to secure the loan.

5. Line of Credit: Where a down payment lacks, enter strength in income. You can take out a line of credit or a personal loan, deposit the full funds into your bank account and after two months, the funds will be eligible for use in the transaction.

While a down payment is needed to purchase in the current real estate market, a prudent homebuyer should also have plans for having available funds for closing costs. The same out-of-the-box strategies listed above can also be used to procure funds for closing costs.

Closing costs run at about 3 percent of the purchase price, on average. So the total funds to close would be 3 percent of purchase price plus 3.5 percent down.

Do your homework. If you don’t have a down payment for a house, or your down payment is coming from more than one source, make sure that you talk to a lender upfront so they can help you navigate the best way to properly support and document your monies used. Doing this on the front end will save you from wasting time creating and gathering unnecessary paperwork.

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According to a NAHB Survey the following items are what current home buyers are putting on their wants list and what they do not want when they are considering buying a new home.

up and down

 

What’s Hot – At least 85% of home buyers report the following as essential or desirable:

  • Energy Star-rated Appliances
  • Laundry Room
  • Energy Star rating for whole home
  • Exhaust fan in bathroom
  • Bathroom linen closet
  • Energy Star-rated windows
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Garage Storage
  • Table space for eating in kitchen
  • Walk-in kitchen pantry

What’s Not – 35% of respondents rated these features as “do not want”:

  • Elevator
  • Golf course community
  • High density community
  • Only a shower stall in master bath
  • Mixed use community
  • Gated community with $100-$200 fee
  • Two-story family room
  • Wine cooler
  • Wet bar
  • Laminate Countertop
  • Two-story entry foyer

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They Keys to Buying a New Home

As a buyers agent I not only represent buyers looking to purchase a resale home, but I also assist buyers through the process of purchasing a new construction home. When I meet with a buyer for the first time I always impress upon them the fact that it is just as important, if not more so, to be represented when buying a new construction home. When a client stops by a new construction home site to view homes the sales person sitting behind the desk is representing the builder or seller. They want to sell one of their builder’s homes to you as the buyer, but you, the buyer, need someone to represent you in the process. Most times the builder has additional incentives for the buyer. For example they may offer to pay for the title policy, some lender fees, some closing costs or even material items that are not usually included in the sale such as washer/dryer, refrigerator or sprinkler system. As a buyer’s agent I am constantly staying of top of the different builder incentives that may be out there at any given time. Realtors are great resources among new construction homes and more importantly, as the buyer, you know you have someone looking out for your best interest.

There is a new development being built in the Village of Sterling Ridge of The Woodlands in Player Manor. Darling Homes, Partners In Building and Toll Brothers are currently the 3 builders building there. Toll Brothers is a new builder to The Woodlands, however they have been in business since 1967. I went to familiarize myself with their product this week and found some good information! Most spec homebuilders charge the buyer an additional expense for upgrades. Tolls Brothers includes many of those same upgrades in the base price of the home. Their new model is not completed in Player Manor at this time, but you can stop by the Creekside Park model and see for yourself the attention that Toll Brothers pays to details in construction.

– Ann Dee Brahms, Buyer’s Agent

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