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Archive for the ‘Real Estate Advice’ 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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house_inspectedHome inspections are a tense time for everyone. Sellers are fervently hoping that
nothing major is wrong with their home that could hold up the transaction.
Buyers are eager to hear that their new house is in prime condition. Whatever the
wishes, one thing is for sure; any news from an inspector is usually bad news.
Home inspectors have a tough job. They have to be trained to spot hundreds of
potential issues with a home and be knowledgeable of local codes, community
restrictions and residential permit parameters.
Stay one step ahead of your home inspector by reading the list of common home
inspection issues below. Then hopefully your inspection won ’t reveal any
unwelcome surprises.
Electrical Wiring
This is a common bubble-busting issue, especially in older homes. Wiring might
have been up to code when the home was built, but it now violates code and is a
fire hazard.
Look for ungrounded outlets, shoddy wiring or a mass of confusing connections
in the electrical panel. Replacing an entire electrical system can be expensive,
but it ’s worth it not to risk a fire.
Plumbing
Look for signs of water damage in the ceilings. This could be a sign that
something above, like a bathtub or sink is leaking into the floor or walls. Look
around toilets and inside kitchen cabinets for traces of wet flooring or wood.
While external leaks are easy enough to fix, interior pipes might require you to rip
up flooring.
Foundation And Framing
Examine the foundation and framing of your home for any structural issues. You
’ll want to keep an eye out for cracking in the foundation due to water runoff or
settling. Also, look for signs of wood rot or termite damage.
These issues affect the framing of your home and could cause scary structural
problems if left unattended.
Roofing
While it ’s probably too difficult for you to inspect the roof yourself, just stand
back in the yard and see if you can notice any bare spots. Also, check for water
damage around the roofline from rain leaking in. Don ’t get too discouraged about
roof issues. It might not call for a complete replacement, but just a repair on one
section.
These common home inspection issues affect both sellers and buyers. As a
buyer, you ’ll want to keep a eye out for these problems so that you know what
you ’d be getting for your hard-earned money.
As a seller, it ’s good to stay one step ahead of the home inspector so that
whatever price is agreed upon goes through.

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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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FHABackToWorkProgram

FHA BACK TO WORK LOAN PROGRAM – A minimum of 12 months have elapsed since the date of foreclosure, deed-in-lieu, short-sale, bankruptcy CH. 13 or 7.  FHA is allowing for the consideration of borrowers who have experienced an Economic Event and can document that:

  1. 1. Certain credit impairments were the result of a Loss of Employment or a significant loss of Household Income beyond the borrower’s control.
  2. The borrower has demonstrated full recovery from the event.
  3. The borrower has completed housing counseling from HUD- approved housing counseling 30 days before but no more than 6 months prior to making a loan application.

This program is now available from many lenders.  Contact us today for a referral to a participating lender

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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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Credit_reportYou just found out your mortgage interest rate from your lender and it’s much higher than advertised rates. You know your credit is better than that so why is it costing you more than it should to buy a home?

Before you lock in your rate, do some quick investigating.

You could have an error on your credit report that is affecting your credit scores, which in turn, affects your interest rate.

According to a study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), approximately one in four U.S. consumers have an error on at least one or more credit reports that could be serious enough to lead to higher rates on loan products. Worse, only one in five consumers were able to obtain a modification to their report.

The three credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Transunion and Equifax, collect data independently – which increases the margins for error. Your lender has no way to know if your report is correct, so it’s up to you to get copies of each of your credit reports and check for errors.

Once a year you are entitled to see a free copy of your credit report. You can go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com and order the reports separately. This is important because banks typically run one report to help set your interest rate. They also check credit reports again just before your loan closing, so you want to make sure that all three credit reports are correct.

If you find an error, you must report it in writing to the appropriate credit reporting agency. Include your name, social security number, date of birth, a copy of the report with the error circled; and copies, not originals, of documents such as social security cards, final payments, release of lien, court orders, or whatever you need to get the report changed.

Make sure your lender has copies of everything so you can prove the credit bureau is in error, not you.

The work you put in is well worth it. According to the FTC, consumers were largely successful at disputing erroneous data.

  • 25% of consumers said the error was corrected by credit reporting agency
  • 80% of consumers said some modification was made to their credit report
  • Over 10% saw their credit scores changed after filing disputes
  • Credit scores changed up to 25 points for 5% of consumers
  • One in 250 consumers saw their scores rise 100 points or more

Once you’ve been able to get each report corrected, you’ll be able to get a better loan rate.

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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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