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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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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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short-sale-see-sawWhat does “SHORT SALE”  mean?

Short Sale  means the lender has to accept LESS than what is owed on the mortgage – or the house can’t be sold.

Homes purchased at the TOP of the MARKET (often with a minimal downpayment and/or with a hefty mortgage) can be tough to sell in this market … simply because the expected SALES PRICE is below what the owner needs to repay on the loan.

Given the current real estate environment  (and significant drop in real estate values)   mortgages can be higher than a home’s market value, what it’s worth or what it will likely sell for.  That can make a house virtually unsellable unless the current owner can cough up the difference and  pay-off his or her mortgage  …OR  convince the bank to accept a reduced pay-off.

What constitutes a SHORT SALE:

1) IT’S  NOT A SHORT SALE if the owner can come to  the closing table with sufficient funds to pay off the loan.

2) IT IS A SHORT SALE IF THE BANK  AGREES TO (even if just in theory!) A SHORT PAY-OFF (ie. less than the amount due on the loan).

The difference between Approved & Unapproved Short Sales:

1) With an APPROVED SHORT SALE  the lender has already agreed to the SALES PRICE.

2) With an UN-APPROVED SHORT SALE  the  lender is aware of the predicament the seller is in (having to sell in a market where the value of the property is less than what’s owed on the loan).  An unapproved short sale  means that the lender  has theoretically agreed to the idea of entertaining an offer on the property (for less than the amount owed on the mortgage).  But the lender’s commitment is rather nebulous.  An official commitment  from the bank won’t come until well after the contract offer-to-purchase has been accepted by the seller,  then presented to and reviewed by the lender (AND IT’S THE LENDER WHO HAS THE FINAL WORD!).  The lender is free to entertain the offer in any fashion they please: counter, accept, or reject it outright … Typically an un-approved short sale is a long and drawn-out process (3-8 months).

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Hughes LandingThe first Hughes Landing tenants began moving in to their new offices in One Hughes Landing in early September, but the office building is only the first of many projects on the horizon. With residential, retail and dining projects planned in the near future, demand for space is strong for the 66-acre mixed-use development.

 Plans for Hughes Landing include 1.5 million to 2 million square feet of office space, 800–1,000 apartment units, 175,000–200,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet for a hotel and a fitness center to serve workers, said Alex Sutton, co-president of The Woodlands Development Company.

Within two years, much of Hughes Landing—located on the east side of Lake Woodlands between Grogan’s Mill Road and Lake Woodlands Drive—could be completed, including a grocery store, parking garage, restaurants and luxury apartments, he said. Sutton said the entirety of the development, including as many as 11 office buildings, could take five to 10 years to complete, depending on demand.

“There’s a lot of buzz in the market that Hughes Landing has created,” Sutton said. “There’s a strong interest in it, and we’re very pleased at the pace that it’s going.”

Retail and residential

Development has always been planned for the tract of land—on the east side of Lake Woodlands between Grogan’s Mill Road and Lake Woodlands Drive—but the development company debated how much space should be allocated for residential and commercial development, Sutton said.

The development company finalized plans a little more than a year ago, Sutton said, and construction began on One Hughes Landing—the first office building—about 10 months ago. “You look at the [Hughes Landing] area and you see developments all around it,” Sutton said. “This is a place where the time has come.”

Although most of the early construction has focused on commercial development, other areas could break ground in 2013. Sutton said construction should break ground by the fourth quarter of this year for a 40,000–50,000-square-foot specialty grocer and a parking garage as the Development Company finalizes leasing for the space.

Paul Layne, executive vice president of master-planned communities for the Howard Hughes Company, said the development company is discussing a lease with Whole Foods. If constructed, it would be the first Whole Foods in The Woodlands.

Hughes Landing will also house what the development company is calling Restaurant Row, an area that will feature at least six restaurants. Escalante, a Mexican restaurant, has already signed a lease, while Eddie V’s, a seafood restaurant, and Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar are close to signing, Layne said. He said the development company is also seeking an Italian restaurant, and as many as 40 restaurants are vying for those few spots in Hughes Landing.

“It’s tremendously popular right now for high-end retail, and restaurants, particularly, are really interested right now,” said Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership.

Staley said the EDP was recently contacted by one major restaurant group from Orlando seeking data on Hughes Landing and The Woodlands, indicating how far the demand reaches.

Construction on Restaurant Row could begin once all restaurants are signed, Sutton said.

The first phase of residential development could begin this month, Sutton said. That includes an eight-story multi-family building with 391 luxury units and 20,000 square feet of retail on the first floor. Discussions are also underway for possible entertainment attractions, including a live music venue, a bowling alley and venues similar to Main Event or Dave & Buster’s.

“You develop a place with energy, and it becomes a place where people want to be,” Sutton said. “And that is why we’re being real careful in selecting our retail. We want to make sure there’s energy.”

Layne said discussions are also ongoing with two possible properties for the development’s hotel: Element by Starwood and Embassy Suites.

Office space

The first of as many as 11 possible office buildings within Hughes Landing, One Hughes Landing is complete and will begin housing tenants this month. Construction began on Two Hughes Landing in June, which should be nearly identical in size to One Hughes Landing, Sutton said.

The third office building could begin construction in spring 2014 once Two Hughes Landing nears completion. Future office buildings should follow suit, breaking ground shortly after the previous building’s completion date.

“The interest picks up considerably once construction picks up and the tenant can see there’s actually a building there,” Sutton said.

The third office facility could be as tall as 12 stories, while the fourth could be 14 or higher as the buildings get farther from the water, Sutton said. The development company has even considered an office building on the water.

Sutton said 87 percent of the leases for One Hughes Landing have been signed, although 95 percent of the leases will soon be finalized for the 197,000-square-foot, 8-story building. Tenants include Layne Christiansen, PetroQuest Energy and Post Oak Bank.

Frank LaRosa, senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Layne Christensen, said his company should add more than 100 jobs when it moves from Kansas City. LaRosa said the housing market and increased property taxes in The Woodlands, compared to his company’s previous location, are not ideal, but the area offers a good labor base for new employees and strong amenities.

“We determined it was in the best interest of the company to reconsolidate and bring our leadership team together in a new location,” he said. “We selected The Woodlands first and foremost because it’s close to our energy services market, which is a growing business for us, and because of the amenities in Houston.”

Although Sutton said no tenants have signed leases yet for Two Hughes Landing, he and Staley believe the demand is strong.

“[One Hughes Landing] filling up so quickly is a good indicator of how strong it is right now for office demand,” Staley said. “Two is taking off as well and three should be right behind.”

Transportation concerns

With 66 acres being developed less than a mile from Town Center, Sutton said Hughes Landing will increase traffic in the area. However, he said the development company has planned for infrastructure in that area, and much of the infrastructure in place is underused.

Sutton said such improvements could include expanding roads from four lanes to six lanes at certain intersections for left and right turns. The development company has also planned for overpasses at Grogan’s Mill Road and Research Forest Drive and at Grogan’s Mill and Lake Woodlands Drive.

Sutton said The Woodlands Township could also expand the trolley service to Hughes Landing.

“We are very hopeful that the trolley will come out to Hughes Landing and come back to the Town Center and those areas,” Sutton said

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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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For_sale_by_owner_signs_1_4533110Selling your home independently and taking the “For Sale By Owner” route is a well-intentioned concept. The most common reason people do it is to save money on commission — the sales fee that is split between real estate agents and brokers.

That’s certainly something we can all understand. After all, who doesn’t want to save money? But the reality of realty is that a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) seller often ends up losing money — and going through a great deal of hassle and stress along the way.

A home is the biggest financial investment that most people experience in their lifetime. Selling a home is a multifaceted process — a lot more than putting a “For Sale” sign in your yard and listing it online. Even if you or your trusted advisers have personal experience in real estate, you’ll probably be selling yourself short in the sale of your home without the use of a licensed, experienced agent. Let’s examine some of the ways how.

Exposure. It’s a seller’s market. Houston is a thriving city, and it’s not uncommon for realtors to get multiple offers on a properly priced home shortly after it goes on the market. But that demand is created through exposure — exposure that leads to more potential buyers becoming aware of the availability of your home for sale. FSBO severely limits that exposure. A realtor has the ability to market your home on avenues such as MLS (multiple listing services) and third party affiliations like Christie’s that only licensed real estate agents are permitted to use.

Pricing. A real estate agent knows how to price the market using reliable, real-time data. Some FSBO homes are underpriced because the seller doesn’t realize the true market value. Most FSBO homes are overpriced — sellers might get greedy or unrealistic because they love their home for sentimental reasons or they have read too much in the press. A real estate agent takes emotion out of the equation and strives to get you the best price for your home based on current data and market conditions.

Negotiations. First, there’s the complicated issue of agreeing on a sale price or of handling multiple offers. And would you believe that’s actually the easy part? Navigating and troubleshooting the many steps that result in a successful closing is where a realtor’s expertise is vital. The most difficult part of a real estate transaction is from the contract to the close — a place where deals can become very contentious, sometimes litigious, and easily fall apart. Once you agree on price, the next negotiation is repairs. A qualified real estate agent has a wealth of experience of inspections and negotiations under his or her belt. The average seller may have only been through this process once or twice.

Time. Think about the hours a real estate agent spends showing a property, doing research for pricing, marketing, negotiating and communicating with buyers and buyers’ agents. Time is money, isn’t it?

Expertise. There’s a saying in the court of law: “The person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” To put it another way, if you had a cavity, would you try to fill your own tooth? Of course not.

An experienced professional realtor will guide the seller through the home selling process and avoid the countless pitfalls and liabilities that can catch a homeowner by surprise. These problems could include legal, logistical and even ethical issues that homeowners can fall victim to. Real estate agents have been educated, trained and certified to handle all of these issues.

If these factors don’t daunt you, then perhaps For Sale By Owner is the route for you. If they do, then I’d say you just might want to consider hiring a licensed real estate agent.

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If you practice fence etiquette and bone up on local zoning regs, you can avoid neighbor disputes.

Must-dos

Observe boundaries: Don’t risk having to tear down that fence by going even one inch over your property line. Study your house line drawing or plat or order a new survey ($500 to $1,000) from a land surveyor to be sure of boundaries. Fefence3nce companies usually install a foot inside the line, to be on the safe side.

Respect limits: Fencing companies obtain permits and must know local zoning regulations for height, setbacks, and other restrictions. Height limits typically are 6 feet for side and back yards; 4 feet for front yards. More restrictive rules often apply to corner lots, where blind curves can limit driving visibility. To avoid disputes, review restrictions with your fence company before choosing a fence.

Follow HOA rules: Fencing companies are not responsible for knowing home owners association dos and don’ts; that’s your job. Unless you want to suffer committee wrath, and engage in a dispute, follow HOA guidelines. HOAs can dictate style, height, and maintenance. If your HOA wants all structures to match, you won’t have much wiggle room.

Nice-to-dos

Share your plans: No one likes surprises. Before installing, save yourself a fence dispute and have a conversation with neighbors. If property line issues exist, resolve them before installation. No need to show neighbors the design–that’s just inviting trouble. They have to live with your choice unless it lowers property values or is dangerous.

Put the best face outward: It’s common practice to put the more finished side of your fence facing the street and your neighbor’s yard.

Maintain and improve: It’s your responsibility to clean and maintain both sides. If an aging section starts to lean, shore it or replace it.

Good-to-knows

  • The term “fence” includes trees or hedges that create barriers.
  • If you have a valid reason for wanting an extra high structure, to block a nasty view or noisy street, apply to your zoning board for a variance. Neighbors can comment on your request during the variance hearing.
  • If your neighbors are damaging your fence, take photos and try to work it out with them first. If they don’t agree to repair it, take your fence dispute to small claims court. Award limits vary by state: $1,500 in Kentucky to $15,000 in Tennessee.

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