Have A Kid-Friendly Move

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Changing homes is stressful for the whole family. Here’s how to make the process smoother, with advice you can follow before, during and after your move.

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Moving is always unpleasant. Nobody knows this more than kids.

Children who move frequently tend to do poorly in school and have more behavioral problems, according to a Northwestern University study (PDF). Another study, from 2010, also found that introverted people who moved often when they were young demonstrated less well-being as adults — and even died younger — because they had fewer close social relationships.

a move needn’t scar Junior, experts say.

“If you do the right things, most kids are going to handle it fairly well,” says Frederic Medway, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of South Carolina and a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with children and families. Medway has studied the effects of moving and location for three decades.

Are you thinking of moving and worried about how your brood will take it? Here’s some solid advice from the experts to make landing in a new nest as soft and gentle as possible.

It’s not always a bad thing
First, take a deep breath and relax: “The vast majority of kids who move, especially if it’s under three or four times [in their childhood], do well,” Medway says.

The most stressful moves for kids, Medway says, are those in which another factor complicates the situation — a family breakup or divorce, for instance, or a parent’s lost job and the family’s subsequent money stresses.

There’s no single, telltale sign that your child might be having trouble with an upcoming or recent move, psychologists say. Instead, parents should look for sudden, unusual changes from normal behavior.

“When the parent starts saying, ‘My kid is not my kid,’ that’s when you need to investigate further,” Medway says.

Know how your child reacts to stress and ask yourself if that has changed, says John Helminski, a licensed psychologist in Cary, N.C. He says other possible warning signs could include:
Tantrums
Varying degrees of sadness
Isolation
Picking fights with siblings or good friends
Defiance toward parents or teachers
Academic difficulties where none existed previously

Before the move
To ensure a safe landing when moving to your new home, consider these tips.

Don’t worry, be happy. “Kids really have more of a fear of the unknown than the known,” Medway says. During a time of uncertainty, they’re looking for clues as to how they’re supposed to feel. Parents often give them those cues. A parent who is not excited about moving — or who is negative or ignores the child — can give off a negative vibe about what’s coming, he says.

“What parents have to do is to never feed into that negativity of the child,” Medway says. “The parents have to be positive — and if they’re not, they almost have to fake [being] positive, for the benefit of the child. Otherwise, they’re going to be burdening the child.”

Being excited about the move or treating it like an adventure goes a long way, too, he says.

Talk it out. Open the lines of communication early with your child. “Give the kids plenty of time to express themselves, even if it’s negative, even if it’s sad,” says Thomas Olkowski, a retired licensed clinical psychologist in Denver and co-author of the book “Moving with Children.” Have your child list questions or fears about the upcoming move, Olkowski says, then gather as a family so you, the parent, can address those questions.

A move frequently isn’t a happy event for parents, either, Olkowski says, and it can be hard to be positive all the time. Be honest with your children that a move is tough but that the family will make it through this together, he says.

“It helps the child to feel less isolated,” Helminski says.

Don’t make empty promises. “One of the traps that parents fall into is the kids say, ‘What happens if I don’t like it there? Can we move back?’ And the parents say, ‘Well, maybe,'” Olkowski says. This creates false hope, and a child might cling to it. Your attempt to make life easier now only creates worse trouble later. “Don’t make any promises that you’re not willing to keep,” Olkowski says.

Watch your time. Before a move, parents can get so busy that “sometimes they forget to keep doing stuff that the family is familiar with,” Olkowski says. This can include regular pizza night on Wednesdays, for example, or church on Sundays. Maintain those family routines, if possible, he says. They provide security and continuity for children during an unsettled time.

Throw a yard sale. When Helminski’s family moved from Minnesota to North Carolina four years ago, his three children — then ages 10, 14 and 18 — were not eager. For practical purposes, the parents decided to hold “the garage sale of the century.” But the sale had ulterior motives, Helminski says: His children got to decide which of their possessions to keep and which to sell. They got to keep some money to buy new toys and bikes when they arrived at their new home. The sale gave them a sense of control and also created excitement about what awaited them once they arrived in their new home.

Have a good sendoff. One way for a child to say goodbye to a house or friends is to make a small gesture, such as donating an item to the classroom. “It could be something small, like a plant or a dictionary,” Olkowski says. Another idea: Have your child give friends or soccer teammates postcards with your new home’s mailing address, to be sent once you leave town. Receiving mail from friends “kind of adds to the excitement” of arriving in a strange, new place, he says.

Make the new familiar. As adults, we forget just how scary the unknown can be to a child. As soon as you can before a move, help your children become familiar with their new home so they can visualize it, experts say:

If your new town or home is close enough, take your kids on a tour. Have them meet coaches and teachers. Let them see their future bedroom in person to take away the blank spots that can be filled by worry, Helminski says.

If that’s not possible, show them their school online, from pictures to information about classes and activities, Helminski says. That was helpful for his children, he says, “Because when it’s all said and done, so much of their lives revolved around schools, and what happens at school.”

If you or your spouse makes trips to the new city to buy or rent a house, return with pictures of the neighborhood, the home and the rooms.

During the move
Keep track of that teddy bear.
“Make sure your children know where their special belongings are packed,” Helminski writes. Possessions help anchor children and make them feel comfortable. During a move, they might worry that the items will be lost. Help children pack their possessions in boxes that will be easy to find, and write your address on the boxes, so your kids learn it. Choose a few of the most important items to make the car or plane trek to the new home, Helminski says.

Give kids some control. When children are uprooted, they lose what little control they have over their lives, experts say. That’s disorienting and depressing. “Do something where you give them their control back,” Medway says.

The bedroom is a great place to start. Let your children have a strong voice in what their new bedrooms look like: who gets what space, where the furniture will go and what color the walls will be. Does your child want camouflage wallpaper? “Maybe that’s a battle that you don’t want to fight,” Medway says. “Make the new room more exciting than the old room. Whatever little thing you can do to make your child happy in a new place is really important.”

Look, too, for other places where your child can provide input around the new house — such as what flowers to plant in the garden, Helminski says.

After the move
Make a map.
Once you are established in the new neighborhood, get a sheet of poster board and have younger kids make a map of where everything is located — home, school, soccer fields — “so that they feel more at home in the neighborhood” and don’t feel they will get lost, which is often a fear when moving, Olkowski says.

Keep old ties intact. For kids, it’s tough to leave old friends. These days, however, it’s easier than ever for your child to stay in touch with friends in the former town or neighborhood — be it via email, Skype, phone or Facebook. Encourage them to stay in touch, and if they are young, help them do so. “Don’t downplay to your kids the importance of those friendships,” Helminski says. “It helps them to stay connected to where they were, in some way.” Your children will appreciate that, he says.

Get ’em active. Once you’ve moved, Medway says, enroll your children in a class or a club that interests them — karate or swim team, for example. “Immerse the kid in some activity in the new neighborhood, and don’t just rely on the fact that they’ll make friends in school,” he says.

Unless they are advanced at the activity, enroll them in an introductory course, he advises, so they can feel on par with everyone else, and not behind.

Kids ages 11 to 13 are “where we see the most problems” dealing with a move, Medway says. “If anything, they are social problems — making friends and fitting in,” because kids in that age range need approval and want acceptance from their peers, he says. It applies to older kids, too, and can help them meet new people and take their mind off the move..

With a little luck, the biggest concern about your move will be whether your mail has made the switch with you. As Medway puts it, “I have never been convinced that a move or two early in one’s life is a lifelong curse.”

Source: http://on-msn.com/1soTLRe

Overlooking These 9 Things Could Lead to Buyer’s Remorse

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The last thing you want after moving into your new house is buyer’s remorse.

With so many details to track when buying a home, items can slip through the cracks. Figuring out which areas you shouldn’t overlook is the first step toward mitigating remorse.

With avoiding that sinking feeling in mind, realtor.com® spoke with a couple of agents about what to pay attention to when buying a home.

1. Lifestyle vs. resale value

Marty Winefield emphasizes this concept with his clients. Buying a home is a personal choice, so make sure you know whether you’re buying for resale value or for lifestyle. Some clients buy with the bottom line at the top of mind while others care more about their quality of life.

2. Size: It matters!

REALTOR® Nina Goldsmith of @properties in Chicago cites a house that seemed perfect on paper. She showed it 102 times in about three months. The house had three bedrooms and two bathrooms in a nice area. The downside? The bedrooms were extremely small—and small enough to turn off potential buyers once they saw the place.

3. Bathrooms

Winefield says two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos abound in Chicago.

But if one of those bathrooms has a shower without a tub and the buyers have children or plan to, that bathroom becomes “almost useless”.

Don’t overlook your future needs, or the needs of every resident of the house.

4. Bedrooms

You probably have an idea of how many you want.

But are they the right kind? Something large enough for an infant now may not accommodate a desk and bunk beds later.

A funky seven-walled bedroom may delight your design sense, but will your furniture fit in there?

Don’t overlook the practicalities of rooms as you fall in love with a house.

5. Traffic

That tiny house Goldsmith showed over a hundred times sat on the corner of a busy street, which also turned off buyers.

A fence used to guard part of the yard, but it was removed by a prior owner.

In an area with good schools, the house appealed to families—but a home with no fence on a busy block can be a deal breaker.

6. Wall color

Goldsmith reminds buyers paint is cosmetic. Bricks aren’t.

It’s easy to repaint a kitchen if you don’t like the color—go ahead and breeze past a confusing color choice

But falling in love with a home’s brick walls or dark wood paneling may prove tricky when you try to resell and you realize most buyers don’t share your aesthetics.

7. Yard

People moving from apartments may dismiss a tiny or nonexistent yard.

But a large yard helps resale value. And some might ask, “Why buy a house at all if you don’t want any land with it?”

8. Pools

Many buyers won’t buy a home with a pool, because they don’t want to deal with the upkeep, which gets expensive, Goldsmith says. But if you really want a pool, the upkeep may be worth it.

Just know that if you buy the home, you may wind up filling in the pool—or wishing the original owners did—when it’s time to sell.

9. The little things

Does the freezer door open all the way?

Does the layout mean in order to pass from kitchen to bedroom you’ll have to go through the living room?

Does the small living room push your overstuffed couch too close to the TV?

How You Can Avoid These 9 Traps

Listen to your real estate agent. If an agent expresses concerns about a feature or perceived fault, hear them out. You might buy anyway, but at least you’ll know what you’re getting into.

Listen to your brain as well as your heart. Don’t let emotion rule your decisions.

Visit often. Kick the tires, as it were—open all the doors, latch all the windows, and visit again and again to make sure you aren’t missing anything. You might see something the second or third time you didn’t see the first time you looked at a place.

“Take your time,” Goldsmith adds. “Is this really where you want to live? Is this good for you, your family and the way you want to live?”

Remember, an extra visit or two won’t cost much—but buying the wrong house could cost you plenty.

Source: http://bit.ly/1u0Yzkf

Conserving Water Helps Environment And May Add Value To Your Home

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In California, like many states, we’re experiencing a drought again. About 50 percent of U.S. states are facing some level of drought conditions. If this California weather pattern continues through October of this year, this will be California’s driest year on record in 500 years.

To put it in perspective, in 1580 it was so dry that the giant sequoias didn’t grow at all, according to a LA Times article by B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam.

How does this impact the housing market? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s study, more than 400 counties throughout the nation may go through drought conditions over the next two decades.

This could be lifestyle-changing news. Ordinary behaviors may have to be drastically modified. If not being able to wash your car at home seems bad, in the future, there could be more extreme restrictions such as, not being able to flush your toilet during the day or take longer than 5-minute showers. And forget about watering your yard—it’ll become a desert.

It sounds like doom and gloom but homeowners can actually make a big difference during droughts. What you do may also help increase your home’s value by giving it a complete check- up for things that might be wasting water.

The first area to explore is your yard. Landscape is one of the largest water wasters. Many homeowners over-water their yard which translates to about 50 percent of water waste. Automated irrigation systems, if not carefully monitored and regulated, can be dumping too much water in your yard.

Start by checking to make sure you’re not over-watering your grass, plants, garden, and shrubs. Cutting back could be what you need to do to perk up the yard.

Do a complete check of your sprinkler system. Make sure it’s functioning properly and that you’re not losing water through a broken sprinkler head or pipe. Tens of thousands of gallons of water can seep out of slightly dripping faucets, causing your water bill to be a big drain on your bank account.

Consult with a nursery to ensure that you have your yard properly landscaped. Placing plants that have similar water needs makes it more likely that you’ll give them just enough water without drowning them.

Inside your home do a full inspection of your: toilet, washing machine, dishwasher, faucets, shower, and pipes. Those sneaky subtle leaks can wash the green right out of your wallet.

Gallons of water are often wasted by homeowners who don’t fix unsuspected toilet leaks. The majority of water wasted is in the bathroom. If it takes a while for your hot water to reach the faucet, you might need to insulate your pipes.

If you have the money to change out your old appliances such as a washer that isn’t energy-efficient, consider doing so. A newer model will work more efficiently and save both energy and water. When you sell your home you can decide if you wish to let the washer be conveyed.

Your contributions to do your part during the drought could also have a green effect on your home. Energy-saving appliances, water-efficient landscape and water-saving faucets, toilets, and shower heads can help make your home more attractive to buyers.

Source: http://bit.ly/1wP9UHL

Can Time on the Market Affect Your Home Sale?

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We’ve all done it. While running errands or making the rounds around town, we’ve driven by a house with a FOR SALE sign out front that doesn’t budge or change day after day after day … and then the days become weeks and the weeks become months. We start to wonder why there aren’t any interested buyers. And then we ask ourselves, “Is there something wrong with that house? Why isn’t it selling?”

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It’s a good bet that there’s something going on with a property that doesn’t ever seem to sell. Maybe (perhaps likely), it’s simply overpriced, and the prospective buyers who’ve visited it like it but not enough to spend that much money on it. Or maybe it’s the victim of poor or haphazard marketing, and it isn’t getting the exposure it deserves. Perhaps there aren’t any interior photos online – or the photos are less than enticing – and potential buyers don’t want to bother looking at it in the first place.

No matter the reason for the number of days that house has been sitting on the market, the longer it sits without an offer, the more it stagnates. Interest (if there is any) wanes. And the more its owners feel the increasing pressure of trying to entice a buyer to make a bid on it.

If you’re selling a house, chances are you are fairly invested in making a move. Perhaps you’ve even found a new house to move into, and if that’s the case, it’s likely that time is of the essence. The last thing you want is for there to be a lack of interest in your house.

In order to avoid having your house end up being that house that sits on the market forever, it’s important to price your home to sell. Your real estate agent is your best resource for figuring out how to do that. He or she will be armed with comparable recent sales (or “comps”) in your neighborhood or community. Working with an agent can help you to avoid the pitfall of having to reduce your sale price – which can make you look eager to sell and might even invite lowball offers from buyers who believe you’re desperate to move.

Your agent will have the experience to know what moves homes. And he or she will have valuable advice about how to make your home attractive to potential buyers. From unveiling an aggressive marketing campaign designed to get buyers in the door to staging your home so that it oozes curb appeal and welcomes visitors, your agent can help you make the right decisions regarding your home sale. By working together, you can eliminate the guesswork in how to drum up interested buyers.

Good luck!

Source: http://bit.ly/1opvgB7

How Much Of A Down Payment Do You Need?

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Can’t put 20 percent down? You still have options for affording a home loan.

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Looking to get your foot in the door (of your new home)? If you’re a renter who’s tired of paying someone else’s mortgage, now may be the time to pursue the American dream of homeownership. In fact, the days of needing a 20 percent down payment are long gone. While you can always elect to put down the full 20 percent or more, there are now many alternatives available. Here’s what you want to know if buying a house is in your future.

In the mortgage industry, 20 percent down is considered the benchmark down payment for looking strong on paper as a homebuyer. While this a general standard for financial strength, it is by no means a requirement, nor is it necessarily expected.

However, keep in mind that your purchase-offer amount – your buying power — drives negotiation. How strong you are on paper does help, but when you make an offer to buy a home, the seller of the property has no idea of your financial strength other than what your real estate agent tells them and what’s on your pre-approval letter. The price dictates whether you’re in the game for the house, or whether you’ll continue to be on the search.

Down payment options

So let’s say you don’t have 20 percent down for a home. While there are many benefits to having more equity in the home you’re buying, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the running for becoming a homeowner. There are options for lower down payments.

3.5 percent down

For a Federal Housing Administration loan, the minimum down payment you would need to buy a home is 3.5 percent down. Most lenders can lend up to $417,000 with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. An FHA loan comes with a monthly mortgage-insurance payment, which can make it more expensive than a conventional mortgage.

In some more affluent markets, the higher loan amounts (per county) allow someone with strong income and less cash to still get into the market.

5 percent down

Another popular choice for buyers is using a conventional loan with 5 percent down. There are loan size amounts up to $417,000 (with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Guam) going as high as $417,000 with as little as 5 percent down. An alternative to the higher-priced FHA loan, the conventional loan allows for getting rid of the private mortgage insurance after accumulating 20 percent equity after a minimum of 24 months.

0 percent down

Two options exist for 0 percent down financing, one being through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program allows a veteran to purchase a house for literally no money down. Yep, the purchase price and loan amount are equal.

The caveat? Actually, there are two: The program is for military veterans only, and the home must pass a clear pest report. This option could be optimal for brand-new construction or for property where any pest damage can be fixed in time for closing.

An alternative to this program is a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA. You need not be a veteran for this particular loan, however in some areas, you may not be eligible to use the program because of tighter qualifying income-to-payment ratios and location. The program also only works for homes designated rural by USDA. Additional income limitations also apply. For example: For a family of four, a household income cannot exceed $96,400 per year.

All of these options allow for the use of gift funds. Family members, cousins, relatives – these are all excellent sources to tap for possible down payment or closing costs (usually about 2 percent of the home price). Even if you already own a home and are looking to upgrade, all of these programs could present a viable option to bridging the gap between buying a home for the right price in the right area of versus continuing to be on the search.

Boost your buying power

Mortgage tip: If you qualify for a smaller loan size, it could be more challenging to actually close escrow on your first home. Buying power is important, especially when negotiating in competitive markets. Pure and simple, the bigger the loan you qualify for, the more opportunity.

Conventional conforming loan: With conventional loans, you can get 95 percent financing up to $417,000. In counties where the maximum conforming loan limit is higher than $417,000, you can have up to 90 percent financing. For example: In Sonoma County, Calif., the maximum high-balance loan limit is $520,950. A loan exceeding $417,000, and up to $520,950, would require a 10 percent down payment.

VA loan: This type of loan allows for 100 percent financing all the way through the maximum conforming loan limit in the county in which the property is located. In fact, this type of loan can allow for even higher than the maximum conforming loan limit if you do have a down payment.

Here’s how: The buyer would need a 25 percent down payment only on the amount greater the conforming loan limit. For example, with a $520,950 loan (the maximum loan limit for Sonoma County) with a purchase price of $700,000. The difference is $179,050 – and the buyer would need to put down 25 percent of that difference — $44,763 – in order to get the additional VA loan financing.

USDA loan
: These loans allow for financing up to $417,000, but here’s the kicker: A buyer would need an income of $95,000 to qualify for a $417,000 loan — which is getting very close to the USDA loan maximum income limitation of $96,400. More importantly, lending qualifying ratios are more stringent for this program than any other. To qualify for this loan, your proposed house payment before debts cannot be more than 29 percent of your gross monthly income, and the house payment plus other debts cannot be more than 31 percent of your gross monthly income.

FHA loans: An FHA loan will allow for as low as a 3.5 percent down payment up to the maximum conforming loan limit in the county in which the property is located.

Jumbo loans: These loans usually can go as high as $750,000 with as little as 10 percent down.

Remember: When you’re putting less than 20 percent down on a home, your monthly property taxes and fire-insurance terms are required to be built into your monthly mortgage payment, and you’ll likely pay private mortgage insurance, too. Some lenders might offer an alternative option called lender-paid mortgage insurance — where the lender actually pays the monthly PMI, despite not using 20 percent down to purchase a home. Make sure to do your homework, and talk to your lender so you know what your options are.

Of course, it’s always important to have your credit in the best shape possible. Before you start your home search, give yourself time to work on your credit so that you can qualify for better rates. Check your free annual credit reports for errors or any problems that could be hurting your credit scores.

Source: http://realestate.msn.com/blogs/post–how-much-of-a-down-payment-do-you-need

What Home Buyers And Sellers Should Know About Appraisals

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When it comes to real estate, the appraisal is the linchpin around which all else revolves. Both buyers and sellers are in a holding pattern until the appraiser arrives at the property, looks it over and comes back with a figure for what he thinks the place is worth..

Such is the case whether the property in question is a single-family house in the suburbs or a $200-million office tower in the city.

house

“Nothing happens in real estate until the appraisal report is signed and an opinion of the property’s value is provided,” says Brian Coester, an appraiser who presides over his own appraisal management company.

With that in mind, here are some things you should know:

•There is a major disconnect within the lending business. Some lenders — and real estate agents — think the appraiser’s job is to get the deal done, whereas appraisers generally think of lenders as money-hungry outfits that don’t understand the appraisal profession.

According to Coester, chief executive of Coester VMS in Rockville, Md., the appraiser’s job is to be unbiased and completely independent of the transaction, while at the same time being realistic and practical.

•The appraiser’s valuation is his or her opinion — repeat, opinion — of what the property is worth. It doesn’t matter what the buyer is willing to pay or what the seller is willing to accept.

“Two appraisers could do an appraisal on the same day, on the same house, come up with two different values and have them both be right,” Coester says. “The reality is that value is really the appraiser’s opinion, not an average, not a range, but a number the appraiser picks by looking at the data, understanding the market and all factors considered.”

If the appraisal comes in too low for the lender to accept the buyer’s application for a mortgage, the seller will have to lower the price or the buyer will have to come up with more cash to make the deal work.

Yet the appraiser’s valuation does not have to be the final word. Most appraisal companies offer a step-by-step procedure to follow if anyone involved in the deal thinks the valuation is off-base.

•The information available determines much of the results. Appraisers are only as good as the data available to them.

Most, but not all, markets have a multiple listing service from which the appraiser gleans much of his or her information. But issues tend to arise when the appraisal is on new construction or houses in rural areas. Then, the appraiser must often deal with incomplete, inaccurate and outdated data.

Sellers should write up an inventory of all the improvements made to the house within the previous five years, complete with receipts if possible, to present to the appraiser as he enters the house. That way, the appraiser can spend time verifying the information, which is more likely to reflect favorably upon the overall appraisal.

Remember, though, routine maintenance does not count.

•You are only as good as your neighborhood. Like it or not, your neighbors and your neighborhood have an overall effect on your home’s value. In a $200,000 neighborhood, spending $100,000 on improvements is not likely to add $100,000 in value.

•At the end of the day, all adjustments to the valuation must be backed by real data that support the appraiser’s opinion and would stand up in court.

For example, a $5,000 adjustment for garage space isn’t just pulled out of thin air. It is backed by market research and data indicating that garages are worth $5,000 per space. It might be that homes with two-car garages sold for $5,000 more than those with one-car garages, or a variety of other market data.

•Lenders’ guidelines are unclear at best. Although all lenders try to adhere to the rules set down by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the two secondary market companies that purchase loans from primary lenders — or those from the Veterans Administration and Federal Housing Administration, the variety of requirements and requests lenders ask for can be amazing, Coester says.

Moreover, most underwriters haven’t been properly trained on appraisals, and as a result, appraisers are sometimes stuck with requests and requirements that contextually don’t make sense in the realities of the market or the appraiser’s scope of work.

The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice is the one true requirement. It discusses how appraisers go about their business and is the only thing to which appraisers are bound. “Everything else is considered guidelines or suggestions, and varies from client to client,” Coester says.

•Appraising is a full-time profession. The typical appraiser does one or two appraisals a day.

“They are trained to be very careful when it comes to what they will and won’t do when it comes to value, property condition and selecting comparables,” Coester says.

•Appraisers are supposed to be licensed and familiar with the area in which the subject property is located.

Licenses are hard to come by. “It takes two years, 300-plus tested education hours and 3,000 field hours to obtain an appraiser certification,” Coester says.

You have the right to ask to see the appraiser’s credentials and make sure he or she hasn’t traveled from outside the subject market. And if you aren’t satisfied, you can ask the lender to send another appraiser.

•An appraisal is not a home inspection. The two are totally different. The inspector’s job is to make sure all the mechanical and subsystems are working and that there are no structural issues. The appraiser’s job is to observe the house in its current state, compare that with similar homes in the area and come up with a valuation.

Put another way, appraisers typically work on the assumption that everything is in good working order, whereas inspectors verify functionality.

Source: http://lat.ms/1lrlvI0

5 Reasons Not To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

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If you’ve recently come into some money, you may be tempted to pay off your mortgage early so you can finally be done with monthly payments and own your home outright. But while plenty of people choose this route for the security of owning their homes free and clear, it doesn’t always make sense, especially if you are near or in retirement.

“Although it may seem like peace of mind to finally own your own home, there are other financial factors you need to evaluate before making a final decision,” said Jane Bryant Quinn, personal finance columnist for AARP Bulletin, in an interview.

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The money you intend to use to prepay your mortgage may be better used for paying down debt with higher interest rates, for example, or for investing in the future. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t pay off your mortgage early.

1. You carry a hefty credit card bill.

If you have outstanding credit card debt, or other debt with a high interest rate, you should pay that off first. Mortgage rates are still low: The average 30-year fixed loan is hovering around 4.2 percent. Additionally, credit card debt interest is not tax deductible, as your mortgage interest is.

2. You’re not contributing the maximum to your retirement plan.

If you’re still working, you are better off adding extra dollars to a tax-favored retirement account such as an IRA or a 401(k). Once you’ve contributed the maximum to your retirement plan, only then should you consider whether it makes sense to prepay your mortgage.

3. You need to invest in your future.

Once you’ve paid off your credit card debt and have funded your retirement, you may want to invest extra cash in other types of tax-free vehicles, such as a 529 college savings plan for your kids, or in the market by choosing index funds or stock-owning mutual funds. As with all important financial decisions, speak to a certified financial planner or other financial professional to help you make the best moves for your individual situation.

4. You need extra cash for other monthly expenses.

If you use all or most of your cash to pay off your mortgage, you may be house rich but cash poor, according to Bryant Quinn, which is obviously not a good idea, especially if you’re retired and your income barely covers your monthly expenses. “When you retire, you do want to make sure you’re liquid,” she said.

5. You don’t want to pay a penalty.

Although prepayment penalties are becoming rare with mortgages, you don’t want to have to pay one if you do decide to pay off your mortgage early. Read the fine print about any prepayment penalties in your mortgage agreement.

Source: http://on-msn.com/1odR0QD

4 Things That Won’t Affect Your Mortgage

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When trying to get a home loan, you’re focused on looking like a safe bet for prospective lenders. Some things, however, won’t affect your mortgage.

When you’re hoping to lock down a home loan, the focus is on making sure you look like a safe bet for prospective lenders.

Conversation tends to drift to the key pieces of the pre-approval puzzle, from credit score and stable income to acceptable debt levels and suitable assets. No one’s arguing the wisdom there. But what often gets glossed over, if not entirely forgotten, are the things lenders won’t or even can’t factor into their decision.

Some of those nonfactors help protect homebuyers and maintain a level playing field. Others might push a home loan out of reach for certain borrowers.

That’s why it’s important to consider some of the things lenders might not.

1. Race, age and family status

The Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act both protect consumers from discrimination regarding real estate and credit transactions. Lenders and creditors are barred from discriminating against people based on their race, religion, family status and a host of other factors.

Lenders also have to take steps to ensure policies don’t disproportionately affect some groups more than others. For example, a lender with a policy of only making loans of $100,000 or more is especially likely to hurt lower-income borrowers. That harm is known as disparate impact, and it’s a fair housing problem.

You also can’t be turned away from a 30-year mortgage because you’re in your “golden years.” Age discrimination is also against the law.

2. Nonborrower income

This may go without saying, but it’s essential to have enough income to cover the new mortgage payment, maintain a healthy debt-to-income ratio and meet other asset-related requirements.

Some buyers make enough money alone to handle the mortgage. But plenty of others need or want to count the income of a spouse or significant other to help cut down a debt load or to buy more house. The rub is you can’t count that person’s income unless they’re actually co-obliged on the loan with you.

Any co-borrower will need to meet the same credit and underwriting requirements that you will. That means a lackluster credit score could render your spouse’s six-figure income untouchable, at least in terms of your purchasing power.

3. Some income types

In addition, not all forms of income are created equally – or will be counted by lenders toward qualifying for a home loan. Temporary income can be a tough sell for lenders, who are looking for reliable streams that are likely to continue.

Unemployment income isn’t likely to factor into your mortgage qualification. Some lenders and loan types may consider it in a handful of cases. Seasonal employees who routinely rely on unemployment compensation during certain times each year may be able to count it, provided there’s a solid history of receiving it and the compensation is likely to continue.

Veterans are often dismayed to learn that mortgage lenders won’t count the housing assistance they receive as part of their GI Bill benefits. It can be especially confusing because lenders can and do include the Basic Allowance for Housing that certain active service members receive.

4. Shopping around

Having a lender pull your credit scores constitutes a “hard inquiry.” You can lose a couple points from your score anytime a potential creditor conducts one of these. But when you’re considering a significant purchase, like a home, the credit agencies give consumers greater leeway to safely shop around.

Once a lender pulls your credit, you’ve typically got a two-week window to have others do so without taking a hit to your score. The nation’s three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – will only count that first hard inquiry against you. They’ll chalk up the remainder to due diligence and comparative shopping during that two-week timeframe.

Seeking loan pre-approval from multiple lenders isn’t likely to significantly impact your credit score or your qualification chances.

If you want to see how the mortgage-shopping and pre-approval process are affecting your credit, it can help to monitor your credit scores before you begin the process, so you know where you stand, and have something to compare any fluctuations to in the following months.

Source: http://on-msn.com/1oNZ4xo

8 Easy Things You Can DIY

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Looking to update your space? Missing the DIY gene? You can still make noticeable and beautiful changes to your home. Here are the 8 things you can easily DIY.

1. Paint

It’s the No. 1 easiest way to make a big impact on your space with little money and minimal effort. Your must-do for painting: proper prep. You can choose to tape baseboards and lay down drop cloths before you paint, or you can choose to scrape, scrub and be frustrated with the mess you made later. But you can’t have both.

You’ll also want to consider the paint you buy.

The lower grade the paint, the more you will typically deal with drips and coverage issues. If you don’t want to spring for full-price Benjamin Moore (our personal fave) or Sherwin Williams, wait for sales or go with the big box stores’ more high-end lines. You will see a difference.

2. Minor demo

Pulling up old carpet is easy with a few tools, a little time, and access to a dumpster. You can also pull up old tile, but be prepared to use your muscles.

3. Do your flooring

Flooring typically falls into more of an advanced DIY job, but can be easy depending on the area being covered and the material being used. Carpet tiles or vinyl can be offer easy-install, easy-care options. Check out this video to learn how to install vinyl plank tile or install carpet tiles.

4. Refinish furniture

Refinishing furniture is easy, fun, and a great way to showcase your creativity and personal style. All you need is a sander (or some sandpaper if you prefer), your paint or stain of choice, and something to apply it with. If you are using stain, you will also want clean dry towels to remove the excess.

If you’re not sure you want to take the leap on a piece you already have, do a practice run on a cheap garage sale find. See some creative ideas here.

5. Refresh your master bedroom

If you don’t have money for one of those modern tufted headboards make your own! It’s not as hard as it looks. Click here to learn how.

6. Landscape your yard

Even without a green thumb, you can create a lush yard with a little elbow grease. If you need a tutorial, attend a clinic at your local nursery. Be sure to bring pics of your space. You’ll want help determining what you can plant for your space, which will depend on the amount of sun, shade, and water involved, and the time of year. You can also check out these DIY landscaping tips.

7. Update your bathroom

•Paint walls
•Replace bath mats and towels
•Change out globes on bathroom light fixtures (or change out the whole fixture if you’re so inclined)

That’s all it takes for an easy and cheap update that will turn heads. Want to add a little more flair? Try these peel-and-stick tiles in a decorative pattern or do an entire wall.

8. Change out your hardware

This super easy fix can have great impact in a kitchen or bathroom, helping take dated cabinets into a more modern aesthetic. Remember to use a template to cut down on time and help keep your placement uniform.

Source: http://bit.ly/1lVag5j

Mistakes That Decrease The Value Of Your Home

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When you’re getting ready to sell your home, you don’t want to make any mistakes that can decrease the value of your home. However, sometimes sellers unintentionally do.

That’s because what a buyer sees as a mistake is not always the same as what a seller considers a mistake. But when you’re selling your home, you’re hoping for a meeting of the minds.

Let’s uncover some of the mistakes that sellers make that inadvertently potentially decrease the value of their home.

Following trends.This is a tricky one because we all can get caught up in liking designs that are trendy, but if you follow a trend that quickly dies, you’ll find that you won’t be impressing buyers. If this trend is difficult to change, it could decrease the value when you put your home on the market. That’s because buyers will think about how much money they have to put into the home to fix the trendy mistake. So, certainly make your home your style, but if you have plans to sell it in the future, think about how renovations may impact the sale of your home.

Not maintaining appliances. Yes, you most certainly can sell a home “as is” meaning in the condition that the buyers initially see it. But having lots of issues and repairs needed will decrease the home’s value. Cleaning up appliances that will convey with the home is important. If they’re completely messed up, it’s worth replacing them. It should go without saying that not maintaining the entire home is a huge way to decrease its value.

Not keeping it cool. If you want buyers to hurry in and out of your home, overheat them and you’re sure to have them running for the door. Make sure on hot days that the home is aired out so that stale air can escape. Stifling, hot, muggy homes are not fun to tour. Turn the AC on to a comfortable temperature to ensure your potential buyers take their time to really see your home. If you don’t have AC and it’s blazing hot, using ceiling fans and open windows. Also, having some nice cold water or lemonade available will likely encourage buyers to stay a little longer at an open house.

Not sweating the small stuff.
Okay, you don’t have to “sweat it”, but you do have to care enough to tend to even the smallest of issues such as fixing a faulty light switch or replacing burned-out bulbs. Buyers go through homes and turn on lights, flick switches, open closets, cabinets, drawers, and even look in medicine cabinets. Keep small things like these in good working order. It’s easy to do and it can help lead to an overall better opinion of your home.

Going wild with color. You may like lively colors but, generally speaking, buyers like paint that is neutral. That’s because it’s like a blank canvas which, upon moving in, they can paint it the way they like it. Extra bright or non-traditional colors can scare them off. So opt for something other than funky purple walls and shag green carpet.

Remember, that avoiding some of these mistakes can help prevent buyers from thinking your home should be worth less than you do.

Source: http://bit.ly/1r9CMI4

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