Spring Is Real Estate’s ‘Rush Hour’ — Here’s How to Prepare

Spring Is Real Estate's 'Rush Hour' -- Here's How to Tell If You're PreparedThe most popular time of year to buy a home is in the spring. This means that if you’re preparing yourself for getting into the real estate market, you may be experiencing a time crunch. If you’re ready to put your home up for sale in time to take advantage of the season, here are few things you’ll want to think about.

Have You Cleaned Up And De-cluttered?

Spring is not only an optimal time to put your home up for sale, it’s also an ideal time for spring-cleaning! Instead of leaving all of the de-cluttering to the time when you know you’ll be moving, prepare now by discarding anything that you don’t want to move. This will not only make your packing more streamlined, it will also make the basic cleaning duties like vacuuming and dusting a little easier to carry out.

Are You Prepared To Move?

A home can sit on the market for a few weeks or months, and it can also sell on the first day. You’ll want to have a game plan for moving beforehand. Determine a plan for yourself and your family so that you can start looking for a home to invest in or at least rental property. You don’t want to lose out on a good offer by not being prepared. Make sure you know where you’re going before getting into the market.

Do You Know The Market Conditions?

Spring is certainly the most popular time to buy, but if your home isn’t priced right, it may linger longer than you’d expect. If you’re selling on your own, you may want to take a look at the MLS listings to determine what similar homes are selling for. It can also be a great idea to utilize the services of a local real estate agent. They will have background knowledge of the market and be able to do the tough negotiating for you.

With spring being the best time to sell, it’s important to de-clutter your house ahead of time and be aware of the market conditions you’ll be dealing with.

3 Money-Smart Reasons To Downsize Your Home

3 Money-Smart Reasons To Downsize Your HomeLiving big isn’t necessarily living better. Apartment buildings, townhouses and multiplexes have become the new normal for increasing numbers of individuals, couples and families. It’s clear that for many people, smaller spaces are smarter, too.

This attitude is more than just a trend. According to TIME Magazine, multi-family dwellings like condominiums accounted for 40% of new construction in the United States in 2014 and the movement shows few signs of slowing down.

The change isn’t surprising when considering the benefits to moving, especially when it comes to sheer cost-savings. Whether residents are spending less cash or conserving their valuable time and resources, they’re going to see a difference in their bank accounts.

Here are three money-smart reasons to downsize that can lead to big savings.

1. Reduced Maintenance

Maintaining a single-family dwelling can be difficult. Clearing gutters, painting walls, weeding the garden and other unpleasant tasks have serious costs, as residents are forced to invest their valuable time and resources into these recurring chores.

Switching to a smaller space means less maintenance, which can lead to serious savings. Multi-family dwellings typically have a building manager who is responsible for upkeep, leading to serious savings.

2. Heating, Water and More

Utilities are much less costly after downsizing. The less square footage a home has, the less electricity, water and other utilities it will require. Residents have the potential to save hundreds of dollars in costs.

There’s also an added benefit if there are shared utilities divided between other residents of multi-family dwellings. Splitting subscriptions or services like Internet and cable can lead to much lower prices.

Moving to smaller spaces makes these invoices less expensive, which gives residents a bonus every month.

3. Location is Key

Apartment buildings, condominiums and other compact dwellings are often located in central areas close to useful services and businesses. This convenience is a major cost-cutting reason that encourages many people to move.

The Nielsen Company actually found that 62% of millennials would choose to live in communities that combine residential homes and businesses. By being closer to things they value, residents save themselves time, a valued commodity.

Why Moving is a Smart Move

These three money-smart reasons are major factors into why people move into smaller spaces. It’s hard to resist saved time and resources, reduced maintenance, lower utility bills and increased convenience. Learn more about potential savings from your local mortgage professional today.

Tax Tips 101: Buying or Selling a Home This Winter

Buying or Selling a Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!With all of the expense that can go into buying and selling a home, it’s good to be aware of what you can claim and the benefits it provides come tax time. With the New Year upon us, here are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind.

Gaining from Capital Gains

In the event that you’ve made money off the sale of your home through a capital gain, it’s possible that you may be able to exclude this amount from your tax filing. If you’ve lived in the home you just sold for at least two of the five years before the sale date, not having to report this amount on your taxes may come as a financial win.

Reporting Your Gain

If you have not lived in your home for two of the five years, you will have to report the sale of your home and the capital gain when you file your taxes. This is necessary whether or not you decide to claim the amount. If this happens to be the case for you, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on ‘Net Investment Income Tax’ before filing your return so you can ensure your claim’s accuracy.

A Two-Year Claim For Capital Gain

While there is definitely a great financial benefit in not having to report your gain in all situations, it’s important to be aware that you can only exclude any gain you’ve received from a home sale every 2 years. So, if it happens to be the case that you’ve moved more than once in the last few years, you will have to report any amount that you’ve made from these home sales.

Selling Your Home At A Loss

The boon of a capital gain is certainly ideal if you’ve made some money on your home, but if you’ve sold your home for less than you paid, you won’t be able to claim this. While the end result may be a bit disheartening, this amount cannot be deducted off your tax return.

Beyond the benefits of buying or selling your home, there are ways that your tax filing can be more pleasant this year if you know some of these tips. If you have any further mortgage related financial questions, contact us today.

Want To Achieve Your Goals In 2016? There’s An App For That!

There is a big difference between having a goal and achieving it. As you plan out what you’d like to achieve next year, try enlisting the help of technology to stay on track. photo_807

GoalsOnTrack guides you through a goal-setting process and helps you create the action plan. The app then helps track your changing habits and completed tasks for a fully visual guide to success. Free for iPhone, iPads, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7*.

LifeTick offers coordinated goal setting and tracking functions to help families, educators, small businesses or any group that wants to accomplish something together. Available for iPhone, Android and iPad. Free for individuals with limited functions, or pricing from $14 per month for groups*.

Habit List helps you build great lifetime habits (eating right, drinking more water, exercising regularly) by tracking your “streaks,” or how many times you complete a task in a row. Schedule the habits you want; then get reminders that keep you on track. $3.99 for iPhone*.

Coach.me begins with the premise that goals are easier to achieve with accountability. Choose goals and the type of coaching you require—advice, motivation or prompting—and be held accountable through crowdsourcing. You can hire a coach, get help and encouragement from other users, and set up reminders to push you toward success. Free for iPhone, Android and web*.

irunurun is the perfect app for those with a competitive streak. After you input the action or habit you want to track, assign it a point value. Try to achieve 100 points each week. Build an accountability team by inviting friends, family or colleagues to any action you choose. Free for individuals on iPhone and iPad. Prices from $49 per month for groups*.

Whatever you aspire to do in the year ahead, don’t go it alone. Pick one of the applications above and let technology carry some of the burden. Here’s wishing you the very best of everything in the upcoming year!

*Prices and availability offered at time of writing.

Source: Entrepreneur

3 Stress Management Tips When Buying AND Selling A Home At The Same Time

3 Handy Tips That Will Prevent Serious Stress when Buying and Selling a Home at the Same TimeIf you’re in the process of simultaneously buying and selling a home, you may be in for the most stressful experience of your life. One UK-based real estate survey of over two thousand people found that buying and selling a house is more stressful than divorce, bankruptcy, a death in the family, becoming a parent for the first time, and even planning a wedding!

It’s not easy, but staying calm will help you to plan for your upcoming home purchase/sale and make the process easier. So how can you avoid the stress? Here are three strategies that will keep you calm, no matter what may happen.

Have A Thorough Plan In Place…

Much of the stress that you’ll experience will probably be the result of poor planning. You may feel stressed if you don’t have enough time to move or if you have to pay mortgages on two homes because your old home isn’t selling fast enough.

Before you get too far into the buying and selling process, talk with your trusted mortgage professional and ensure you have a solid financial plan in place for buying and selling at the same time. Leave a time and expense buffer for unexpected complications – even if nothing goes wrong; it’s still nice to know you have some room to work with.

…But Be Ready To Improvise If Things Go Sideways

There are a number of ways that buying and selling at the same time might result in complications. Poor timing might mean you need to move out before you have a home to move into, or it might mean you don’t have the money for your new home if your old home hasn’t sold. Be prepared to rent a hotel room, take out a short-term loan, or move your belongings into storage if the sale doesn’t go according to plan.

Talk Out Your Problems With Loved Ones

In times of stress, it’s helpful to turn to friends and family for a helping hand. Studies have shown that having a strong social support network can mitigate the effects of stress, and even the Mayo Clinic suggests reaching out to loved ones when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for emotional support, and whenever you have an opportunity to socialize, take it – you’ll find it easier to handle stress after a fun night out with friends.

Buying and selling a home at the same time is bound to be stressful, but working with an experienced mortgage professional and having a good financial plan in place can minimize the agony. Call us today to learn how you can successfully manage your finances while buying and selling a home at the same time.

Benchmark Mortgage

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a Home

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a HomeWhether you are buying property, selling property or both, the process can be challenging, stressful and even overwhelming at times. Just as you may use various mobile apps to streamline and simplify other aspects of your life, you can also use some well-designed apps to improve your overall experience when you are buying or selling property. These are some of the best apps for you to use as you move forward with your real estate plans.

iBank

This app is not free for you to download, but the small fee that you pay to use iBank may be well worth paying for. This is an app that you can use to track your bank account balances and living expenses. Financial strain is one of the most significant sources of stress for those who are moving, and this is an app that you can use to ease your money management challenges.

PowerOne FinancePro Calculator

The property that you choose to purchase will impact your budget in a number of ways. The most obvious difference will be a change in your mortgage payment, but there are other expenses that will change as well. For example, there will be changes to your property insurance, property taxes, homeowners insurance and more. This is an app that will help you to better estimate your total housing expenses.

GoodReader

You can accumulate a mountain of paperwork when buying or selling property, and GoodReader is an affordable app that will help you keep track of the paperwork. You can scan the items into the system and keep them stored for easy access and portability.

Home Scouting

Do you know about the Home Scouting app? This is a property search app that buyers can use to get details about property listings while on the go. It can also be used to help you learn more about other listings and their prices that your own home may be competing with when you list a property for sale. Find it in the App Store on any iPhone or Android device. It’s free and easy to use. Use “homesweethome” when it asks for an activation code.

Although property search apps like Home Scouting are a good resource for general information, working with your trusted, local real estate agent is always a better option when you are seriously considering a property purchase. Your agent may also offer a local app that you can download to access the most current, relevant property search data.

ScannerPro

When you need to scan documents to send digital copies of them, ScannerPro is a great app to use. This is an affordable app that works with your iPhone or iPad. Essentially, it creates a photo image of your documents, and you can then transmit them or store them as desired.

Buying real estate can be cumbersome and complicated, but it does not have to be. Working with a trusted mortgage professional is always the first step to buying a home.

3 Easy Ways You Ruin Your Relationship With A Real Estate Agent

Don't Be That Guy or Gal: 3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Real Estate AgentAre you thinking about buying or selling a home? If you don’t know a real estate agent or have a referral to one, you may end up working with someone unfamiliar who you will need to build a relationship with. Of course, as with any relationship, there’s always a chance that things can go sour.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can ruin the trust and rapport you’ve built with your real estate agent.

#1: Lie or Embellish the Facts

When you ask a real estate agent to represent you in the home buying or selling process they’re going to need accurate information to help you make the best decisions. Lying or embellishing the facts can cause significant issues and should obviously be avoided.

For example, if your agent asks you how much you can afford for your new home, give them an accurate figure based on your mortgage pre-approval, your income and your current financial situation. If you’re selling your home and your real estate agent asks you about the home’s maintenance history, be honest and don’t try to cover anything up.

#2: Cheat on Them with Another Agent

Once you have a real estate agent searching for that perfect new home, they may need to expend quite a bit of effort in order to find exactly what you’re looking for. Imagine how hard they would work if they discovered that you’re having another real estate agent perform the same job, but only one of them will be paid for their work?

Don’t cheat on your real estate agent. If you feel that your agent is doing a poor job or you could find someone better, let them know. It’s better to move on than to have professionals working behind each other’s backs.

#3: Fail to Be Trusting or Respectful

If you fail to show trust and respect for your real estate agent you can rest assured they’re not going to bend over backwards to help you squeeze out that extra discount or get your home sale closed as quickly as possible. Treat your real estate agent as you wish to be treated and they’ll be more than willing to do their job.

Whether buying or selling, an experienced real estate agent is the best way to ensure that your transaction goes according to plan and that you accomplish your goals. When you’re ready to discuss buying a new home or selling your current one, contact your real estate agent and they’ll be happy to assist, or contact us for a referral if you don’t already have an agent you trust.

Three Key Tips for Assessing The Value Of Your Home

How Much is Your Home Worth in Today's Market? Three Key Tips for Assessing ValueIf you’re thinking about putting the house on the market, or are simply curious about its value in the current economic atmosphere, it’s essential to get an honest assessment. An overly inflated figure won’t hold up and will only turn potential buyers away.

It’s best to get a fair assessment in order to ask a reasonable price or avoid over-extending oneself when it comes to taking out a home equity loan. Consider these three key tips:

Identify Positive Features About The Home And Property

When seeking an appraisal for a home, it’s important to look at the big picture. While the neighborhood and specific location are important, as well as the size and condition of the home, it’s also essential to tally up any improvements or upgrades. Any recent renovations are a plus that are sure to give a boost to a home’s value. Outbuildings and swimming pools add more positives that will increase the initial value of a home. The most important thing any homeowner can do is to stay on top of repairs and give the property a facelift periodically to keep things fresh. This will be taken into consideration during an appraisal.

Pay Attention To The Competition

Whether homeowners try to estimate their home’s value on their own or bring in the professionals, it’s important to pay attention to the surrounding real estate. Take a close look at other properties in the area and their price tags when they come up for sale. It’s especially helpful to look at properties that compare in size and condition. From that point, the most expensive and least expensive homes should be tallied as well, providing a price range for the concerned individual’s home.

Think About Present Circumstances

Be sure to consider if the area is in a recession or showing a period of strong economic growth. If a home is located in an area that is booming, this will inflate the value of the home. It is all part of the law of supply and demand. When buyers are coming in droves, home sales will be ripe for the picking and homeowners can ask a higher price. However, if the population is dwindling and people are migrating elsewhere because job opportunities have fallen, there is a much greater chance that the home’s value will decrease. For those who want to sell, the best bet is to strike when the iron is hot and put the house on the market during a period of economic strength. If the economy is failing, it may be necessary to wait or cut ones’ losses.

Act Now To Learn More

There is no better time than the present to contact a name you can trust in real estate. Discover all the ins and outs of assessing your home’s value, discuss your options, and find out ways to boost your property’s potential as you seek a reliable assessment.

Benchmark Mortgage

DIY Or Hire It Done: Renovating Real Estate Investment Properties

DIY Or Hire It Done Renovating Real Estate Investment PropertiesSometimes, when buying – or even thinking about buying real estate for investment purposes, you’re faced with the need to fix up the property.

The question then arises: Should I fix it up myself or hire it done? Unfortunately, no one can give you the right answer. However, there are a few questions that you can ask yourself to help decide the issue:

1. Do I Have The Time?

Time is an issue that many people forget about, but it should be one of the deciding factors. Some renovations, such as handles, hinges or kitchen hardware can take very little time to do. Others, like tiling a bathroom, can take hours, or even days to accomplish.

If you don’t have the time to do these things personally, you’ve already answered the question.

2. Do I Have The Money?

Obviously, money is as important a factor as time. Often, if you don’t have the time, you do have the money to hire someone. However, if you have neither the money nor the time, you may need to reassess whether you can really afford the real estate you’re thinking of buying.

You may want to continue looking to find something that needs fewer repairs or that you can get at a lower price.

3. Do I Have The Know-How?

Granted, there is a lot of do-it-yourself information out on the Internet. However, if you don’t have the necessary knowledge to understand what they’re saying, you’ll either have to research more, or hire someone.

Being knowledgeable on what you’re doing may not be so important when you’re painting the living room, but it’s incredibly important if you need to rewire a room or want to knock down a wall.

The main key when deciding on what property to buy, what renovations need to be made and whether to do it yourself is simple: Be realistic. Be honest with yourself.

Can you really do this? Can you really afford it? Remember, if the answer is “no,” it could just mean “not right now.”

Don’t be afraid to wait until you have everything in place before picking your investment properties. If you’re careful with your time and money management, you may find yourself able to buy that dream real estate investment property.

4 Tips To Lower Homeowners Insurance

4 Tips To Lower Homeowners Insurance For Your HomeWith the prices for everything skyrocketing these days, every penny counts. This includes your homeowner’s insurance costs. If you’re thinking of buying a home and need homeowner’s insurance, here are a few tips on getting quality insurance for a fair price:

Tip #1: Shop Around

Ask family and friends about their homeowner’s insurance. Check the Yellow Pages, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and the state insurance department.

Other places to shop for insurance include consumer guides, insurance agents and online insurance quote services. Don’t just look for lower prices, however. You need a fair price for the services you need.

Tip #2: Raise Your Deductible

The deductible is how much you have to pay before the insurance company starts to pay a claim on your home. The higher the deductible, the lower the premiums. If you live in a disaster-prone area, your policy may have a separate deductible for specific types of damages.

Make sure, when reading the policy, you carefully go over damage-specific information.

Tip #3: Use The Same Insurer

Some companies will take five to fifteen percent off your premium if you buy more than one policy from them. If the insurer offers homeowner’s, auto and liability coverage, you stand a chance of having a lower premium than if they only offer one or the other.

The key is to make sure that the combined price is lower than if you bought them separately.

Tip #4: Improve Home Security

By installing a sophisticated fire sprinkler system and a fire/burglar alarm that rings the monitoring stations, some companies will cut your premium as much as fifteen or twenty percent.

For a smoke detector, burglar alarm or deadbolt locks, you can usually get at least a five percent discount. Check with your insurer to make sure that the system you’re installing will lower your premiums, though; the systems aren’t cheap and not all of them qualify for a discount.

Read everything carefully before you sign, to make sure the policy covers your insurance needs without adding on hidden fees. Even a little money saved can go a long way toward making it easier to live within your budget.

Benchmark Mortgage