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Home Buying Horror Stories: How Buying a Home Can Go Wrong – and How to Avoid These Mistakes

Home Buying Horror Stories: How Buying a Home Can Go Wrong - and How to Avoid These MistakesWhen you buy a home, you may have dreams of settling into a beautiful new space that meets your needs and that your family can feel comfortable in. While many will enjoy this vision of domestic tranquility after taking ownership of their dream home, others have had their dream turn into a veritable nightmare due to some simple mistakes or oversights on their part. By understanding these mistakes, you can avoid making them yourself.

Paying Too Much For The Property

One the surface, the main cost of buying a home relates to the sales price, and it is true that your monthly housing payment may be the primary related expense. However, other expenses such as homeowners insurance, property taxes, repair and maintenance costs, utilities and more will all need to be factored into the cost of home ownership. Some buyers believe that because an online calculator or a lending professional tells them that they can afford a high priced home that it is the case. You can review your budget and estimate all related home expenses to determine how affordable a specific property is for you.

Finding Out That The Location Is Undesirable

There are many things that can make a location undesirable, and you should take time to become comfortable with the location before making an offer. Consider, for example, if the neighbors like to throw loud parties on the weekend or if there is a teen driver that likes to speed down the street. If you are buying a property with open land or vacant buildings around it, consider researching zoning, and think about future uses for these properties that could influence value and desire.

Discovering That Your Property Is In Bad Condition

Some home buyers discover after purchasing a property that it is not in the best condition, and some even learn that their home needs tens of thousands of dollars of repair work or more. Even properties that appear to be in great condition on the surface may have hidden issues with the foundation, structure, roof, pipes or electrical work, to name a few. You can order a property inspection to learn more about the true condition of a property.

These are among the most common issues that can turn a dream home into a nightmare. When you work with a local real estate agent when buying a home, your agent can help you to avoid unpleasant and costly mistakes such as these.

Why Green Homes Are Gold In Your Pocket

Why Green Homes Are Gold In Your PocketIf you’re selling a home today, you know that it’s a seller’s market in many areas throughout the country. What you may not know, though, is that there are still things you can do to make your home even more desirable. From adding SMART home features to properly staging a home, there are plenty of things you can do to drive up the price and create a frenzy of bidding activity for your home. One of those things is to add green features to your home.

What Are Green Home Features?

Adding green features to your home doesn’t mean you’re painting the walls green or going for some odd decor. Instead, it means you’ve added one or more environmentally friendly features to your home. The following are a few green features you can add to your home that will add incredible ROI when the time comes to sell your home.

  • Landscaping with native plants.
  • Water conservation features in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Energy Star appliances.
  • SMART thermostats, lights, and garage door openers.
  • Recycled countertops.
  • Radiant floor heating.
  • Alternative energy systems such as geothermal or solar energy.

Why Do Buyer’s Desire Green Home Features?

Buyers today are savvier than ever when it comes to the plight of the planet and are constantly seeking changes they can make to reduce carbon footprints and conserve resources. Homes that provide these types of features allow them to do precisely that. More importantly, they don’t have to adjust their lifestyles or even think about making these changes because they’re already made.

Giving Buyers What They Want?

At the end of the day, when you install certain green features in your home, you’re giving prospective buyers the personal satisfaction of knowing they’re purchasing a planet-friendly home, without forcing them to do the work for themselves. It’s a win for those who have grandiose intentions for saving the planet to actually follow through on those intentions.

Will Green Home Features Help You Sell Your Home Faster?

That depends on the local market in the area where you’re selling. However, in many areas across the country, it is a winning proposition. Work with your real estate agent to see if adding one or more of the green features listed above can help you sell your home faster or for a higher price.

Buying in a Sellers Market

Buying in a Sellers MarketHome buying is often made possible or unreachable due to the local and national economy. Fortunately, what goes up, must come down. So, for buyers who can wait, economic changes in supply and demand can create opportunities. These shifts in real estate are known as buyer’s markets and seller’s markets. 

The seller’s market specifically tends to be the harder one for homebuyers. In short, sellers see a lot of demand, so they can command higher prices for a sale. Things are competitive, sell fast, and inventory is low. 

For buyers, it’s a headache, but there are ways of handling the challenge.

Understand Your Local Market Better

Many people might throw out the statement locally, “Oh good luck, it’s a seller’s market,” but that’s not necessarily the case until you can confirm it objectively. It may be that certain neighborhoods have high demand, but overall regional inventory is available. 

Understanding your local market as a whole and by neighborhood gives a buyer a far better idea of what’s really going on and how to compare homes in different locations.

When Making an Offer, Go With Your Best Offer First

The worst that can happen is someone responds “no.” You didn’t really lose anything with a rejected offer. However, if they accept your offer as-is, then you may have scored a better deal than trying to hedge and bargain down after the fact. Negotiation can be more difficult in a seller’s market, and sellers can be quite motivated to drop a negotiation the instant a second buyer becomes available.

Be Prepared to Move Quick and Bid Fast

Sellers’ markets go fast. Bids are taken in a day and a sale happens the next day or by that evening. If going out to buy, you need to be ready to make an offer on-site. That means also having your pre-approval for financing squared away and having enough liquid assets to cover the down payment along with enough cash to cover closing fees as well. If you’re not wired up already, you will lose sales waiting for your financing prep to get taken care of.

Have Cash, Will Talk

Buyers who are able to show they have the cash to purchase make the process go much more smoothly. Sellers are far more interested in parties who can show they are a firm sale versus those with financing approval still pending. 

Known as earnest money, a deposit placed on a home with larger than the minimum amount will get attention and commitment faster than someone with a nice bid but waiting for financing approval, thereby delaying the seller.

Anticipate Non-Cash Sweeteners

Sellers often have interests or desires to meet when letting go of a home. A buyer who can fathom what these are can improve a buying position considerably.

In some cases, it might be as simple as agreeing to additional time for a seller to move out. 

In other cases, the seller might have an attachment to the home that they want to keep protected versus seeing it destroyed by a new seller. 

Finding these things out can help a buyer make commitments in a sale that make it better for the seller and for the buyer versus other bids.

Sellers’ markets are hard, but there are ways around the challenge and getting into a home you want. By being flexible, creative, and ready you stand a better chance than bidders with half a heart in but one foot still hanging out.

Don’t Miss Out On How To Handle Common Home Buying Pitfalls

Don't Miss Out On How To Handle Common Home Buying PitfallsThe process of buying a home can be riddled with obstacles. However, you can avoid many of the most common home buying pitfalls with some advanced preparation. Below are some of the most frequent problems home buyers face, as well as tips for avoiding them. 

You Can’t Qualify For A Mortgage 

Nothing is more frustrating than learning that, even though you make enough money to afford your dream home, you cannot qualify for the mortgage you need. This may happen because your credit score is low or because you cannot verify your income in a way that satisfies your lender. To avoid this pitfall, investigate lenders’ requirements before you begin the application process and make sure you meet them all. 

You Discovered Problems With The Home After You moved In

In some cases, a home may seem perfect at first glance, but problems may be hiding in plain sight. You may move into the home and find that it has a pest problem, leaks, or a broken furnace. The best way to guard against this pitfall is to ask for a home inspection before you buy the property. 

The Appraisal Amount Isn’t High Enough 

Some homebuyers make an offer on a property and hope to get a mortgage to cover the purchase price, only to learn that the property doesn’t appraise for the amount of the requested mortgage. This is more likely in cases where the homebuyer is rolling closing costs into the mortgage. When this occurs, you can either pay the difference, ask the seller to lower the purchase price, or cancel the sale altogether. You can avoid this pitfall by investigating home values before you make an offer, or by saving up a large downpayment that would allow you to pay the difference. 

You End Up With Bad Neighbors 

Chances are that sellers will not be upfront about any problems they may have with neighbors, since these problems could potentially cause you to pass on the home. For this reason, it is always wise to do your own research before you move into any neighborhood. Consider driving by at night to look for any activity that might make you unwilling to live next door. 

The Closing Takes Too Long

It can be incredibly frustrating when it takes weeks or even months to close on the property you love. In some cases, this pitfall may be unavoidable. However, you can reduce the risk of a long closing by having all of your loan documentation ready in advance and avoiding the purchase of homes that may have an extra-long closing process, such as real estate owned properties and short sales. 

How to Become a Homeowner: First Time Home Buyer Guide

How to Become a Homeowner: First Time Home Buyer GuideBecoming a homeowner for the first time is exciting. However, for many potential buyers, the process can also be confusing. Below is an overview of the steps you need to complete in order to buy your first home.

Work Out The Finances

The first step in buying a home is deciding on a price range. This price range will be determined by your income, as well as your own comfort level with home prices and monthly payments. Consider all of these factors to determine the maximum amount you are willing to spend on your new home.

In most cases, you will be required to pay the downpayment and closing costs upfront, even if you are financing the rest of the home’s purchase price. In general, most lenders will expect a downpayment equal to 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. Otherwise, you may be required to pay mortgage insurance. Before buying a home, set enough money aside to cover these expenses.

For most homeowners, the next step in the home buying process involves looking into different mortgage options. Unless you have enough money to purchase your home for cash, you will need a mortgage. Be sure to compare quotes from different lenders before making a choice to be sure you are getting the best deal. Once you have chosen a lender and a specific type of mortgage, ask for a preapproval letter that you can attach to any offers you make so that you will be a more reliable and attractive buyer.

Hire An Agent 

When searching for the perfect first home, hiring a real estate agent to represent you throughout the process is highly recommended. Your real estate agent will act as a buyer’s agent, which means they will have your best interests at heart. When you don’t have a buyer’s agent, you will be dealing only with the seller’s real estate agent instead. Because this individual has been hired to represent the seller, they will always put the seller’s needs above yours.

Find The Right Home

Once you have a qualified agent to represent you and a preapproval letter from your lender, it is time to start looking for your new home! Your real estate agent will help you comb through listings and choose the properties you want to see. Next, you will walk through each home until you find the one that is right for you. After you have chosen a home, your real estate agent will help you prepare and submit an offer to the seller.

The process of buying your first home may seem overwhelming at first. However, by following these steps, you can simplify the process and become a homeowner with ease.

Buying a Home While Relocating is a Smarter Choice

Buying a Home While Relocating is a Smarter ChoiceThe idea of buying a home is challenging enough as the process requires a lengthy approval validation, paperwork, financing, and the actual move with logistics. However, when one really looks at what typically occurs with relocation, buying versus renting can start to make more sense over time.

Finances Have to be In Order

Buying a home more than once every ten years requires a good amount of discipline on one’s personal finances. Most of the initial decisions and approvals will depend heavily on keeping one’s debt versus income ratios in line and viable. That also means saving up a lot to have sufficient cash flow for fees and your down payment. It also means not letting credit cards get out of hand or taking on other significant debt unless necessary as both weigh against one’s ability to obtain new financing for the next home purchase.

Renting Versus Owning

Renting or leasing tends to be the go-to option during a relocation because it tends to be easier upfront, has fewer requirements to achieve, and involves less of a significant commitment financially. After all, what happens if there is another relocation just a year later? However, most relocations are fairly defined in time. Anything under a year would make sense for renting, but when one starts getting beyond a year, buying starts to become far more appealing.

First, all the dollars one pays in rent are a sunk cost. If one buys, some of that money goes into home equity. Second, many companies and organizations who relocate their people often have connections for quick purchasing and residential needs, leveraging corporate interests for their employees. This allows for the rotation of homes from one employee to the next and makes buying easier for longer-term stays.

Third, a purchase for a shorter-term stay doesn’t have to be a full-scale home. Smaller units that cost much less are easier to close and can work just as well for temporary living. Relocating buyers should really consider a wide range of housing options in a buy versus just a strict replacement of what they had before.

Finally, market costs in the target location have to be considered. Some markets are very affordable and might be cheaper than renting month to month but others are astronomical, and it simply doesn’t make sense to buy in these regions for a short-term stay.

The Bottom Line

Understand with renting everything paid is gone and won’t be recovered in any form at all. It’s a lost expense. That can be thousands of dollars after one year alone. Buying will have fees, but the money spent on the mortgage each month buys equity which can be recovered in a sale, plus a possible gain as well down the road. Buying doesn’t work in every situation where one is relocated, but it can be a viable option in affordable markets and when one is staying longer than a year.

As always, check with your local real estate professional for the best advice on your relocation and your personal financial situation.

7 Inexpensive Upgrades You Can Make To Your Rental Property

7 Inexpensive Upgrades You Can Make To Your Rental PropertyUpgrading your rental doesn’t need to cut deeply into your profits. You can add curb appeal and help prospective tenants see your rental as their next home by making some simple changes. The following upgrades are all things that a handy landlord can do without needing to hire professional contractors.

1.  Decorative Switch Plates

Replace ugly cream switch plates with either stainless steel models or decorative designs. Fancy switch plates for light switches and electrical sockets cost very little, yet make any room look nicer. The best part is, you can do the replacements yourself, using only a screwdriver.

2.  Flower Beds

Beautiful flower beds make any rental look more inviting. You can enhance curb appeal by planting inexpensive perennials around the front of the rental and along the pathway leading up to the door. Top off your newly planted flower beds with a fresh layer of colored mulch.

3. Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Kitchen cabinets are pricey, but it’s cheap to just reface existing cabinets. You can either replace the entire doors or take them off and give them a fresh sanding and a couple of coats of varnish or paint.

4. Fresh Paint

Even quality paint is inexpensive. Give your rental a beautiful new look with fresh paint throughout. You’ll want to use neutral tones, but consider making an accent wall, painted with an attractive color.

5. New Light Fixtures

Old light fixtures make a place look dated. You can pick up inexpensive light fixtures at big box home improvement stores. This simple upgrade will make your rental more attractive and modern.

6. Broom Storage Area

Most rentals don’t come with a broom closet, but you can create a makeshift broom storage area very cheaply. Just pick up some plastic broom holders and a shelf from the hardware store. Attach the broom holders to the wall and hang the shelf over that. Your tenants will appreciate the upgrade!

7. Fresh Window Treatments

Window treatments make a house look like a home. Replace window blinds or shades for an instant upgrade. Curtains are even cheaper and can be laundered and reused between rentals.

No matter where your rental is located, you can make it more attractive with these easy and inexpensive upgrades that you can do yourself.

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster If your personal budget is similar to many other people’s budgets, your home mortgage payment is by far the largest expense that you pay for each month. In fact, this payment may easily account for 20 or 25 percent or more of your take-home income.

Understandably, you may be focused on trying to pay this expense off early. By focusing on this payment, you can build equity and may be able to achieve financial security more quickly. You simply have to find a way to put aside a bit of extra cash regularly so that you can make extra payments, and there are few easy ways that you can consider.

Use Your Tax Refund

First, if you are one of the many taxpayers who receives a refund each year, consider setting aside some or all of this refund to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance.

Some taxpayers may have such a sizable refund that it can account for two or more mortgage payments each year. However, even a few hundred dollars extra put toward your principal balance will save you a considerable amount of money in interest charges over time and will have a wonderful effect on your balance.

Earmark Your Annual Bonus

If you are lucky enough to receive an annual bonus each year, you may consider using this to pay down your principal balance. While you may usually spend this money on extra holiday gifts or just add it to your spending cash, you can benefit more substantially when you contribute it to your effort to pay down your mortgage.

Use An Automated Draft To Create a Fund

Another great idea that will work well for all individuals is to create an automated draft from your checking account each month. You may set aside the funds in a special account, and you can make an extra mortgage payment from this account periodically. Another idea is to set up auto payments for your mortgage that are higher than the amount due. For example, you may establish auto payments that are $50 or $100 more than your scheduled payments.

Paying off your mortgage earlier can be a life changing event for you. Simply imagine how different your life would be if you were not responsible for this payment each month. The fact is that this could be your reality sooner than you think if you follow these tips. For the best results, apply two or even all three tips to your efforts.

Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

The better your credit score, the better the mortgage interest rate for which you should qualify. That can mean thousands of dollars saved over the life of the mortgage. If your credit score needs improving, get started prior to your search for a new home.

Pay Bills On Time
The simplest way to boost your credit score is by ensuring your bills are always paid on time. Nothing harms a credit score more than late payments.

Check for Credit Report Errors
Check your credit reports for any errors. These issues are not uncommon, and can really impact your score. Each of the three major credit card reporting bureaus –Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion –will provide you with a free annual report.

Credit Utilization Rate
Look into your credit utilization, or CU, rate. The CU rate is another big credit score consideration. Your CU rate is the amount of credit authorized versus the amount you use. It’s one reason maxing out your credit cards is not a wise move.

Never allow your CU rate to exceed more than 30 percent of your available credit. In simple terms if you have $1,000 in available credit, never use more than $300. High CU rates are a red flag, as they indicate someone with potential financial problems. For best results, keep your CU rate as low as you can.
Calculate your CU rate by adding up the credit limits on all cards, as well as the balances. Divide the total balances by the total credit limit, then multiply by 100. That amount is your CU rate percentage.

Reduce Your Debt
If you carry credit card debt, pay it down as much as possible. That also helps lower your CU rate.

Avoid Opening New Credit Card Accounts
Do not open new credit card accounts while trying to boost your credit score.   A new account lowers the age of your accounts, affecting your credit history and lowering the CU rate.

Do Not Close Unused Credit Card Accounts
Do you have credit cards you never use? You might think closing them would boost your credit score, but that is not how it works. When you close the account, the amount of credit you have drops. That triggers a CU rate increase.

Refinancing Credit Card Debt
If you have substantial credit card debt, consider refinancing all of it with a personal loan. You should receive a lower interest rate with your balances now merged into a single monthly payment. This also causes your CU rate to go down.

How Long Will It Take?
How long it will take to improve your credit score depends on the severity of your credit problems. Those with serious credit issues may find it takes years to raise their scores significantly, but most people should see improvement within a few months. Then it is time to think about mortgage shopping!

VA vs FHA vs USDA What’s the Difference?

VA vs FHA vs USDA What's the Difference?You may have more options than you think when it comes to securing a mortgage for your new home. While many buyers opt for conventional financing, another option or program might be a better choice for you, depending on your personal and financial situation. Learning more about FHA, USDA, and VA loans ensures you get the best possible deal for your mortgage and that you secure the loan that you need for your new home. Here’s what you need to know about these useful mortgage options.

FHA Loans
These are traditional mortgages that are backed by the FHA: when you take out an FHA loan, this government agency is insuring the loan. This makes your loan more appealing to lenders who might otherwise feel your credit or income history is not strong enough. An FHA loan is available to a wide range of buyers and price points and offers a low-down payment, reasonable interest, and other perks that make it worth exploring for your next mortgage. 

VA Loans
If you are a veteran then this program, which offers loans insured by the VA, is a great option for you as they do not require money down so you can buy immediately, rather than saving for years for a down payment. The VA loan is available to those who have served or are serving in the armed forces and is a good option to help you get the home you want with no money down, unlike a conventional mortgage loan.

USDA Loans
One of the most useful and often overlooked loan programs is from the USDA. While this government office offers direct loans, far more people qualify for their insured loan programs. USDA loans are for rural areas, but a surprising number of suburban communities and locations qualify as well. With a low-down payment and interest, this subsidized loan program is well worth it if you plan to live in a rural or suburban area. 

Not every borrower will qualify for the mortgage options above; the USDA has guidelines on income and the home you are interested in. The FHA does not have income requirements, but you will need to prove your income and this option also has a loan limit.  If you do meet the guidelines of any of the above programs, they can help you access the home you want by dramatically reducing your upfront and deposit costs. 

The right loan for you will depend on your income, credit, and the home you’ve selected. Your agent can help you find the home that suits the program you want and make it easy for you to secure the financing you qualify for. Get in touch today to talk about your home buying options and see which loan option is right for you.