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.

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. 

Getting A Lower Interest Rate During A Refinance

Getting A Lower Interest Rate During A RefinanceThere are a lot of people who have spotted the record-low mortgage rates right now and are wondering if they can refinance successfully. While many people apply for a refinance of their current home loan, not everyone will be approved. Furthermore, a home refinance is not the best option for everyone. Those who want to qualify for record-low refinance rates need to keep a few key points in mind.

Be A Strong Refinance Candidate

First, homeowners need to make sure that it is actually worth their time to refinance to a lower home mortgage rate. In general, homeowners want to make sure they are able to save at least three-quarters of a percentage point when compared to their current home loan to make a refinance worth their while. If they cannot save this much money on their home loan, then they may end up spending more money on the refinance in closing costs.

Act Quickly

The real estate market is volatile right now. Therefore, home refinance rates are often moving targets. As a result, the interest rates that are published this week could change in the span of a few days. By the time loan packages are returned to the lender, the rates might not even be accurate anymore. Therefore, all homeowners need to be willing to act fast. Have pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns ready to go when the lender asks for it.

Have The Money For Closing Costs

One of the most common reasons why homeowners lose out on the best interest rates is that they do not have the money ready to pay closing costs. By the time the homeowners get the money together, the refinance rate might have passed them by. Usually, closing costs fall somewhere between two percent and five percent of the total loan amount and this amount is usually due at signing.

Qualify For The Best Mortgage Rates During A Refinance

With mortgage rates falling to record lows, now is a good time for many homeowners to refinance. On the other hand, homeowners need to set themselves up to qualify for the lowest mortgage rates. Following these steps can place homeowners in a position to be successful when they apply for a refinance.

Purchase The Right Amount Of Home Insurance

Purchase The Right Amount Of Home InsuranceFor most people, their home is the most valuable investment they will ever make. Therefore, it needs to be protected. This is where homeowners’ insurance is critical. At the same time, buying the right amount of homeowners’ insurance can be a bit of a challenge.

A home that is underinsured leaves the homeowner vulnerable to situations involving fires, floods, and theft. On the other hand, nobody wants to throw away money unnecessarily by over-insuring the home. How can everyone purchase the right amount of homeowners’ insurance?

Review The Coverage Every Year

First, people’s needs are going to change from year to year. Therefore, everyone should review their policy annually. For example, actual cash value only reimburses someone based on the current condition of the home. For example, if a home was built ten years ago, the actual cash value will only provide someone with the depreciated value of the home and not the original value. While this might be enough at the beginning, it may not be enough ten years from now. Everyone has to make sure they purchase enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding the home, excluding the cost of the land.

Overlooking Valuables And Liability

Another common mistake that people make when it comes to homeowners’ insurance is overlooking issues such as valuables and liability. Most people have enough insurance for the structure of the home. Most people do not have enough insurance to cover liability claims and valuables. Liability claims might arise if someone gets hurt on the property and the homeowner gets sued. Valuables are important if the home burns down or if someone steals something from the home. All homeowners must have enough homeowners’ insurance to protect themselves against potential liability claims (such as someone slipping and falling in the home) and the loss of valuables (such as electronics and jewelry). Everyone has to make sure they document these valuables appropriately.

Purchase The Right Amount Of Homeowners’ Insurance

Make sure you include everything to purchase the right amount of homeowners’ insurance. Review current construction costs as part of the process. Finally, review the fine print of the homeowners’ insurance policy every year to avoid being underinsured or over-insured.

Home Values Are Impacted By School Zones: Is The Move Worth It?

Home Values Are Impacted By School Zones: Is The Move Worth It?If you are looking for a home, then you probably have a budget in mind. You also need to know about the most common factors that influence the price of a home. One factor that always seems to play a role in the price of a home is the quality of the school system. This makes sense. After all, a lot of people who are looking for a home have children (or are planning on having children) and want to make sure they have access to a quality education. At the same time, is it truly worth the price increase to have access to a better school district?

The Quality Of The School District And The Price Of The Home

Numerous surveys have consistently shown that the majority of homeowners are willing to go over their budget price for the perfect and home and the location certainly plays a role. In this manner, the quality of the school system absolutely factors into the right location.

When people think about going over budget, they often think about a higher monthly mortgage payment; however, other costs are going to increase as well. For example, you might need to pay a higher down payment, pay more in home insurance to protect the home, and pay more in property taxes. Therefore, is this truly worth it?

This Is A Subjective Decision

In the end, the answer to this question is always going to be subjective. Therefore, you need to decide what matters most to you and your family and compare this to the premium that is put on the home. For example, the school rankings and test scores are certainly important factors. At the same time, they only tell one small part of the story.

For example, you also want to see how much money the school district spends on each of its students. The more money they spend, the more they care about their students. You also want to think about the diversity of the school district as well, as this is closely correlated to the overall quality of the education each student receives. Compare these factors to your budget to see if it is worth the price of living in that school district.