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Category Archives: General

FHA vs Conventional Loan

While many people deciding on a loan product rely exclusively on their lenders recommendation, you should understand the basic difference between an FHA loan and a Conventional Loan. The term Conventional Loan includes all loans under the current FNMA and FHLMC lending limits. Some of these may be called Conforming, A paper, subprime, Alt A, A Minus, BC (bad credit) and other industry names.

Most people that have heard of FHA loans tend to associate them with purchase money transactions. While purchases are the most common use, FHA loans are also available for rate and term refinance loans as well as Cash Out refinances.

The main advantage of a FHA vs conventional loan is that the credit qualifying criteria for a borrower are not as strict as conventional loan financing and the down payment or Equity requirements are less. In comparing a purchase money FHA loan against a Conforming or A paper loan, the FHA loan will generally have the least amount of money required to close and the lower payment, see FHA vs Conventional loan comparison(pdf file).  FHA loans will allow the borrower who has had a few “credit problems” or those without a credit history to buy a home. An FHA Underwriter will require a reasonable explanation of these derogatories, but will approach a person’s credit history with common sense credit underwriting. Most notably, borrowers with extenuating circumstances surrounding a bankruptcy that was discharged 2 years ago can be approved for maximum financing. Conventional A Paper financing, on the other hand, would require 4 years to have passed to be eligible for consideration and relies heavily upon credit scoring. If your score is below the minimum standard, you will not qualify or you will be placed in a higher rate Subprime, Alt A or A minus loan product.

If a borrower does have past credit issues an FHA loan may be significantly cheaper than an alternative loan such as subprime, ALT A, or A minus. These other programs generally have higher interested rate of require a larger down payment or Equity position. Many of these alternative loan products have Pre Payment penalties where as FHA loan do not have such penalties. In fact, FHA loans can be easily refinanced under theStreamline program.

Another advantage of a FHA vs conventional loan is that FHA is one of the few home mortgage programs that allow a borrower to have their down payment gifted from a family member, a governmental agency, or non-profit organization. This allows home buyers without the necessary money to buy a home today.

Even though FHA charges an annual renewal mortgage insurance premium of 0.5% to .55% of the loan amount, this fee is generally half that charged by low down payment Conforming A Paper conventional mortgages (which range from 0.55% up to .96% per year). Subprime, Alt A and A minus rates range from 0.55% to 4.18%. For a $100,000 mortgage, FHA would charge approximately $41.67 per month and a typical low down (3%) conventional mortgage with a renewal premium of 0.78% would charge $65.00 per month. That’s a $280 savings per year.

However, conventional financing does not require an upfront mortgage insurance premium when a borrower closes on the loan. With FHA financing, that fee for a 30 year loan is 1.75% of the loan amount that the borrower can wrap into the mortgage. On a $100,000 for 30 years at 8%, that’s an additional $11.51 that the borrower must pay each month. That’s almost an additional $132 the borrower must pay each year (fortunately the interest a borrower pays on his or her mortgage on a primary residence is tax deductible).

One drawback to FHA loans is that the loan limits set for FHA loans are typically less than the loan limits for conventional financing in most parts of the country. If a borrower is looking for a mortgage that exceeds the FHA loan limits for the area, the borrower would have to put additional money down on the property or finance under a conventional mortgage, Subprime, Alt A or A Minus product. Under the 2008 stimulus package FHA loan limits have been raised in many areas and FHA offer FHA Jumbo Loans.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in General

 

When (And When Not) To Refinance Your Mortgage

When (And When Not) To Refinance Your Mortgage

By Investopedia Staff

Refinancing a mortgage means paying off an existing loan and replacing it with a new one. There are many common reasons why homeowners refinance: The opportunity to obtain a lower interest rate; the chance to shorten the term of their mortgage; the desire to convert from an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage, or vice versa; the opportunity to tap a home’s equity in order to finance a large purchase; and the desire to consolidate debt. Some of these motivations have benefits and pitfalls. And because refinancing can cost between 3% and 6% of the loan’s principal and – like taking out the original mortgage – requires appraisal, title search and application fees, it’s important for a homeowner to determine whether his or her reason for refinancing offers true benefit.

TUTORIAL: Mortgage Basics

Securing a Lower Interest Rate
One of the best reasons to refinance is to lower the interest rate on your existing loan. Historically, the rule of thumb was that it was worth the money to refinance if you could reduce your interest rate by at least 2%. Today, many lenders say 1% savings is enough of an incentive to refinance.

Reducing your interest rate not only helps you save money, but it increases the rate at which you build equity in your home, and it can decrease the size of your monthly payment. For example, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of 9% on a $100,000 home has a principal and interest payment of $804.62. That same loan at 6% reduces your payment to $599.55. (To learn more about the home costs, see Mortgages: How Much Can You Afford?, Home-Equity Loans: The Costs and The Home-Equity Loan: What It Is And How It Works.)

Shortening the Loan’s Term
When interest rates fall, homeowners often have the opportunity to refinance an existing loan for another loan that, without much change in the monthly payment, has a shorter term. For that 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on a $100,000 home, refinancing from 9% to $5.5% cuts the term in half to 15 years, with only a slight change in the monthly payment from $804.62 to $817.08.

Converting Between Adjustable-Rate and Fixed-Rate Mortgages
While ARMs start out offering lower rates than fixed-rate mortgages, periodic adjustments often result in rate increases that are higher than the rate available through a fixed-rate mortgage. When this occurs, converting to a fixed-rate mortgage results in a lower interest rate as well as eliminates concern over future interest rate hikes.

Conversely, converting from a fixed-rate loan to an ARM can also be a sound financial strategy, particularly in a falling interest rate environment. If rates continue to fall, the periodic rate adjustments on an ARM result in decreasing rates and smaller monthly mortgage payments, eliminating the need to refinance every time rates drop. Converting to an ARM may be a good idea especially for homeowners who don’t plan to stay in their home for more than a few years. If interest rates are falling, these homeowners can reduce their loan’s interest rate and monthly payment, but they won’t have to worry about interest rates rising in the future.

Tapping Equity and Consolidating Debt
While the previously mentioned reasons to refinance are all financially sound, mortgage refinancing can be a slippery slope to never-ending debt. It’s important to keep this in mind when considering refinancing for the purpose of tapping into home equity or consolidating debt.

Homeowners often access the equity in their homes to cover big expenses, such as the costs of home remodeling or a child’s college education. These homeowners may justify such refinancing by pointing out that remodeling adds value to the home or that the interest rate on the mortgage loan is less than the rate on money borrowed from another source. Another justification is that the interest on mortgages is tax deductible. While these arguments may be true, increasing the number of years that you owe on your mortgage is rarely a smart financial decision, nor is spending a dollar on interest to get a 30-cent tax deduction.

Many homeowners refinance in order to consolidate their debt. At face value, replacing high-interest debt with a low-interest mortgage is a good idea. Unfortunately, refinancing does not bring with it an automatic dose of financial prudence. In reality, a large percentage of people who once generated high-interest debt on credit cards, cars and other purchases will simply do it again after the mortgage refinancing gives them the available credit to do so. This creates an instant quadruple loss composed of wasted fees on the refinancing, lost equity in the house, additional years of increased interest payments on the new mortgage and the return of high-interest debt once the credit cards are maxed out again – the possible result is an endless perpetuation of the debt cycle and eventual bankruptcy.

The Bottom Line
Refinancing can be a great financial move if it reduces your mortgage payment, shortens the term of your loan or helps you build equity more quickly. When used carefully, it can also be a valuable tool in getting your debt under control. Before you refinance take a careful look at your financial situation, and ask yourself: How long do I plan to continue living in the house? And how much money will I save by refinancing? 

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2015 in General

 

House Cleaning Tips to Sell Your Home

House Cleaning Tips to Sell Your Home

Because we have moved so often, I have collected some house cleaning tips that will really help for those of youtrying to sell your home. I counted the other day, just for fun, and realized that we have moved houses 8 times in our married life (not counting moving between apartments in the early years!). In that time I have learned a thing or two about cleaning your home to sell, and most importantly – keeping it clean until it sells.

If you are looking for some tips on the selling process itself, I recommend checking out Insider Real Estate Source for some excellent tips from Jeraldine Wooldridge, who has 30 years experience in the U.S.’ real estate market.

Why Do I Have to Clean my House?

This is a very common question. Based on houses for sale that I have visited, there are lots of people who feel that house buyers are coming to look at the layout and condition of the house, not to inspect its cleanliness. That thinking is both right and wrong – that’s why I wrote this section on house cleaning tips.

It’s true that the reason home shoppers look at houses is to inspect the layout and condition. However, there are several reasons why cleaning it and keeping it clean are to your advantage:

Showing a Messy or Dirty House

1. If potential buyers get distracted by too much disorder, they may

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walk away from the house with a sense that it has not been well- maintained, even if it is actually in great condition.

2. If the house is dirty/messy it gives people the feeling that they will have a lot of work to clean it before they can move in.

3. Some people won’t be able to see past the mess/dirt. They will get a sense that the house is hard to maintain and doesn’t have enough storage – neither if which are good selling features.

4. Buyers will have visited more than one house. They will be comparing houses and prices, and you will not get the offers you want if your home compares poorly in the buyers minds to similar homes.

5. Buyers try to picture their furnishings in your space. If there is too much clutter, most people are not able to see past it, and the picture in their mind will look very ‘crowded’.

I know that it’s an inconvenience, especially if you have small children and/or pets, run a business from your home, or have a house that really is too small. However, as with any major life change – you need to keep your eye on the prize, grit your teeth, and do what needs to be done. Cleaning your house to prepare for selling is essential. (You might even find that you like the new ‘uncluttered’ feel.)

What do I Need to Do?

Before you tackle anything, you need to sit down with the family. Help them to understand that there are going to be some new rules for a while, and that you understand that this is going to be a tough time for everyone. Explain that having a clean and neat house is one of the things that will help sell it quickly (short-term pain for long term gain). Once the house is sold, you can go back to your regular cleaning schedule.

After that there are only three simple-sounding things. The first is the most difficult, but once it is completed, the remaining two become possible.

You should complete steps one and two before the first agents’ open house. These are the men and women who will be bringing potential buyers, and you want them to remember your house in a positive way.

1. Major Declutter

2. Cleaning Tips

3. Maintenance

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2015 in General

 

Home Staging to Sell: The Latest Techniques That Really Work

Houzz Contributor. I cover topics ranging from decorating ideas, product… More 
Proper staging can help you sell your home faster, and possibly even for a higher price, and in recent years stagers have become even savvier at zeroing in on what buyers want. I spoke with three home staging professionals to find out what works these days, from the tried and true basics to fresh ideas for prepping a home for a quick and profitable sale. Whether you are planning to hire a pro or want to learn a few tricks to do it yourself, these tips will get you up to speed on the latest techniques in staging to sell.
1. Find the right pros to work with. “I feel the most important thing for homeowners to focus on is choosing a great Realtor to represent them and to properly showcase their property with professional photos and staging suggestions,” says home stager Kelley Gardner in Madison, New Jersey. “I see too many poor photos, no floor plans and no staging. Most buyers are making their final selections using the tools of the Internet, so they will rule out the dated, ugly, messy homes that could actually be a gem if the homeowner had just taken the time to update the rooms with very little effort.”

If you are finding it difficult to let go of personal items, hiring a staging pro can help, say Robin DeCapua and Rachel Moore of Madison Modern Home in Los Angeles: “They can look at your home with fresh eyes and see both the strengths and flaws that may be invisible to you as a homeowner.”

Find a home stager near you

2. Detach yourself from your house. The process of staging takes the focus of your home away from you and puts it on the potential new owners of your home. Shirin Sarikhani ofSeattle Staged To Sell likes to show sellers photos of staged versus unstaged rooms to show what a striking difference staging makes.

“I also help them understand that empty rooms look smaller than staged rooms,” she says. “I try to let the home sellers understand that home staging is an investment and not a cost. The first step a home seller can take to ensure a successful outcome is to get detached from their home; now it is all about the buyers.”

3. Focus on the front. Wondering where to begin? Try sprucing up your home’s curb appeal. “Buyers make up their mind in the first 30 seconds as they approach the front door,” says Gardner. “Clean it up, paint and update the old weathered light fixture. Trim foliage, take out dead plantings and mulch if you are in a growing season. When your home hits the MLS, light it up. Potential buyers tend to drive by before they actually get inside.”
4. Say goodbye to ugly. There is really no nice way to say it: We all have a few ugly bits in our homes, and it’s best to face the facts early on. The good news: There are plenty of quick fixes for your home’s trouble spots.

“White towels and a white waffle-weave shower curtain can do wonders to a dated bath,” says Gardner. “If you have oak kitchen cabinets, paint them white and add quartz or stone counters to help update. Remove dated wallpaper and paint. Take down dusty, dated window treatments. Inexpensive updates can include changing out light fixtures, throw pillows and bed linens. I like a white quilt or duvet for photos.”

How to paint kitchen cabinets

5. Know your buyer. This is the golden rule of staging. The new paradigm is a targeted approach capturing the likely buyer pool through specific design styles that will resonate, such as hipster, industrial or beachy modern style, say DeCapua and Moore.

Gardner adds that buyers in their mid-20s to mid-30s make up a large part of the market, so “that is the group to capture and market toward,” she says. “They usually like the look of the big-box stores, like Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, so I like to show the homeowners these catalogs to get the feel of this transitional style.” If you are staging your home yourself, ask your real estate agent for help identifying your target market.

How to sell your house faster to a younger buyer

6. Match your decor to your home’s style and price range. “It is all about creating the right lifestyle for each house.” says Sarikhani. “For example, for a high-end penthouse condo, the sofa should be a different one than in the one-bedroom condo on the lower-end price.”
7. Consider color. The colors you should use depend, at least in part, on where you live. “Stagers in large metropolitan markets have abandoned the bland, beige and neutral for a more vibrant style that employs color and eclectic decor,” say DeCapua and Moore. Those farther from urban areas may want to stick with neutrals.

Gardner adds that it is helpful to be aware of what is photogenic. “No red pillows, linens or accents, as this color looks awful in real estate photos. I suggest neutral colors — get rid of the hunter green and red rooms. Uncover your home’s assets by removing worn wall-to-wall carpet and exposing hardwood flooring.” And, she adds, “no pets in your pictures, unless you are selling Fido with the property.”

8. Accessorize wisely. Decluttering is important, but once you have things looking streamlined, try layering back in a few accessories that telegraph the lifestyle you want your home to project. Details matter, say DeCapua and Moore. “We use lots of coffee table books, add curated collectibles to bookshelves, toss market baskets onto chairs, hang original art and use only real plants to give buyers the impression that someone actually lives there. Old-school staging style tended toward the sterile and looked a bit more like a big-box furniture showroom.”

Houzz real-world guides to decluttering

Final thoughts. “There should be no forgotten spaces in any house for sale. It’s all about square feet,” says Sarikhani. Put every closet and nook to work by fitting in smart storage or furniture, and your space will seem not only bigger but more appealing and usable to potential buyers.

Gardner says, “I always tell homeowners that we want the buyers to feel that they could drop their bags and move right in.”

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in General

 

Tips for home buyers and sellers in 2014

10 tips for home buyers and sellers in 2014

 

Homeowners enjoyed double-digit price growth in the first half of 2013, greatly exceeding experts’ predictions of a year ago and even settling into pre-recession values in many markets. Though there was some softening in the second half, sellers remain in their element and are turning the screws on anxious buyers who fear further price spikes and escalating interest rates. New-construction home sales are up, previously underwater properties are in positive equity again and investors are turning their attention to “secondary markets” to find value. Economists expect house prices to rise another 4 percent to 5 percent in 2014, meaning remaining bargains will get even more sparse.

With that in mind, here are 10 tips befitting the up-market of 2014.

Sellers: Jump-start the process.

You may be an avowed procrastinator, but if you want to sell a house this year, start planning now. The process, say sellers, always takes longer than expected. So get your home inspected now; there may be unseen major repairs to address. Declutter, clean closets and shelves, store extraneous possessions and furnishings and other stuff that might keep sellers from picturing themselves in your space. Attend an open house or two to get an idea of how to stage yours. And move along: Owners still waiting for the market to peak should beware that this real estate cycle may be shorter-lived than last.

Buyers: Be credit-ready.

There’s a lot of competition out there for homes, so tarry not. Get your credit report and start repairing any blips. If your scores are below 620 or so, a conventional loan will be a challenge. But if they’re under 740, you still might not get the best rates. Many buyers get a prequalification letter from the lender, but you can one-up them with a preapproval, which comes after a more thorough evaluation of your finances. A preapproval letter shows the seller that you’re good to go and can close quickly.

Sellers: Vet your real estate agent, then follow the agent’s advice.

Sellers lose time and money by hiring poorly. Interview several potential agents. You’ll want a full-timer who is Web savvy and uses mobile technology, because at least 4 in 5 buyers view their homes first online. Your agent should be a proven performer in your submarket and be willing to walk you through the financial aspects of your deal. The more the agent knows about schools, commutes and other local details, the better. Once vetted, accept your agent’s advice on pricing, marketing and negotiation.

Buyers: Adjust your negotiating expectations.

Lowball offers are off the table in this environment and could eliminate you from consideration. Respond to counteroffers quickly to keep other buyers from entering the picture; you don’t want to encourage a bidding war. If one breaks out, be prepared to get fewer concessions and pay more money. And have a few other homes in mind so you can be willing to walk away if the price soars.

Sellers: It’s your market (finally) so make the most of it.

At long last, it’s a seller’s market! While you’re interviewing agents, be wary of those offering too-good-to-be-true price opinions because they may be trying to “buy” your listing. And don’t jump at that first (seemingly) generous offer, especially if sellers are getting multiple offers. If you’re getting your price and then some, give something back to the buyer in good faith, such as an early move-in date or some personal property you’re not attached to. Never let the buyers’ agents know what you’re willing to do, though. Make them ask.

Buyers: Find life after foreclosure.

Have a foreclosure in recent years? Join the crowd. Though you might think you have to wait seven years to get another conventional mortgage, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA say they actually require just a three-year waiting period if the foreclosure was caused by extenuating circumstances. There are plenty of nonconforming lenders — often called “shadow bankers” — out there if you can endure a big down payment (around 20 percent) and above-market interest rates. Or consider a lease-purchase or lease-option where you pay the homeowner a monthly premium above your rent for the right to buy at a set price later.

Sellers: Hesitate to renovate.

We hear that newly renovated homes are easier sells, and that’s true. So is it time to remodel that outmoded kitchen? Not if you plan to sell soon. According to remodeling surveys, the average renovation project returns only about two-thirds on investment. For example, a major bathroom remodel costing $15,000 yields about $10,000 in resale value. The same goes for a major kitchen remodel. In most cases, it would be cheaper to issue credits to buyers or drop your price a few grand. Lighter jobs like new doors are more practical and return about 85 percent. But feel free to spend a bit on paint (basic colors), curb appeal and fence replacement to enhance exteriors.

Buyers: Ask and you won’t receive (an unpleasant surprise).

You’d be dismayed at the things sellers aren’t obliged to disclose in most states, including on-premises felonies, suicide, murder or a neighboring sex offender. Don’t be afraid to thoroughly question the selling party in writing before signing the contract. Some questions: Is there a cell tower, water tower, natural gas well, oil well or other non-residential construction scheduled to be built in this neighborhood (then define “neighborhood”)? Is there commercial zoning on nearby vacant land? Is the yard prone to flooding? Are train whistles or other regular loud noises audible there? Did known criminal activity occur in the house? Have there been reported hauntings? Are there loud neighbors, dogs or other noise pollution? Are there registered sex offenders or other known criminals living nearby? If the selling party refuses to answer any of these questions, that’s a bright red flag.

Sellers: Tailor your local game.

Folks who base their selling decisions on trends on cable news are often left wondering, “Why can’t I sell at this price?” The truth is, all markets are different and all real estate is local, and prices can vary greatly even in adjacent subdivisions. Home prices are dictated largely by demand, land availability, foreclosures and employment. Most local real estate offices will provide market stats and at least a few recent comp sales in hopes of earning your business. Additional trend data can be found online or in local newspapers and business journals. A polite call or email to a local real estate appraiser might net more info or links to local statistics.

Sellers and buyers: Heed changing trends.

Pay attention to trends and react accordingly. Thinking of laying carpet? Agent surveys in the past few years show homes with hardwood floors or faux wood laminate floors are far faster sells. You still want to be in suburbia? Millennials don’t. Numerous cities — such as Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Minneapolis — have watched this more environmentally conscious generation flock to “mixed-use” urban districts served by trendy cafes, nightclubs, bike paths, civic events and mass transit. For now, they’re not buying condos, which haven’t recovered like the single-family market. They’re renting — but watching the condo market ever so carefully.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in General

 

7 Selling Tips For Summer: Housing’s Hottest Season

We are officially in the thick of the housing season – and in the real estate world, this is housing’s peak season. If you’re one of the millions of Americans hoping to sell in the summer, capitalizing on red-hot market activity, there’s a lot to know.

Here are the seven most important things to know if you’re looking to take advantage of real estate’s most sizzling season:

Busiest Month of the Year

Nationally, the volume of home sales in June is typically 29% above the annual average, according to Trulia. In July and August, inventory keeps climbing as some sellers miss the sales peak. Homebuyers begin their search in March and April, but they really get down to business after Memorial Day. The peak in June and July sales reflects the fact that many people want to move in summer when school’s out and the weather’s good. In fact, more buyers are ready to close deals in the summer than any other time of the year. So get your house ready and on the market now, and take advance of the surge in activity.

Mortgage Qualifications Loosening

Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac have just announced that they’re loosening some bank lending rules. Accordingly, in April, Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. home lender, cut its minimum credit score for borrowers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed loans from 660 to 620, following similar moves from smaller banks. Thus, there may be a bit more qualifying flexibility for hopeful homebuyers come end of the summer.

Interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose from a record low of 3.31 percent in November 2012 to 4.58 percent in late August. But optimistically, rates fell last week to 4.21 percent. And falling rates are just another incentive for those summer homebuyers.

Push The Inside Out

Now that the weather is heating up and you’re spending more time outdoors, use it to your selling advantage. Living space is not defined by the interior walls of your home; it actually extends all the way to the sidewalk in front to the property line in back. And whether you have a modest balcony or a big backyard, you’ll want to push the inside out. Make your outdoor space inviting with a cozy seating area or dining table, complete with attractive place settings. Stage you barbeque area with a nice set of tools and mitts next to the grill. Or if you have a pool, include rolled white towels and a terry cloth bathrobe draped by a Jacuzzi. Be creative. I have seen a backyard staged with a croquet set as if there were a game in progress. These little touches makes people think “I should live here!”

Keep It Green and Flowery

The hot days of summer present their own challenges and opportunities for curb appeal. You want to make sure the lawns are well watered and green. Grass and shrubs dry out quickly, and nothing is more uninviting than a charred front yard. And as you struggle with your lawn, don’t overlook the fact that warm weather affords the opportunity to create an especially inviting front yard, with beds of colorful flowers – a must for spring and summer home sales. Not sure where to start? Keep it simple: choose one color and stick with it. And when all else fails, go with white. It’s sure to look good, and it really pops against other greenery creating a sophisticated look.

Keep It Cool

For every showing or open house, make sure that the air conditioning is working and turned on prior to any guests arriving. You want your home feel like a cool oasis in the heat of summer. In fact, it’s smart to set your thermostat a few extra degrees lower than usual to compensate for all the doors opening during prospective buyers’ comings and goings.

Summer Treats For Your Buyers
Buyers are hot and sticky after hours of getting in and out of scorching cars while battling open house crowds. You’ll want them to have a nice refreshing moment in your home, so break out the pitchers of ice water with lemons or stock the fridge full of cold drinks. It’ll go a long way in keeping interested visitors happy about spending time in your place. Remember, the longer potential buyers hang in your home, the more they become emotionally attached and want to make it their home!

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in General

 

Buying a Home in a Good School District — What You Need to Know

1. You’ll pay more to live in a good school district.

A school’s Academic Performance Index (API), which goes up to 1,000, is usually a top factor for homebuying parents. Buyers who have kids or are planning to have kids will likely use this type of criteria as the most important part of their search.

A school’s high API often drives up home prices in its school district. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll still pay more to be near a good school. They establish an area as a good location, and as we all know, in real estate it’s all about “location location location.”

2. A good school district might insulate you from real estate market slumps.

Even in a down market, an excellent school can help protect your home’s value. It’s more of a ‘safe bet.’

Example: In 2007—when real estate values were faltering—the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the impact of an excellent school on home values can be dramatic.

“There could be two districts — one perceived as excellent, one mediocre — divided by a street,” the Chronicle reported. “The same hypothetical house built by the same developer on either side of that street could fetch $100,000 more if it feeds into great schools.”

3. It costs more to buy near a good school, but you’ll probably get more when you sell later.

Of course, real estate never comes with guarantees. But you can bet that parents will always want the best school they can afford for their kids. That gives your home’s value a bit more stability than it might otherwise have.

The right home at the right time

Though schools should factor into your thinking, don’t let them top your real priorities: to buy the right home for you, at the right time. The right home for you should be one where you feel comfortable, and it should be in a location that makes sense to you. Finally, it should be the best fit for you in terms of size, style, condition, and price.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2014 in General

 

Why Hire a Real Estate Agent?

With so much information readily available online, clients sometimes ask me, “Why should we hire a real estate agent?” They wonder, and rightfully so, if they couldn’t buy or sell a home through the Internet or through regular marketing and advertising channels without representation, without a a real estate agent. Some do OK, many don’t. So if you’ve wondered the same thing, here are 10 reasons why you might want to consider hiring a professional real estate agent.

1. Education & Experience

You don’t need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a real estate professional who does. Henry Ford once said that when you hire people who are smarter than you are, it proves you are smarter than they are. The trick is to find the right person. For the most part, they all cost about the same. Why not hire a person with more education and experience than you? We’re all looking for more precious time in our lives, and hiring pros gives us that time.
 

2. Agents are Buffers

Agents take the spam out of your property showings and visits. If you’re a buyer of new homes, your agent will whip out her sword and keep the builder’s agents at bay, preventing them from biting or nipping at your heels. If you’re a seller, your agent will filter all those phone calls that lead to nowhere from lookie loos and try to induce serious buyers to immediately write an offer.

3. Neighborhood Knowledge

Agents either possess intimate knowledge or they know where to find the industry buzz about your neighborhood. They can identify comparable sales and hand these facts to you, in addition to pointing you in the direction where you can find more data on schools, crime or demographics. For example, you may know that a home down the street was on the market for $350,000, but an agent will know it had upgrades and sold at $285,000 after 65 days on the market and after twice falling out of escrow.

4. Price Guidance

Contrary to what some people believe, agents do not select prices for sellers or buyers. However, an agent will help to guide clients to make the right choices for themselves. If a listing is at 7%, for example, an agent has a 7% vested interest in the sale, but the client has a 93% interest. Selling agents will ask buyers to weigh all the data supplied to them and to choose a price. Then based on market supply, demand and the conditions, the agent will devise a negotiation strategy.

5. Market Conditions Information

Real estate agents can disclose market conditions, which will govern your selling or buying process. Many factors determine how you will proceed. Data such as the average per square foot cost of similar homes, median and average sales prices, average days on market and ratios of list-to-sold prices, among other criteria, will have a huge bearing on what you ultimately decide to do.

6. Professional Networking

Real estate agents network with other professionals, many of whom provide services that you will need to buy or sell. Due to legal liability, many agents will hesitate to recommend a certain individual or company over another, but they do know which vendors have a reputation for efficiency, competency and competitive pricing. Agents can, however, give you a list of references with whom they have worked and provide background information to help you make a wise selection.

7. Negotiation Skills & Confidentiality

Top producing agents negotiate well because, unlike most buyers and sellers, they can remove themselves from the emotional aspects of the transaction and because they are skilled. It’s part of their job description. Good agents are not messengers, delivering buyer’s offers to sellers and vice versa. They are professionals who are trained to present their client’s case in the best light and agree to hold client information confidential from competing interests.

8. Handling Volumes of Paperwork

One-page deposit receipts were prevalent in the early 1970s. Today’s purchase agreements run 10 pages or more. That does not include the federal- and state-mandated disclosures nor disclosures dictated by local custom. Most real estate files average thicknesses from one to three inches of paper. One tiny mistake or omission could land you in court or cost you thousands. In some states, lawyers handle the disclosures, thank goodness!

9. Answer Questions After Closing

Even the smoothest transactions that close without complications can come back to haunt. For example, taxing authorities that collect property tax assessments, doc stamps or transfer tax can fall months behind and mix up invoices, but one call to your agent can straighten out the confusion. Many questions can pop up that were overlooked in the excitement of closing. Good agents stand by ready to assist. Worthy and honest agents don’t leave you in the dust to fend for yourself.

10. Develop Relationships for Future Business

The basis for an agent’s success and continued career in real estate is referrals. Few agents would survive if their livelihood was dependent on consistently drumming up new business. This emphasis gives agents strong incentives to make certain clients are happy and satisfied. It also means that an agent who stays in the business will be there for you when you need to hire an agent again. Many will periodically mail market updates to you to keep you informed and to stay in touch.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in General

 

10 Best-Kept Secrets for Selling Your Home

Selling Secret #10: Pricing it right
Find out what your home is worth, then shave 15 to 20 percent off the price. You’ll be stampeded by buyers with multiple bids — even in the worst markets — and they’ll bid up the price over what it’s worth. It takes real courage and most sellers just don’t want to risk it, but it’s the single best strategy to sell a home in today’s market.

Selling Secret #9: Half-empty closets
Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

Selling Secret #8: Light it up
Maximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.

Selling Secret #7: Play the agent field
A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know what properties are going on the market and know the comps in your neighborhood. Find a broker who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.

Selling Secret #6: Conceal the critters
You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in General

 

Taking care of your needs

Licensed real estate agent Jasmin Ongsiako is known to take care of her clients very well that they become more than just clients. They become good friends. Set up an appointment with her to find out if she is the right fit for your needs.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in General

 
 
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