Date Archives: January 2014

Coldwell Banker American Homes Blog Home

Subscribe and receive email notifications of new blog posts.

rss logo RSS Feed
Area Information | 27 Posts
BPT | 10 Posts
Buying | 6 Posts
Homeowners | 17 Posts
Real Estate Blogs | 319 Posts
RREIN | 62 Posts
Uncategorized | 148 Posts
Buying a Home | Home Purchase Guidelines | Long Island Homes and Property | Real Estate for Long Island | Energy Efficient Homes | Homeowner Tax Credits | Tax Credits for Home Energy Efficiency | Adjustable Rate Mortgages | Mortgages for the Long Island real estate market | The Right Mortgage for the Right Home Buyer | Real Estate Question of the Day! | Real Estate - scams and mortgages | What you need to know about real estate | Home Purchase Savings | Interest rates offer greatest leverage | Tax credit vs mortgage interest rates | Assisted Living | VA Special Pension | home loans | Home mortgage rates | Another Interest Rate Drop | Mortgage Interest Rates | Defending homeownership | Is now the time to buy a home? | Real Estate - still a great investment | Long Island condo & co-op | Long Island Homes for sale | Long Island Properties | Negotiating house purchase price | New construction on Long Island | Real Estate transfer fees | buy your home through a short sale purchase | selling short with the banks approval | Short sale home purchase | $2000 home buyer grant | New York State home buying grants | home list price vs. home sales price | negotiate a new home sales price | New York State STAR tax exemption | STAR tax exemption for New York homeowners | Buyer Brokerage | Real Estate Representation | Seller Agency | Tips for improving your credit score | Home and property appraisals | Homeowner Tax Advantages | Home Purchase Track | Owning a home vs. Renting | 55+ Adult Community | Senior housing | The Season's at East Meadow | co-op | Condo's | Homes | land for sale | Why Now is a Great Time to Buy a Home on Long Island | Homeownership | Open House weekend | home buying process | mortgage prequalification | Real Estate Investment Tips | Tips to Flip your real estate | Home Shopping Checklist | Look for a house with a checklist | ips to purchasing a short sale home | Short sales: How to purchase | Cut energy costs for your home | home energy efficiency | Loan application mistakes | mortgage loans | mortgage home loans | What home loan is right for you? | house hunting | Hunting for a home | Common Home Defects | What to look for when buying a home | first time home buyers | The 1st time home buyers guide | mobile based home search | Mobile phone users - coupons | smart phone applications | Housing Market Recovery Bright Spots | Natianal Housing Market Report | Home Closing - contract to closing | Home purchase timeline | 203k home mortgage program | Home Improvement Funding | Myths of the real estate market | The Home Buying Process | narrow down your home search | The Best location for your home purchase | buying a home? protect your credit! | credit protection | Home value pitfalls | home closing steps to take | New home closing | Home Styles | Popular Homes | best interest rates | credit scores | Create Energy within Your Home with Feng Shui | Feng Shui within your home | consumer confidence | home buyers more confident in housing market | Real Estate market impact | Rent verse Buy | Renters Outspend Owners on Housing | Benefits of home buying | Winter shopping for homes | Consumers confidence in home ownership | Homeownership attitudes | Real estate tax advantages & tips | Tax tips for homeowners | job opportunity | real estate agent | real estate career | rental agent | 1st time home buyer tips | priorities for home buyers | make moving fun for family | Moving for the family | Buy a foreclosure | REO purchase tips | Tips to buying a foreclosure property | Use a real estate agent to buy a home | Use a real estate agent to sell a home | Why use a real estate agent | Home Buying steps | Home Buying tips | Stepr to take prior to buying a home | home loan good faith estimate | Tips to your home loan mortgage | FICO Scores | How FICO scores are calculated | Your FICO score | Invest in a home | tax refund - invest it in your home purchase | VA Loan | The Home Buyers Wish List | Home buying expectations | real estate market report | Bidding on real estate properties | purchase offers for your home | home mortgage | downsizing your home | moving to a smaller house | Jumbo Loans for Home Purchase | Mortgage Money Lesson | newlywed home purchasing tips | The perfect wedding gift... a new home | Avoid these home buying mistakes | common mistakes when buying a home | Good News for Housing | Home Price Index | Bank fees for the homeowner | understanding banks and their fees | Home Inspections for your new home purchase | What to know about home inspections | Fire safety for your home | Is your home fire safe? | Home Mortgage programs | LTV | Mortgage loan to value | Mortgage relief for disaster challenged areas | Location | Property location - real estate | buying a short sale property | short sale tips | buying a home - best investment? | When is the best time to buy? | New Years resolutions | Resolutions: a Reality for Realty's | Get a mortgage after foreclosure | mortgage financing - after foreclosure | Is it a good time to buy a home? | What age is old enough to buy a home? | Buy a short sale property | Short Sale real estate properties | Home property tax deductions | real estate tax deductions | Real Estate License School | Apartment Rentals | House Rentals | Real Estate Rental Agent | House Hunting Tips | Simple house hunting tips & ideas | Mortgage advice - current trends | mortgaging & refinancing in 2013 | Good credit score = best equal rates | How to build up your credit score | lease - option to buy | Rent with option to buy | Avoid Home Improvement Blunders | Home improvements ideas for the property owner | Home Buyers - What do you really want? | Needs & wants of home buyers | mortgage loans for new home construction | New construction home loans | Home Buyers - Price & proximity to work | Key Concerns for the home buyer | Impressive mortgage applications | Keys to getting your mortgage approved | Home buying mistakes to avoid | Home purchasing blunders to avoid | New homes vs older homes | to buy or not to buy a home | pet friendly rentals | Pets or no pets - apartment rentals | tips for home purchasers | Flipping houses | home flpipping 101 | spec houses | home buyer how to's | how to be a better home buyer | Mortgage amortization | A happy home | What makes you really happy? | Low housing inventory | Low inventory housing market | Home prices on the rise | Rising property values | Home buyer tips to open houses | Open House etiquette | Winning a home purchase bidding war | Home mortgage rate tips | mortgage tips for the new home owner | Home Equity Line versus 2nd Mortgage | buy a new home or expand your current home | Home improvements vs. new home purchse | Mortgage Rate Lock | Residential home mortgage rates | Improve your economic profile for home mortgage | Personal Finance | Costly problems for new home buyers | New home buyers avoid costly problems | Handy man special | The home fixer-upper | How to refinance | Refinance - without perfect credit | Debt to Income | Tackling Debt | Seasonal real estate trends | The fall season housing market | Factor in home repairs in your mortgage payment | Home repairs for new home purchasers | Home sellers negotiation techniques | negotiations for home buyers & sellers | The home buying process - stress free | The process of buying a home | Recently Read | Saved for Later | Great Neck | Massapequa | Huntington | Ronkonkoma | Brooklyn | East Meadow | Coldwell Banker American Homes | Local Attractions | Home Improvement | Interior Design | Queens | Fresh Meadows | Long Beach | Local Businesses | Farmingdale | Home selling | Suffolk County | Nassau County | Wantagh

Here is just some Q and A answers about the current changes in the mortgage environment. Please take a few moments as this may give you a better understanding of how the lending environment is changing. Also understand that PNC is moving full steam ahead to portfolio NON QM loans that others may not have the ability to do so. q n a
Q: What are the new rules, and where did they come from?
A: There are several terms to know. The first is the "ability-to-repay" rule. It was required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul legislation as a response to the financial crisis. The rule was crafted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will oversee its enforcement.
Q: What does it do?
A: It requires mortgage lenders to make sure borrowers can actually afford their loans, over the long term, by weighing their income, assets, savings and debt against their monthly house payments.
A: Another term you need to learn is "Qualified Mortgage" or QM. A QM meets new guidelines, and borrowers who get them are presumed to meet the ability-to-repay requirements. If lenders make QM loans, they have more protections against future lawsuits should the loans later go sour.
Q: What are the QM guidelines?
  • Contain risky features, such as terms that exceed 30 years, interest-only payments or payments that are less than the full amount of interest so that the home loan debt grows each month.
  • Carry more than 3% in upfront points and fees for loans above $100,000.
  • Push a borrower's total debt load above 43% of his or her monthly income, unless the loan is eligible to be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or a federal housing agency such as the FHA, or is made by a small lender that keeps the loan on its books.
Q: Can lenders still make loans outside those guidelines?
A: Yes, but they'll still have to make sure borrowers can afford the loans, and they'll have less protection against future legal challenges if the borrower fails - even if they resell the loan after they first make it.
Q: How many mortgages are likely to fall under the QM definition?
A:The CFPB estimates that 92% of mortgages in the current marketplace meet the QM requirements.
Q: Why is this needed at all?
A: Lenders weren't always so careful. Goldman Sachs estimates that 50% of recent home loan defaults could have been prevented had the QM rule been in place when the loans were made, largely before the housing bust.
Q: Will the rules make it harder for some people to get home loans?
A: It may be tougher for borrowers to qualify if they have difficult-to-validate incomes, including those for whom tips, bonuses, commissions, rents or investments constitute a big part of their total income. One in nine Americans are also self-employed, and that income is harder to substantiate than is wage income. Borrowers above the 43% debt-to-income level will also face more hurdles, Borrowers should expect to have to produce even more tax records, pay stubs and bank and investment account information. The 43% standard may also prevent some borrowers from qualifying for the loan needed to buy the house they want,. Others may need bigger down payments to stay within the 43% standard
Q: What's going to be the required minimum down payment?
A: The rules don't set any down-payment requirements.
Q: Will the rules mean it'll take longer to get home loans approved?
A: Not at this time at all
Bryant Edelman PNC MORTGAGE 175 Pinelawn Road. Suite 200 Melville NY 11747 Direct 516-531-5807 Fax 877-414-3009 Cell 516-551-8825

Much like the rest of the real estate industry, new home construction is on the rise! Are you a real estate agent who sells or even specializes in new builds?   Below is a list of the top ten reasons for home buyers to buy a brand new house. Feel free to use this information during your buyer consultations, share it on your social media platforms and with your clients.   new home1. Design the home of your dreams   When you elect to buy a home that hasn't been built yet, you get to enjoy the process of designing your dream home. This includes being able to pick the floor plan that's exactly right for you. Want all the bedrooms upstairs? Or a master suite downstairs? Done. There's no need to make due when you can start with something that's just right instead.   2. Enjoy your place from the get-go   Many times, when you move into an existing home there will be something you want to replace or remodel right away, like old fixtures or worn carpet or even just a paint color that's not your taste. New homes don't come with this instant to-do list, so you can spend your time enjoying your home... rather than fixing it up.   3. Sleep soundly (and under warranty)   While an older home will usually have components of various ages – some of which may need replacing not long after you move in – a new home has brand new everything and will be under warranty from roof to floor.   4. Start green, save money   New homes allow you to make money-saving, environmentally friendly choices from the start, instead of having to retrofit. You can choose sustainable flooring options, energy efficient appliances, green landscaping systems and more. Additionally, new homes often have better insulation, doors and windows that will save you money on heating and cooling costs.   5. Slash maintenance costs   Today's new homes are built to minimize maintenance, employing the latest, most durable products and techniques that will require less upkeep in the long run.   6. Feel safe and secure   Your new home is guaranteed to be up to the latest safety codes right from the start. In addition, newly constructed properties often boast safety features, like hard-wired smoke detectors and state-of-the-art circuit breakers, not found in older homes.   7. Benefit from community amenities   If you are considering a home in a planned community, don't discount the value of community amenities. Many communities now include pools, fitness centers and other recreation areas that will add to your experience in your new home.   8. Luxuriate in all new appliances   Brand new oven, brand new refrigerator, brand new washing machine, brand new dishwasher... we could go on and on. Sometimes there's just nothing better than knowing that your garbage disposal has never been used (and misused) before.   9. Discover more financing options   New home developers often have access to their own mortgage or financing options, giving you more lending choices overall. You may also encounter developing communities that are offering a discount special or price perk if you move within a certain time frame.   10. Rack up potential incentives   Building developers may offer incentives as part of your purchase package, like design or appliance upgrades or money towards closing costs.   Published with permission from RISMedia.

energyFor many people, a trip down the lighting aisle can be an overwhelming experience, especially when considering the many energy-efficient lighting options available. Whether looking at light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs or compact fluorescent technology (CFL) bulbs, there are some factors you should think about before making a purchase.Recent studies have found that most homeowners aren't ready to make the leap to newer energy-efficient lighting solutions, such as LED and CFL. But those who are making the switch from incandescent bulbs to GE Energy-Efficient Soft White bulbs are doing so at a rate of two-to-one, compared to CFL bulbs.
"We understand that consumers are overwhelmed by all of the changes in the lighting aisle, and whatever their lighting preference, we have reliable lighting options for them," says John Strainic, general manager, Consumer Lighting for GE in North America. "For consumers who still want an incandescent-like bulb, our incandescent isn't gone-it's more energy efficient. Our Energy-Efficient Soft White bulb provides a warm, cozy light and dimming capabilities, but saves energy and meets federal brightness requirements."   Small upgrades equal big savings   According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, lighting consumes up to 17 percent of a home's overall energy usage. With an annual energy savings of $2.05 per bulb, a household that replaces forty 60-watt incandescent bulbs with 43-watt Energy-Efficient Soft White bulbs could save more than $80 a year based on 3 hours use per day and an 11c/kWh electricity rate.   Other energy-saving options   One popular option in energy-efficient lighting is the LED bulb. Though the price for this option can be higher than others, experts believe that prices should decrease as LED technology evolves, allowing for a broader mass market appeal. Another more energy-efficient lighting option is CFL bulb technology, which has been in the market now for more than 30 years and has greatly improved to mirror the performance of a traditional incandescent light.   With new energy-efficiency standards taking place as of Jan. 1, 2014, consumers will now choose between these more energy-efficient lighting options, including Energy-Efficient Soft White, or halogen technology, CFL or LED bulbs. Consumers will still be able to find a limited supply of incandescent bulbs at some retailers until inventory is gone.   For those wishing to save money on energy bills, having an understanding of the different energy-efficient lighting options available can help to make an informed purchasing decision.   Source: GEPublished with permission from RISMedia.

EAST MEADOW, NY, Feb 04, 2014-As the market makes steady moves toward a solid recovery, more and more hopeful homeowners are entering the playing field. If you're looking to buy a new home this year, be it a downsize, vacation home, or your very first house purchase, follow these three tips, offered by Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes. Check into reality Instead of daydreaming your ideal home, make a list of what things are absolutely essential: a specific number of bedrooms, close proximity to work or your child's school, a decent-sized yard. "Once you know what you need, but before you begin your actual house hunt, start looking at what sold in the last six months that fits your bill," says Litzner. See what the selling prices are looking like, and figure out if you can afford a similar price tag. If you can't, it might mean waiting a bit, or reassessing your needs. Get pre-approved, not pre-qualified Many people get confused between "pre-approved" and "pre-qualified" when it comes to obtaining a loan. "Getting pre-approved means a bank has qualified you for a mortgage based on information you provided, but they have not actually checked up on your credentials," says Litzner. A letter of pre-approval means the bank has thoroughly checked out your financial status, and is ready to give you a loan. "This holds more weight in terms of buying quickly, and can act as leverage should it come to beating out other buyers," explains Litzner. Don't lowball "When it was a buyer's market, lowballing was often a good way to start negotiating price," notes Litzner. However, now that we're seeing inventory shortages across the country and more and more buyers entering the fold, lowballing most likely means you won't land a deal. Instead, present a fair offer that's in your price range but still leaves some negotiation room on both ends. For more information on buying a home, please contact Century 21 American Homes at, 1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes. Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at

If your garage is musty, cluttered or downright chaotic, don't stress. In the following article, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes gives us a few tips to take your garage space from disorganized and dirty to livable, or at least lovable.   Sort. "The first step to organizing your garage is clearing out anything you no longer need," says Litzner. Donate old items (like kiddie toys your troop has long outgrown) and toss anything no longer working.   Clean. Now that you're only keeping the essentials, clean your garage from top-to-bottom. Powerwash the floor, scrub down the walls, and get into every nook.   Paint your floor. Once your floor is clean, Litzner suggests, give it a glossy coat of paint. Use an epoxy paint, which provides a tough finish that will hold up longer and resist cracking and peeling.   garageAdd storage. Wall-to-wall shelves or a storage unit can help keep your newly ordered space organized for longer. "To find the perfect place for an item, keep in mind how often you use it," suggests Litzner. If it's an every week thing, don't place it on a top shelf. That sprinkler that won't come out for six more months? Feel free to stow that away until summer.   Utilize wall space. Hang gardening tools and appliances along the wall, suggests Litzner. Add a coat or shoe rack if you often enter the house through the garage.   Upgrade lighting. Tired of digging around a dark garage? Make sure you have ample lighting – not just the automatic light that comes on when the door opens, notes Litzner.   Create usable space. Don't park your car in the garage? Or maybe your garage is larger than you need. Create usable space – like a workshop, or a home gym corner. Now that your garage is clean, organized, and well-lit, you won't mind crafting or sweating in it.   For more information on remodeling your home, please contact Century 21 American Homes at  1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes.   Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at

Windows can bring new life to existing homes by letting in fresh air, flooding rooms with natural light and opening up beautiful views. They also come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Important considerations for selecting the right window are type, material, style, climate and budget.   Type A pocket window is perfect in situations where the home's existing window frame and surrounding wall are in good condition, but the sash is in need of improvement. Installing a complete replacement window is a good choice for projects involving more substantial renovation.   Material The most common materials used for windows are vinyl, wood, clad-wood and aluminum. Your choice depends on what factors are most important to you.   • Vinyl - A strong PVC material that is used for its durability, energy efficiency and ability to stand up to the elements. This material resists fading and won't flake, peel or rot. • Wood - Wood comes from trees with a range of characteristics, such as grain, color and sap content. Cladding is a strong layer of metal over the wood, providing extra protection and low maintenance benefits with no exterior painting required. • Aluminum - A lightweight and strong material that is a cost effective alternative to wood. This material is corrosion-resistant and performs well in most climates.   Shedding Light on Replacement WindowsStyle Awning, bay, bow, casement, double-hung, fixed, garden, single-hung, sliding and tilt and turn - windows are available in many shapes, sizes and combination units.   Budget When it comes to budget, it's important to factor in long-term value beyond the initial purchase price. Energy efficiency and a longer warranty can all help save maintenance and replacement costs over time. Resale value is also a key consideration - beautiful, more efficient windows are a big selling feature.   Climate Considerations Wet, humid, hot, severe storms, salty air - different climates have different window needs when it comes to material and glass choices. Talk to a reputable contractor or window dealer in your particular area to help select products that may work best for you. He or she may recommend hardware for a coastal environment, rot-resistant wood or another of the following materials or options:   • Coastal climates, wet and damp and/or high humidity - Specially treated wood windows or vinyl windows offer good moisture protection. Because these conditions can require more maintenance, including regular repainting and touch-ups, windows that require less maintenance and won't need painting, such as vinyl, and clad-wood windows, are a good choice. • Energy efficiency - With more homeowners looking for ways to save energy and money with building and remodeling projects, the demand for energy efficient windows grows. The W-2500 window from JELD-WEN,, can meet ENERGY STAR® criteria in all four climate zones in the U.S. and comes with an industry-leading warranty against wood rot. There are several criteria that must be met for a product to receive the ENERGY STAR designation. It is given in North, North Central and South Central climate zones with the standard glass package of Low-E270 with argon, and in the Southern zone when grilles are used. Without grilles, Southern zone ENERGY STAR criteria are achieved with Low-E366 and argon. • Exceptionally hot/harsh sun exposure - Rather than window material type, glass and window location is key. The right glass can help protect against UV exposure and keep interior furnishings from fading. Choose insulated Low-E glass, which reduces the amount of heat entering the home and lowers cooling needs. It also blocks up to 85 percent of harmful UV rays that cause interior fading. Look for the ENERGY STAR label suitable for your region. Pay attention to window labels including the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which indicates the ability to block heat generated by sunlight. The greater the protection, the lower the SHGC. U-factor is also important, which is the amount of heat flowing through a product. The lower the number, the more energy efficient it is. Proper overhangs and location of windows are also important. When building a home in a sunny region, place larger windows facing north. • Severe, hurricane-force storms - In hurricane-prone regions, look for windows designed to meet local building codes. These windows come with options that resist impacts from wind borne debris and keep windows intact during storms.   Depending on location, new windows can save you money year after year. They can also increase your home's value. Most importantly, new windows enhance the entire look of your home and add to priceless curb appeal - a must when it comes time to sell your home.   Don't Let Money Go Out the Window Windows have a significant impact on your heating and cooling bills. So, it's extremely important to make the most energy-efficient choice for your home.   Replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR qualified windows can lower household energy bills by 7 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lower energy consumption also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and shrinks a house's carbon footprint. ENERGY STAR divides the U.S. into four climate zones, each with its own unique set of energy performance requirements. Energy efficiency for windows and doors is compared by using two important measurements:   • U-Factor: U-factor measures insulating value and indicates how much heat or cold transfers through the window or door. The lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient the product is. • SHGC: Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) measures a window's ability to block the sun's heat. The more solar heat it blocks, the lower the SHGC number. Where air conditioning is prevalent, ENERGY STAR requires a lower SHGC. Where heating is more prevalent, opt for a higher SHGC so the sun's rays can stream in on cold winter days.   In the northern zones, U-Factor and SHGC requirements focus on helping reduce the need for heating. In the southern zones, requirements generally aim to reduce the need for air conditioning. Special glass coatings help control how much of the sun's heat enters and how much of the controlled air temperature inside escapes.   To earn the ENERGY STAR label, windows must meet rigorous energy performance levels. Qualified products must also have third-party certification based on testing in recognized laboratories.   Source: JELD-WEN Published with permission from RISMedia.

Mortgage rates pulled back, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate retreating to 4.64 percent, according to's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.34 discount and origination points.   The average 15-year fixed mortgage was down to 3.69 percent, while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage inched higher to 4.73 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were mostly lower, with the average 5-year ARM settling at 3.46 percent and the 10-year ARM slumping to 4.19 percent.   Mortgage Rates Dip to Start 2014Mortgage rates started out 2014 by pulling back, helped by a few down sessions in the stock market. This week's decline largely unwinds the increase in mortgage rates seen in the last week of 2013. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds, so as those bond yields move up and down, mortgage rates typically follow.   On May 1, 2013, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.52 percent. At that time, a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $900.32. With the average rate currently at 4.64 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $1,030.08, a difference of almost $130 per month for anyone that waited too long.   Findings: 30-year fixed: 4.64 percent - down from 4.69 percent last week (avg. points: 0.34) 15-year fixed: 3.69 percent - down from 3.73 percent last week (avg. points: 0.25) 5/1 ARM: 3.46 percent - down from 3.52 percent last week (avg. points: 0.26)     Published with permission from RISMedia.

Real estate transactions are complex and, at times, confusing. Clients can better understand this course of action by knowing who they're working with and what role those individuals play. Whether seeking to buy or sell a residential home, expect several parties to be involved in the process. Brokers, agents and attorneys are among the most common:     Depending on whichever unique business model the firm utilizes, brokers typically have the same qualifications as an agent, but their roles are to primarily supervise other agents. Commissions from sales are often paid to the brokerage, then allocated to the agent involved in the transaction. Agents are at the forefront of the buying and selling process. Real estate agents work directly with clients to either secure a home at their desired price point and in a coveted location, or to generate buyer interest and ultimately find a new owner for your home. An agent can represent either a buyer or a seller, and both agents frequently communicate.   Once a transaction between a buyer and a seller is under contract, a real estate attorney facilitates a smooth close. The responsibilities of an attorney vary, but some common duties include explanation of the terms of the mortgage, review of purchase agreements and investigation of the backgrounds of properties. Source: Zillow Published with permission from RISMedia.

According to the RateReport, average 12-month U.S. home insurance premiums fell from December 2012 to December 2013. The average annual premium in December 2013 was about $823, down 9.5 percent from the $900 average at the end of 2012. Premiums had increased for three years in a row before that.   The average price of home insurance fell despite an increase in the median price paid for existing homes, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. The organization says the national median for existing homes in November 2013 was $196,300, up 9.4 percent from the same month in 2012. Average U.S. Home Insurance Premium Costs Decline to $823The average 12-month cost of home insurance has fallen every month since March 2013. "We think policyholders benefit greatly by knowing where premiums stand in their states," said Jana Bell, Vice President of   "New homebuyers can sometimes face sticker shock when they start quoting home insurance after they have gone into contract," said Bell. "Home buyers should not only research the average costs in their specific area but also get comparative quotes as premiums can vary greatly from home to home."   According to the RateReport, Oklahoma policy holders paid the highest average annual premium in December – nearly $1,491. Contrast that with homeowners in Oregon, who paid $454. Rates fell in 28 states. The largest year-over-year declines in premiums came in Tennessee, where costs fell 34.2 percent; Mississippi, where they dropped 26.9 percent; and Kansas, down 22.3 percent. The largest year-over-year increases occurred in Delaware, where average 12-month premiums were up 19.2 percent, New Jersey, where they rose 8.4 percent; and Nevada, up 6.7 percent.   Source: Published with permission from RISMedia.

If you're considering selling your home, most likely you've heard some of the crucial elements to a successful sale: proper staging, proper pricing, and curb appeal. Below, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes lets us in on several things that can add instant value to your home.   5 Things That Add instant Value to Your HomeLandscaping. Bring in a professional or DIY. However, avoid going over-board. "While a nice looking yard will add value, a high maintenance garden may put off any potential buyers who lack a green thumb," warns Litzner.   A usable garage. You might assume it's okay to leave junk in your garage when showing your home. It is, afterall, a garage. However, cleaning out your garage and highlighting it as a fully usable space (for cars, storage, or a workshop) is an asset to buyers. "Allow them to imagine how they will use the space themselves – don't show them where last season's lawn furniture is hibernating," says Litzner.   Add more closets. If you have a small renovation budget, add extra closets and storage spaces wherever possible. Can you find room for a walk-in closet in the master bedroom? That's a huge draw for many buyers.   Create outdoor living spaces. "Whether it's just a nook you've carved in the garden, or a full-on patio with a pool, outdoor living spaces are always popular," notes Litzner. If you're on a budget, you don't have to go overboard. Simply cluster together some lawn furniture, set up a table by the grill, and you have a great space for summer entertaining.   Refinish the basement. The more usable living space, the better. If your basement is unfinished, and you have the budget, making it a livable space can be a huge bonus when it comes to listing your home. "You can do it minimally, by finishing the flooring and painting the walls, or go all out and create a game room or even an in-law suite," recommends Litzner. A home office or an extra bedroom are always a boon for your listing.   For more information on selling your home, please contact Century 21 American Homes at, 1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes.   Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at

Like other age groups, not saving enough for retirement is the biggest vulnerability facing Millennials. However, they're the only generation that doesn't seem to know it, as Millennials ranked more urgent needs like managing cash flow, getting out of debt and investing as higher priorities. Here are some steps Millennials can take to strike a better balance between the needs of today and tomorrow.   7 Steps for Millennials to Define Their Financial Future
  1. Take control over your day-to-day finances. Millennials rank managing cash flow as their top priority. The first step is to find out where your money is going by looking at previous bank and credit card statements and categorizing them on a worksheet or a free site like Mint or Yodlee MoneyCenter that can track spending online or via smartphone apps. You can then search for ways to cut back on some of those expenses to bring your spending in line with your income and free up money that can be used to pay down debt or save for the future.
  2. Know the difference between good and bad debt. Getting out of debt was their second most important priority, but not all debt is equal. Debt taken to enhance career opportunities like a student loan, to purchase a vehicle needed to commute to work, or to invest in an appreciating asset like a home tends to be low interest and can be characterized as "good debt." Credit card debt taken to purchase the latest iPad is typically charged much higher interest rates and should be considered "bad debt."While auto and student loans may be frustrating, they don't typically cost as much in interest or have as negative an impact on your credit score as credit card debt. In fact, it may make more sense to invest extra money rather than pay down these good debts since the investments can be expected to earn more than you save in interest. On the other hand, you should pay any high-interest debt off as soon as possible.
  3. Protect your credit. Millennials are already the most likely age group to check their credit report on an annual basis, likely due to the impact it has on their opportunities for jobs and home ownership. You can take it one step further by signing up for free credit advice and monitoring on sites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. For even stronger protection, you may want to put a security freeze on each of your credit reports to prevent would-be identity thieves from opening credit in your name.
  4. Run a retirement calculator. With retirement so far off, only 29 percent of Millennials have run a retirement calculator, the lowest percentage of the generations. This lack of awareness is their greatest weakness. Using an employer-provided program like Financial Engines or Schwab GuidedChoice, or a retirement calculator can be an eye-opener.
  5. Start saving for retirement. Millennials are the generation most likely to not be saving for retirement at all. While their incomes may be relatively low, and many are struggling with student loan payments, Millennials should still begin building the habit of regular saving. One place to start is to make sure you're contributing at least enough to your employer's retirement plan to get the full match and not leave any of that free money on the table. This also forces you to save money before you even have a chance to spend it. You can then gradually increase that contribution rate over time.
  6. Open a Roth IRA. One place to put additional savings is a Roth IRA, which can be used to save for both short-term goals like emergencies, going back to school, or buying a home, and long-term goals like retirement. That's because whatever you contribute to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn tax and penalty free at any time and for any reason so the money won't be tied up. (Earnings can also be withdrawn penalty-free for education expenses and up to $10k for a first-time home purchase.)On the other hand, whatever isn't withdrawn grows to be tax-free after age 59 1/2. (Any earnings withdrawn before age 59 1/2 could be subject to taxes and a 10 percent penalty.) The key is to leave the Roth IRA invested someplace safe and accessible like a savings account or money market fund until there's enough emergency savings (at least 3-6 months of necessary expenses) accumulated somewhere else. At that point, it can be invested more aggressively for retirement.
  7. Get investment help. Investing was the third highest priority for Millennials and an area where their behavior trailed the other generations, probably due to their lack of investment experience. Target date retirement funds can simplify the process but they may actually be too aggressive for many Millennials as 43 percent characterized themselves as conservative investors. See if you can get more customized guidance and advice through your employer or use online tools like FutureAdvisor and Jemstep for free investment recommendations (there are fees if you want to have them manage the money for you).
Source: Financial Finesse
Copyright© 2014 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Waterfalls and water fountains soothe the soul. Water in your basement stirs up anguish. There are several methods to keep water out of your basement or remove what gets in. The most expensive, as well as the most effective, can require extensive excavation, our researchers learned in interviewing homeowners and highly rated contractors. Basement Waterproofing MethodsINTERIOR SOLUTIONS
  • Interior-based waterproofing methods, often called "negative side" projects, involve moving out water that's inside the home. Fixing a water problem from the inside may be a cheaper option, especially in cases where exterior work isn't practical or possible.
  • Drain: This system moves water out of the house through a hole or trench in the foundation, paired with a sump pump. Such a system should also include insulation of basement walls, with a vapor barrier to protect against condensation. Drainage systems start at around $2,000.
  • Sealants: Some highly rated waterproofing companies don't recommend sealants because they say they fail too easily. The cost of a sealant-based waterproofing project may range from $4 to $8 a square foot.
  •  Epoxy injection: Like sealants, this option is not always favored because it may provide only a temporary solution to fill cracks in poured-concrete walls. Epoxy injections can start at $300.
  • Exterior waterproofing projects are sometimes called "positive side" jobs because the aim is to prevent water from getting in the house.
  • Excavation: Many contractors consider installing an underground trench or perimeter drain to be the most effective method, if done correctly. However, the average range for an excavation job is $20,000 to $30,000, and can be as high as $80,000, depending on how accessible the targeted areas are, how much digging is required and how much landscaping or other work must be restored.
  • Sodium bentonite: Some waterproofing contractors don't like this method of adding a clay material to the dirt around the home to fill cracks and absorb water. They say it's a temporary solution and difficult to control, since the clay can clog outdoor drains. Costs for this method start around $500.
  • First try the simplest solutions, such as making sure gutters are free of debris, downspouts are moving water 20 to 30 feet from the foundation and the property slopes away from the foundation.
  • In addition to using a trusted online site to review local consumers' experiences, consider contractors who belong to the Basement Health Association, a trade organization that offers certification and continuing education. Also, get multiple bids, check references and make sure that the company you hire is properly licensed, insured and bonded.
  • Beware of a prospective contractor who repeatedly offers to lower the estimated price. Also, be aware that waterproofing work is often calculated by the linear foot. Be sure to get all relevant details, including price, in writing.
© 2014, Distributed by MCT Information Services Published with permission from RISMedia.

EAST MEADOW, NY, Jan 13, 2014-If you're shopping for a mortgage for the first time, you're probaby hearing tons of terms you're unfamiliar with. One of these terms, although not as popular as traditional mortgages, is an assumable mortgage. In the following article, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes lets us in on what makes this mortgage different, and if it may be a good fit for you. House Symbol And 3d Character Showing Real Estate"An assumable mortgage is held by the seller and can be taken over by the buyer when a home is sold," explains Litzner. "Such loans are hard to find because most lenders stopped voluntarily writing them many years ago." Most new assumable loans today are adjustable rate mortgages. They may be attractive if the interest rate on the existing loan is lower than the rate the buyer could otherwise get on a new mortgage, either because of current market conditions or the buyer's poor credit history. "To determine whether to assume an old loan or apply for a new one, pay close attention to the possible assumption fee, usually one point, and other terms of assumption set forth in the existing loan," says Litzner. One plus: there are generally few closing costs with an assumable loan. "While an assumable mortgage can speed up the property sale, sellers should be careful about letting a buyer assume their mortgage," warns Litzner. Depending on the state and terms of the mortgage, a seller may remain liable for the loan until it is paid off in full, meaning the lender may go after both the seller and the buyer if the loan is not paid. For more information on loans and mortgages, please contact Century 21 American Homes at , 1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes. Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at

With all the competition in today's marketplace, professionally staging your home has never been more important. Here are some top tips from Sure Fit on how to beat your competition and allure the attention of buyers. 1. Consider curb appeal You may not have the funds for a professional landscaper, but homeowners should make sure lawns are freshly mowed, leaves raked, and paths cleared. Scrub the front door, porch, railings and steps, pick up a new mailbox and welcome mat, and add a fresh coat of paint where needed. Add seasonal potted plants and a bench to the entryway to welcome visitors into a clean, fresh and relaxing space. 2. Forgo Family Photos You may consider it the crown jewel of the living room, but future buyers will see outdated family photos as years of wear and tear. Clear the room of family portraits and other items that say "you don't live here" to potential buyers. 3. What Once Was Old, Should Be Newly Slip-covered No need to splurge on new furniture and home assets when your budget is already tightened up, especially in the midst of a move. Cover up outdated, worn and loud furniture with neutral colors. Even coordinating your curtains and dining room sets can make your home décor look like new. 4. Rearrange Refresh Arrange the room in a conversational way. You may have preferred for every piece of furniture to face the television, but potential buyers will appreciate more of an open room vignette. Top 10 Home Staging Tips5. Kitchen Clean-Up Kitchens play a big part in home resale value, so make sure buyers are impressed. Spend extra time scrubbing, cleaning and de-cluttering, and make sure counters are clear of appliances. Re-stain shabby cabinets, replace any mismatched hardware, add fresh cut flowers, turn on lights and open curtains for a clean, bright and attractive gathering space. 6. Let in Some Air Keep stuffiness and odors at bay by opening windows for at least 10 minutes prior to showing. Go easy on the air freshener, but bring in fresh cut flowers for a natural look and smell. 7. What's Behind Door #3? While shoving everything into a closet has been your go-to cleanup plan since your teen years, potential buyers will undoubtedly look behind every door in your home. Keep bedroom, linen closets and storage spaces neat and tidy to avoid any embarrassing surprises. 8. Scrub Until it Sparkles Clean bathrooms until they look like the model sets at Home Depot. Signs of use, like soap scum and toothpaste stuck to the sink, will turn buyers off. Replace any outdated fixtures with sleek and modern ones, and add fresh cut flowers to help with aroma and appearance. 9. Sleep Tight Keep bedrooms neutral, comfortable and spacious. Buyers want to picture themselves relaxing here, so use soft colors, light scents and earth tones to "set the mood." Make bedrooms appear larger by limiting items in the room to a bed, dresser and small seating area for the Master Bedroom. Update any outdated bedding and use a lavender oil diffuser to keep relaxation a priority here. 10. Better Backyard Outdoor living spaces have become exponentially more important to potential buyers. Treat your back deck or patio like any other room in your home. Scrub down patios, touch up worn fences and banisters, and make sure your yard is free of clutter. A few decorating touches can make your space much more than just a "backyard." Cover a worn picnic table with a bright tablecloth and replace worn chair cushions with new ones. Published with permission from RISMedia.

EAST MEADOW, NY, Jan 11, 2014-Weeding through all of the available information on mortgage rates can be exhausting. From trends to current percentage fluctuations, there is always a surplus of information at your fingertips. Below are three things you should know about today's mortgage arena, provided by Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes. They're on the way up – but still look good. Today's rates are higher than they were a year ago, but they're still relatively low. Recently, mortgage rates were weighing in around 4 percent, which isn't as low as 2012's 3 percent, but is still a great rate. Mortgage Madness: What You Need to Know Right NowThey shouldn't stop you from buying. If you're waiting to purchase a home because you think mortgage rates may drop – don't. While mortgage rates do increase and decrease slightly from month-to-month, larger changes happen extremely slowly. "If a fraction of a percent increase or decrease dramatically changes how much house you can buy, then you may be shopping a bit out of your price range," explains Litzner. There could be upcoming changes. The Federal Reserve has been keeping interest rates low by purchasing billions of dollars' worth of mortgage-backed securities every month, called Quantitative Easing. The Fed admits that this program may not be around much longer, and that when it is eliminated, mortgage rates will spike. "This is only a speculation, but it is still something to keep in mind if you're deciding on the right time to buy," Litzner notes. For more real estate information, please contact Century 21 American Homes at 1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes. Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at

EAST MEADOW, NY, Jan 08, 2014-As home prices are rising, home flippers are returning to the fold, snapping up properties or listing already flipped masterpieces they've been sitting on while prices were low. Home flipping is the process of buying a property, renovating it and selling it for a higher price. Many investors, known as "serial flippers," buy multiple homes and flip them in quick succession. If you're looking at a home that has recently been flipped, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes offers you a few things to keep in mind. The history "Check the tax records to see how long the previous owner owned the property," suggests Litzner. "If it was a very short time, do your due diligence to determine whether the home was an investment opportunity, or whether the owner may be leaving because something is awry." The flipper If the current owner of your home's information is available, and they seem to be a serial flipper, check out any homes they have flipped in the past. How does their previous work look? Were the buyers of those homes satisfied? Take Necessary Precautions When Buying a Flipped HomeThe permits "If any structural changes were made, be sure they were properly permitted and that all the necessary inspections were done," notes Litzner. The quality of renovation Make sure to get a proper inspection on the property, and have a builder pay special attention to the home's structure or any recent changes. "While many home flippers are extremely talented renovators, some cut corners and take shortcuts to flip the home faster," cautions Litzner. Make sure everything is sound so you don't stumble upon a problem post-sale. "If you can't have an inspection until you've made an offer, make sure to include a contingency clause enabling you to walk away if the inspection shows a critical issue," says Litzner. Plumbing, heating and AC Since many flippers do not live in the homes while working on them, their systems may not have been used, and issues may go unnoticed or unnamed. Does the AC work? How about the plumbing? Any leaks? Be sure to check thoroughly. For more information on obtaining a mortgage, please contact Century 21 American Homes at  1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes. Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at

After nearly a decade of disaster that reached levels of despair not seen since the Great Depression, 2013 was more than a turnaround year. Within its short life, it changed housing from a liability to an asset so favorable that it had to power to take the rest of the nation's economy along for its ride upward, in the eyes of the Bernankes and Obamas. In some ways, it changed the housing economy for years to come. Like a human life, its true place in history won't be known until it is gone and some time has passed, but it will be hard to argue with the hard numbers achieved in 2013. Some examples: Home prices are rising faster than they have since the housing boom. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property prices in 20 cities recently released climbed 13.6 percent from October 2012, the biggest 12-month gain since February 2006, after a 13.3 percent increase in the year ended in September. Annual existing home sales should reach 5.1 million in 2013, the highest total in seven years, according to NAR. That is 10 percent higher than 2012's total of almost 4.7 million.2013 New home sales are on pace to reach 435,100 new homes sold this year, the most since 2008, according to Bloomberg. In November, purchases of new U.S. homes exceeded projections, holding near a five-year high and showing the housing recovery was gaining momentum even as mortgage rates climbed. Through the third quarter of 2013, more than 3 million homeowners returned to positive equity and homeowner equity increased by $33 billion. Some 7.1 million homes, or 14.5 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage, were still in negative equity at the end of the second quarter of 2013. This figure is down from 9.6 million homes, or 19.7 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage, at the end of the first quarter of 2013, according to CoreLogic. By the end of October, homeowners in 55 of the nation's 100 largest markets have now recovered more than half of the equity they lost in the housing crash. Of the 84 all markets that achieved more than a 100 percent rebound in November, 58 were midsize. Additionally, 58 midsize markets (28 percent of the U.S. midsized markets) now have fully recovered prices. Mortgage rates rose about one full point during the year, which made buying a home more expensive for many. But at long last lending standards have begun to loosen up, perhaps because many originators are shifting from refinancing to purchase loans. Median FICO scores, for example, were at 729 in November, down from 750 in November 2012. Closing rates were 53.1 percent compared to 52.3 percent in 2012. Consumer confidence in housing significantly widened in 2012, The share of consumers who believe it's a good time buy a house declined to 65 percent - an all-time low - while the number of those who believe mortgage rates will go up in the next year fell to 57 percent, according to Fannie Mae's latest monthly survey. Was 2013 a good year for you? What are you hoping 2014 will bring? Here's wishing that the year to come brings you even better returns than the year past. For more information, visit Published with permission from RISMedia.

EAST MEADOW, NY, Jan 04, 2014-For those who sold their home this year, it's important to understand how selling your home may impact your tax returns, now that tax season is upon us. Below, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes explains how capital gains work for those who have recently sold a home. "If you sell your primary residence, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain – $500,000 for married couples – from your federal tax return," says Litzner. To claim the exclusion, the IRS says your home must have been owned by you and used as your main home for a period of at least two out of the five years prior to its sale. The are a few catches, Litzner explains. "You also must not have excluded gain on another home sold during the two years before the current sale." However, special rules apply for members of the armed, uniformed and foreign services and their families in calculating the 5-year period. Capital GainsIf you do not meet the ownership and use tests, you may use a reduced maximum exclusion amount. But only if you sold your home due to health, a change in place of employment, or unforeseen circumstances. An extra perk? According to Litzner, if you can exclude all the gain from the sale of your home, you do not report it on your federal tax return. If you cannot exclude all the gain, or you choose not to, you must use Schedule D of Form 1040, Capital Gains or Losses, to report the total gain and claim the exclusion you qualify for. How about for those with more than one home? "You can exclude the gain only from the sale of your main residence," says Litzner. "You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home." If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is usually the one you live in most often. For more real estate information, please contact Century 21 American Homes at 1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes. Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at

(Family Features) Homes trap all kinds of smells - last night's salmon dinner, dirty gym clothes in the laundry basket, the cat's litter box and more. When it comes to ensuring the home looks, feels and smells clean, 64 percent of homeowners have even gone to extreme measures to rid their homes of pungent odors, such as replacing a rug or carpet (34 percent), purchasing a new trash can (26 percent) or replacing a couch or another piece of furniture (17 percent), according to a recent survey. But if you've become accustomed to the scents of your own home, how can you really know if it's odor free? Healthy living expert, building biologist and author Lisa Beres shares these simple solutions to naturally create and maintain a fresh home: Freshen Up Your Home, NaturallyKitchen refrigerator: Remove foul odors and stains from leftovers in the fridge by cleaning the drawers and shelves with a homemade cleaning solution. Simply add a few drops of natural dish soap to a bowl of baking soda and stir until it creates a thick paste. Also, store an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to help eliminate odors before they start. Replace it with a fresh box at least every three months. Candles and air fresheners: Store-bought air fresheners can contain synthetic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which can irritate eyes, skin and throats, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, create your own air freshener by combining 10 drops of an essential oil - such as lavender or eucalyptus - with two cups of water. Pests and repellants: Pesky ants and other insects can make their way into your kitchen pantry when they're on a mission to find food, but dousing them and your kitchen's surfaces in toxic repellent isn't a healthy solution for the home or the family. Instead, set a line of coffee grounds, lemon juice, cinnamon or cayenne pepper around doors and windows to create an effective barrier they won't cross. Cooking: Help prevent unappealing cooking odors, such as fish, from spreading and lingering throughout the home by upgrading to an odor reduction filter. It helps remove odors and gases from the air passing through the filter and helps keep the home fresh for families and houseguests. Synthetic air fresheners, candles and incense only provide temporary relief from odors by masking them in one particular room but will do nothing to remove the odors from the entire home. Damp towels: Wet towels from a shower, a trip to the gym or a day at the pool can be a breeding ground for mildew to develop if they sit too long without drying. To rid towels of the mildew smell, first wash them once in hot water with a cup or two of white vinegar. Then wash them again with a natural or eco-friendly laundry detergent. Finally, dry the towels in the dryer on high heat. To avoid mildew and associated smells in the future, hang towels up right away to ensure they dry thoroughly. Source: Published with permission from RISMedia.

Login to My Homefinder

Login to My Homefinder