Date Archives: May 2015

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May
29

Homeownership remains a major goal for Americans, with almost three-quarters considering a home a good investment, according to a recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) report. A nearly identical percentage anticipates becoming homeowners in the next five years.     home_ownership     The report found about half of Millennials and Gen Xers expect their next home to be larger, while approximately three-quarters of Baby Boomers and War Babies (members of the Silent Generation) expect their next home to be smaller or of equal size to their current home. Single-family detached homes are the preferred future housing choice for all generations, but the report reflects growing expectations for duplexes or townhouses, particularly among Millennials.   The report also indicated preferred community attributes, including:   • Environment (Including air and water quality) – 87 percent • Access to Fresh, Healthy Food – 73 percent • Green Space (Including parks) – 50+ percent • Reduced Car Usage – 52 percent • Pedestrian-Friendly Neighborhoods (Including sidewalks and crosswalks) – 50 percent • Public Transportation – 32 percent • Walkability – 20 percent   However, the report found that Americans face significant community barriers to these preferences. Many minorities and Millennials report living in areas that lack easy access to safe places for outdoor physical activity, active transportation systems such as bike lanes, healthy food options and safe walking conditions.   The disparity between what these groups want and what is available has presumably contributed to somewhat greater discontent with their quality of life than is expressed by Americans as a whole, the report concludes.   Source: ULI Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
21

Did you know many homebuyers are financially unprepared to purchase a home? According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), almost half of respondents report being "least prepared" to buy a home – a sign that education is needed, especially for first-time buyers.   homebuyers   Prepare your finances well in advance of searching for a home. Here's how.   1. Make a Financial Plan Knowing where to start means conducting a complete review of how your household budget is managed. Comparing income and expenses, reviewing debt, and tracking savings are just a few of the ways to measure readiness for homeownership.   2. Review Your Credit Report and Score Because a mortgage is the largest debt a person is likely to carry in their life, credit history can be a deal breaker or a dream maker. A credit report may be obtained without a score for free once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Once a copy is obtained, review it for discrepancies and dispute any differences. Do this at least six months in advance of applying for the loan, allowing time for inaccuracies to be corrected. Along with the free credit report, a score can be purchased for a small fee. Because the score is critical to mortgage approval and competitive interest rates, it is worth taking a look before submitting the loan application. Lender guidelines vary, but a FICO score of 760 is typically the threshold for the most favorable interest rates.   3. Start Saving A down payment is typically no less than 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, and coming up with the money may be a significant pain point. A down payment is essential to limit the amount borrowed, as well as increasing the chance of having more favorable mortgage terms. 4. Decide the Type of Loan After you've selected a lender, decide whether to take on a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loan, which are the most common of the many different types of financing available. For those planning to remain in the home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage helps add stability by keeping the payment the same for the life of the loan. Those expecting their stay in the home to be no longer than five to seven years may be better served by an adjustable-rate loan, where they could benefit from lower rates in the short term.   5. Pre-Qualify for a Loan It is important to know the limits of what is affordable before beginning to shop for a house. A good place to start is by becoming pre-qualified with a lender. This free service can typically be done in-person, online or by phone. The lender will need to gather some financial information and will offer a general idea of the amount of mortgage loan available based on the information provided. This non-binding estimate is the best way to know how much house would be affordable.   6. Become Pre-Approved for a Loan Applying for a mortgage typically involves a cost and is done by supplying detailed financial documentation to the lender. The lender will use this information in conjunction with information obtained by pulling a credit report to determine the amount and terms for the loan. This is not a final approval for a loan, but is a significant step toward that outcome.   7. Lock in the Rate If you like the interest rate being offered when pre-approved, lock it in by getting the commitment in writing. It can take time to find a home, negotiate a price and secure funding. Locking a rate for a reasonable period of time helps make room to complete the process without risking a less-favorable interest rate.   Source: NFCC.org Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
18

(BPT) - From wall stains to washing machines, indoor stains and smells can be a challenge to tackle. Luckily, there are surprisingly simple methods to erase them for good. Here are a few tips to freshen up the most stubborn spots in your home.   primer   Conceal wall stains with primer Have your kids made artwork of your walls, or has your leaky roof caused a water-damaged mess? Tough wall stains like these can be hard to get rid of, but are easily sealed by applying a high-quality, stain-blocking primer. For example, KILZ Hide-All Primer Sealer covers problem areas on surfaces from drywall and woodwork to concrete and brick. It even masks over dark stains without allowing color to bleed through. With only a one-hour drying time before applying a topcoat, this is the perfect one-weekend project to cross off your list. KILZ primer can also seal off odors caused by pets or smoke.   Eliminate refrigerator odors Refrigerators are subject to a variety of spills and odors. Making time for fridge maintenance can help prevent unusual odors and keep your food fresh longer. To cleanse and polish your fridge, begin by emptying the contents of your fridge and throwing out, recycling or composting any food that is expired or beginning to smell.   Next, pull out any removable drawers or shelving and place them in the sink. Using a damp, soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge, wipe down these pieces, the interior of your fridge and the door with a multi-purpose cleaner. Or, mix two tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of hot water for a natural soap alternative. Don't forget the seams of the shelves and rubber door seal.   If your fridge requires an extra-deep cleaning, unplug it while you work to avoid wasting energy. Before putting all of your food back into the fridge, wipe down the exterior of each jar or container with a damp cloth. Repeat this process every two or three months for the best results.   Make grout lines shine Tile surfaces are prone to dirt and debris, especially in bathrooms or high-traffic areas. To keep tile looking fresh and new, grab an old toothbrush or electric toothbrush for a deeper scrub. Before you start, wash the surface with water then mix two parts baking soda with one part water. Scrub the resulting paste into the cracks and crevices, then douse with water again. If the grout lines are stained, spray a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water onto the area and brush. After a final rinse, the grime will be gone.   Prevent a moldy washing machine If you own a front-loading washing machine, you've probably noticed the unpleasant smell that can linger after completing a load of laundry. Despite being more energy-efficient, these machines have a tendency to hold odors and harbor mold. To clean and prevent grimy buildup, try this: instead of detergent, cycle two cups of vinegar and a quarter-cup of baking soda on a hot setting. When it's done, use a clean sponge to scrub down the inside. Finally, rinse with a plain-water cycle, and you'll see (and smell) the results.   Whether in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room, tricky stains and odors in your home can be a tough job, but with these four tips you'll be able to eliminate a few messy tasks in no time.  
May
14

Research recently released by TD Bank revealed that 37 percent of those who purchased a home in the past 10 years – and 43 percent of those who did so within the last two years – required mortgage insurance (MI). Of those who required PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance), 65 percent said that the addition of a mortgage insurance premium left them paying a higher monthly mortgage payment than they originally expected.   pmiinsurance   The study surveyed more than 2,000 Americans who have purchased a home in the past 10 years. The findings indicate the growing impact PMI has on mortgage payments, which is often required when homebuyers are unable to make a 20 percent down payment to purchase a home. With average PMI costing approximately $100 per month, mortgage insurance can become a significant expense for many borrowers before they reach 20 percent equity in their property. Further, FHA loans now require MI for the life of the loan which considerably increases the total cost of homeownership for borrowers who cannot make a 20 percent down payment.   "PMI has had a definitive impact on many homebuyers – including making them rethink or delay the purchase of a home in light of not being able to meet monthly mortgage payments," said Michael Copley, executive vice president, Retail Lending, TD Bank. "While FHA loans may be available, homebuyers, especially first-time buyers, may not realize the options available to them that don't require PMI insurance."   Other findings include: • 27 percent of those who purchased a home within the last 10 years felt that PMI costs impacted the home they purchased. For those who purchased a home in the last two years, that number increased to 35 percent. • 53 percent of respondents reported experiencing a negative impact because of the additional cost of PMI. Over four in ten of those requiring PMI reported having to cut back on small and daily purchases and/or larger household purchases.   Generations are Feeling the Pinch The survey also found that 43 percent of Millennials (ages 18-34) did not make a 20 percent down payment and required mortgage insurance, as compared to 37 percent of Gen X-ers (ages 35-54) and 23 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 55 and older).   • Regardless of age, respondents felt that the impact of PMI left them paying more than expected – 60 percent of Millennials, 60 percent of Gen X-ers and 58 percent of Baby Boomers. • Compared to Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, Millennials requiring PMI felt most impacted in home purchasing decisions, such as delaying the purchase of a home or purchasing a smaller home (30 percent vs. 18 percent for Gen X-ers and 14 percent for Baby Boomers). • 46 percent of Millennials responded that they've had to cut back on small/daily purchases and/ r cut back or delay larger household purchases due to the additional cost of PMI, while 38 percent of Gen X-ers and only 26 percent of Baby Boomers experienced similar cut backs when requiring PMI. Prospective buyers should meet with a lender or financial institution to find a loan solution that meets their needs and monthly budget. Homeownership is always attainable with the right financial planning. Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
12

(BPT) - What makes someone decide a home is the right fit? If you're selling your home with an open house, there's a lot you can do to wow would-be buyers. Make the best impression and boost offers with these five tips.   show-ready   1. Work from the Outside In – Poor curb appeal can turn buyers off before they step foot inside your home. Make sure the outside is every bit as beautiful as the inside. Paint the exterior if you need to, plant flowers and mow the lawn.   2. Clean Up Shop – It sounds simple, but it's amazing how many homeowners don't clean their homes before an open house. If nothing else, the kitchen and bathrooms must be spotless. If you don't feel you can get your home ready on your own, hire a professional cleaning service to do the job for you. The money you spend will be well worth it when your home sells quickly and for top dollar.   3. Cut the Clutter – Even the cleanest homes still feel messy if there's too much clutter. Before your open house, adopt a minimalist lifestyle to keep your home as clutter-free as possible. 4. Eliminate Stale Odors – Don't underestimate the benefit of fresh air in your home. Consider using essential oils to keep your home smelling great throughout showing. Simply tap a few drops and some salt into a decorative bowl and place near a sunny window or heat register to diffuse the aroma.   5. Make Wise Investments – If your home requires improvements, allocate funds for the rooms buyers care about most – the kitchen and the master bedroom. A granite countertop, new appliance, additional closet or fresh coat of paint will work wonders when it comes time to sell.   Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
8

One of the most stressful times for a home seller/buyer is that short period of time between when a bid is accepted and the inspection comes back, as you never know what might turn up.   Inspector   Many times, an inspection will uncover hidden problems or other defects that will change the offer and put the negotiating power in the buyer's favor. Things like rotting floors, mold in the attic or termites on the deck have been enough to kill deals altogether.   The problem with a buyer getting an inspection and pulling out because they didn't like the results is that normally, you don't know what they didn't like and you don't have access to their inspector's report. This can be frustrating because if you knew the problem, you could get it fixed.   One way to ensure that the inspection doesn't offer any real surprises is to arrange for an inspection yourself prior to putting the home on the market. By doing so, you will discover any problems ahead of time, which will give you the opportunity to make the necessary fixes.   While the inspector won't necessarily be the same as the one a potential buyer brings in, a professional inspector should be able to come up with most of the same things that anyone would find. Inspectors have specific knowledge in all aspects of home construction, including plumbing, wiring and other components, so their findings shouldn't vary much.   Your inspector will work with you to identify hidden problems such as leaks in the roof, possible water damage, remodeling efforts that don't meet current building codes, or improperly grounded outlets. Once you have the list of potential issues, you can either repair the problems or reduce the price of your home accordingly. Making certain repairs before you put your house on the market makes sense when the repairs are relatively small and inexpensive. For larger items, it may be better to take money off the asking price and let the buyer fix or replace these things once they move in.   If you have a pool, you should also consider hiring a separate pool inspector since pools are typically a big draw among prospective buyers.   While the price of an inspection will run you a few hundred dollars, it'll be well worth it when you think of the alternative of losing a sale because of something that could have easily been fixed ahead of time.   Keep in mind that if you do get an inspection and discover something is wrong, most states require you by law to let the buyer know. If you conceal a defect from the buyer and the buyer's inspection doesn't discover it, the buyer can sue later if it's discovered. But if you fix the problems or just let the buyer know prior to the deal, you will be okay.   To learn more about pre-sale inspections, contact our office today.     Published with permission from RISMedia.

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