Tags Archives: first time homebuyer

As school starts up and our “to do” lists grow, we find ourselves with less pool time and more after school activities.  I find this time of year encouraging and overwhelming.  I googled “most stressful life events” and found that back to school did not make the list.  But, the list proved once again to me that relationships are what is important in life.  Almost all items on the list deal with loved ones and events including hardship as a family.  According to paindoctor.com the list is:

  1.   Death of a spouse or child
  2.   Divorce
  3.   Marital Separation
  4.   Imprisonment
  5.   Death of a close family member
  6.   Personal Injury or illness
  7.    Marriage
  8.    Dismissal from work
  9.    Marital Reconciliation
  10.    Retirement

Buying or selling a home DOES NOT make the list!  I have a friend who tried to sell her house using an online realtor company that puts a sign in your yard and does the paperwork.  I have never seen her more stressed and the house didn’t sell.  It doesn’t have to be like this!!  Get yourself a real estate agent, have them do the work and watch your home sell faster, for more money, and with WAY less stress.   I stumbled across this informative fact filled article on Keeping Current Matters…

 

Is Buying a Home Really More Stressful than Planning a Wedding?

Some Highlights:

  • According to a new survey from Open Listings, 62% of Americans ages 25-54 believe that buying a home is more stressful than planning a wedding.
  • Many young couples are saving for a wedding and a home at the same time.
  • The average US wedding now costs 66% of a median home down payment, according to The Knot.

I have a husband who goes around the house turning off the lights that were left on.  This drives me insane and we all enjoy teasing him about the 3 cents he saves every time he turns the lights off.  (And, I am a little afraid of the dark…when he is out of town, every light in the house is on.)  The reality is, these pennies do add up each month, and we love our earth.  Conserving energy is good for our beautiful earth and for humanity not just our wallets.  Here is a list of 8 ways we can each save money on our utility bills and be earth smart….unlike this home…”turn a light out!!”

 

 

 

8 Smart Home Technology Trends that Can Save You Money

The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.

What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:

The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.

When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.

Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.

Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.

Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:

 

Smart Thermostats

Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.

With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.

 

Smart Smoke Detectors

Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).

Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.

Smart Sprinkler Control

Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.

A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.

Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.

Smart Solar Panels

You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.

With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.

Smart Home Security Systems

Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.

With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.

Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.

 

Smart Locks

Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.

Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.

Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.

The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.

Smart lighting systems and light bulbs

A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.

However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.

The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.

New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.

Smart Appliances

Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.

  • Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
  • Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridgecan alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
  • Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
  • Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.

Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!

5 years ago, when my husband and I decided to move in our area, we began driving the neighborhoods.  We wanted trees, well-kept yards, bikes on the front yard, signs of children, and neighbors talking to each other.  We wanted open space trails and well-maintained fences and signage.  We began praying for not the perfect home, but the perfect street and neighbors for our family.  We knew we could fix up any house (with the right square footage and floor plan) and make it our dream home.  But, we have little control over our neighbors and community.  I stumbled across this post from The Paperless Agent and it made me realize that we do have a little, limited control over building strong neighborhoods.  The following shows 10 ways we can influence our areas for the better and build better communities.

 

Welcome Home: 10 Tips to Turn Your Neighborhood
Into a Hometown Haven

“Communities work better (students perform better, crime rates are lower, kids are safer, people live longer) when neighbors know one another better. Knowing your neighbor on a first-name basis…is a surprisingly effective first step.” 
Robert Putnam, Harvard Public Policy Professor and author of Bowling Alone

While advancements in technology have made it possible for us to connect with people from around the world, numerous studies show that it has led to a decline in face-to-face interactions.1

Places where we used to strike up casual conversations—such as a doctor’s office waiting room, bus stop or grocery line—are now filled with people looking at their smart phones, barely acknowledging those around them.

Even many families dining together or relaxing in the evenings can be caught spending more time focused on screens than each other. Is it any surprise that we’ve experienced a steady decline in community involvement?

In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard Public Policy Professor Robert Putnam “draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often.”2

How is this shift impacting our overall well being? A study by Oregon Health & Science University researchers found that having limited face-to-face social contact nearly doubles an individual’s risk of depression.3

CONNECTING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
If you’re considering a move to a new city or neighborhood, you may be worried about replacing the comfort and support of family and friends you’ll leave behind. Or perhaps you have completed a move but would like to meet more people, build friendships and strengthen your support system.

In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 ways you can utilize technology to foster in-person connections with your neighbors, make friends and get engaged in your local community.

 

 

  1. JOIN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S SOCIAL NETWORK

A growing number of neighborhoods are utilizing private social networks like U.S.-based Nextdoor and Canadian-based GoNeighbour. These platforms are designed specifically to connect neighbors and include an address verification process.

Residents post about a variety of topics, including neighborhood news, recommendations for local businesses, lost pets, etc. These platforms are a great way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your neighborhood, but don’t just use them to connect virtually. Extend an invitation to your neighbors to attend an in-person event, such as a park playdate for families, an informal soccer game or a potluck block party.

 

  1. ATTEND A PLACE OF WORSHIP

If you have a religious affiliation, joining a local place of worship is great way to meet people and get involved in your community. Aside from attending services, most religious institutions also host extracurricular activities to foster fellowship amongst the congregation.

Whether you are looking to join a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, there are a variety of online resources available to help you find a match in your area, including:

To make the most of your affiliation, look for opportunities to meet in smaller group settings. It’s a great way to form interpersonal relationships with people who share your beliefs and values.

  1. FIND AN INTEREST GROUP

Whatever your favorite hobby or pastime, you’re guaranteed to meet people who share your interests when you join an interest group!

The website Meetup.com has over 32 million members in 288,000 groups in 182 countries. You can search for a group in your area that appeals to you … from book clubs to running groups to professional networking, they have it all.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can start your own group for a monthly fee. The site makes it easy to ask (or require) members to pitch in to cover the cost. It also enables you to promote a corporate sponsor on your page, so you may be able to find a local business to cover the cost.

Most people who join Meetup are there for the same reason you are … to meet people who share their interests. So it’s a great place to make like-minded friends in your community.

  1. LEND A HAND

Volunteering your time and talents is another good way to get engaged in your community and meet those who share a similar mission.

Most nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Find one with a cause you’re passionate about by visiting VolunteerMatch.

You can search by cause, location and keywords, and filter your results to include opportunities that are suitable for kids, seniors or groups. Another option is to search for volunteer positions that require specialized skills. Perhaps you’re musical or maybe you’re good with computers. There could be an organization in your area that needs your talents or skills.

Lotsa Helping Hands is another site focused on connecting volunteers with those in need. Members can request help or search for opportunities to assist others in their area. Most of the volunteer opportunities involve aiding neighbors who are ill or elderly by delivering meals, offering rides to appointments or just stopping by for a visit. This can be a great way to make a direct impact on your neighbors who need a helping hand!

  1. TAKE A CLASS

Taking a class is a wonderful way to develop a skill while meeting people who share your interests and passion for learning.

Whether you want to brush up on your Spanish, finish your novel, or learn how to tango, most community colleges offer inexpensive, non-credit classes on a variety of topics.

And if you are pursuing a degree, forego taking your courses online. Opt for the traditional route instead. There’s no substitute for being part of a live community of your peers.

To search for a community college in your area, visit the American Association of Community Colleges or SchoolsInCanada.com.

  1. ATTEND AN EVENT

Attending a live event is another way to engage with members of your community. From festivals to fundraisers to retreats, Eventbrite is a great place to search for events in your area. You can filter your search by category, event type, date and price to find something that fits your interests, schedule and budget.

Be strategic about the type of event you choose. For example, while attending a large festival might be a fun way to feel engaged with your community, it might also be harder to meet people. A retreat or a networking event may offer more opportunities for one-on-one interaction.

  1. SHARE YOUR STUFF

Everyone’s talking about the rise of the “sharing economy” with the popularity of Uber and Airbnb. But there’s also been a rise in “sharing communities,” which facilitate the free exchange of goods among neighbors to reduce consumption and keep usable items out of landfills.

Nonprofit groups like The Freecycle Network are made up of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. Members can post “offers” of free items or “wanted” items they need.

The company Peerby has a similar goal of reducing consumption by encouraging neighbors to lend and borrow items they don’t often use. For example, you can offer to share your blender, rake or ladder. Maybe you need to borrow a drill, cake pan or moving trolley. Peerby enables you to request items to borrow from your neighbors and encourages you to register items you are willing to lend.

The Little Free Library is another innovative way neighbors are participating in a sharing community. Stewards build or purchase a box to house the library and fill it with books they are willing to give away. The library is usually placed in their front yard or in a public outdoor space. Visitors are encouraged to take a book they’d like to read, and in exchange leave a book for someone else to enjoy. With over 60,000 libraries in 80 countries, the organization estimates millions of books are exchanged annually among neighbors.

  1. SUPPORT A COMMUNITY GARDEN

 Community gardens have become increasingly popular in both urban and rural areas across North America. Not only do they beautify a neighborhood, they also foster community, encourage self-reliance, reduce family food budgets, conserve resources, and provide opportunities for recreation and exercise.

The mission of the American Community Gardening Association is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada. The organization’s website enables you to search for existing community gardens in your area. If there isn’t one nearby, you might considering starting one. The site provides helpful tips and resources for organizing a garden in your neighborhood.

  1. CARPOOL WITH A COWORKER

In the spirit of joining a “sharing community,” carpooling offers many similar benefits. It presents an opportunity to form a bond with coworkers and/or neighbors during your daily commute. Additionally, you can save money on gas, reduce wear-and-tear on your vehicle, lower carbon emissions, and in many cities reduce your commute time by taking advantage of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) travel lanes.

The success of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft has spurred a new wave of carpooling websites and apps that aim to revolutionize the way we commute by making it easier and more convenient to carpool. While many of these are still in their infancy stages, they are expanding into new markets and improving functionality at a rapid pace.

Kangaride Local, Scoop and Waze Carpool are just a few examples, and more are popping up every day. They are currently available in limited markets throughout the United States and Canada, but are becoming prevalent in more cities as residents opt-in. Check to see if any of these are available in your local area.

Alternatively, you can try posting on your neighborhood’s social network to see if one or more of your neighbors are commuting to a nearby location. Take turns driving and start benefiting from all that carpooling has to offer!

  1. PARTICIPATE IN WORLD NEIGHBORS DAY

The organizers behind World Neighbors Day promote it as “an invitation to share a moment with your neighbors, to get to know each other better and develop a real sense of community.”

In Canada it’s held on the second Saturday in June, and in the United States it’s held on the third Sunday in September. Participants are encouraged to organize gatherings with their neighbors to build relationships that “form the fabric of our communities.”

You can participate by attending or organizing a gathering in your neighborhood. Examples include: a block party, outdoor movie screening, book exchange, charity bake sale, volleyball game, etc. Anything that brings neighbors together in a fun and relaxed setting is a good choice!

Gatherings can be promoted through your neighborhood’s social media network, blog or listserv, or you can go the old-fashioned route and hand out flyers door-to-door. Whatever you do, be sure to make your gathering inclusive and welcoming to all.

BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR

 As with anything in life, you will get out what you put in. It can take time to build lasting and meaningful friendships with your neighbors, but the effort you make is likely to pay off tenfold.

The tried-and-true way to make friends, expand your circle, grow your support system and get engaged in your community? Be a good neighbor yourself.

 

 

What are the best ways you’ve found to meet and engage with your neighbors? Share your success stories or challenges in the comments below!

 

Sources:

  1. Lengacher, L. (2015) Mobile Technology: Its Effect on Face-to-Face Communication and Interpersonal Interaction. Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences –
    http://www.kon.org/urc/v14/lengacher.html
  2. Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling Alone. New York: Simon & Schuster –
    http://bowlingalone.com/
  3. Bergland, C. (2015 October 5) Face-to-Face Social Contact Reduces Risk of Depression. Psychology Today
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201510/face-face-social-contact-reduces-risk-depression

Why I Like To Buy Older Homes

by: Lindsey Mendenhall

I have always loved older homes.  There is something that everyone seems to love about downtown communities with old brick tudor homes.  Why is this?  I think it reminds us of a simpler time and brings back craftmanship that we do not see much anymore in the average new build.  Instead of noticing stainless steel appliances and square footage, we find charm in arched doorways, intricate wood moldings, tiny closets, and original wood floors that have seen love and wear.  I have now owned three homes, each more than 30 years old.  With these homes come old smells, outdated flooring and in my latest home purchase-30 year old toilets.  However, we enjoy home products and my husband is very handy-always willing to face a new challenge.  I love turning the characteristics of an old home into something a bit more updated.  I love that my home has original wood doors that are a little scratched.  I love that my neighborhood came equipped with huge trees lining the streets and in every yard.  And I love the neighbors I won in my older home purchase.  They are passionate about the area and schools after raising their own families here.  But, to each their own, and these are just the musings of a real estate assistant.  The following article found on realtor.com has the view of professionals…maybe a bit more informative!

 

Old House vs. New House: Which Is Better to Buy?

 | May 3, 2018

Old house vs. new house: If you’re shopping for a place to live, this may be one of your primary decisions. Is it better to buy brand-new? Or do homes, like wine, get better with time? It turns out there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are distinct pros and cons to each purchase.

“Both new construction and fixer-uppers offer unique benefits,” agrees Cedric Stewart, a residential and commercial sales consultant at Keller Williams Realty in Washington, DC.

All of which means your Final Answer may boil down to a personal preference—so here’s what to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide whether an old house or a new house is right for you.

Upfront costs: How much house can you afford?

New may be nice, but you pay for all that shiny newness: According to recent home price figures, the median cost of a new home is $335,400. Meanwhile, the median cost of an old home—often called an “existing home” in real estate parlance—is only $240,500.

In other words: You’ll cough up nearly $100,000, or 30% more, for a new home. That’s a sizable price hike! However, that money you save buying an old home may not remain in your pockets that long, since old homes are often less energy-efficient—and thus will cost more to heat and cool. And sooner or later, something is bound to break down, too (more on that next).

Maintenance: Love it or loathe it?

Just like we mere mortals when we get up there in years, old homes come with an inevitable need for repairs, replacements, and upgrades. On the other hand, “New homes should be worry-free for several years,” says Stewart. “A brand-new hot water heater, HVAC system, and roof all but ensure no major out-of-pocket expenses for at least eight to 10 years in most cases.”

If you’re seeking a life with fewer hassles, or don’t have money in reserve for emergency repairs and unexpected expenses, a new home may be the way to go. With a recently built home, “You’ll have peace of mind that all systems are new, up-to-date, and you’ve got no problems that could come down the line,” notes Carib Daniel Martin, a residential architect in the Washington, DC, area. “Some of those issues can be pretty drastic.”

For instance, if you’ve never heard about knob-and-tube wiring—commonly found in older homes—look it up. Then look at the cost to have it fixed or replaced.

If you do go ahead and pursue the purchase of an aging home, it’s especially important to have a thorough home inspection. Doing so won’t just help you negotiate down the price, but give you an idea of all the problems that need to be fixed. And then you actually need to fix them.

“A small repair now may save you an extensive overhaul down the road, especially in the case of drainage, roof, windows, doors, and trim,” says Christy Murdock Edgar, a real estate agent in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

Plus, if you decide to sell your house again, those same old issues will no doubt pop up again during the next home inspection.

Investment: Want a proven track record, or are you willing to take a risk?

A home isn’t just a family gathering space, but a financial investment. And with an older home, you can see on paper just how much the property has appreciated over the years. While that doesn’t ensure future market appeal, at least you’ve got something to go on, says Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

As for a new home? With no history to look back on, this purchase can be considered more of a gamble. The price could shoot up, or it could plummet. But in case things go south, there is this one silver lining. “You’ll have less work to do in terms of making sure the home offers what the market demands in terms of energy-efficiency, design, and other amenities,” says Dietz.

Home design: Dig vintage or modern?

Looks matter a lot when it comes to choosing a home. And both old and new homes have their fans: In an older home, you’ll likely get some sense of historic tradition and thoughtful attention to detail. Think crown molding. Real hardwood floors. And (if you’re lucky) a secret back staircase or dumbwaiter.

On the other side of this debate, brand-new houses often sport the latest and greatest—i.e., open living spaces with wide, accessible hallways; and bathrooms and kitchens with energy-efficient, on-trend amenities.

Can you get the best of both worlds?

Stewart hears it all the time: how people want modern amenities—but maybe not in a brand-new home. (“They don’t make things like they used to,” is the common refrain.)

If you feel the same way, you do have an option: “Buy an older home with ‘good bones’ and take the opportunity to renovate it or hire someone to do it,” Stewart notes.

In other words, you may not have to choose between an old house versus a new house after all.

If you are thinking of buying a home in 2018, now is the time to get ready. Most of us are on Holiday break, and what better time to get everything in order to buy a home in 2018 while you are home and on vacation. Are you ready?

7 Steps to Be Ready to Buy a House in 2018

1. Check your credit score.

A credit score is a numerical representation of your credit report. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher your score, the better. “Good credit is like gold when obtaining a mortgage,” says Denise Supplee, a Pennsylvania agent. Typically, you’ll get the best interest rate on a loan if your score is 740 and above. “A higher credit score should net you a lower mortgage rate,” says Lee Gimpel, co-creator of The Good Credit Game, which specializes in financial education. “That lower rate, even if it’s only 1 or 2 percent lower, can mean saving thousands of dollars per year.” If your credit score falls short, get busy repairing it. Correct any errors that might be on your report, start paying all your bills on time, and get your credit limit raised. Note, though, that you shouldn’t max out your card each month. It’s best to use 30 percent or less of your total available credit.

2. Don’t open new credit cards.

If you think resisting taking a selfie when you’re face-to-face with your fave celebrity is a testament to your willpower, that’s sissy stuff compared with turning down every offer to open a credit card, even if you could save 20 percent (or more!) on your holiday purchases. Tempting as saving at checkout can be, opening new credit may hurt your chances of getting a mortgage, or at least of getting the best rate on a loan.

“By opening the account, you have created another line of credit,” says Paul Anastos, president of Mortgage Master, a division of loanDepot, a nonbank lender. “That credit line, and what is borrowed, can change the application numbers and jeopardize the application.” What could save you a few dollars now could cost you far more in the long run if your mortgage payments will be higher. And along those same lines, “Don’t overspend during the holiday season,” says Dean Sioukas founder of Magilla Loans, an online lending exchange. “Especially on impulse purchases that can be tempting during the holidays.”

3. Suggest financial gifts for the holidays

Besides the mortgage loan, you’ll need a sizable amount of cash to buy a house. There’s the down payment to consider, closing costs, and moving costs. You should also set aside money for unexpected repairs and costs, says Brian Betzler, regional sales manager at TD Bank. Not being prepared “is probably why nearly half of millennials incurred up to $5,000 in unexpected costs during the mortgage process, according to a TD survey,” he says.

A potential solution? Bulk up that emergency fund. “Instead of getting gifts for the holidays, [prospective homebuyers] can suggest cash instead that will be put toward their home,” says Paul Sian, a Kentucky and Ohio agent. And remember, you might be getting some money back after you file your tax return. Don’t blow it on vacation. “A tax refund is a great way to add to your cash reserves for a down payment,” says David Hosterman, branch manager of Castle & Cooke Mortgage in Colorado.

4. Interview potential real estate agents.

Obviously we would hope you would interview and choose Justin or Kristen Andersen to be your agent but here are some good tips. If your neighbor, relative, or friend of a friend happens to know (or is) a real estate agent, that’s great. This person might be the perfect agent for you. But you owe it to yourself to shop around. “Look for [an agent] who is knowledgeable, good, integral, and can assist you in reaching the goal of homeownership,” says Chantay Bridges, a Los Angeles, CA, real estate agent. “Make sure they are not a novice, new, or just unaware of how to do a specific transaction.” The end of the year is usually a slow time for agents, so chances are they’ll be more accommodating to making an appointment on your schedule.

5. Keep tabs on interest rates.

If you hear that interest rates are at historic lows or that interest rates are on the rise, you should not assume that you can get the rock-bottom rate. Not everyone gets the same interest rate on a mortgage loan. It depends on your financial picture and on the lender you choose. “Everyone knows that home prices are, at least to some extent, negotiable, but we find loans to be the same,” says Warren Ward, CFP with WWA Planning & Investments in Indiana. He advises that homebuyers shop around for the lowest interest rates. Note that closing costs can vary too, so discuss with your real estate agent ways to keep yours down. “We saved $150 on the closing fees by selecting the cheapest title company,” says Ward. “I guess that’s not much, but I think most people would bend over to pick up three $50 bills if they were lying on the sidewalk.”

6. Find a mortgage lender.

Before you even start looking for a home (and yes, we even mean browsing online listings), look for a mortgage lender to find out if you can afford to buy a home. If you can’t right now, there’s no use torturing yourself by finding your dream home that’s just out of reach. But how do you find a lender? “If you have a bank you’ve been with for years, ask them,” says Bridges. “Your [real estate agent] can also refer a good lender to you. Compare [that lender] with two others. Look at what they offer, costs, points, and how long to close.” Once you know how much home you can afford, perform your home search based on your preapproval amount or less.

7. Get preapproved.

When a lender gives your financials the once-over and preapproves you for a mortgage, you’ll be able to show sellers that you really can buy their house. But how do you get preapproved? By preparing a few documents, which you can do several months in advance of the actual purchase. Here’s what you need to buy a house.

  • Tax returns for the past two years
  • W-2 forms for the past two years
  • Paycheck stubs from the past few months
  • Proof of mortgage or rent payments for the past year
  • A list of all your debts, including credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and alimony
  • A list of all your assets, including bank statements, auto titles, real estate, and any investment accounts

Paul Anastos also advises not to change jobs, make big purchases, or miss any debt payments as you prepare to get a mortgage.

Cheers to a prosperous 2018 and we hope to help you or anyone you know with your home needs in 2018!

Originally published October 17, 2016. Updated October 30, 2017. Excerpts From trulia.com

 

 

The home-buying process is a high-stakes thrill ride full of exhilarating ups and scary downs, but unquestionably one of the most deflating moments is when the appraisal comes in significantly lower than the accepted offer. This is, to use technical real estate lingo, “a bummer.”

Either you feel as though you got the raw end of a deal by paying more than the property’s worth or, if you don’t have extra cash to hand over, the deal can crumble into dust. (Your lender’s not going to fork over money for a higher loan amount if the appraisal came in lower than expected, so you’ll have to make up that difference yourself.)

“In a rising market, low valuations are pretty common because appraisals are based upon sales that closed when prices were lower,” says Diane Saatchi, a senior broker with Saunders & Associates in Bridgehampton, NY. “The reverse is so in a declining market.”

In other words: Appraisals can’t keep up with how quickly homes are selling in a hot market, so you’re bound to see lower-than-expected values placed on homes.So, what do you do if this happens to you? You have four options:

1. Appeal the appraisal

Sometimes called a “rebuttal of value,” the appraisal appeal takes some work. In fact, it’s a total team effort.

“The homeowner, loan officer, and often the real estate agent work together to find better comparable market data to justify a higher valuation,” says Casey Fleming, a mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.” 

That means everyone puts on their best Sherlock Holmes garb and gets to work looking for anything that helps the claim for higher valuation. Perhaps the appraiser overlooked some comps (homes similar in style, location, and square footage sold within the past few years).

“It’s not uncommon to discover, for instance, that the appraiser used a comparable sale that looks like it’s in great condition, when in fact the home was trashed when purchased and has already been rehabilitated,” Fleming says.

The loan officer writes an appeal using the new comparables and then sends it to the appraiser. There might be some negotiating back and forth until all parties come to a compromise with a new valuation.

Spoiler: It’s a hard battle to fight.

“My record on this one is 0 for 9 so far,” Fleming says. “But I know many appraisers personally who have adjusted their values.” So keep the hope alive!

2. Order a second appraisal

“Most often, if the appraised value is not as high as the agreed (contract) price, the seller’s agent will ask to see the comps and get a second or third appraisal,” Saatchi says.

But it will likely cost you–you’re not only paying for the first appraisal (in your closing costs), but you’ll pony up for any additional appraisals as well. They can range between a few hundred dollars and $1,000 depending on the area. Occasionally, real estate agents or sellers will foot the bill if they really want to keep the sale.

3. Negotiate with the seller

If you’re lucky, you and the seller will both budge a little.

“You might go back to the sellers and ask them to reduce the price or split the difference,” says Peter Grabel, managing director of Luxury Mortgage in Stamford, CT. “The seller is under no obligation to do so, but they may prefer to do this rather than take a chance of losing you as a buyer, and starting over again. It is likely that another buyer will have the same issue, so the seller might be better off renegotiating with you unless they have other offers.”

Sellers might be more willing to cooperate, especially if the Federal Housing Administration is involved. Lenders often require the use of their own FHA-approved appraiser, and these appraisals are “locked in” for six months.

“The seller could be forced to take a poor appraisal or wait it out for a buyer with a different loan,” explains Joshua Jarvis of Jarvis Team Real Estate in Duluth, GA.

Jeff Knox, broker and owner of Dallas-area real estate firm Knox & Associates, says this is the most common outcome in his area.

“Of all possible outcomes, this is what happens most frequently,” he says. “While the seller will usually be upset about the low appraisal value, most reasonable sellers eventually come to terms with the fact that any other appraisal values by potential future buyers will most likely come in at about the same value.”

4. Walk away

No one wants to let a property slip through their fingers, especially if it feels like their dream home. But beware of ignoring a low appraisal—you could end up losing thousands whenever you decide to sell.

If you have an appraisal contingency in your contract, you can walk away, get your deposit back, and hope for better luck the next time around.

This article was written by Maureen Dempsey for Realtor.com. She is a writer who covers fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and home decor. She’s recently learned that decorating her new home is just as satisfying as filling her closet.

 

Congratulations, you have decided to buy a home for the first time. Does the thought of buying a home make you nervous? Does it make your palms sweat? Have you started to look at buying a home and got cold feet before you even looked at a single home. Are you tired of paying rent and not getting the tax benefit of owning a home? Well we are here to help with a checklist to get you on your way to closing on your first home.

Step 1: Find a Real Estate Agent

Yes, you can look at homes online or drive around to open houses thinking you can buy a home by yourself without help from a professional. There are a couple reasons why you want to work with a Real Estate Agent one being they are seasoned professionals. They are constantly working with real estate contracts and know what needs to be in the contract to protect you, the buyer. There are many deadlines in a real estate contract and if those deadlines are not met the deal could fall apart, could benefit the seller, could jeopardize your financing, and much more.

A buyers agent does not cost you, the buyer, anything! The sellers pay the sellers agent and buyers agent commissions; why wouldn’t you use someone to represent you, the buyer.

Here at Andersen Realty, we love working with buyers! We have been in Real Estate for a very long time. With that said, you want to find a buyers agent that is a seasoned professional, and you probably want to interview 3 or 4 agents before signing an agreement with someone. If you would like to interview Kristen or Justin please give them a call today to set up an appointment. If you call today, you have completed step 1 and on to step 2!

Step 2: Talk to a Mortgage Lender:

This step could go before finding a real estate agent or at the same time. When you look for a mortgage lender after you find an agent the agent can help you find a lender locally and one who is trustworthy. Therefore, ask your agent for two to three lender recommendations. Talking to multiple lenders will enable you to fully assess your financing options with no obligation to pick until you’ve found one that’s right.

The goal is to get pre-approved for a home loan. To do that, you’ll need to provide the lender with a significant amount of paperwork, including bank statements, pay stubs, W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and tax returns. If the lender decides to offer you pre-approval, you’ll receive an estimate of what size loan you would qualify for and approximately what interest rate you’d get.

Pre-approval is typically good for 90 to 120 days; however, “it’s easy to renew it if the borrower’s financial picture doesn’t change,” says Richard Redmond, broker associate at ACM Investor Services, a private lender in Larkspur, CA, and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”

A good mortgage lender will also be able to help you determine which type of loan is right for you.

Step 3: Improve your credit, if needed

When you meet with a mortgage lender, the lender will pull your credit score. Although a perfect credit score is 850, all scores 760 and above are considered to be in the best credit score range—meaning you would qualify for the most competitive interest rates. (For comparison, a good credit score is from 700 to 759, a fair score is from 650 to 699, and a score of 300 to 649 is considered poor.) Your credit score is calculated based on a number of factors, including your debt payment history, debt-to-credit utilization, and length of credit history.

If you find that your credit score is subpar, you may be able to take steps to boost your score. Just keep in mind that you won’t improve a credit score overnight. Indeed, you may need to postpone your house search for a few months in order to mend your credit.

Step 4: Determine where you want to live.

To focus your house hunt, you’ll need to decide where you want to settle down. If you don’t have your heart set on a particular neighborhood, think about what areas are best suited for your commuting needs, school requirements, proximity to family and friends, and overall lifestyle.

“What do you do at night? What do you do on the weekend? Your habits can help you determine where you should live,” says Sanderfoot.

Need help digging up information? At realtor.com/local, you can enter a town, neighborhood, or ZIP code to find out more about the area, like the median home price and quality of public schools.

Step 5: Don’t damage your credit

When you’re in the process of buying a home, you need to walk the straight and narrow with your finances. Why? Because your loan doesn’t get fully approved until it goes through underwriting—which could take place just a few days before closing. To keep your credit score stable, you’ll want to avoid taking on new debt (e.g., getting an auto loan), opening new credit cards, neglecting student loan payments, or falling behind on credit card payments.

If you are ready to start the home buying process today, give Kristen or Justin Andersen a call today at 720-314-6863 or 720-314-6861