Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do’s and Dont’s

May 18, 2018

Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do's and Dont'sNearly 70 million American households include at least one pet, but most prospective buyers won’t want to see evidence of pets in a home on the market.

Here are some tips about how to sell a pet-friendly home.

Prior To Listing

Point out special pet features to your real estate agent — a cat door, feeding station or a pet shower, even a fenced back yard or a dog run can be a bonus to many buyers. It’s important to remember that buyers want to imagine their pets in the home, not yours! Minimize your pet’s presence by decluttering pet supplies as well as your personal items.

While it is best to downplay non-human residents in a home for sale, some pets are more difficult to camoflage or move out of the way. If you have a bird, an aquarium, or large exotic pets, use your best judgment while keeping the “less is more” philosophy in mind.

If there is any pet damage, it should be repaired before you show the home. If necessary, repaint walls, refinish floors, or replace carpeting. Ask a friend or relative (one without a pet) to give your house a sniff test. If there are any odors, do whatever is necessary to eliminate them. It is not likely enough to try to mask the odors with air freshners in order to make the best impression on potential buyers.

Dealing With Showings

Always arrange for animals to be out of the house when a showing is scheduled. If you can’t be there to pick up a pet, trust a neighbor to take the dog for a walk or herd the cat into a carrier and keep it for a few hours. A barking dog in the back yard is annoying, and even the cutest puppy can intimidate a buyer. Cats, too, are notoriously independent, and not all humans are cat-lovers.

Buyers expect even a house with pets to be kept scrupulously clean. Sweep and vacuum up pet hair as often as necessary. Pick up feeding bowls and toys, and remove cat litter boxes prior to a showing. Polish nose prints off glass and put away the scratching pole. Think of pets and pet items the same as you would personal photographs and other memorbillia that clutters your home. Removing those items helps the buyer see themselves in your home and can increase the likelihood of a sale.

It’s also wise to double check with your insurance company to determine your liability in the event that your pet bites or otherwise injures anyone at your property. 

Before And During Moving

Remember that moving is stressful, not only for you, but for your best friend as well. Speak to your veterinarian in advance about possible symptoms of anxiety such as increased accidents, changes in appetite, aggressive behavior or other personality changes that may occur. If you notice any significant signs of anxiety, seek treatment.

If at all possible, take your pet to see your new home prior to your move. If not, continue to look for signs that your pet is feeling disoriented or anxious. Finding a reliable and trustworthy veternarian near your new home beforehand is a good idea in case your pet is struggling. Take extra care that your pet doesn’t try to “escape” back to the familiar and get lost. 

Selling your home and moving into a new home can be exciting, complicated and stressful events. The same can be true for your pets. With a little bit of extra planning, things can go a lot smoother for your entire family. Contact your real estate professional for even more tips for a successful home selling, home buying and relocating experience.

 

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Important Reasons A Renter Should Not Pay Your Mortgage Payment

May 18, 2018

Don't Let a Renter Assume Your Mortgage Payment as a LandlordWhen it comes to a property that’s been financed with a mortgage, homeowners can experience the need or desire to live elsewhere from time to time. Renting may be considered as a way to recover some of their costs when they are not using their home.

In some cases, homeowners – when acting as landlords – may also consider that it’s more efficient to have the tenant pay their monthly mortgage payment directly to a lender. After all, the money is just being received and turned over in another check to the lender anyway. It may seem like a logical idea to skip the two-step hassle but, in reality, it’s not a great idea.

Equity Matters

First off, one has to understand and remember what a mortgage payment actually does; it pays down financing debt which in turn creates equity in the home. Typically, that means that the owner’s payment shifts more of the clear title to his name and lessens the lender’s collateral lien.

However, if a third party gets involved, the legal title to the home can get complicated. From some legal arguments, it could be interpreted that the owner is letting a third party buy into the equity in the home. That may not necessarily be the case, but when money gets exchanged, it can be a very powerful element in the legal world.

Lenders Are Not Fond of Assumptions

To prevent potential title problems, most mortgage lenders refuse to let a borrower allow a third party to assume their mortgage loan. Instead, the original mortgage needs to be paid off to release the collateral lien on the given home to the homeowner responsible for the purchase.

However, not every home loan provider includes the right language in their loan contracts. Some even make it possible for a third party assumption to occur. If that happens, regardless of what the original homeowner wants, the third party could then make an argument that they now have equity title of the home and the basis for lien if taken to court. While this could be thought of as an extreme situation, weirder things have happened in a court room. 

Keep It Separate

To avoid any kind of title confusion from occurring, it’s best to simply not let the tenants have anything to do with the mortgage on the home or the lender. Period. Collect their rent and then issue an entirely separate check payment to the mortgage lender. This keeps the equity title clean and the tenants remain just that, temporary occupants of the property and nothing more.

As you can see, precautions are often taken to protect the homeowner and the lender but that is not always the case. The best thing you can do is talk to your trusted real estate professional about this issue and others to ensure the long term protection of your valuable asset. 

Selling Your Home FHA? Learn These Tips To Ensure A Smooth Closing

May 17, 2018

What Are The Requirements To Sell A Home Using FHABefore an owner can market a property to buyers that want to use a FHA loan, he will want to familiarize himself with the FHA’s standards. FHA won’t insure loans on just any property.

While their standards aren’t as stringent as they used to be, a home needs to be in relatively good condition to qualify for FHA financing.

Location and Lot

To qualify for FHA financing, the property has to be located on a road or easement that lets the owner freely enter and exit. The access also has to be paved with a surface that will work all year — a long dirt driveway that washes out in spring won’t qualify.

The FHA also wants the lot to be safe and free of pollution, radiation and other hazards. For that matter, it also needs to provide adequate drainage to keep water away from the house.

Property Exterior

The FHA’s requirements for making a loan start with the home’s roof. To pass muster, the house must have a watertight roof with some future life left. In addition, if the roof has three or more layers of old shingles, they must all be torn off as part of the replacement process.

The property’s exterior has to be free of chipped or damaged paint if the home has any risk of having lead paint. Its foundation should also be free of signs of exterior (and interior) damage. It also needs full exterior walls.

Property Interior

The property’s interior also needs to be inspected. FHA standards require that the home’s major systems be in good working order. Bedrooms should have egress routes for fire safety and the attic and basement should be free of signs of water or mold damage.

The bottom line is that the FHA wants to make loans on homes that borrowers can occupy. This doesn’t mean that a home has to be in perfect condition to be sold to an FHA mortgage-using borrower. 

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to discuss these issues as well as any other questions regarding the sale of your home.

 

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

May 16, 2018

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

The digital age has changed the way buyers browse for and purchase goods and services, including real estate. While home buyers still can check out property listings via a print newspaper or by driving through desired neighborhoods in hopes of finding a “for sale” sign, digital sources offer more options and can make the home buying process easier. 

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) states in their 2017 Report: Real Estate in a Digital Age, that 44-percent of home buyers look online when beginning their search.

Social Media As Sources For Home Buyers

According to the Pew Research Center, 68-percent or two-thirds of U.S. adults use Facebook. In addition to that popular social media site, American adults regularly use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube on a daily basis for entertainment, social engagement, shopping, and news. These sites also can be excellent sources for home buyers.

Home buyers now have instant, easy access to a wide variety of property listings beyond those featured on an individual real estate agency’s website. Many real estate agents post listings on social media with interior/exterior photos and some with virtual tours. Sites like YouTube offer valuable resources particular for first-time home buyers, from tips to how-to’s. 

Real Estate Apps

More than 90-percent of all real estate firms have a website. Visiting these sites are a great starting point and ideal way to connect with an agent that knows the local market. However, home buyers may also consider real estate apps to enhance the process. Even if not tech savvy, these apps are easy to use. 

The most used real estate apps are available for both Android and iOS. Digital Trends offers a breakdown of several of the most popular. Ask a real estate agent if they have one that’s specific to their firm.

These apps can help:

  • Customize a search by location, property type, features, and price
  • Reveal the worth or rental value of a property
  • Show floor plans and exterior/interior photos
  • Provide details about neighborhoods
  • Offer lending institution information
  • Directly connect buyers with a real estate agent

Stay Connected With A Real Estate Professional

Cell phones appear to be everywhere today and research shows that 77-percent of Americans own a smartphone. With that smartphone it’s easier than ever to stay connected with a real estate agent and mortgage professional when buying a home.

An agent can text or email potential listings to the phone, schedule open house meetings, and send updates regarding the offer just made on the perfect home.  A mortgage lender can take a loan application and deliver status updates directly through a secure smartphone app.

Home buyers that can embrace the digital age have the opportunity to take advantage of the multiple platforms and tools available for making a real estate purchase. 

 

5 Important Questions to Ask When Buying New Construction

May 15, 2018

Questions to Ask When Buying New ConstructionBuying a new home is exciting. Buying a brand new home can be even more so with the realization of being the first owner and possibly being able to choose your own layout and finishes. The prospect of owning new construction is definitely exciting, but it doesn’t come without its own set of questions.

If you’re in the market for a new home, and considering new construction, make note of the questions below when you begin your property search.

What Are The Long Term Plans For The Community?

Unless you’re looking at custom homes on acreage, it’s likely new construction in your area will be located in a new development or in a master planned community. With this in mind, feel free to ask about the plans for the community.

If it’s a large area, find out if any subdivisions are planned. If there are only a few houses built so far, it’s likely to mean lots of construction in the months to come – which means a lot of noise and construction traffic.

Also ask about the builder – if they’re well known and respected, it’s unlikely they’ll lose funding and the community will likely continue on as planned.

What Are The Homeowners Association’s Rules And Regulations?

Many new developments and master planned communities come with a set of rules and regulations set by a homeowners association. If you’ve never lived in a community with an HOA, it’s important to find out the rules before investing in it.

The bylaws and the CC&Rs will let you know what is and isn’t allowed in the community (especially when it comes to the exterior of your home). You’ll also want to find out when the HOA fee begins – in some communities, it can start before the home is even finished.

Are There Any Buyer Or Financial Incentives?

If the community or development is still in the early stages, there might be incentives (like a buyer discount, builder upgrades or other financial incentives or freebies) for buyers.

Sometimes these offers come with a catch – where something is expected from the buyer in return for the incentive – but it’s important to ask about any offers that may be available, especially if the community is still up and coming.

Are Warranties Provided?

New homes often come with different warranties. Ask if a workmanship and structural warranty come with the home.

A workmanship warranty (or builder’s warranty) is a warranty for newly constructed homes that offer limited coverage on workmanship and components of the home like windows, siding, roofs, doors, plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Traditionally, a workmanship warranty will cover a one or two year period; another likely warranty is a structural warranty, which covers the structure of a home.

If a warranty is provided, make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered and how much you’re responsible for in case of any issues.

Can you connect me with some current homeowners?

Just as you would check reviews before buying an item online or booking a service, the same can be said for a home builder. Just because the product is a shiny new home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and check references before making a large investment.

While it’s likely that the builder will provide glowing reviews, checking reference and review websites and even knocking on the doors of current homeowners will provide additional information and give you a wider understanding of the builder and its practices. Talking to current homeowners will provide information about the actual community.

New construction is exciting, but you want to make sure you have all pertinent information before you go through with a home purchase. Your real estate professional will be able to help navigate the waters of new construction. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 14th, 2018

May 14, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 14th, 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings on consumer prices, consumer sentiment and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Consumer Price Index Increases in April

Consumer prices rose by 0.20 percent in April according to the Commerce Department. Analysts expected prices to rise by 0.30 percent based on a negative reading of -0.10 percent in March. Core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy sectors, eased to 0.10 percent growth in April after growing by 0.20 percent in March. Analysts said that Fed policymakers’ concerns over inflation growth could wane with the easing of core consumer prices.

Mortgage Rates, Mixed New Jobless Claims Unchanged

Freddie Mac reported mixed readings for average mortgage rates; rates for fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.55 percent and were unchanged from the prior week. Average rates for a fifteen-year fixed rate mortgage dipped by two basis points. Rates for a5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.77 percent and were higher by eight basis points.

New jobless claims were unchanged 211,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected 215,000 new claims. In other news, the University of Michigan reported that consumer sentiment was also unchanged with an index reading of 98.80 in May.

Whats Next

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings From the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

New Home Buyer? Don’t Make These 3 Common Mistakes!

May 11, 2018

New Home Buyer? Don't Make These 3 Common Mistakes!Looking for your new home can feel like a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time going through the home buying process.  Sometimes, all of the choices may feel overwhelming. You want to make the best decision for yourself and your family. 

Here’s a quick list of three common pitfalls that some home buyers experience:

Choosing to Skip the Inspection

A home inspection is a necessity. This is your opportunity for a professional to uncover any potential problems in a property that you cannot see. Or even something that you might not have known to check. Your new home is likely the largest financial investment in your life, so think about your home inspection as a type of safety net to prevent you from getting repair surprises right after you move into your dream home.

Not Planning Ahead For Life Changes

Life happens in ways that cannot always be planned ahead. Sometimes home buyers get excited about looking for a perfect home that will fit their immediate needs. Alternatively, if you take the approach of looking ahead and seeing how your new home might also meet future potential changes, you can save the time, trouble and expense of moving again. 

For instance, if you are a young couple buying your first home, you might not think you want more space than you can use right away.  In the event that you are thinking about starting a family in the next few years, it can be a cost effective decision to purchase a home with extra space to accomodate your future growing family now.

Trying To Avoid Using A Real Estate Professional

A common misconception among home buyers is the idea that they can save money on the purchase of a home if they can skip utilizing a buyer’s agent in the purchase of their property.  While that may seem like it makes sense, the reality is that the buyer’s representative in a real estate transaction is paid by the person selling the home. 

Not only that, but if you were trying to negotiate a transaction directly with a seller, you might overlook very important opportunities to create a stronger offer. Your seasoned real estate agent can point that out and help you maximize your purchase power.

A buyer’s agent also has access to real-time market information through their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which can uncover homes that may fit your needs better than anything you can find on your own. Even with all of the property search services that have been developed over the last few years, the active, professional real estate agent still has their thumb on the pulse of your local market.

Buying a home is a big decision and finding your dream home might take some time. Don’t forget that one of the first and best things a buyer can do is find out how much house they can afford. Contact your trusted mortgage professional to get your pre-approval underway so you are ready to put in an offer when you find just the right property for you.

 

How To Turn A Profit Flipping Land Into Residential Property

May 10, 2018

How To Turn A Profit Flipping Land Into Residential PropertyReality TV shows have inspired people to flip houses for profit. They make it look fun, easy and the type of business anyone with some capital can get into.

Every once in a while, house-flipping episodes show an underperforming sale and a financial loss. That is why people in the flipping business need a cushion in case things don’t pan out.

This brings us to a slightly different approach. Some speculators start out flipping land. Yes, that’s right. Land.

Flipping Land Can Be Less Risky Than Homes

Rough land can be far less expensive to invest in than blighted homes. There are also fewer unknowns in terms of flipping. Investors won’t need to worry about replacing an electric box, mold behind walls or failing a building inspection. Land flippers can also start with a modest out-of-pocket investment and work their way up to short-term lending to finance endeavors.

The Basic Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a parcel. Property that abuts a street with sewer and water are preferable to scrub land in areas without services. It is not uncommon to run into difficulty drilling an artesian well or getting a permit for a septic system. Developers know this and will jump at street-ready parcels first.

Make certain the parcel qualifies as a buildable lot with the town or city. Then, hire an excavation team or clear the brush and trees yourself. The goal will be to create an open area where a home can be built while leaving suitable greenery.

The next step is to call a real estate agent and list the property. Quick land turnovers can earn several thousand dollars in profit with minimal effort. Remember to factor in hidden costs such as taxes, interest, and recording fees, among others.   

Upping The Ante To Spec Homes

After gaining experience in the land flipping business, take that knowledge and apply it to homes. Rather than scoop up a dilapidated structure, employ that land development acumen and take the next step.

Select a parcel that is in a prime residential location. What a surprise it would be to find a wooded lot at the end of a desirable neighborhood that can be developed.

Create A Budget and Obtain Financing

Work closely with a real estate agent to understand the types of homes that are trending and the average sale prices. With that information in hand, come to an agreement with a general contractor who can oversee the spec house project.

Decide on a design and calculate the total costs. Don’t forget to add 15 percent for overruns. Contact your loan originator to help you secure a building loan and put the team to work.

Get The Listing On The Market

Spec home projects can be listed with real estate agents even before the first nail is driven into a 2X4. A savvy real estate agent can get a property up online with design information, an artful rendition of the finished home and key selling points. In a perfect world, a new home buyer may be found before construction begins.

It’s important to realize that it doesn’t require significant wealth to get into the home buying and selling industry. By starting with modest, low-risk land deals and working up to spec homes, a solid living can be earned in the real estate industry. If this idea intrigues you, contact your trusted mortgage professional to discuss financing options and start planning your new real estate endeavor today.

Ensuring A Stress-Less Closing

May 9, 2018

Ensuring A Stress-Less ClosingBuying a home is an exciting and exhilarating time. Between the time your offer is accepted, and when you finally have keys in hand and you are ready to step into your new home, it can be stressful. The escrow period, also known as the closing, can take the most easygoing home buyer to the brink of insanity.

After you have negotiated your best price and come to an agreement, there are ways to make the escrow process less anxiety-provoking. Here are some tips from top real estate agents to help you get through the escrow process without losing your cool. 

Utilize Your Professionals

Trust your real estate agent to walk you through the entire process is key to a smoothly closing escrow. Rely them to do their job, but don’t be afraid to express any anxieties, and lean on them during negotiations and inspections. They are the experts, so ask questions and ask for advice, but try not to second guess their guidance or recommendations. 

Your additional trusted partner is your mortgage professional. They know how important the financing piece is to this equation and they will be sure to know your timeline and be available to answer questions and assist you throughout this process. 

Stay Organized

Chaos rarely inspires confidence. Stay on top of all paperwork and make sure you sign and return everything to your lender promptly to eliminate delays. The lender and escrow company want the sale to close in a timely fashion, too, so don’t slow them down by being disorganized or failing to return important documentation such as income tax information or bank statements.

Maintain A Healthy Perspective

No home is perfect, so be prepared for inspections that bring some daunting news. Ask to be present when the inspections are performed. The more information you have about your prospective home, the better you will be prepared to negotiate for repairs before they surprise you in the future. 

Ask for credits and repairs as needed, but try to remain objective. Some seemingly minor fixer projects can lead to a much longer time table. You may decide that, when considering the bigger picture and a timely transaction, a couple thousand dollars might not actually be a worth negotiating. 

Be Flexible

Retain as much flexibility as possible during the closing process and focus on the big picture, rather than all of the details. When opening escrow, ask your agent to give you an overview of the expected timeline from beginning to end. Knowing what to expect, and when as well as being aware of projected milestones goes a long way in reducing anxiety. You can, and should, ask to be notified when important milestones are reached.

While you might have it penciled in on your calendar, it’s common for closing dates to change. Instead of thinking of your closing date as set in stone, think of it as a flexible target. Do not book movers until the last minute, so you won’t be stressed if your belongings are all packed in a truck and the escrow date is set forward a day or two.

Don’t forget to breathe!

This is an important time to take care of yourself. Take a run, meditate, or do yoga. Read a book or enjoy a hobby. Moving can be a physically taxing event, so take the time now to relax before the big move.

Before you know it, you will be moving into your new home. Being informed, staying organized and taking care of yourself are key elements. Most important, though, is to rely on your trained professionals to guide you through this process and help to ensure a stress-less closing.

Don’t Let a Renter Assume Your Mortgage Payment as a Landlord

May 8, 2018

Don't Let a Renter Assume Your Mortgage Payment as a LandlordWhen it comes to a property that’s been financed with a mortgage, homeowners can experience the need or desire to live elsewhere from time to time. Renting may be considered as a way to recover some of their costs when they are not using their home.

In some cases, homeowners – when acting as landlords – may also consider that it’s more efficient to have the tenant pay their monthly mortgage payment directly to a lender. After all, the money is just being received and turned over in another check to the lender anyway. It may seem like a logical idea to skip the two-step hassle but, in reality, it’s not a great idea.

Equity Matters

First off, one has to understand and remember what a mortgage payment actually does; it pays down financing debt which in turn creates equity in the home. Typically, that means that the owner’s payment shifts more of the clear title to his name and lessens the lender’s collateral lien.

However, if a third party gets involved, the legal title to the home can get complicated. From some legal arguments, it could be interpreted that the owner is letting a third party buy into the equity in the home. That may not necessarily be the case, but when money gets exchanged, it can be a very powerful element in the legal world.

Lenders Are Not Fond of Assumptions

To prevent potential title problems, most mortgage lenders refuse to let a borrower allow a third party to assume their mortgage loan. Instead, the original mortgage needs to be paid off to release the collateral lien on the given home to the homeowner responsible for the purchase.

However, not every home loan provider includes the right language in their loan contracts. Some even make it possible for a third party assumption to occur. If that happens, regardless of what the original homeowner wants, the third party could then make an argument that they now have equity title of the home and the basis for lien if taken to court. While this could be thought of as an extreme situation, weirder things have happened in a court room. 

Keep It Separate

To avoid any kind of title confusion from occurring, it’s best to simply not let the tenants have anything to do with the mortgage on the home or the lender. Period. Collect their rent and then issue an entirely separate check payment to the mortgage lender. This keeps the equity title clean and the tenants remain just that, temporary occupants of the property and nothing more.

As you can see, precautions are often taken to protect the homeowner and the lender but that is not always the case. The best thing you can do is talk to your trusted mortgage professional about this issue and others to ensure the long term protection of your valuable asset.