Archive for May, 2019

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Grass!

May 31, 2019

I Can't Believe It's Not Grass!For those who have not taken a look at the innovative technology that is now used to make artificial grass, they will be surprised at how realistic some of the newest products look when compared to living grass. Installing artificial grass, which is high quality, does not come cheap.

Prices range from $8 to $14 per square foot. However, this investment may pay off well because of improved resale value, low monthly water bills, and other benefits. The best artificial grass can last up to 25 years with little to no maintenance.

Here is a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of the most innovative artificial turf to help homeowners and business owners decide if these new products are suitable for their properties.

Disadvantages

Besides the investment cost, here are some other disadvantages.

Hot To The Touch

Some artificial grass products do no dissipate heat very well. In areas where there is a lot of direct sunlight this problem can make artificial grass too hot to walk on barefoot.

Nevertheless, there are advanced designs of artificial turf, which have perforations that allow water to easily run through. These can be quickly cooled down by simply spraying the artificial turf with a light water mist spray.

Homeowners Association Rules

The rules of the homeowners association (HOA) may prohibit the use of artificial turf. Check the HOA rules before installing artificial grass. There may be a need for an exception to the rules.

High-quality artificial grass looks as nice, if not better, than real grass. Low-quality artificial turf looks like cheap, green, furry plastic. Make sure the HOA sees a sample of the artificial grass product for the project for their more accurate understanding and consideration.

Advantages

There are many advantages of using high-quality artificial grass.

No Water And Low Maintenance

In drought-stricken areas, water for irrigation may not be available at all, has use restrictions, and/or is extremely costly. Artificial grass does not need a huge amount of water that real grass needs to survive. It is very low maintenance.

No mowing or lawn care is needed to keep it looking perfect. It is washable, which makes it easy to remove dirt, dust, and pet litter. It is durable and tough.

Curb Appeal

High-quality artificial grass makes a home stand out. When all the neighbor’s homes are dull with dead, brown, real grass or another bland-colored ground cover, a vibrant green artificial lawn really looks spectacular in comparison.

Pet-Friendly

Pets like quality artificial turf. It is easy to clean. It should be able to withstand plenty of pet activity without showing ugly wear and tear. Depending on the installation, pets are discouraged from digging up the lawn.

If a portion does get damaged, it is fairly easy to replace a damaged section.

Conclusion

Artificial grass is increasing in popularity. In most cases, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Even for properties, which have the option of maintaining a real-grass yard, artificial grass is something worth considering.

If you are interested in purchasing a new home or refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss financing options.

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Buying A Second Home And How To Pay For It

May 30, 2019

Buying A Second Home And How To Pay For ItHow does an average homeowner become a real estate investor? Certainly, owning a home is an investment in real estate. However, this guide discusses the next step for many to become a real estate investor. This is to buy another property and use it for a commercial purpose. Owning another home is less of a burden when an investor finds a way to make the home pay for itself.

Here are some tips on how to help a property generate cash flow:

Renting Out A Home

Renting the home to others may be an effective way to pay for it. To do this well, a real estate investor looks for a home with special characteristics. The home is for sale at a low enough price and can be financed well enough so that the cash flow coming in for the rent will be equal or more to the expenses of owning and managing the property. It is terrific if the property makes a positive cash flow each month, even if only a small amount.

If a property has a $50 per month positive cash flow, then that small amount builds up over time. Adding more properties with positive cash flow increases the investment portfolio value quicker.

Home Office

Using all or part of a home as an office creates special tax deductions for the expenses that cover the portion of the property used for business. Even if a homeowner does not have enough money to buy another home, starting a small business by using a home office may help create the money for the investment needed as a down payment on the second home.

Renting A Home Out As A Vacation Rental

Many like to rent homes in nice areas for vacation purposes. The home can rent out as a full home or as individual rooms in the home. Airbnb is a useful web-based service that can bring rental customers for those interested in doing this.

Bed & Breakfast

Another way to make money by owning a property is to turn it into a commercial enterprise as a bed & breakfast. Depending on the location, and the number of tourists attracted to a particular area, a bed & breakfast business can be profitable.

Tax Implications

Even if owning a second home does not make positive cash flow, it can still be financially beneficial when it reduces the tax burden. Work with an accountant and/or investigate the tax implications of owning the property. It may be possible to take deductions such as for property expenses and non-cash deductions such as depreciation, which when combined with other income, reduces the overall tax liability.

If owning a second home reduces the taxes to be paid, this is a financial benefit that offsets any negative cash flow. Tax savings is money in the pocket, so this counts as part of the positive cash flow that comes from owning a property.

Summary

These are just a few ideas to consider that may help pay for a second home and make it easier to become a real estate investor.

When you are considering the purchase of a new property, be sure to partner with a trusted mortgage professional.

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in March

May 29, 2019

Case-Shiller Home Price Growth Slows in MarchCase-Shiller Indices reported slower home price growth in March with a 3.70 percent gain year-over-year as compared to 3.90 percent home price growth for the year-over-year period in 2018. This was the slowest pace of home price growth in seven years.

The 20-City Home Price Index showed Las Vegas, Nevada as having the top year-over-year home price growth rate of 8.20 percent; Phoenix, Arizona had year-over-year home price growth of 6.10 percent. Tampa, Florida had the third highest growth rate for home prices at 5.30 percent. Analysts said that all three cities continue their recoveries from deep home price declines during the recession.

Did Home Prices Grow Too Fast?

David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, said that given strong economic signs in other sectors, housing should be doing better. He said that too-high home price gains may have caused slowing growth in home prices as fewer prospective buyers can afford skyrocketing home prices in many metro areas.

The 20-City Home Price Index showed New York City was the only metro area posting a negative growth rate in March; this was attributed to the region’s already high home prices. Fluctuating mortgage rates likely sidelined some prospective home buyers, especially first-time and moderate income buyers.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that home affordability reached a ten-year low in the end of 2018. Coupled with short supplies of affordable homes and builders focusing on high end housing development, shortages of affordable homes are expected to continue, particularly in high demand metro areas.

Slower home price growth indicates that the rapid rise in home prices in recent years aren’t sustainable as fewer prospective buyers can afford to buy homes or cannot qualify for purchase money mortgages. When home prices rise faster than inflation and wages, home buyers encounter more challenges in their searches for affordable homes.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 28th, 2019

May 28, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 28th, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on sales of new and pre-owned homes; weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Sales of New and Pre-Owned Homes Lower in April

Sales of brand-new homes fell nearly seven percent in April according to Commerce Department reports. Analysts noted that March sales of new homes were revised upward, which contributed to the difference between March and April readings. 673,000 new homes were sold in April on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 670,000 sale of new homes; this reading was based on the initial March reading which was later revised upward to 723,000 sales.

Factors impacting new home sales include affordability, strict mortgage qualification requirements and new homes being built for higher-end markets. The average sale price for new homes was eight percent higher year-over-year at $342,20.

Year-to-date sales of new homes were 6.70 percent higher in April than for the same period in 2018. Inventories of homes for sale was reported at 5.9 months. Real estate pros typically consider a six-month supply of available homes as an indicator of average market conditions.

Sales of previously-owned homes were lower in April. 5.19 million existing homes were sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis; this reading fell short of expectations of 5.35 million sales and the sales rate of 5.21 million sales of pre-owned homes reported in March. Sales were lower for pre-owned homes for the second consecutive month in April.

Sales of pre-owned homes were 0.40 percent lower month-to-month and were 4.40 percent lower year-over-year. First-time and moderate income home buyers are attracted to lower asking prices for previously-owned homes; declining sales suggest that prices of pre-owned homes have risen beyond affordability for buyers with moderate incomes and less-than perfect credit ratings.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates for fixed-rate mortgages last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 4.06 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged two basis points lower at 3.51 percent. 

Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were two basis points higher and averaged 3.68 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Initial jobless claims fell to 211,000 new claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 0f 212,000 claims filed. Analysts expected a higher reading of 217,000 new jobless claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reporting includes readings from Case-Shiller on home prices; pending home sales will also be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Bold Wallpaper Makes A Statement In 2019

May 24, 2019

Bold Wallpaper Makes A Statement In 2019From a sophisticated couch to a stunning art print, there are plenty of ways that you can dress up your living room and instantly change its vibe. You may not realize it, but wallpaper is back in fashion and becoming another popular way to instantly revamp a room.

If you’re contemplating ways that wallpaper can benefit your space, here are some options you may want to try out.

Add An Accent

A brightly colored accent wall may still be a popular trend, but a way to bring your wall into current fashion can be to add wallpaper. In addition to a fun print, wallpaper can instantly add elegance without overpowering the look of your living room.

Cover The Closet Doors

If you’ve come across a wallpaper pattern you like, try applying it to the front of the closet doors. It will be an easy way to dress up your doors without adding a coat of paint and will add a subtle effect that will go with your room’s decor.

Add In Some Personality

With wallpaper making a comeback, there are so many options that allow you to personalize your wallpaper and make the room your own. Posters of your favorite rock band may be a thing of the past, but unique wallpaper can be a great way to inject your own passions into your favorite room.

Make It Your Wall Art

Many homeowners struggle with how to dress up their walls appropriately, but choosing wallpaper can be a great means of avoiding this dilemma. Instead of an art piece, you can choose strips of wallpaper to provide visual interest or paper a whole wall that will act as the focal point of your room.

Upgrade Your Coffee Table

It’s often the case that people buy oversized books to decorate their coffee table, but you may want to utilize wallpaper if you have a glass surface on your table. Instead of leaving your table neutral, add a patch of wallpaper under the glass for an instant designer look.

With wallpaper making a comeback, there are plenty of ways to dress up your room for little cost that will make a huge difference in the look of your space.

If you are interested in buying a new home or refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss current financing options.

9 Strategies to Handle Home Maintenance Costs

May 23, 2019

9 Strategies to Handle Home Maintenance CostsMaintenance is an important part of home ownership. Improper care compromises the safety of your property and can result in big repair bills. Include these strategies in your maintenance plan to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Educate Yourself

It’s usually cheaper to do most home maintenance jobs yourself. Teach yourself some basic skills to save yourself from professional fees.

  • Take some classes. Community colleges and hardware stores often host community courses that help you plan projects, get familiar with new tools, or gain more value from property assessments.
  • Invest in beginner books on carpentry, electrical work, and plumbing. These will be invaluable references throughout your home ownership journey. Online versions allow searchable access to necessary information.
  • Experience is the best teacher. Start with small, decorative projects to hone your hand skills. As confidence increases, you can try more difficult builds and repairs.

The right combination of knowledge and skills means you realize minimal maintenance costs.

Make Maintenance A Routine

Preventive maintenance catches small problems before they become big, expensive ones. Schedule essential tasks to ensure all the important parts of your property are monitored consistently.

  • Perform a perimeter check when the seasons change. Walk around the outside of your home. Examine the grounds and exterior for signs of wear-and-tear or degradation. Take pictures and make a plan to address the damage.
  • Have your HVAC system professionally serviced once a year. For those with allergies or other adverse respiratory conditions, have your ducts, vents, and filters cleaned every six months.
  • Practice good property hygiene. Keep your landscaping, exterior, and storage spaces clean and uncluttered. If a problem does occur, an unkempt environment can complicate repair efforts.

Incorporate maintenance into your regular routine to circumvent emergencies.

Prepare Financially

Make sure you’ll always have enough money to fix your home with these tips.

  • Decrease the deductible on your home insurance policy. You pay slightly higher premiums. However, the extra funds could come in handy if a big claim occurs.
  • Start a home repair fund. Aim for an amount equal to 10% of the value of your property.
  • Establish a relationship with a local contractor. Your friendly relationship and loyal patronage could earn you some valuable discounts in times of need.

The cost of maintaining your home doesn’t have to be a mystery. With these tips, you can keep a safe and healthy home without draining your bank account.

If your home maintenance or improvements require a bigger budget, it may be time to inquire with your mortgage professional about financing options, like a refinance or a home equity line of credit.

Loan Servicing Companies

May 22, 2019

Loan Servicing CompaniesWhat happens when you suddenly get a notice to pay your mortgage to a company you may have never heard of? How do you determine if this is a legitimate request or a scam?

A borrower may get a written notice or an email that their mortgage sold to another entity or that a new loan servicing company will now be collecting the mortgage payments. The borrower needs to exercise extreme caution before just sending in a payment to the new company. It is prudent to double check to see if the communication is legitimate because many people get scammed by this type of notice.

Borrowers must receive a letter in the mail from the original lender notifying them of the change before getting any communication from a new company. If there was not a letter from the original lender, it is probably a scam.

How To Verify A Legitimate Request With The Original Lender

It is important to be 100% certain that communications are with the lender. DO NOT respond to any notice received by email by clicking on any link in the email, even if the email looks legitimate.

Fraudsters on the Internet use a technique called “phishing” to trick people into thinking they are getting a request from a legitimate company when the email comes from a criminal. These emails are very convincing. They look exactly like the real company; however, they are fake.

Borrowers who want to communicate with their lender online, should type in their lender’s website address and make contact through the company’s official website. 

Better yet, call the customer service number listed on the company’s official website and talk directly to a customer service person to verify that the request is legitimate. They will ask you for identification information and then be able to tell you your loan status.

What Is Loan Servicing? Can A Lender Sell My Loan?

Companies may choose to have the collection of the loan payment done by a third-party vendor. Usually, in any loan, there is a provision that allows the lender to sell it to another party or to change loan servicing companies. These legal rights are normally in the part of the loan document called the “Mortgage Servicing Disclosure.”

This legal right is usually held only by the lender and the borrower has no option but to comply with a legitimate request. Since almost all lenders sell off their loans to other companies or investors, so that they can get more money to loan out, the chance of a new mortgage loan selling is extremely high.

Troubles With Loan Servicing

Many make a smooth transition from one loan servicing provider to a new one by simply following the instructions. Others have troubles. Besides actual fraud by fake companies, there may be problems with real companies if the information in the records is not accurate. The date of a loan transfer may cause an overpayment or a late payment.

Any time there is confusion with regard to a mortgage loan servicing transfer, it is best to be proactive and stay in touch with the original lender for guidance in connecting with the new loan servicer.

Conclusion

Lenders sell their loans all the time. Loan servicing companies change frequently as well. These can be a simple legitimate transfer of the business process from one company to another. However, this is an area that is ripe for scammers to trick people and for bad companies to take advantage of their customers through loan servicing fraud techniques. Be aware of this problem and take care to avoid any negative consequences of loan servicing fraud.

If you have any questions or concerns about your home financing, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

5 Ways To Find Properties For Sale That Are Not Listed Yet

May 21, 2019

5 Ways To Find Properties For Sale That Are Not Listed YetReal estate agents, who are successful, know that getting listings is the life energy of their business. It is boring to sit around waiting for a new client to call. It is expensive to spend extraordinary amounts of money on general advertising to get listings. Clever real estate people learn how to find properties for sale before they are listed.

Value Of Unlisted Properties

Real estate agents and investors have a competitive advantage when they find properties for sale that are not listed. These off-market properties may be available at a better price. There may have little or no other competition from other potential buyers making an offer. Real estate agents can motivate buyers to move quickly to close a deal on an unlisted property before it goes on the market.

Finding Off-Market Properties

Here are five ways to find properties before they are listed:

1. Check Tax Records

Sometimes it is as simple as looking up the current owner in the tax records, making a contact, and giving an offer. That direct approach may work well as long as enough contacts are made to improve the odds of finding a motivated seller.

2. Maintain Contact With Past Buyers

Real estate agents should always stay in contact with past buyers of a property that they sold. On the anniversary of the sale date, send a nice postcard with a handwritten note that says something like “I remembered this was the date you bought your home (or building). If you ever want to sell it, give me a call.”

3. Networking

Another technique is in-person networking with people. Join professional associations, mingle with people, and learn what neighborhood they live in. Tell them someone is thinking of moving there and ask them if they might be considering selling their home or if they know someone who is.

4. Friendly Neighborhood Scouting

Become known in a neighborhood as a buyer. When an investor likes a neighborhood, a terrific strategy is to wander around, knock on doors, and hand out business cards.

People hate someone knocking on the door who is trying to sell them something. However, they usually have a very positive reaction when someone wants to buy the home. There is no need to be shy. Walk around a neighborhood, get to know it better, and the people who live there.

5. Title Companies And Real Estate Departments Of Banks

Make friends with the staff at title companies. Get to know the people working at banks in the real estate department that handles the short sales and foreclosures. These two groups are very strong sources for off-market deals.

The staff of title companies knows when a sale fails at the last moment due to loan funding issues. Bank staff knows when new foreclosures come in before they list for resale. By moving fast, an investor takes advantage of the short gaps between the time these properties are available for sale and when they get listed.

Summary

Learning how to find off-market properties creates many benefits. Investment opportunities expand for real estate investors and real estate agents create more listings for themselves with these proactive strategies. Think of this as a treasure hunt and it actually can be a lot of fun.

One of the best ways to be prepared to purchase a new property is to have your pre-approval in place. Be sure to meet with your trusted mortgage professional to discuss your financing options.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 20th, 2019

May 20, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 20th, 2019Last week’s economic reports included readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing market conditions, housing starts and building permits issued. Consumer sentiment was reported along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Rises in May, Housing Starts Increase in April

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index posted its highest reading in seven months in May as headwinds facing home construction waned. Lower mortgage rates were a positive sign. May’s reading rose three points to 66; component readings also rose.

The index of builder confidence in current housing market conditions rose three points to an index reading of 72; the reading for builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months rose one point to 72 and the confidence reading for buyer traffic in new housing developments rose two points to 49. The reading for buyer traffic seldom exceeds 50. A reading of 50 or above indicates positive builder sentiment.

Commerce Department reports for April showed higher readings for housing starts and building permits issued. 1.235 million housing starts were reported at a seasonally-adjusted annual pace. Analysts expected 1.209 million starts based on March reading of 1.16 million starts. Housing starts were six percent higher as compared to March, but remained lower year-over-year. Building permits reported in April rose from 1.288 million permits issued on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in March to 1.296 million permits in April. 

Mortgage Rates, Mixed New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower fixed mortgage rates were lower last week, but the average rate for 5/1 adjustable mortgages rose. Rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.07 percent and were three basis points lower. Rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.53 percent and were four basis points lower.

The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose three basis points to 3.66 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week with 212,000 claims filed as compared to expectations of 217,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 228,000 initial claims filed. Analysts said that the drop in first-time claims was a sign of economic strength and job markets.

Consumer sentiment hit a 15-year high according to the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment

Index. reported an index reading of 102.40 in May; analysts expected a reading of 97.10 based on April’s reading of 97.20. Low unemployment fueled consumer sentiment, but analysts emphasized that consumers were surveyed before higher tariffs on China were announced; the costs of tariffs will be passed on to consumers, which is expected to dampen consumer sentiment.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on sales of new and pre-owned homes and minutes of the Fed’s FOMC Committee meeting. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Inexpensive Curb Appeal Tips That Work

May 17, 2019

Inexpensive Curb Appeal Tips That WorkNo doubt you’ve been told that curb appeal will help sell your home. But if money is short you’ll need to do some curb appeal on a budget tricks.

Following are some inexpensive curb appeal tips that really work.

Fresh Coat Of Paint

A fresh coat of paint adds curb appeal without busting the budget. With a gallon of paint you can freshen up the window ledges, shutters, front door and the garage door. Add a fresh coat of paint to decks and railings, and street lampposts, as well. 

Solar Lighting

You can find inexpensive solar lighting stakes at discount stores around the country. Add these to the edges of the driveway, along the front pathway and around front hedges for nighttime curb appeal.

Metallic Paint

If you can’t afford brand new hardware for your front door, consider investing in a small tub of metallic paint. Refinish the doorknob, door knocker and the metal porch light fixtures. 

Annuals

Landscaping can be pricey, but with a couple dozen inexpensive blooming annuals you can transform your front walkway. Choose the most colorful annuals you can find at your local discount store. Plant right alongside the path leading to your front door. Fill in empty spaces in between plants with colored mulch. 

Wreath

Simply hanging an attractive wreath on your front door adds a tremendous amount of curb appeal that can be seen all the way from the road. To avoid marring the wood, use a wreath hanger that installs over the top rim of the door. 

New House Numbers

Pick up a set of brand new house numbers from your local hardware store. Hang them front and center next to your mailbox on your porch, on your mailbox post or over your garage door.

Refreshed Mailbox

Mailboxes get ignored so many times. It’s a shame because it’s easy to add curb appeal with an inexpensive magnetic mailbox cover. If you have a different kind of mailbox, consider just giving it a fresh coat of spray paint. 

Bird House

Another inexpensive way to add curb appeal is with a decorative bird house or similar lawn ornament next to your front porch. These are on long stakes that you simply push into the ground. Tick one into your hedges for a charming look.

You can complete these inexpensive curb appeal tips with a minimum of time and money. Yet, they’ll have a similar impact as if you spent hundreds of dollars. 

If you are interested in purchasing a new home or refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.