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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Before You Start Looking

Before you start looking for your new home, you need to take a few key steps with your finances to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. Once you take care of your finances THEN you can start looking at homes and contacting a real estate agent. If you put the cart before the horse, you will be disappointed at every turn and waste a lot of valuable time – for everyone.
  1. Get your financial situation in order.
    • Know your credit history and fix any issues that might keep you from getting a loan.
    • Calculate your debt and expenses to help determine your desired monthly mortgage payment.
  2. Once you have your finances in order and you have an idea of what you can afford, gather all the necessary financial documents and seek a reputable lender.
    • Find a reputable lender who listens to your needs. A good loan officer can make or break your experience.
  3. Now that you have your finances in good order and have found a lender, the next important step is to get a pre-approval letter from your lender to prove your buying potential.
Now you’re ready to actually start looking at properties. In addition to knowing just how much you can afford and the type of home you want, make sure you take into consideration  different neighborhoods, schools, and other important variables like commute times, parks and recreation opportunities, and shopping.

Source: First American Home Warranty Newsletter
By: Amy Thyre

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Title Insurance

If you’ve ever purchased a home, you’ve likely purchased title insurance. But do you know what title insurance is, or why you would need it?
When you buy a home, you are given “title”– the owner’s right to possess and use the property. Title Insurance protects you, the buyer, as well as the lender, against the possibility that the sellers (or previous sellers) do not have free and clear ownership of the property, and therefore the right to transfer the home.
Title problems can surface after you close on your home and can affect your homeownership rights. Here are just a few examples of the hidden title problems that can surface:
  • Errors or omissions in deeds
  • Undisclosed mortgages, liens, or lawsuits
  • Undisclosed easement and boundary issues
  • Forgery
  • Fraud
  • Undisclosed heirs

How Title Insurance Works

When you buy title insurance for your property, the title company conducts an in-depth review of public records to make sure there are no problems with the title. Title searches can uncover title issues like liens, judgments, information on prior loans, assessment taxes, and other issues. The title company will then work to fix any defects that are found before the transaction closes.
The title company will then issue an insurance policy that will help protect you from a variety of issues that might be uncovered later. Unlike homeowners insurance that is limited to future incidents, title insurance is limited to problems that already exist when the policy is issued. If you should happen to have problems related to the title of your home, your title insurance policy includes coverage for legal expenses that may be necessary to investigate, litigate, or settle a claim.

Two Types: Owner’s Policy and Loan Policy

There are two types of title insurance policies: a loan policy and an owner’s policy. If you take out a mortgage loan when you buy your property, your lender will require a loan policy of title insurance. This policy is typically based on the amount of your loan, and the policy amount decreases as you pay off the loan. It protects the lender’s interest in the property should there be a problem with the title. It does not protect the buyer.
An owner’s policy protects the buyer if there is a title issue. This policy is issued for the amount of the real estate purchase. Even though you will pay for this policy only once (at closing), your coverage will last as long as you own your home.
For many of us, a real estate purchase may be the largest financial investment we will ever make. Like many types of insurance, you may never need to use your owner’s policy, but the value of what you stand to lose is quite high. So, when you buy a title insurance owner’s policy, think of it as buying peace of mind.

Source: First American By on February 1, 2017                                      

Monday, January 9, 2017

Which Is Cheaper: To Buy or Build New?

On the surface, buying an existing home seems like the most affordable route to go. After all, the median cost of an existing single-family home is $223,000. On the other hand, the average cost for building new construction averages $289,415.Obviously, there is quite a bit of variations in sorting out those costs. Plus, the price you pay upfront is only part of the equation when deciding to buy an existing home or build a new one.

A recent article at® laid out some of the pros and cons financially of buying a new versus an existing home. Make some of these considerations when weighing the best financial decision:

Square footage: New-homes tend to be more spacious than existing ones at a median size of 2,467 square feet. As such, when you take the average cost of a new build, it breaks down nationally to about $103 per square foot, which is actually lower than the cost of existing homes.

Finishes: With an existing home you inherit all the features and finishes, even if you don’t want them. That may mean you need to budget in some renovations if you’d like to redo anything. With a new home, you’ll be able to choose all the features and finishes yourself and have it set in the price from the get-go.

Maintenance: Older homes tend to require more maintenance. The cost of upkeep can be pricey too, depending on what needs to be done. For example, the average furnace tends to last about 20 years. When it needs replacement, expect to pay about $4,000. Not to mention, that shingled roof will likely need replacement after about 25 years at a cost of at least $5,000. On the other hand, newer homes tend to need less maintenance because all of the major appliances are brand new and under warranty.

Energy efficiency: Older homes tend to have dated windows and appliances, which can result in less energy efficiency and pricier energy bills. New construction tends to nearly always trump older homes in energy efficiency. Homes built post-2000 consume 21 percent less energy for heating than older homes.

Landscaping: Older homes tend to have mature landscaping already in place. And that landscaping can up a person’s property value by thousands. Further, those trees can save an estimated 56 percent on your annual air conditioning bill, according to the U.S. Forest Service. With newer homes, you’ll have to likely pay thousands to install landscaping and may have to wait years to get it to the point you desire.

Appreciation: With an older home, you can see the trajectory of prices based on previous sales prices and of comps nearby. New homes can be a gamble since they do not come with a proven track record of plentiful comps that have been tested over time.
Source:® (Jan. 5, 2017)

Scott Snyder with Welles Bowen Realtors cautions; when you decide to sell your newly constructed home, hope that other vacant lots are not available as your house may serve as a model for buyers that may ultimately decide to buy a vacant lot and build a house to suit their needs.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Closing Delays Rise

Closing times are lengthening. The time-to-close averaged 40.5 days from November 2015 to November 2016 compared to 36.7 days the year before, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR called the longer times in closing “unexpected” in a recent blog post.

NAR began tracking closing delays following the implementation in 2015 of new mortgage disclosure rules, known as TRID or Know Before You Owe. The new mortgage rules changed the settlement process by adding new closing documents and timelines. Closing times have remained elevated since the implementation of the new rules.

NAR points out that many of the loans that settled in November were under contract during the busy months of September and October. The extra demand in fall contracts may have sparked some of the delays.

“These delays should ease in the coming months as refinance volume eases and as lenders continue to adapt to the new settlement process, but a longer average time-to-close may be part of the new normal,” notes Ken Fears, NAR’s director of regional economics and housing finance policy.

About 32 percent of real estate professionals reported a delay to settlement, according to November’s REALTORS® Confidence Index. Real estate pros said the top issues sparking a delay involved obtaining financing, the appraisal, and home inspection. Delays to closing due to financing accounted for nearly half of all delayed contract settlements. However, delays due to appraisals have been on the rise in recent months, partially due to a shortage of appraisers, the report notes
Source: National Association of REALTORS® Economists'

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Visit a Listing at These Times


The best times for clients to check out a property before buying:

8 a.m.: Drive the area in rush hour. How will it affect your commute, whether that’s a drive in to work or using public transportation? Start from the home and run the routes.

10 a.m.: What do you hear now? Construction, traffic noise, or barking dogs? Drive the street on a weekday and see how many people have cars in their driveways, are there other neighbors around, or does it look like a ghost town?”

3 p.m. School is out, so what does the neighborhood look like now, especially if the home is near a school. Are children cutting through your yard and into your future flowerbed? How is the traffic and would you feel OK letting your own children walk home from school?

5:30 p.m. How’s the commute home? If you are envisioning sitting outside relaxing with a glass of lemonade watching your kids ride bikes, you don’t want to find out too late that Waze is redirecting traffic through your quiet neighborhood.

9 p.m.: Wild parties in the evening hours? How safe does the neighborhood feel at night? Is it well-lit or dark? Park the car in front of the house and roll down the windows to check the noise and their comfort level.

 3 a.m. Check for planes, trains, and traffic noise. You don’t want to discover you can’t sleep because of the noise after you move in.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Paint Colors That Make a Room Look Bigger


Sneak Peek: The 'It' Paint Color for 2017
White: White reflects light, thereby making a space look brighter and feel more open. “White will make any room appear bigger and complement the natural lighting,” Than Merrill, a real estate investor and host of A&E’s “Flip This House” told®.
Yellow: A creamy and soft yellow can also reflect light, and can create a softer alternative to white (as long as it’s not too bold of a yellow). Add white accents, such as on the trim, to add further dimension to the room.
Gray: A calming, light shade can help expand a room and, unlike white, doesn’t cast off a glare.
Monochromatic color schemes: Use a monochromatic color scheme for the entire space to open it up (in other words, stick with the white, gray or soft yellow and don’t introduce then a bolder color). “Choose rugs, furniture, and accents in similar shades – like a patterned rug in white and light gray,”®’s article suggests. “This creates a minimalist, clean look that makes the entire space feel larger.”

Source:® (Sept. 9, 2016)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Improve the Value of Your Home

Maintaining and increasing your home’s value can pay off in major ways. Not only does helping your home hold value help it sell for its full amount, it can also help your home sell more quickly, help maintain your neighbor’s home values, and ensure that you’re not overpaying in property taxes.
These 10 projects are listed from least to most expensive, and may help you increase your home’s value. Best part: None of these projects cost more than $2,000, so you don’t have to break the bank to take on these projects either.

—-Low Cost: Budget under $500—-
Fertilizing your lawn may not seem as though it’s doing much for your home’s value, but a well-maintained lawn plays a major role in your home’s curb appeal. Curb appeal is how well your property looks from the road, and has a major impact on your home’s value and resale. Fertilizing a dry, brown, or otherwise patchy lawn can help boost your home’s curb appeal, and in turn its value.
Cost: The average cost of lawn fertilizing is around $.03 a square foot assuming a 6,000 square foot lawn, for a total of $180. Total costs range from $.02 a square foot for a DIY job to $.04 a square foot during peak season.
Money Saving Tips
  • If you are able to tackle this job DIY, you can save a lot of money (which you can then use to plant shrubs or trees to further increase your home’s curb appeal).
  • Tackle this job at the beginning of the season to avoid paying peak prices.
The attic is one of the most overlooked areas of the home when it comes to the impact on the rest of the home. Attics that are not properly insulated can become superheated, which can overheat the roof, cause ice dams, and raise your energy bills. Installing an attic fan can help protect your roof, lower your energy bills, and improve your home values.
Cost: The average cost to install a gable mount electric attic fan is around $275 for spaces up to 2,500. Total costs range from $39 for a wind-powered vent to $321 for an electric fan to cool up to 3,000 feet.
Money Saving Tips
  • Look into getting a solar-powered fan, which will not only run when you need it, but will also lower your monthly energy costs to run it as well.
Dingy, old, or out of fashion paint can really hurt the resale of your home. By giving a room in your home a fresh coat of paint, you can help remedy this problem. Choose neutral paints in light colors to get the most universal appeal, particularly if the rooms are small or dark, as these colors will help open them up and make them feel larger.
Cost: The average cost to paint a 200-square-foot room is around $378, with a full range between $162 for DIY to $459 for rooms that need more than one coat of paint on the walls.
Money Saving Tips
  • If you are able to tackle this job DIY, you can save a significant amount of money, allowing you to do more than one room.
  • Choose a color that is close to what you already have on the walls so you won’t have to apply more than one coat.
While a major bathroom renovation can be costly, you don’t actually have to complete one to help boost the value of your home. Sometimes it’s enough to tackle just one or two areas of the bathroom, replacing old or outdated items with new ones to help freshen up the space and help it function better. Things like installing a new, eco-friendly water saving toilet can have a major impact on the value of the room as a whole.
Cost: The cost to install a new toilet is between $300 and $500 with a total range between $100 for a DIY job to $700 for a higher-end model.
Money Saving Tips
  • Tackle small jobs yourself, such as toilet or faucet installation.
  • Look for lightweight acrylic tubs, which are less expensive to buy and install.
—-Mid-Range Cost: Budget under $1,000—-
The backsplash is one of the most personal and trendiest places in the kitchen, because it’s so easy to install and update. Most backsplashes are only around 30-square-feet in size, so even costly tile doesn’t add up to a lot when installed here. You can use the backsplash to update an older or darker kitchen by using glass tiles to reflect light, or trendy mosaics to boost style, any of which will help boost resale value.
Cost: The average cost to install 16-square-feet of ceramic backsplash is between $400 and $600, with a total range between $300 for lower quality ceramic tile to $1000 for high end, premium tile.
Money Saving Tips
  • Use small amounts of high end mosaic tiles and cut them into strips or square for borders and accents to brighten up a plain field of tile.
  • Install the tile yourself to save on the installation costs.
Old floor tile can really bring down a room, particularly if the flooring is dingy, cracked, or just out of date. Installing new ceramic floor tile can brighten up the room and improve its value at the same time. Newer tile floors are much easier to clean and maintain, and have grout joints that are both smaller and easier to keep clean than in years past, which makes this job a lasting one. Most areas that use tile – entryways, bathrooms, or kitchens – tend to be small enough to keep the costs down as well.
Cost: The average costs to install ceramic tile on the flooring of a bathroom is around $700 to $900 with total costs ranging from $550 for low-grade tile to $1,000 for tile with radiant heat beneath it.
Money Saving Tips
  • Install the tile yourself to keep the costs of this job down.
  • Look for odd-lot tile sales to get higher-end tiles at a lower price to keep the overall cost down.
—-Highest Cost: Budget under $2,000—-
Old bathtubs and bath/shower units can really lower the value of your home, particularly if they are filled with mold, mildew, and old water stains. Replacing your old tub can have a big impact on the way the rest of the bathroom looks, which can therefore have a big impact on your home’s resale value.
Cost: The cost of installing a new bathtub is around $1,006 for a standard fiberglass tub/shower with a total range from $143 for a low cost bathtub installed DIY to $1,857 for a high-end cast iron bathtub.
Money Saving Tips
  • Use a lightweight acrylic tub or tub/shower enclosure, which costs a lot less than cast iron tubs. They are also a lot lighter, and therefore cost less to install as well.
New wood flooring can transform a home. Wood flooring also has a major impact on a home’s value and its ability to be sold in a timely way. Bamboo flooring is an eco-friendly wood flooring option that also costs less than many other hardwoods, giving you the look of wood for less, along with sustainable design.
Cost: The average cost to install bamboo flooring in a 16 x 16 room is around $1,250, although costs can vary greatly by region.
Money Saving Tips
  • Float the floor for an easy installation that you can tackle DIY.
  • Purchase the flooring from a local seller to cut down on shipping costs.
Nothing lowers the resale value of a home faster than old carpet. Carpets can be notorious for hanging onto smells, stains, and allergens, which make them a major turn off for home buyers. Replacing old carpet with new can have a major impact on your home’s value.
Cost: The average cost to install new carpet in a 16 x 16 room is between $1,200 and $1,400, although costs can vary greatly by region.
Money Saving Tips
  • Cover up old carpets temporarily using new throw rugs to hide stains.
  • Invest in stain-resistant carpeting to lengthen the amount of time before you need to replace again.
Water damage can take a major toll on your home’s value. Water can cause wood rot, mildew, and black mold in your home, as well as unsightly stains, all of which can lower your home’s value if you don’t repair them in a timely way. Tackling water damage should always be done as soon as possible to help minimize the amount of damage that will ultimately occur.
Cost: The average cost to repair water damage in an 80-square-foot bathroom is about $23 a square foot, which translates to around $1874, although this figure can be impacted by what the damage is and how much needs to be replaced.
Money Saving Tips
  • Use fans after the water has receded to help dry things out before damage like mold can set in.
  • Do the tear out of damaged materials yourself to help eliminate some professional fees.
No matter how small your budget is, there are always things that you can do to help increase or maintain your home’s value.

Source: Realtor Magazine