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7 Energy-Saving Resolutions for 2016

Have an Energy Efficient New Year! 7 Energy-Saving Resolutions for 2016 Do you keep your New Year's resolutions? It can be hard. If you're looking to live more sustainably in 2016, consider making these activities a part of your annual pledge. If you stick to them, they'll make it easier to use less energy and reduce your environmental impact. 1. Get an energy checkup. Don't put it off another year; a home energy assessment by a qualified auditor is one of the best ways to find energy-saving opportunities and lower utility costs. 2. Program your thermostat. If you feel guilty when you pass by your thermostat, it could be because you've never let it live up to its potential. Dust off your owner's manual and program your thermostat according to your schedule. You'll save on heating, cooling costs – and guilt! 3. Switch to energy-efficient lighting. Older incandescent bulbs are quickly disappearing from store shelves. Now is the perfect time to switch to high-efficiency CFLs or LEDs. They use less energy and last much longer. LEDs provide the warm, quality light you are accustomed to, and they're easily dimmed. 4. Conserve hot water. Save on energy and hot water costs by lowering your water heater temperature to 120°F and taking short showers instead of baths. Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators also can add to your savings. 5. Take on a full load. Half empty or half full? In the case of your clothes washer and dishwasher, neither is positive. Save energy, water and money by operating only when you have a full load. 6. Power down. Turn off or unplug computers, battery chargers and other electronic equipment when you're not using them. 7. Aim for the stars! Replacing older appliances or electronic equipment? Don't settle for second best. ENERGY STAR rated products use less energy than standard models, while still providing the same level of performance. Worried about staying on track? Keep plugging away. Lower utility bills should be enough incentive to keep you going all year long.   Source: AEP Blog

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

6 Steps to a Warmer Basement

Does your basement leave you cold in the winter? If you're like many homeowners, your lower level doesn't get much use until the weather gets warm. Heat loss in your basement may be adding to your energy bills as well. Fortunately, things may be looking up. Here are six ways to make your basement a more inviting place to spend time and reduce heating costs.  Add insulation. A well-insulated basement reduces heating costs and makes for a comfortable living space. A variety of insulation types are available. Fiberglass batt insulation is a good choice for unfinished basements, while blow-in products can be used to add insulation to a finished space. See Residential Prescriptive Requirements for energy-saving insulation level recommendations in your area. Seal air leaks. Warm air can leak out of gaps and cracks in the rim joists, where the wall meets the ceiling, as well as plumbing and wiring holes on outside walls. Caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or smaller. Use spray foam insulation to fill gaps up to 3 inches. Fill larger gaps by cutting and stuffing pieces of insulation. Check crawl space. If you have a crawl space, make sure it is properly sealed and insulated. See Crawl Space Insulation from the U.S. Department of Energy for more information. Install carpet. Basements often have cement or tile-covered floors. If you do not have moisture problems, consider installing carpet in basement living areas. It will make the floor feel warmer and cozier beneath your feet. For work rooms and laundry rooms, consider putting a rug down with a pad underneath. Replace windows. If you have older single pane windows in your basement, it's highly likely they are reducing comfort and increasing your energy bills. Install glass block or ENERGY STAR certified high-performance windows. If you choose not to replace your older windows, seal them from the outside with caulk and winterize them from the inside using a window insulation kit available at your local hardware or DIY retailer. Stay warm with extra heat. While it won't reduce your energy bill, tapping into your existing ductwork and installing a vent can add central heating to your basement, making it more comfortable. A space heater or electric fireplace can provide supplemental heating to a small space, such as a laundry room or play room. With a little extra effort, you can lower your energy costs and create a comfortable space for your family to find refuge on cold winter days.   Source: AEP Blog

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Appraisers lower costs for federal tax savings on small property depreciation

Tax savings through cost segregation is no longer out of reach for investors in small and medium size properties. With appraiser expertise, fees for analysis are often one-third to one-half lower than those charged by traditional preparers. Several years ago a definitive court case ruled that tangible personal property included in an acquisition or in overall costs should be depreciated as personal property for asset recovery, using the old Investment Tax Credit principles to classify personal property. This meant that owners of improved properties could distinguish between real property and personal property to depreciate component costs over varying useful lives. Basically, instead of depreciating an entire commercial property over 39 years, or residential property (single-family rentals or multifamily) over 27.5 years, certain components are correctly identified as depreciating in much less time. For about 135 items, useful life periods can be 5, 7 or 15 years. This is known as cost segregation. The result of increasing depreciation is lower taxable income (which would have been taxed at 35%) and more income taxed at the capital gains rate (15%) when the property is sold. Furthermore, it works for any type of improved property. Until recently, primarily large accounting firms or engineering firms implemented cost segregation studies, addressing large and newly built properties and sometimes outsourcing the analysis. Prices for those analytical reports, usually in the $10,000 to $40,000 range, were out of reach for owners of small properties, especially those holding less-than-new assets. Unfortunately, those owners representing the largest segment of real estate investors in the country were mostly overlooked by previous providers of cost segregation services. Now a revolutionary paradigm shift is opening the door to very significant savings for owners of small properties. Much of the change is based upon introducing the efficiencies of highly knowledgeable real estate appraisers who often apply industry-accepted cost estimation techniques before determining remaining asset life. By not “over-engineering” the staffing or production process, professional fees are lower. Yet, results can usually meet or exceed those of far more expensive reports. This approach has been successfully field-tested by IRS auditors. Changes that appraisers are introducing to cost segregation analysis and reporting are addressing: 1) the size of the property being analyzed, 2) the age of the property, and 3) an affordable price point. O’Connor & Associates, a nationwide real estate service firm, is taking advantage of such techniques to effect these beneficial changes: 1.    Owners of property with an improvement basis as low as $500,000 can benefit from cost segregation. This compares to the limited properties worth $5 to $10 million and above that previously benefited.
2.    Existing properties built or purchased after 1986 offer significant savings in year-one of cost segregation, even without producing original cost documents. Capturing non-segregated depreciation from prior years is perfectly allowable by the IRS. This compares to firms previously applying the methodology only to new construction.
3.    Fees are no longer prohibitive. To prepare an analysis and report for many small properties, prices are low enough to generate at least 3 times the report cost in the first year. This compares to the traditional fees ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 and up for comparable size properties.
It is wise to keep the owner’s CPA or tax preparer abreast throughout the process. For older properties, the CPA may need to complete a Form 3115 to submit with the tax return so the owner can realize savings on items not previously depreciated - without filing an amended return.
Income producing properties worth as little as $500,000 can achieve a 3:1 payback ratio of tax savings over the modest price of a cost segregation report. If owned for 3 or more years, the typical payback ratio is 10:1. In late 2005, O’Connor’s pipeline of cost segregation work was up more than 100%. As owners are preparing for 2005 federal tax filings, many are tapping into this opportunity to lower their federal taxes. Even general partners who are not paying federal income taxes should use this depreciation method since K-1s will reflect lower taxable income to benefit their limited partners.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Appraised Value: The Ups & Downs Of How Much A House Is Worth.

Determining Fair Market Value is an eternal struggle and major balancing act. That’s because buyers want a house to appraise on the low side—to keep the purchase price down. While sellers want the same house to appraise on the high side—to make the sale price higher. And then you’ve got the owners of the house—who also want the appraisal to be on the low side, in order to keep the property taxes down. So with all these different agendas and points of view, how is the fair market value of a real estate property actually determined? Once a year, your county sends all area homeowners official notices that put a dollar value on their property. And property taxes are based on those dollar values. But before those notices get sent out, a long, detailed process usually takes place. First, the land is valued as if it’s vacant—an empty lot, in other words. Then any improvements are described and measured. Improvements consist of the house and any other structures, pools, sheds, garages, and so forth. Next, most counties check the Marshall Valuation Service Cost Guide. It’s a standardized nationwide guide for determining the value of the cost per square foot to build a building that fits the description of the improved property. Next, if the house isn’t brand new, the replacement cost is considered, as well as depreciation; the year the house was constructed and the condition of the property are factors here. Appraisers then must take the critical step of comparing the value of the house with recent selling prices of similar homes in the neighborhood. At this point, the appraisal might stand “as is”—or it might be adjusted upward or downward. Market Value is a theory, in other words—not an unchanging fact. In a perfect world, you have to have willing buyer and a willing seller. Neither is under duress. Both are in a position to maximize gain and are trying to do this. But in the real world, things are rarely that simple and equally balanced. Which is why people feel differently about the appraisal value of a house. It really depends how strong their position is as a buyer or seller. Does the local economy come into it at all? You bet it does. Ask a successful Realtor about that! He or she will tell you they’ve noticed that the Rio Grande Valley’s fast-growing economy is attracting people from other areas who consider real estate here a bargain. That helps fuel increases in property values. So—now you know where that Grand Total comes from. You’re armed with the information you need to make a better house-buying decision. For instance, you can understand how two virtually identical houses that are in two different neighborhoods could be very far apart in price and appraised value. And why your choice of the right house in the right neighborhood could be worth a not-so-small fortune to you right now—and years down the road.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Apartment for Rent – When Is It Better to Rent Instead of Buy?

It was 5:00 PM and time for Susan to call it quits for the day.   While signing off the computer, a last-minute check of the traffic reports revealed that the roads were backed up again.  Susan drove home against the commute feeling her daily rush of sympathy for all those on the other side of the road stopped in traffic.    Ten minutes later, she drove past a golf course and pulled into home.  The flowers were especially lovely this month and the fountain sparkled as it reflected the brilliant colors of the foliage.  She drove past the landscaped grounds, pool and through the security gates that swung open with her security access.   What would it be tonight, a cardio work-out?   No, she’d invited Steve over for some tennis.  After a pleasant game, they’d head back to her place, fix dinner in her gourmet kitchen and eat on the balcony at tree level while the evening breeze rustled the nearby leaves.   To wind down, they’d take a dip in one of the pools and relax in the Jacuzzi in the evening air.    Maybe tomorrow night they could hit a few balls at the nearby course or check out one of the nearby art galleries.   She placed her mail on the granite countertop and padded across the ceramic tile to the sink at the breakfast bar to take her daily vitamins.   A quick check with her concierge service confirmed the tickets for the weekend show, and she filed the maintenance report for the fix to her marble bathroom sink – the repairs had been quietly made while she was away.   She took a deep breath, turned on the surround sound and walked over to the private balcony off the main bedroom.     How does Susan afford this life?   She doesn’t have a trust fund, and her income is about the same as colleagues that commute long distances to go home to maintenance, chores, yard work and television. Susan goes home to a beautiful home with a gourmet kitchen, elegant baths, vaulted ceilings, sun rooms, surround sound, sound reduction features, plush carpeting, ceramic tile, and custom oak cabinets.  She goes home to tennis, golf, swimming, fountains and lovely grounds because she lives in conveniently located, luxury apartments.   She enjoys an easy commute, concierge services, laundry services, professional landscaping, exercise facilities, recreational services, community parties, easy care, and maintenance services – all for less than her friends are paying in mortgage costs.   When does it make sense to live in apartments?    According to Evelyn Barfield of GreystoneProperties.net there are many situations when renting is a much better financial choice than purchasing a home.   Home ownership often means commuting long distances, constant maintenance and upkeep, mortgage payments, and yard maintenance.   The term ‘bedroom community’ is a term for people who own homes long distances from their daily lives. The owners don’t actually live in their home, they simply return to it late at night to sleep.  The home remains empty most of the time.     Renting luxury apartments offers an alternative to long commutes, constant maintenance and a fixed residence.    It is a great choice for those who want flexibility, mobility, easy care and a freer life. Luxury apartments offer all the amenities that one would wish in a home with none of the maintenance or hassle.   The vaulted ceilings, clubhouses, movie theatres, pools, tennis courts, Jacuzzi, cardio fitness equipment, fountains, gardens and landscaping are maintenance free and always available for use.   Luxury apartments can often be found in great locations with easy access to work, golf or downtown.   The cost of purchasing in such areas is often prohibitive, but luxury apartment living enables one to enjoy the location, amenities and lifestyle at a fraction of the cost. For those in fluid situations, renting is usually a much better financial choice.  Purchasing a home becomes financially wise only if housing prices in that particular neighborhood rise, if the homebuyer stays in the home long enough to justify the up-front costs, and if the maintenance or repairs to a home are kept to a minimum.    Purchasing a home almost never makes financial sense for those who stay in a location less than 2 years.  Unexpected expenses, taxes, repair costs or upgrades crop up often and can wreak havoc with a budget. Luxury apartments offer a fixed cost per month, which includes professional management, upkeep and maintenance.   Renting a luxury apartment can enable people to enjoy a freer, more relaxed, fun-filled life.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Answering Phoned Inquiries About The Home You Are Selling

When you are selling your home, expect a lot of people to “intrude” on your privacy. If your home is being handled by real estate agents, then most of the calls and inquires would be handled by them. If you are selling your home by yourself, then you’ve got a big job in your hands. As an independent home seller, you may be flooded by a long line of emails and unending phone calls from potential buyers. Answering emails will not pose much of a problem since you have time to compose your thoughts and you can do those at your own convenience. Handling phoned inquiries is another matter altogether. One thing you should remember about conducting your business through the phone is that, contrary to what you may think, you are not invisible. The person on the other end of the line can sense your mood at that particular time. If you’re angry, bored or irritated, although they can’t see your facial expressions, they can feel your emotions through the tremor of your voice. With this in mind, try to be warm and friendly. No matter how inane their questions are, do not show your irritation. In addition to this, you have to know every little thing about your home. It would be safe to assume that you already know the basics (how many bedrooms, toilets, how many cars can the garage accommodate), but you should also be prepared to answer other unexpected questions (i.e. when was the last time you had the property treated for termites). Nothing will irk a buyer more than someone who does not know much about what they are selling. It would be best if you could attend to all phoned-in inquires yourself. However, in the eventuality that you can’t stay at home, make sure that you leave specific instructions with someone who would be capable of taking these calls. If no one can do the job well, then make sure you can be reached through your cell phone.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

6 Signs Your Real Estate Agent Is Playing Both Sides

Your real estate agent should be on your side and serve your best interests. (Not their own.) When you’re house-hunting, you want to find a real estate agent who is your biggest advocate, keeping your best interests (and your bank account) in mind. Unfortunately, some agents don’t operate this way. A higher purchase price benefits them, so you need to trust that they’ll fight for the lowest price possible on that home for sale in Denver, CO. But how can you tell if your agent is actually playing double agent, serving their own interests as much as yours? Here are six indications that your real estate agent might be two-timing you. “How motivated are you?” If, in an initial meeting, your new agent asks this question, a red flag should go up. A buyer’s agent shouldn’t be driven by dollar signs, and this question indicates they’re most likely trying to determine how much time and energy they should put into your home-shopping cause. Of course, that’s how the business works — but do you really want someone working for you who doesn’t hide the fact that they’re thinking about how quickly they’ll get paid? Your motivation should be to put in an offer when the house is right — not to help an agent pad their bank account. Starting out the nerve-racking buying process with a blatantly self-interested agent is not likely to quell your nerves when you get further into the sale. They ignore your budget You were very clear about your price range, yet your agent keeps showing you properties that are way beyond your means. Sound familiar? Sure, sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra to get the house of your dreams; it might also be that you’ve settled on an unrealistic budget and need to get a grip on the realities of the market. But if your agent is surprising you over and over again with homes listed above your price cap, they might be serving their needs more than your own. If you’re feeling suspicious, check the most recent listings in your area and make sure that other, more reasonably priced homes haven’t come on the market. Listings on Trulia can help you easily gauge what comps are going for in the neighborhoods you’re targeting — and raise your budget, if need be. Insider baseball Does your agent seem to know an awful lot about the sellers of the house you’re interested in? That might be a red flag that they’re in cahoots with the selling agent — potentially a friend or old colleague from another agency whom they’re trying to help out with a commission. Or it might mean that they’re friends with the sellers (there are a lot of small towns in this country, after all) and want to see them get a great price for their home. Either way, your agent is serving multiple interests at once when they should be serving only yours. Too much searching pressure Is your agent pushing you to submit an offer on a place you’re not in love with? Even when you’ve expressed interest in other homes? They might be more enamored with the property’s potential for a bidding war than you are with the property. A good real estate agent should only push you (gently!) to give a space a second chance if they think the place fulfills your wish list in ways you haven’t considered. But if they’re actually trying to squeeze an offer out of you, you should think twice about your agent’s motivations. Too much purchase price pressure Everything was going well until you found your perfect home and began the negotiating process. Now it feels as if your agent just wants to get the deal done, even if it means you could end up paying more than you want (or can comfortably afford). The buyer’s agent should be haggling with the seller’s agent, then coming back to you to explain what else you should negotiate into the deal. Yet you might find yourself convincing your agent that no, you don’t want to spend $20,000 more just to get the agreement signed, even if that does come down to just a few dollars a month in mortgage payments. They pull a disappearing act So you finally put an offer in on a home, and suddenly your agent isn’t returning your calls, even though the home inspection and various other borrowing questions loom. Your agent should be helping you through the entire home-buying process, not just the house hunt. Ostensibly, it’s in your agent’s best interest to make the process run smoothly until the end, but they could be gambling on the sale going through without a hitch — and have refocused their energies on greener pastures: new clients. There’s not much you can do at this stage in the game, except avoid recommending this agent to your friends. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Will Early Mortgage Preapproval Crush Your Credit Score?

One too many credit pulls for mortgage preapprovals can actually hurt your score. With a mortgage preapproval letter in hand and a down payment sitting pretty in your bank account, you’ve set off to purchase the home of your dreams. But after experiencing the bitter letdown of being outbid time after time, you’ve come to realize this whole process might take far longer than you originally thought. Suddenly, your Boy Scout–level preparation to get that preapproval letter could put your credit score in a precarious position. Here’s why: Getting a preapproval requires a “hard pull” on your credit, and too many hard pulls can impact your ability to score the best loan terms once you are officially able to move forward with a mortgage on that home for sale in Sarasota, FL. To avoid this credit stress, follow these tips to mitigate the risk and protect one of the most important assets you have — your credit health. First things first: Get prequalified and then get preapproved To avoid the disappointment of falling for a home your current financial situation can’t sustain, it’s important to get prequalified. This process is pretty straightforward — a lender takes a look at your overall financial picture and determines your purchasing ability based on the information you provide. (No hard pull on your credit necessary.) Once you understand what you probably qualify for and you’re ready to start looking at houses, you should then move forward with the preapproval process, suggests Matt DeLuzio, a loan officer with AmeriFirst Financial Inc. in Denver. “There are many factors that can put a full approval at risk, therefore it is much better to find a lender that can get an actual preapproval done. When this happens, your lender will complete all necessary verifications, run the file through underwriting, and issue a mortgage loan commitment,” DeLuzio advises. Shop lenders within a certain time frame Just as you would shop around for the right car loan, it’s important to shop around for a preapproval. It’s expected that you will look for the best lender and rate, therefore credit-reporting bureaus are more lenient with multiple credit pulls within a certain time frame. According to FICO, the time frame to keep inquiries contained is anywhere from 14 days (older scoring models) to 45 days (the newest scoring models). All inquiries during the time frame laid out by either scoring model would be treated as just one inquiry, a protection offered to mitigate the risk of a massive credit score drop. Lauren Rowland, a Denver-based real estate agent with Kenney & Company, stresses the importance of starting early and continuing to look for the right lender. “Generally speaking, many clients are able to identify and close on the property within the window of time that their preapproval is good for,” Rowland says. “That being said, during the process of looking, they may identify a lender who can offer them a better rate and select to get preapproved again.” Know how long your credit reports last Credit reports are good for 120 days after they are pulled. If a buyer does not close on a home within that period, the report must be pulled again. According to DeLuzio, this could have a significant impact on the interest rate and loan program the buyer can qualify for. “If a buyer is going to go past the 120 window,” he explains, “it is recommended that the credit report be updated far enough in advance of closing to ensure that any changes that need to be made can be done in time.” Both DeLuzio and Rowland suggest finding a reputable lender that can help identify ways to improve and protect your score during the home-buying process — by lowering credit utilization, for instance. Don’t discount the benefits of being prepared While you should always be mindful of your credit, it’s important to understand how beneficial preapproval and overall preparedness can be to your ability to land the home of your dreams. “You should shop well in advance of the point where you ‘need’ a home so that you have hired your lender and real estate agent in advance of finding your dream home,” says Rowland. “Being fully approved and able to close quickly (with all your lending ducks in a row) can give you a leg up against any potential competing offers.” - Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Americans File Changes of Address Online-And Select Retail Catalogs

Here's moving news: According to the National Association of Realtors, "home sales remain at historically high levels." This means address changes filed with the United States Postal Service will likely also remain high: about 45 million a year, Postal Service officials report. If you'll be among those moving Americans anytime soon, you should know that many consider the fastest, easiest and most convenient way to file a change of address is with the Postal Service at usps.com. Other change-of-address options include Telephone Change of Address at 1-800-ASK-USPS and the Mover's Guide found in Post Offices. In addition to letters, statements and advertising mail, many movers want to make sure they keep getting their favorite catalogs at their new home. For them, there's the optional Catalog Request Card Service that is available online with the Change of Address form. After customers complete the Internet Change of Address form, they can select specific retail catalogs-current or new-or choose "No Thanks." Since the program's inception last fall, participants have chosen to receive an average of six retail catalogs after they move. And most of these are catalogs they were not previously getting. Evidence, Postal Service officials say, that more and more people like to shop via the mail. Indeed, the Direct Marketing Association expects print catalog sales to hit $158 billion in 2009, up from $152 billion in sales this year. The Association also says that nearly six out of 10 catalog shoppers keep a catalog they order from for at least three months. "We're providing this service so that people can have their favorite catalogs on hand when they're needed most, to organize their homes quickly and easily when it's convenient for them," explained Charlie Bravo, senior vice president for Intelligent Mail and Address Quality. The Postal Service, which gets no taxpayer dollars for routine operations, is an independent federal agency that delivers more than 44 percent of the world's mail volume-some 212 billion letters, advertisements, periodicals and packages a year-and visits 145 million homes and businesses every day, six days a week. It's the world's leading provider of mailing and delivery services, offering some of the most affordable postage rates in the world.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Alternatives to Foreclosure

Buying a house is a big investment. It really puts a dent on your financial resources. Of course, the expenses do not end with the down payment. You still have to contend with the monthly payments for the mortgage. This is a financial situation that you will have to live with for years until you have fully paid off your loan. But what happens if you get behind in your mortgage payments? A delay in payment can have very serious consequences for your mortgage situation. If the delinquency in payments has become too severe then your home could be in danger of foreclosure. A foreclosure means that your property will be repossessed by the lending institution that gave you your mortgage. Fortunately, even if you have defaulted on your payments, it does not necessarily mean that your property will be foreclosed. There are various alternatives to a foreclosure that you can take. Some of these are: Paying the delinquency. Generally, all lending institutions are required to accept all the payments that were delinquent and reinstate the loan. The delinquent payments that you have to pay may also include some legal fees especially if you are already in the foreclosure stage. There are also lending institutions that require certified funds in order to reinstate the loan. Forbearance and Repayment. One of the most common ways of resolving a delinquent mortgage is to work out a plan with your lending institution where in you get to pay a part of your delinquency every month on top of your regular monthly payments. If you are in a situation where you are not able to meet the monthly mortgage payments, your lender can elect to extend the forbearance by suspending payments for a certain period of time up until you can start a repayment schedule. Payment Assistance. Some state and local governments and also private charitable organizations have instituted programs that help people with delinquencies pay all or part of their mortgage obligation for a certain period of time. Reamortization. In a reamortization, the delinquent mortgage amount is added to the loan balance as a way of bringing the mortgage payments up to date. This move increases not only the total loan amount but also the monthly payments. Of course, the increase in payment will not be as large if the life of the loan is also extended. Private sale. A private sale of the property affected by the delinquency can also be done as it will allow you to meet your obligations as well as get any equity that may have accumulated. In private sales it is usual that the amount is greater than the stated amount owed on the loan. Most of these alternatives presume that you will be able to pay your mortgage payments at some point. But there is also a particular foreclosure alternative called a loss mitigation program. The federal government as well as the mortgage industry established this type of program as a way of stopping foreclosures. Under this program you are given options that will not only assist you in keeping your home even if you do not have the financial capability to pay for the mortgage payments. With these types of programs, it becomes so much easier to address the problem of foreclosures.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Alternative Housing

Why alternative housing? To save money, to travel, to live creatively - there are many reasons why people choose to live in tents, RVs, cabins, underground homes, rental rooms and anything else that's less common than the houses, condos and apartments that most people call home. Below are some of these housing options, and their advantages. Alternative Housing That Moves Camping at a hot springs area, we sat around the campfire one night with several young men living in the desert in their old converted school bus. It cost them nothing to park it in the desert (on BLM land you have to move every two weeks, though), bathed for free in hot spring tubs that were as nice as those in nearby expensive resorts, and played guitar around the fire each night. Not such a bad life. In Arizona there are whole communities that spring up each winter, full of people living in their RVs. Advantages of RV housing are obvious, and include moving with the seasons, trying out different places, and not paying property taxes. I've talked to people living in Rvs that cost $200,000 and ones that cost $600, so the selection of accommodations is varied, to say the least. My wife and I lived for almost a month in our conversion van as we traveled from Arizona to Florida and then to Michigan. Advantages of a van include better mileage than an RV, and being inconspicuous. We found that could park and sleep almost anywhere. Other Alternative Housing In most areas where rents are high, renting rooms has become common. This makes sense for single people. Just pay a set amount each month or week, and (if it includes utilities) you have a predictable and lower cost of living. I rented out rooms in my own home for years, and even put carpet and lighting in a shed so I could get $50 per week for it in summer. A friend of mine lived in a shack he built for $3,000 on a small piece of land he bought for $7,000. Eventually he ran into problems with the county because he had no occupancy permit. Apparently you can't live on your own land in the woods if your home is too small. However, you can camp on it, so a $2,000 used RV parked on your land makes for a cheap and legal housing alternative. Some people live on houseboats and avoid paying property taxes. Some live in the jungle near the beaches in Hawaii, so they can afford to be in paradise. I know people who lived in a basement while slowly building the house above for cash. People live in cabins built in the national forest wilderness, moving every few years as they are discovered. Truly, your imagination is the only limit to your alternative housing options.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

All you Should Know Before Buying Commercial Real Estate

All you Should Know Before Buying Commercial Real Estate. Buying or renting, such is the question many business people ask themselves around the first of the month, when it comes time to write their rent check. With the interest rates being what they are and prices being affected by the commercial paper crisis, the answer might very well be yes if the right property becomes available and you can afford a relatively important cash down. Owning commercial real estate does have it's advantages.
Choices: As the owner, you can decide whether to select a building that matches your current needs, has enough room for future expansion or maybe is large enough for you to lease parts of it. Equity: Every month your payments are applied to paying down your mortgage and building some equity which could be useful eventually to secure a loan for new equipment,  to finance an acquisition or simply as an asset. Appreciation: Not withstanding any unforeseen occurrences, your building should appreciate with time. This appreciation could,  just as the above mentioned equity, be used to get better financing conditions. Power: As the landlord, you are the person in charge of deciding how to finance the building, picking the tenants, choosing the decorations, selecting entrepreneurs for the work to be done, improving the building. You even have control over your rental rate.
If it's so great, why doesn't everyone do it? The main reason why not everyone owns the commercial space they're using is that, in real life, things don't necessarily go exactly as planned. You can buy commercial real estate with no money down, especially if it's because your money is bringing you more in another (safe) investment.   On the other hand, if it's because your cash flow doesn't allow you any flexibility and that you don't have anything set aside should things go a little unexpectedly, then you may want to seriously consider all the ramifications of the deal you are considering.
Your business' cash flow's growth stage. Is your business bringing you comfortable and predictable income which you are looking to invest or would spending an important part of your income hinder any growth possibility for the near future? Will you be able to afford any substantial and sometimes unexpected expense should you have to perform unscheduled maintenance on your building? Usually, a commercial property will require a 15% cash down payment which, in some cases, can end up being a lot of money. Don't forget you also have to factor in the price of insurance, taxes and legal fees. Due to the importance of the figures involved in most commercial real estate transactions, I recommend you surround yourself with adequate representation meaning: a real estate agent with experience and a positive track record as well as financial and legal advisers.
Examining the tax perspective. Since I'm not a CPA and all situations are unique, I strongly suggest you meet with a competent financial advisor who will help you evaluate your particular situation. For now, keep in mind that in most situations, you will be able to use some of your expenses as depreciation to reduce your taxes or some of the rent as a personal income.
You make your money when you buy, not when you sell. One last but extremely important factor to consider before making your decision is that you make your money when you buy but realize it when you sell. Paying more than the fair market value, not taking into consideration your cash flow factors (mortgage, interest rates, insurance, taxes and repairs VS incoming rent, other income possibilities such as parking for example) or letting your feelings dictate a purchasing decision may negatively affect your exit strategy for year if you are not careful. Though appreciation is quite probable, we suggest you don't factor it in when crunching your numbers: if the deal is still a good deal without factoring in appreciation, you are likely to make a favorable ROI (return on investment) when you decide it's time to go for your exit strategy. If you absolutely need appreciation to justify your purchase, be extremely careful as no one really knows what will happen in the future and, in the present, you may be paying too much.
What you should remember. So we looked briefly at the different aspects of buying a commercial property.  Remember the advantages of being a landlord are: Choices Equity Appreciation Power   Make sure you carefully evaluate your future cash flow. Purchasing the property won't hinder your growth strategy. You can afford unexpected and sometimes quite expensive repairs should they be needed. You can afford the cash down.   Get advice from a professional financial advisor about your tax situation. Get advice from a professional law adviser. Get advice from a professional real estate adviser. Avoid free advice as it often end up being the most expensive kind.   Evaluate the building's cash flow. Make sure the purchase makes sense even without appreciation. Find a reputable real estate specialist.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

7 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Your First Home

The prospect of buying your first home has become synonymous with so many feelings: excitement, trepidation, fear, joy, and just about every other expression on the emotional spectrum. At the very least, it is an overwhelming experience for anyone that willingly has a go at it. The process is certainly magnified for first-time buyers, but even seasoned investors have found it to be challenging at times. There are so many moving parts to every deal that you are only fooling yourself if you aren’t a bit cautious. To that end, even the best real estate investors and homebuyers experience setbacks on a deal from time to time. Mistakes are bound to happen, but it is how you deal with them that will define the end results. Better yet, preventative measures can help you avoid some mistakes altogether. Fortunately, it is entirely possible for first-time homebuyers to be proactive in their mistake mitigation efforts, despite their lack of experience. Our partners over at CT Homes have compiled a list of common first-time homebuyer mistakes, and the best ways to prevent them from happening to you. Be sure to avoid these seven mistakes when buying your first home: 1. Making An Emotional Decision There is nothing saying you can’t establish an emotional connection with a home, but you are breaking a cardinal rule when you let that attachment dictate the underwritings of a purchase. Any transaction you purposefully walk into should be predicated on one thing: the numbers. The numbers need to reflect your budget, and what it is you are looking to get out of the property. Provided you have conducted the appropriate research, you should have an understanding of how much the property in question should sell for. By no means should your connection empower you to pay more for a home than it is actually worth. At that point, you are seeing to it that you get the raw end of the deal. The sooner that you realize there will be other houses to come along, the less inclined you will be to let you emotions dictate your decisions. Again, it is OK to fall in love with a property, but remember not to let that love get carried away. I recommend looking at several homes that you “love,” as to prevent yourself from becoming too attached. Once there are other houses in the equation, your mind is more likely to reason with sound judgment. 2. Searching For A Home On Your Own The advent of technology, and certainly the Internet, has made searching for a home a lot easier than it used to be. There are several sites whose soul purposes are to help you find the home of your dreams. However, their existence has simultaneously helped and hindered those looking to buy. The sheer volume of homes available at the touch of a button will certainly intimidate onlookers, and could lead to analysis paralysis. I recommend using these sites as a research tool, as opposed to conducting a physical home search. Use them to determine what it is you are looking for, and what might be available in the area. However, when it comes down to physically searching for a home, and not searching through thousands of dead-end listings, I recommend enlisting a little help. There is always the possibility that you will find the home of your dreams on your own, but I am afraid that is the exception rather than the rule. Instead, let your agent vet homes in your place. There is a good chance they know about listings that aren’t even on the market yet. At the very least, they will filter out homes that don’t meet your criteria, and save you countless hours of tedious searching. 3. Working Exclusively With The Listing Agent The listing agent represents the best interest of the seller. They are an essential part of the home selling process, but – as their name suggests – they represent the person listing the property. Their soul purpose is to sell the home at a price the owner has predetermined. Subsequently, the more money the home sells for, the larger commission checks they get. For all intents and purposes, they are trying to sell the home at the highest possible price; something first-time homebuyers are probably not all that fond of. Therefore, it is ill-advised for any first-time buyers to initiate any transactions through the listing agent. Fortunately, you are entitled to work with a buyer’s agent. Not surprisingly, a buyer’s agent represents the buyer. While their services will certainly cost you extra, their expertise can easily save you more on the deal than what it would cost to hire them. Outside of price negotiations, most buyer agency agreements include: Protecting their client’s financial information. Negotiating the best possible price for the buyer. They must disclose whether or not they are working with another buyer trying to get the same property. Show the buyer all the properties they are interested in. Connect buyers with other service providers: inspectors, lenders etc. There are multiple benefits to working with a buyer’s agent, all of which are better than dealing with a seller’s agent on your own. 4. Assuming The Rules Don’t Apply To You Homeownership represents many things to a lot of people, but first-time homeowners undoubtedly associate it with freedom. This could very well be the first time they don’t have to follow the rules set forth in a previous household; or is it? Just because you have never been a homeowner before doesn’t mean the rules of homeownership won’t apply. It is entirely possible that the home you are looking at comes complete with deed restrictions and conditions. Deed restrictions are dependent on their particular neighborhood, and can vary dramatically. Their purpose, more or less, is to provide stability in the respective area. Some are there simply to ensure that the property holds its value. They are not necessarily a bad thing; just something that needs to be accounted for. Sometimes deed restrictions can impede the plans of perspective homeowners, and it is in their best interest to know these things before the home is purchased. 5. Not Saving Enough Money Saving up enough money to put down on a house is quite an accomplishment. The high price of rent in today’s economy has made it difficult for anyone to transition over from renters to buyers. However, the down payment is just the beginning. Outside of the initial cost, most first-time homeowners don’t save enough for what comes next: life as owners. “Transitioning from a renter or your parents’ home to your own home has incidental costs that may be overlooked,” says Aisha Thomas, associate broker with The Thomas Agency of Georgia. More often than not, first-time buyers neglect to account for the costs that follow the closing. It is not a bad idea to have at least two to three months of mortgage payments in reserve. That is on top of the extra money that will be needed for additional closing costs and impending property taxes. There are a lot of costs associated with owning a home, and first-time buyers need to be aware of all of them. Neglecting to account for these costs could be devastating. 6. Neglecting Loan Pre-Approval Too many first-time homeowners make the mistake of not getting pre-approved for their purchase. To that end, a pre-approval letter from your bank goes a long way in securing the property you want. For starters, it is the best way to find out how much home you can actually afford. Secondly, sellers are more inclined to choose the offers of those that have already been approved for specific loan amount. That way there is less risk of the deal falling apart. Be sure to get a pre-approval letter from your bank no less than three months out. You will be glad you did. “This process can take just a few days and simply means that the lender has looked through your financial situation and is comfortable with the idea of lending you a certain amount of money,” says Bianca Mitchell, an agent with Keller Williams in Santa Monica, CA. 7. Paying Too Much Private Mortgage Insurance Lenders took note of the latest recession, and hedged their bets. In order to prevent more people from defaulting on their loans, mortgage guidelines have adapted. One of the new rules requires buyers to pay private mortgage insurance on any property that they weren’t able to put at least 20 percent down on. The private mortgage insurance, or PMI, is added on to the monthly mortgage payments. Typically, first-time homeowners are not able to put 20 percent down on a home, and are – therefore – more likely to pay PMI. However, not enough people know to contact their lender once 20 percent of the home has been paid off. At that time, the PMI will be discontinued. Your lender will automatically cancel your PMI when you owe 78 percent, but you don’t want to pay a month more of PMI than you have to.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

The Quintessential First-Time Homebuyer’s Checklist (Part 2)

When we left off in part one of our First-Time Homebuyer’s Checklist series, we walked buyers through the first six months of the buying process. With that out of the way, it’s time to take it home – figuratively and literally. Below you will find a step-by-step checklist that walks first-time homebuyers through the last six months of the buying process: 6 Months Out Assemble The Proper Loan Documents With roughly six months separating you from the purchase of a new home, the time for preparation is nearly at an end. Of course there will be impending nuances you need to address before the actual transaction occurs, but now is the time to take action. Remember, real estate does not favor the timid; it is on you to be proactive. Take everything you have done up to this point, and use what you have learned to bring the deal to the closing table. Gather all the necessary documents you will need to receive loan approval, and get everything in order. While this step seems about as cut and dry as any other, I assure you that it is more difficult than it sounds. Subsequently, this step is dependent on the actions of whichever bank you are looking to borrow from. Banks are, at the very least, particular when it comes to mortgage loans. Everything must be in order for the transaction to progress. Any unexpected omissions or errors could set you back, or even prevent you from getting the loan altogether. The sheer volume of paper work increases the odds of a mistake, and should – therefore – be addressed at least six months out. The more time you give yourself to go through your mortgage papers with a fine-toothed comb, the better. Carefully compile, and go through the following paperwork: Two to three years of W-2 forms, or business tax return forms for the self-employed. Two to three years of personal tax returns. The most recent paystubs you can get your hands on. Credit card and loan statements. Your bank statements. A list of addresses you have lived in for the last seven years. Brokerage account statements for the most recent two to four months. The most recent retirement account statements. While it may feel a bit premature to gather these documents, I can assure you it is well worth your time. Taking care of this step now will alleviate a lot of stress when it comes time to close, and mitigate potential setbacks. Having said that, you will want to keep these documents close by throughout the entire process. It really helps later if you are able to update them with more accurate information regularly. With any luck, you might even come across something that will reduce your premiums or improve your terms. Find A Lender & Realtor While you are gathering the appropriate paperwork, it wouldn’t hurt to start looking for the lender you intend to give it to. In fact, now is the perfect time to do so. Armed with a better understanding of the loan programs that are available to first-time homebuyers, look for the lender that will accommodate your needs to the best of their ability. Keep in mind that they are competing for your business, so shopping around is an absolute must. Who you decide to borrow from will have a huge impact on the entire process; make sure that you are comfortable with whomever you choose. If you are not comfortable with making the decision on your own, it may be in your best interest to hire a Realtor first. A properly trained buyer’s agent will help you find the right property, negotiate with the seller’s agent, and navigate you through the closing process. Sometimes it is incredibly beneficial just to have a second opinion; someone to let you know you are on the right track. Even better, a good Realtor will be able to help you decide between potential lenders. Should there happen to be any discrepancies or inconsistences, their assistance should be able to alert you to potential complications. At the very least, they should give you more confidence in the lender you choose to represent your loan. To that end, look for a mortgage broker who will help you uncover a competitive loan rate, unlike a bank, which strictly offers its own services. 3 Months Out Receive Loan Pre-Approval In the event you have chosen to stick with our timeline, and are in fact on track, your credit score, paperwork, and down payment savings should be on schedule. Subsequently, you should now have an idea of who is going to represent you and which lending institution you will end up borrowing from. This is the time in the buying process where everything starts coming together. First things first, you will need to receive a pre-approval letter from your bank. Schedule an appointment with the lender you have decided to borrow from, and be sure to have all of your paperwork in order. Provided everything goes well at the meeting, and I am sure it will if you have followed these steps, you are just a credit check away form receiving a pre-approval. At this time, you will learn how big of a loan your credentials have earned. Of particular importance, however, is the leverage such a letter can give you during the buying process. Many first-time buyers are unaware that a pre-approval letter can actually place them ahead of the competition. Knowing that a buyer is capable of closing is a great relief to some sellers, especially those looking to close quickly. At the very least, a pre-approval letter will give all the parties involved in a deal their own peace-of mind. Let The Shopping Begin Having finally received approval, you will know exactly how much house you can afford. This will help you narrow down your actual home search, and prevent you from wasting time on homes out of your price range. Crosscheck what you can afford with the amenities you are looking for, and go from there. Now is the time to physically walk through properties and narrow your search results. Let your agent find homes that match your criteria and view them whenever you can. For what it’s worth, have fun with this part of the home buying process. For as daunting as the whole thing can be, this is the time where you are actually able to visualize what it is you have been working so hard for. 2 Months Out Make The Offer Hopefully your search resulted in finding the home of your dreams, or at least a home you want to move into. If this is the case, it is time to make an offer. However, it is not enough to simply send them an offer you think is fair. The offer process is complicated, and a bit temperamental. However, those with the know-how should have an advantage. For starters, you want your offer to stand out from anyone you may be competing with. There is one way to do this that I have found to be very useful: put the seller ahead of yourself. Transactions only work when both parties come out on top. Before you submit your offer, ask yourself why the seller would accept it. Sending over a low-ball offer just because the house needs work will probably not get the job done. Your offer needs to be fair, and justified. It also wouldn’t hurt if you were the path of least resistance. Again, this is where the pre-approval letter comes in handy. If a seller knows you have already qualified for a loan, you already have an advantage over those that still need to. Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing: getting the home at a price you feel is fair. Request A Home Inspection With your offer on the table, any acceptance should be contingent on whether or not the home passes inspection. One of the first things you’ll want to do after an offer is accepted is to hire a home inspector to look at the property. If everything checks out, it should be safe to move forward. However, the home inspection also offers an out for any property that is not up to your standards. For the sake of this publication, let’s say the home passed the inspection, and it is safe to move forward with the deal. 1 Month Out Double Check Paperwork & Financial Documents With the inspection out of the way, you are finally at the home stretch. Provided you have been updating your documents throughout the process, these last thirty days or so should be the easiest. First, have your agent go through your mortgage documents and check for any errors. It is absolutely critical that everything is correct, or you run the risk of delaying the close. Get Home Insurance Prior to closing, you will want to make sure the property is insured. At the closing, you will be required to present proof of insurance before the transaction can go through. Similar to that of choosing a lender, don’t hesitate to shop around. Get the best rate you can afford, while still having the protection you need. Conduct A Final Walkthrough This is where you will see the home for the last time before the closing. Walkthrough the entire property, and confirm that it is in the condition you and the seller agreed upon. Have The Cash Ready At Closing All that is left is to bring the agreed upon amount of cash to the closing. You will be given the exact number a few days before closing, which should be enough time to receive a cashier’s check or wire the funds. Remember, regular checks are not acceptable. At the closing, pay for the home and pat yourself on the back. Congratulations; you are now a homeowner.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

ABCs of Real Estate: Quick Guide To Common Terms

Buying or selling a home? Check out our guide to real estate terms. Home-buying and selling is stressful — and with industry acronyms and real estate terms flying at you from all directions, you may feel overwhelmed navigating your new real estate reality. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer sifting through homes for sale in Chicago, IL, or a seasoned investor, there’s always more to learn. Trulia’s quick guide to common real estate terms is a good place to start. Download the PDF here and find more helpful information in the articles below. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

5 Tips For Relisting After A Home Sale Falls Through

Whatever the reason, if your home sale didn’t close, you’ve got some decisions to make. It’s tough to start over after your home didn’t sell, especially if you had an offer that ended without a closing. This happens sometimes and for multiple reasons: buyer-financing difficulties, a family emergency, problems found at inspection, or even a low appraisal. If you had backup offers waiting in the wings, lucky you! But if you didn’t, you’ve still got a few options for relisting your home for sale in Santa Fe, NMhome for sale in Santa Fe, NM, or Charleston, SC, after a sale falls through. 1. Continue working with your current agent This option is easy. Just start again — ditch that “pending” status, change it back to “active,” and prepare yourself for another wave of showings. But don’t ditch your agent too fast. They did their job to get you a buyer, after all. “It is not [the agent’s] fault if the buyer falls through,” says Brett Ringelheim, a New York real estate agent with Nest Seekers International. “The issue is how well the listing agent investigated the sale and protected the seller,” says Bruce Ailion, an Atlanta real estate agent and attorney. Sometimes agents know when the offer is a shaky one that might not close. Although they may advise you not to take it, you might anyway. In that scenario, the only time to hold the agent responsible is if they pushed you to take a weak offer and then “allowed 30 to 60 days to pass before it fell apart,” says Ailion. When your home doesn’t even get offers, it’s natural to be frustrated. Your first reaction might be to blame the agent. But you really “shouldn’t change agents for the sake of trying something new,” says Gary Lucido, president of Lucid Realty in Chicago. Here’s a strategy Ailion recommends: “Have a conversation and ask that your listing be terminated.” Give your agent some time (Ailion asks for 24 hours) to fix or address the issue. If you’re still dissatisfied, then consider finding a new agent. 2. End the contract with your agent If you need a change — maybe you believe your agent dropped the ball — you can end the contract. “The seller must give notice to the broker in writing,” says Robert Vinson, head of Vinson Real Estate Group in Los Angeles. Note that you could “have some obligation to pay a portion of the marketing efforts,” adds Vinson. You might need to end your contract by waiting until its term ends, but this isn’t always the case. “You should be able to terminate a contract at any time; no reasonable agent wants to work with an unhappy client,” says Lucido. You would then go through the process of finding a new agent. Maybe you picked a family member or friend the first time, and it didn’t work out. Pick your next agent as you would any other professional. In this case, check references, ask whether they sell in your area, and find out if they have experience with your type of home. Selling a historic house downtown, for example, requires a different set of skills than selling suburban subdivision digs. Also find out how many houses the agent listed last year and, of those, how many actually sold. “Above all, don’t list with the agent who charges the least commission,” says Candace Evans, a Westchester County, NY, real estate broker. “Like most things in life, you really do get what you pay for.” 3. Wait a few days If you need (and want) to sell, you’ll need to relist your home. But you might want to reflect on what happened last time and possibly brainstorm a new strategy beforehand. Expect to put in some extra time, especially if you hired a new agent. Sit down with them, discuss what happened, and find out their ideas for preventing the same situation from happening again, suggests Ringelheim. You’ll probably have more photos taken (professional ones are best), powwow on whether you’ll change the price, and possibly highlight your amenities in a better way, such as improving the curb appeal or emptying cluttered closets. 4. Fix any problems If your deal fell through because the inspection report caused the buyer to run for the hills, you have some decisions to make. “It is important for the seller to get all necessary items fixed,” says John Lyons, a Chicago real estate broker. “Otherwise, the problem will likely happen again with the next buyer.” If you’re unwilling to do this, disclose the problems to potential buyers the next time you enter a pending sale and consider lowering the price. 5. Put your listing on pause If you’d rather not relist during a slow season, you can wait it out for warmer weather and a potentially larger market. “The busy spring market starts right after the Super Bowl and lasts until Memorial Day, and the shorter fall market is between Labor Day and Halloween,” says Evans. November and December are “really bad” times, says Gary Lucido. So if you can afford to postpone the sale, consider waiting for a better time of year. You can, of course, still sell a house during the holiday season — you just might need to work a bit harder. Another reason to wait to relist is to have your home show up again as “new” on the listings. “Depending on your local MLS, you may or may not be able to relist the home within a certain amount of time and have it show up as new,” says Ross Anthony, a San Diego agent with Willis Allen Real Estate. The point is to avoid the dreaded “stale” listing, a home that’s been on the market (and MLS) so long, people begin to wonder what’s wrong with it. “When you relist the home, it should show as a new listing with a fresh batch of marketing photos,” says Anthony. He says that after three to six months, a whole new group of buyers could see your listing with fresh eyes. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Professional Advice On Making Your First Offer

More often than not, would-be buyers assume there is nothing more to an offer than the price. While important, the price is only a small part of the equation. There is a lot that goes into making the right offer on a property, and it is in the buyer’s best interest to present the seller with the best possible offer. Your offer, should it be accepted, will represent a binding sales contract. It is important, therefore, that it comes off in the best possible light. However, that is easier said than done. If you are nervous about making your first offer, or are just looking for a little advice, here are some tips from our partners over at CT Homes that will strengthen your proposal and increase the chances of it getting accepted: Remain Confident In Your Research Buyers are advised to research any potential properties they may be interested in. In fact, neglecting to research a property is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, you need to have an idea of what you are getting into. The more you know about a home, the better. However, as with just about everything else in this industry, knowledge can only take you so far. It is absolutely imperative that you have confidence in the research you have done up to this point. Any level of doubt will prevent you from taking action, and – therefore – result in your refusal to even submit an offer. At that point, any research you have done becomes irrelevant. You can actually argue that the ability to act on your research is more important than the research itself. The second you refuse to trust your own due diligence is the moment things will start to go south. I recommend implementing a system that will allow you to approach your research from a methodical standpoint. To that end, I use a three-steep deal evaluation system for every house I look to acquire. That way I know I have covered every possibility, and can confidently make an offer. In step one of my three-step deal evaluation system, you will conduct a brief phone analysis. Within a period of approximately 10 minutes, you want to be sure to collect the following: General information about the property Sellers motivation and price Mortgage information Assuming that the numbers meet your approval, it is time to conduct an in-depth desktop analysis. Otherwise known as stage two, the desktop analysis will allow investors to conduct further research on the subject property. Remember, knowledge is the key to analyzing deals. Take this time to acquire property records and any further information that will help you determine if the property has potential profitability. Look at the property card in county records and compare it to other properties on the MLS. Combine the data to establish three main price points: Cost of property Repair costs After Repair Value (ARV) These three price points, in association with property records, will allow investors to determine whether or not a property is worth making an offer on. After it has been determined that the property is worth pursuing, schedule an in-person meeting with the seller. As its name suggests, the in-person meeting will witness an investor physically evaluate the property to see if it corresponds with the seller’s previous claims. Once it has been decided that the subject property meets your criteria, you will make an accurate offer based on accumulated data. If you follow these steps, I can assure you that confidence will not be an issue. You will be able to make an offer that you are more than comfortable with. Review Your Comps Of course, knowing the details of the property in question is only part of the battle. One of the keys to making an offer is to understand the comps, or comparable properties in the area. Comps are one of the best tools buyers have at their disposal, and should help them make the best offer for their particular situation. Comps, for all intents and purposes, are the starting point for any offer. Comps refer to the prices paid for recently sold homes. However, it is not enough to simply pick the house next door, or one at random. As the name suggests, comps are those homes that are comparable to the one in question. Size, style, location and the number of bedrooms all play an important role. The more similar a home is, the better comp it is. To that end, knowing what another similar home recently sold for will give you a good idea of what the home you are looking to make an offer on is worth. Ideally, you would like to come up with at least three comps to support your offer. Don’t hesitate to put your real estate agent to work. They should be more than capable of getting you the information on the comparable sales you are looking for. I suggest going over the last six months of sales data. That way you have a solid foundation to compare with the property you are currently interested in. First, look at the pending sales and see if they are trying to tell a story about a particular market. The pending sales represent the most up-to-date market statistics. How long sales are pending can indicate whether or not it is a buyers market. See if you can find out the number of offers each property received, and the subsequent selling price. If this is your first offer, your real estate agent should have some valuable input as well. Ask them their opinion on the home’s current value, and compare it with the research you have done. At the very least, mulling over comparable sales will provide you with a good indicator as to whether or not your offer is in the ballpark. Communicate With Your Lender Keep in mind that making an offer would most likely not be possible if it weren’t for a lender. Where else would the average buyer receive enough money to make a purchase of this size? Having said that, before you make an offer, it is important to contact your lender. Not only will they be able to give you an update on the current mortgage rates, but they will also be able to provide you with a preapproval letter; another valuable tool in your offer. Acquiring a preapproval letter is an important step in the offer process that too many people glance over. It will simultaneously make you aware of how much house you can afford, and let the seller know you are a serious prospect. There are even situations where a preapproval letter can give you an advantage over anyone else trying to make an offer on the property. Simply providing a seller with a preapproval letter will show them that you are more likely to be able to buy the house. When your offer is comparable to another buyers, having such a letter could place you ahead of them. Outside of the letter, your lender may be able to tell you about any changes that have taken place in mortgage underwritings since you last checked in. For all you know, better rates will allow you to afford a larger house. You may even qualify for a better loan. You will never know until you ask. Decide On Terms No offer would be complete without terms, or rules specifically put in place to govern the deal. Outside of the price, you will need to discuss terms. How long will the inspection process go on for? Do you prefer a faster closing period, or maybe slower? The terms of an offer can absolutely make or break any deal. To that end, the right terms will absolutely place you ahead of the competition. Conversely, poor terms, or at least those that the seller doesn’t agree with, can hurt your chances of submitting an acceptable offer. Don’t hesitate to offer a quick close if both you and the seller agree on it. Sometimes the smallest details can help you make the best offer.   Source: fortunebuilders.com

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

The Quintessential First-Time Homebuyer’s Checklist

The process of buying a home starts well before you physically set foot in a property. In fact, preparation is half the battle. It is in the best interest of those buying their first home, or even those that have acquired multiple properties, to familiarize themselves with the proper steps. In part one of this series, we’ll take a look at what first-time homebuyers should be doing in the year leading up to their purchase. Our partners over at CT Homes have compiled the following checklist for first-time buyers to use throughout the process: 12 Months Out Credit Check Few things impact your ability to buy a home more than your credit score. In fact, it can be argued that your credit score serves as the foundation for the entire home buying process. It is the one thing that can clearly and decisively identify whether or not buying a home is even an option for some. There is no other measurement of one’s viability that is so cut and dry: either you qualify for a home loan or not. It is simple as that. According to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), “Minimum credit score requirements for FHA home loans depend on which FHA loan product the applicant needs. Generally speaking, to get maximum financing on typical new home purchases, applicants should have a credit score of 580 or better. Those with credit scores between 500 and 579 are, according the FHA guidelines, limited to 90 percent LTV.” That is precisely why it is so important to check your credit score at least 12 months before buying a home. Any attempt to buy a home with an unacceptable score will be met with futility. I recommend acquiring a copy of your credit report from the three bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The idea is not so much to know what your score is, but rather to identify any inconsistencies. That way you will know what steps you need to take to fix your credit score, if any are required at all. Determine A Budget At this time, you should have an idea of how much you want to spend. At the very least, determine what you can afford. While your situation will certainly be different in one year’s time, there is no reason you can’t speculate on the position you will be in. However, it is important that you don’t inflate your budget. Temper what you expect to spend, and be realistic with your numbers. Things don’t always go according to plan, and that big raise you are expecting isn’t necessarily an inevitability. In other words, it is better to error on the side of caution. As a general rule of thumb, lenders look positively on those with a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 43 percent. Your total debt should not exceed 43 percent of your gross monthly income. Calculate your debt to income ratio, and determine how much you are comfortable spending every month. Come Up With A Down Payment Plan It is, without question, a great idea to put down at least 20 percent on a home. If at all possible, I highly recommend it. The cost of the loan will be significantly less, as well as the resulting interest rate. However, that is rarely the case with first-time homebuyers – especially in today’s market. For those that find the prospect of putting 20 percent down preposterous, there are many programs that can help. The FHA currently offers loans that require as little as 3.5 percent down. Of course, what you don’t pay up front will be made up for over the duration of the loan. If you go this rout, you will be expected to pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums, which will drive up your monthly expenses. Once you have determined how much money you will need to put down, come up with a savings plan. Check with the credit unions in your area to see if they have any programs that can assist you in saving money. Keep in mind that banks will want you to “season” the money you end up saving. In order for them to vet you thoroughly, they will want to see that you have had stable funds in your account for 60 to 90 days before actually applying for a loan. It doesn’t hurt to have the money in a respective account as soon as possible. Try having the money in your account about a year before you actually commit to a purchase. 9 Months Out Prioritize What You Are Looking For Now is the time to ask yourself what you are looking for in a new home. What is most important to you, and your family? Are you looking for three, or maybe even five bedrooms? What type of neighborhood are you willing to move to? Understanding what you want out of your first home will ultimately make the process that much easier. Not only will you make rational decisions, but you will also eliminate any headaches that coincide with indecisiveness, or even ignorance. Do yourself a favor and have a clear idea of what you are looking for in a home. This is the time to match what it is you are looking for with the predetermined budget. At the very least, what you expect to spend should narrow things down a bit. Eliminating those properties that don’t fit your criteria now will save you time later on down the road. Research I can’t stress the importance of due diligence enough. Understand the ramifications of your actions, and know that everything you have done up to this point will greatly impact your impending purchase. To that end, this step is no exception. Research homes that meet your criteria, making sure to vet those that catch your attention. For as important as this step is, however, it is also the most fun. It is essentially the point in time that most people associate with buying a home. For all intents and purposes, it is the first time you will actually be looking at homes. Everything you have done up to this point has prepared you for this moment. Feel free to research neighborhoods and visit open houses. Get a feel for what is on the market in your price range. Use property listing sites like Realtor.com, Trulia and RedFin to facilitate your research. Learn as much as you can about a respective area: The block the house is on, the local cost of living, nearby stores, school systems and even public transportation. All of this will come into play, and it can only benefit you to know it all. As part of your research, try visiting a couple of open houses in the area. Get a feel for what is offered in your price range. Physically going to a property will finally make the process seem real. It may even motivate you to save more. Budget For Miscellaneous Expenses As a first-time homebuyer, there are no doubt expenses you may be unaware of, or – at the very least – underestimated. For those of you that are unaware, buying a home comes with several upfront costs. Make sure your budget accounts for all of these costs: A home inspection, title search, property survey, home insurance and more. Of course, these costs will vary significantly between areas, but they are important nonetheless. Find out which costs your purchase will incur and budget accordingly. If cash is tight, start saving now.   Source: fortunebuilders.com Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

5 Neighborhood Features That Boost Resale Value

By Blake Miller / Trulia Contributor | Originally November 11, 2015 Increase your home’s value by purchasing in the right neighborhood. When you’re looking at homes for sale in Sarasota, FL, or Houston, TX, certain factors are on the top of your list — be they large walk-in closets, a gourmet kitchen, or a private backyard. But beyond the details of the house itself, your potential new abode’s neighborhood will most likely be high on your list (location, location, location!). Maybe it’s the community pool, the nearby biking trails, or walkability to the elementary school and grocery store. Or maybe it’s the overall curb appeal of the neighborhood. (Who doesn’t want their neighborhood’s entrance bursting with inviting, colorful flowers and shrubs?) Here’s a list of the neighborhood features that not only satisfy your home-buying checklist but also boost your resale and property value in the future. Walkability Yes, it seems as if we drive or take public transportation everywhere these days. But the truth is, there’s something about being able to walk out your front door and head down the street to the grocery store or local coffee shop that not only appeals to potential buyers but also boosts your resale value significantly. “Whether you’re a young, urban professional or a baby boomer, homeowners want to be able to walk or bike to local eateries, bars, grocery stores, banking, and more,” says Brad Pauly, a real estate professional with Pauly & Presley Realty in Austin, TX. “If a new restaurant opens in a desirable, walkable neighborhood, that could increase the value of that property.” This is especially important in urban areas such as San Francisco, where a Walk Score can make or break a home’s value. Amenities Who wouldn’t want a free pool? “Homeowners love neighborhood amenities,” says Pauly. “Typically, new-home communities offer pools, fitness facilities, parks and play areas, and security and gates.” Amenities such as tennis courts, walking and biking trails, and dog parks do incredible things to boost a home’s resale value — especially for families looking to buy. “We’re seeing increased interest in neighborhoods with amenities that rival a resort: workout facilities, pools, playgrounds,” says Sharon Voss, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. “Here in Florida, sports fields, biking and walking trails, and multifunction green spaces are utilized year-round and highly valued.” Historic charm “The historic character of a neighborhood tends to help resale value, as it is a feature that is difficult to replicate,” explains Ross Anthony, a real estate agent with Willis Allen Real Estate in San Diego. “Many times, historically designated districts will aim to maintain a certain level of uniformity and have community commissions to help preserve the neighborhood aesthetic, which in turn will help preserve values.” Unique homes Not everyone wants to choose from the four models a builder offers — and only those four models — which is why neighborhoods that offer you the choice of semicustom or custom homes sometimes have a better resale value than ones that don’t. “Areas with custom and semicustom homes, compared to cookie-cutter production homes, tend to show larger increases in value over time,” says Anthony. “More astute buyers prefer unique homes with character that add to the charm of the neighborhood and are more likely to own for longer periods of time, creating less turnover in the neighborhood.” Schools It almost goes without saying that if a neighborhood is located in a great school district, it immediately boosts a home’s resale value. “If a home is in a quality school district, those communities tend to not only retain their value, but appreciate as well,” adds Pauly. “There will always be parents who want their children attending great schools.” Original Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

10 Numbers You Need To Know Before You Sign A Mortgage

Make sure you’ve got these numbers in hand before you head to your closing appointment. Your offer has been accepted and you’ve been approved for a mortgage. But along with knowing the purchase price of a home and the size of your down payment, there are a lot of numbers to consider before you arrive at the closing on that home for sale in Athens, GA. On October 3, 2015, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) made it easier for homebuyers to find and digest the numbers related to their mortgage payment. The revised loan estimate form explains the terms and costs of a mortgage you’re considering and details a number of numerical nuggets you need to know. Here’s the rundown. The loan terms These amounts, which include the loan amount, interest rate, and monthly principal and interest payment, are locked in and cannot increase after closing. However, your monthly payment could still vary because of homeowners’ association fees or escrow amounts for taxes and/or insurance. This section of the new form also details any applicable prepayment penalties, says Roland Narofsky, regional vice president of Maine Savings FCU in Bangor, ME, and a 25-year industry veteran. “This is a fee charged to the borrower if they pay off the loan early, and is typically charged if the loan is paid off within the first five years.” Your estimated total payment It’s important to know what size nut you’ll have to crack each month. And along with the principal and interest already listed, you’ll want to know your estimated escrow payment for property taxes and insurance, along with any other assessments such as homeowners’ association fees that can drive up your monthly costs. Closing costs Closing costs include a lot of line items and fees. One biggie? Origination fees. “Most banks charge a fee of approximately $1,000 to originate a loan,” says Narofsky. That covers the application and underwriting costs incurred by the bank. Mortgage points, which equal a percentage of the loan, are also usually included and will be spelled out. “Points are negotiable by most banks, and many lenders often charge three to four points,” says Narofsky. So if you were buying a house for $100,000 and paying 1% in mortgage points, you’d pay $3,000 to $4,000 in points at closing. “This is one of the charges you need to watch out for, as it can get pretty expensive,” cautions Narofsky. “Some lenders may allow you to bundle this in with the loan, so ask before closing.” You can also lower your mortgage payments by offering to pay more points at closing. You may be able to shop around for values when it comes to some of your closing costs, such as survey and title fees. Others, such as appraisal fees, title services, and tax services, are probably non-negotiable. Closing costs also include prepaid interest (for the number of days you’ll have the loan until the first payment is due) and property taxes from the day you close on the property until the time the next tax bill is due. Cash to close To calculate the amount of cash you’ll need to bring to closing, subtract the earnest money you’ve already paid from the total of all closing costs. APR The last number you’ll find on the loan estimate is the annual percentage rate (APR). This is not the interest rate. Instead, it is your cost over the loan term expressed as a rate. “When the difference between the interest rate and the APR is greater than 0.5%, you may be paying high fees,” says Narofsky. Even though the new loan estimate statement packs a lot of detail into a few pages, Narofsky says there are a few other numbers you need to know. Rate-lock period “New regulations will make it almost impossible to close a loan in 30 days,” says Narofsky. If your rate lock expires before closing, or before funding in case of a refi, the lock is worthless — so you need to make sure the expiration date extends beyond the closing date. Keep in mind, closings don’t always occur on time. “In New York state, buyers and sellers normally have a right to delay a closing for 30 days for any reason. Even if you as a buyer are ready to close, the seller might need to delay the closing, so leave some cushion,” says Narofsky. Total cost of borrowing This is how much it actually costs you to borrow the money over the length of the term. Amortization length Ask for a detailed schedule that breaks down how much of each payment is going to principal and interest. Prepayment option amount Generally around 15% to 20%, this, says Narofsky, is how much of a lump sum you can put down on principal every year without getting charged a penalty. Insurance charges If you’re putting down less than 20% of the purchase price of the home, you may be charged a mortgage insurance premium until the principal is 80% or less of the cost of the home. Despite having to crunch a lot of numbers, Narofsky says, the process shouldn’t be overwhelming. “Your attorney and/or lender representative should be equipped to walk you through each of these numbers,” he says. And if at any time something seems out of whack or confusing, don’t be afraid to speak up. “It’s much easier to correct a mistake, negotiate, or discuss options before you’re sitting at closing,” he adds. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

10 Rookie Mistakes That Hurt Homebuyers

Don’t be a newbie: Avoid these common mistakes when buying your first home. We’ve all bought things that we’ve later regretted: Be they those high-waisted jeans, pumpkin-spiced potato chips (they exist!), or the $189 electronic toothbrush your dentist said you had to have. At least the money wasted wasn’t a life changer. But what if you paid too much for a car and later realized you couldn’t afford it? That can amount to a significant financial hit. Now just think about the home-buying process. It’s more complicated than all those other purchases combined. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, buying a house can be positively overwhelming. With an agent by your side to guide you through the process, you’ll make it through just fine — but you might want to be aware of these rookie mistakes. If you’re searching for homes for sale in San Francisco, CA, where the market is ultracompetitive, making one of these mistakes could end up costing you big time. 1. Getting too emotionally attached You’re about to purchase what’s probably the most expensive item you’ve ever bought. So this advice from Chris Leavitt, a real estate broker with Douglas Elliman and star of Million Dollar Listing Miami, may be easier said than done: “Relax and don’t get too attached. There will always be another house if you lose one.” Try finding “several homes you love so that you’re not too emotionally invested in one,” suggests Tali Raphaely, president of Armour Title Co. 2. Finding the home yourself We know you’re going to browse Trulia to find homes for sale in your desired location. But don’t rely on just your brilliant research skills. Finding your own home is like “diagnosing yourself of an illness,” says Mirella Nazarian, partner associate of Omega Group Los Angeles. “Let your agent vet the homes for you,” she says. A good real estate agent might find you properties that aren’t yet on the market. And of the homes that are on the market, your agent should be able to tell you “what the home looks like, where it’s situated, the Walk Score, and the price per square foot in the neighborhood.” 3. Going directly to the listing agent If you’ve ever played Monopoly, there’s a card you might pick (a bad one) that says, “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.” It means you did something wrong and now must pay the penalty. The same applies if you go directly to a listing agent who is hired by and represents the seller, not you. “Unless [the listing agent] is someone you have worked with or know personally and know they are an amazing agent, this is a big no-no,” says Nazarian. 4. Assuming you have no rules to follow as a homeowner One of the draws of homeownership is freedom: getting out from under someone else’s rules, whether those of your parents or your landlord. But some homes have deed restrictions that come with conditions. Deed restrictions vary, depending on the community you’re buying in. Their purpose is typically to ensure the property holds its value, which is a good thing. But if you have plans that conflict with the restrictions, you won’t be a happy camper. “Get copies of the restrictions, read them, and ‘look under the hood’ at the internal health of the condo or homeowners’ association,” says Robert Tankel of the Tankel Law Group in Florida. Look to see whether reserves are kept, the neighbors are paying their assessments, if there are pet restrictions, and whether you can run a business from the home. 5. Not saving enough money If you saved up enough money for a down payment, kudos. That’s a huge accomplishment. Unfortunately, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. “Transitioning from a renter or your parents’ home to your own home has incidental costs that may be overlooked,” says Aisha Thomas, associate broker with The Thomas Agency of Georgia. Thomas suggests that buyers have two to three months’ worth of mortgage payments in reserve. You should also count on paying closing costs (between 2% and 5% of the home’s price) and property taxes. After moving day, you’ll also need to buy household essentials you’ve never owned before, such as appliances, tools, and garden supplies. Travis Sickle, a Florida certified financial planner, recommends having three to six months of expenses saved up in an emergency fund. “It’s not money to buy new furniture or remodel a room,” he says. “It has to be for the unexpected expenses, such as a leaky roof.” 6. Not getting preapproved for a loan You’ve run the numbers several times now and know just what you can afford. That’s great. But if you want your offer to be taken seriously by the seller, get proof of income and assets in the form of a preapproval letter from a lender. “This process can take just a few days and simply means that the lender has looked through your financial situation and is comfortable with the idea of lending you a certain amount of money,” says Bianca Mitchell, an agent with Keller Williams in Santa Monica, CA. 7. Paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) If you don’t put down at least 20%, you’ll have to pay PMI, or what Kelly Hager, CEO of Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Services in St. Louis, jokingly calls the “higher-payment thingie.” Many first-time buyers pay this, she says. If you do, make sure you notify your lender when you pay down your mortgage and owe just 80% of the home’s value. Your lender will automatically cancel your PMI when you owe 78%, but you don’t want to pay a month more of PMI than you have to. 8. Not checking the price of homeowners’ insurance Buying a beach house is a dream come true for many people. But make sure you can afford to insure that home by the water because it could be pricey. “Being on the beach, wind insurance is expensive, and there’s a higher risk of flood,” says Kent Owen of Heritage Insurance of Alabama. Other factors may increase your insurance, such as if your new home is located near a fault line (earthquake-prone), has a pool, and more. 9. Not checking your credit score Here’s a weird trivia fact: About 42 million credit reports contain errors. True, the error might be just a misspelling of your street address, which wouldn’t affect you. But some errors could hurt your score badly, such as showing you have late payments when you don’t. “Check your credit at least three months prior to house hunting,” says Jeanne Kelly, credit expert. If there’s an error, ask the credit bureau to kindly fix it. Your interest rate depends on it. 10. Not getting a home inspection All homes need inspections, even brand-new ones. But some homebuyers skip this step “because they get emotionally attached to the home and want it no matter what,” says Steven Annese of EliteFixtures.com. If the home does have issues, you’ll want the seller to fix them or to lower the price. If you’re first-time homebuyers, you might be a bit shy about asking the seller to fix that stuck window or leaky faucet. “The reality is that the buyers who ask for more often get more,” says Josh Muncey, an agent in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. So don’t be afraid to speak up and get outstanding issues fixed before you sign those settlement papers. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

12 Sneaky Places To Hide Ugly (But Necessary) Everyday Stuff

From organizing overflowing piles of mail to corralling toiletries, these creative solutions will help you declutter every room. Between piles of unopened mail and squirreled-away stashes of cleaning products, it’s easy for any home to quickly get overrun by clutter. This is especially true in smaller spaces and studios, where even your bed can seem like an eyesore. (Have you ever looked at homes for sale in New York? Two words: No storage.) But don’t sweat the small stuff — I mean, spaces. Here are some creative ways to carve out hidden nooks and crannies for storing all that extra stuff out of plain sight. Now you see it … now you don’t! 1. Artwork on hinges Anyone who has had to contend with an awkwardly located cable outlet will appreciate this smart solution: an oversized painting on hinges that functions like a medicine cabinet. (It works great for covering thermostats and circuit breakers too.) 2. Stowaway laundry drawer Nothing negates a clean, well-organized room like a basket full of dirty laundry in the corner (or worse, spread out on the floor). Keep washer-bound piles out of sight in a deep drawer like this one. 3. Trapdoor floor Lacking closet space? Take a cue from designer Jeremy Levine, who built storage units into the floor of this workspace to stow supplies and spare equipment. Or, you know, you could go with these more traditional tricks to make your room seem bigger. 4. Over-the-door organizer It’s no secret that pocketed, over-the-door organizers are perfect for extensive shoe collections. But they’re also indispensable for hair tools, cleaning supplies, and beauty products in bathrooms with scarce cabinet space. 5. Platform storage bed In tight quarters, a classic platform bed with built-in drawers is a game changer, and you can find stylish options to fit any budget at retailers from IKEA to Pottery Barn. 6. Router boxes Decorative boxes with strategically placed holes are the perfect way to hide unsightly wireless routers and modems and the accompanying tangle of cords. 7. Fabric skirts and curtains A simple fabric curtain or skirt around a pedestal sink or TV console goes a long way toward visually decluttering any space. Bonus: They’re supereasy to DIY. 8. Hanging files Attach hanging file pockets to the outside of bookshelves to keep mail, magazines, and papers organized and off countertops. 9. Storage headboard Like the ubiquitous storage ottoman, a headboard with built-in cubbies kills two birds with one stone — covert storage space plus an essential furniture piece. 10. Retractable ceiling bed Tiny-house dwellers take note! French retailer BedUp one-ups the traditional Murphy bed with a version that drops down from the ceiling. 11. Closet office In smaller apartments and houses, the dining room or coffee table often becomes the default home office, where paperwork and clutter can quickly take over. An inspired way to avoid the mess? Transform a closet into a hideaway workspace, and shut the door whenever it’s time to call it quits. 12. Range hood hideaway Stashing pots and pans inside the oven is a time-tested trick for kitchen storage in small apartments, but here’s another clever idea: a range hood topped with a hidden compartment. The lift-up door blends in with the cabinets and provides the perfect spot for kitchen accessory overflow. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

8 Photos You Should Take At Every Open House

Bypass the blur: Jog your memory about what you love (and hate) about the houses you view. The home-buying process can make your head spin. After awhile, all the properties start to blend together. “Was the house with the dated kitchen the one with the fabulous deck, or was that the one with the small closets?” Referring to a Trulia listing of that home for sale in Fort Lauderdale, FL, is a huge help, but if you have specific criteria — or just want an extra tactic to jog your memory — add the task of taking photos to your list of open-house ideas. This is especially true if it’s a heavily populated open house and there’s a swarm of people around you as you walk through. Believe us, you’ll be glad that you have documentation instead of relying on your memory. Take note: If the home is still occupied by the seller, be polite and ask the agent on duty whether it’s OK for you to take some photos. If it is, here’s a targeted list of photos that will come in handy, whether you decide to make an offer or not. 1. Heavy-use areas Some areas of a house get more wear and tear and ultimately need more TLC than others. And those are the areas you need to photograph. Whether it’s the driveway or the mudroom, you’ll want to know just how much work needs to be done, since this can affect your offer — or determine whether you even want to make one, depending on whether you mind getting your hands dirty. “It’s important for homebuyers to get images of the curb appeal of the house, the front entrance as they walk in, the kitchen, the bathrooms, and the backyard,” says Arvin Sahakian, a California real estate broker and vice president of BeSmartee, an online mortgage brokerage. “These are the areas of the home that commonly need fixing up, remodeling, or repairs.” Taking photos of areas that need fixing is “a great way to avoid inspection headaches later on in the buying process,” says Rachel Hillman, a Massachusetts real estate agent and owner of Hillman Homes. Show your photos to a contractor — if you happen to have one in your network — before the inspection to get a ballpark figure of how much the repairs might cost. “Your [agent] can help you decide whether to bring up those repairs as part of the offer or wait until the inspection,” adds Hillman. 2. Specific rooms If you’re bringing furniture when you move, it helps to take photos of the layout of the rooms to see, for example, whether your oversized sofa and reclaimed-wood coffee table will work with the space. 3. Your “must-haves” Certain home features are probably important to you, such as a separate laundry room, lots of garage storage space, a walk-in pantry, or an eat-in kitchen. Definitely take photos of your must-have areas so you’ll remember which houses have them. You’ll also want to be consistent. Do this by taking a “picture of the same rooms at each house so you can compare them later on,” says Hillman. “If you are looking for a move-in-ready kitchen, fireplace in the living room, and basement storage, make sure to take a picture of the kitchen, living room, and basement at every house so you can compare [later].” 4. Problem areas This category of photo will never make it into a decorating magazine, but you should snap a picture under the sinks, of the electrical panel, of stains on the walls and ceilings, and of the roof from different angles. Why? A photo taken below the sink “will show if there has been any leakage in the past,” says David Feldberg, a California real estate broker. He explains that it’s especially important to take a picture of the electrical panel in older homes. “You want to see if it has room left or will need to be upgraded.” Stains on the walls and ceilings show “evidence of leaks that have come through the roof or the walls.” And you’ll want to know if you’ll need to replace the roof soon. “That is no small expense and should be factored into the price.” 5. Appliance tags Not every home sale includes appliances, but you should take a photo of the make and model numbers of the ones you will get as part of the deal. That way, “You can estimate their value and life span later on,” says Ross Anthony, an agent with Willis Allen Real Estate in San Diego. Most water heaters, for example, have a manufacturer’s tag stating the installation year. 6. Street views You can’t count on the listing photos to include the neighborhood, so “take a few shots facing away from the house and down each direction of the street,” suggests Anthony. This will remind you of what you’ll see every time you go outside. 7. The extra touches Sometimes you fall in love with the little extras of a home: “The vessel sink in the master bathroom or the hammock between two trees,” says Desmond McKenna, a Washington, DC, real estate agent with DC Home Buzz. Definitely snap some pics of those details. That way, when you’re back at home going through everything, the photos will remind you of your favorite features. 8. The address No matter how great your photos are, they won’t do you much good if you don’t have a method for putting them in order. “The key is to be organized so you can remember what photos go with each house,” says Rachel Hillman. Desmond McKenna recommends photographing the home’s exterior and the address number of the property. You can then use those photos as a catalog. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

10 Projects To Tackle Before Selling A House

Looking to get a leg up on the housing market? These easy upgrades can make your home more appealing to buyers. Like all sellers, you want your house to appeal to a wide range of buyers who can afford your asking price — it doesn’t matter if your home is competing with homes for sale in San Angelo, TX, or Columbia, SC. But to stand out in a crowded market, you need to make your home look as desirable as possible. Tried-and-true tactics such as painting and decluttering can go a long way toward achieving this goal — but these other simple home staging tips can up your home’s wow factor and lead to a quick sale. 1. Have all of your carpeting cleaned This is especially true if you have pets. (Eau de dog is not the odor you want wafting through your home as potential buyers walk through it.) If your carpeting is old and tired and you have hardwood flooring underneath, remove the carpet, says Erica Walther Schlaefer, an associate real estate broker at Keller Williams Realty in Rochester, NY. Chances are, buyers are going to want to know the condition of the floors anyway. 2. Give your moldings a makeover If your moldings are chipped or scuffed, give them a quick touch-up, recommends Schlaefer. Ditto any walls that have scuff marks or stains. 3. Do up your deck If you have outdoor living space such as a deck or patio, make it look as inviting as possible, says Schlaefer. Upgrade existing outdoor furniture by purchasing new cushions or pillows, give your grill a good cleaning, and add some potted plants or flowers. If it’s winter and you live in a cold climate, be sure to keep these areas shoveled to show them off. 4. Freshen up your front door Give it a coat of paint and replace your house numbers with a more modern font. If your mailbox has seen better days (or has been knocked over by a snowplow one too many times), buy a new one. Also, be sure your entryway looks tidy; don’t welcome potential buyers with clutter. That means no stray soccer cleats or sets of keys by the door. 5. Remove roof moss Moss may make buyers think your roof is old and will need to be replaced soon, says Schlaefer. If you have the nerve to get up on your roof, it’s simple to remove moss: just use a long-handled scrub brush to scour it loose, working down the roof to keep from lifting and breaking the shingles. Don’t use a pressure washer — the power of the spray could damage shingles. 6. Make sure your mechanics are in working order “Buyers want to feel as though a furnace or boiler is in good shape and has life left in it,” says Schlaefer. Have these items cleaned and inspected prior to putting your house up for sale. 7. Cut your closets in half No, not literally, but if you remove half the items in your closet and then neatly organize the remaining clothing, the closets will instantly appear larger — a big plus to buyers. 8. Update your outlets If your electrical outlets and switches are outdated and yellowed, replace them with a more modern version. Make sure to use the same style in each room for a uniform look. Replace your switch plates too if they’re looking a little dingy. 9. Replace your toilet seats It’s an inexpensive upgrade that goes a long way toward making your bathroom appear updated. Ditto a new shower curtain and a fresh coat of grout in the shower. 10. Perk up your pulls If your kitchen cabinets or drawers are on the older side but you don’t have the time or inclination to redo them, replace the knobs and pulls with a more modern or unique version. This is an inexpensive task, yet it can make a huge difference in your kitchen’s appeal. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

10 Essential Home Security Hacks

Keep your home from being a target with these 10 easy tips. The bungling burglars from Home Alone may have seemed like idiots for being so easily foiled by a bratty 8-year-old boy, but when it comes to home safety during the holidays, they’re much more realistic than Kevin and his swinging-paint-can defense. That being said, according to statistics from the FBI, there were an estimated 1,729,806 burglaries in 2014. On the positive side, the U.S. Department of Justice studied the numbers too, finding that household burglary rates are surprisingly lower in winter and higher in summer. No matter what time of year, you probably aren’t keen on leaving a kid behind to defend the old homestead. And once that sense of security is shattered, you might be prompted to make an expensive decision — such as adding your home listing to the Atlanta, GA real estate scene just to give yourself some peace of mind. Before you take serious action, put these 10 holiday safety tips to work and make your home less of a target this holiday season — or any season. 1. Beef up security systems Sure, you’ve set the alarm and have motion-activated lights outside, but there are some additional things you should consider doing to fortify your home. For instance, install a heavy-duty lock strike plate on your door; it’s the weakest part and where thieves may try to break in. You can also add sash pins to double-hung windows to make them more secure. 2. Look as though you live there when you’re out of town If you live where the grass is still growing, be sure to mow it before you leave so your home looks well taken care of. Expecting a big snow? Have someone on retainer to shovel your walk and driveway for the same reason. 3. Windows + extension cords = bad Who doesn’t love twinkly lights? But if you want to bring a touch of Clark Griswold to your home, be sure you aren’t running electrical extension cords through your windows. If they don’t close and latch, you’re sending burglars an invitation to invade. 4. Don’t fall for door-to-door solicitations A common way to scope out what kind of goodies you have in your home is by posing as a charity asking for donations. If someone comes to your door, don’t open it, or ask for an ID that links them to the charity — and don’t let them see inside. 5. Use the latest tech Gayla Leathers of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate in Omaha, NE, says to take advantage of a device called FakeTV, which mimics the flickering light of a TV to make it look as though you are home. You can also buy Wi-Fi-connected plug-in devices that allow you to turn lights on and off remotely with your cellphone. 6. Keep your tree out of sight The Christmas tree in front of the window looks lovely, all piled with presents for thieves to see — and take. Either keep your tree away from prying eyes or wait until Christmas Eve to put out your presents. 7. Do your packing out of sight Heading over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house? Load up the sleigh in the garage or out of sight if at all possible, advises Heather Dodson, a real estate agent at Team Leung in Greensboro, NC. 8. Be smart about boxes Hopefully, you score a lot of gifts, but don’t leave the empty boxes on the curb for everyone to see. Break down the boxes, turn them inside out, and put them in your container on the day trash is picked up. Even better? Cart those boxes to a recycling center yourself. 9. Make a record of gifts Got some big-ticket items coming down your chimney this year? It’s a good idea to take a picture of anything pricey, and even jot down the serial number. Should the worst happen, you will have a record of what was taken — or at the very least, a handy reminder of who should get a thank-you note. 10. Don’t publicize your vacation plans It’s hard to fight the allure of Facebook and Instagram. But it’s probably not the best idea to share your travel plans with your 500 closest friends online. Your Facebook profile might not be as private as you think — and it’s better not to take the risk. Source: Trulia Article

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

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