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Buying Secret - Stalk the Neighborhood

9/1/2014

Buying Secret #1: Stalk the Neighborhood


Before you buy, get the lay of the land – drop by morning noon and night. Many homebuyers have become completely distraught because they thought they found the perfect home, only to find out the neighborhood wasn’t for them. Drive by the house at all hours of the day to see what’s happening in the neighborhood.

Do your regular commute from the house to make sure it is something you can deal with on a daily basis. Find out how far it is to the nearest grocery store and other services. Even if you don’t have kids, research the schools because it affects the value of your home in a very big way.

If you buy a house in a good school district versus bad school district even in the same town, the value can be affected as much as 20 percent.

4 Home Selling Myths Debunked

8/29/2014

RE/MAX Housing Blog

4 Home-Selling Myths Debunked
4 Home-Selling Myths Debunked

The process of buying and selling homes can seem mysterious to many novices. Even if well-meaning friends and family members offer advice from all sides, many first-time buyers and sellers may remain uncertain about some key facts.

Let’s see if we can debunk some of the most common home-selling myths that agents hear from clients every day.

Myth: The seller determines the sales price.

Fact: Your home’s sales price should be the result of many factors, among them the size and condition of the home, its location, current market conditions and selling prices of comparable homes in the area.  While the seller ultimately agrees on the final list price, it’s not as simple as pricing the home based only on the money the homeowner hopes to make.

Myth: You should overprice your house in order to leave room for negotiation.

Fact: Overpriced homes take longer to sell and typically sell under their market value. When you overprice, you actually limit your real buying pool. Buyers who can afford to pay only what your home is really worth won’t bother looking at it because they’ll assume they can’t afford it.

Potential buyers who can afford to pay your high asking price will soon realize your home doesn’t stack up to the others in the same price range. By alienating both pools of buyers, you run the risk of wasting the valuable marketing window when your home is a new listing.

Myth: There’s no need to make repairs if you plan on giving the buyer a repair credit.

Fact: Many homebuyers want a home that's move-in ready. If you plan on selling your home quickly and for top dollar, consider making any major repairs before you put the home on the market. Not only will the home be viewed as move-in ready, but your agent can also mention the repairs as a selling point in the marketing materials. If the need for additional fixes arises during inspection, that’s when you could discuss a possible repair credit for the buyers.

Myth: Home improvements pay for themselves when you sell.

Fact: While many repairs offer tremendous value down the road, few home-improvement projects provide a 100-percent return on your investment, according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. Get expert opinions on what to fix, and how, before you take out that sledge hammer.

What is Title Insurance?

8/24/2014

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is a policy that protects against financial loss stemming from problems found in a property's title, or legal ownership.

Think of it this way: As the buyer, how do you know the seller really owns the property? How can you be sure there are no liens, such as from unpaid taxes and lawsuits, or undisclosed heirs who might claim ownership? The answer lies in the title search.

A good title search generally turns up these types of issues. And a good title insurance policy will protect you should they arise during your ownership.

A real estate agent can answer your questions on title insurance and direct you to a title company. But at the same time, it's good to understand some of the basics.

 

Although you have the right to shop around for title insurance, most people follow the recommendation of their loan officer or real estate agent. One note: Because insurers generally follow the same pricing guidelines within each state, discounts can be elusive.

 

Two Types of Policies: Lender's and Owner's

There are two policies for title insurance – one protects the lender, and the other protects you, the homeowner.

Lender's title insurance
This insurance protects the lender, who technically owns the home until you pay off your mortgage. You'll pay a one-time premium at closing, which protects the lender for up to the full amount of the loan as long as you have the mortgage.

Owner's title insurance
This policy protects you. You're probably thinking: “I bought title insurance for the lender, and a search showed the property title was free and clear of any problems. Why do I need an owner's policy? It seems like a waste of money.”

The answer is that no title search is perfect. Without an owner's policy, someone could show up on your doorstep one day and say, "Hey, this is my house. The person who sold it to you never got the proper signatures from my now-dead relative, and according to his estate, I own this place."

Your owner's policy covers you for any losses in this case. Although a lender’s policy is required for closing, the owner’s policy is not – and you may not be asked if you want it. Speak to your agent about buying one during the escrow process.

 

You can always back out of the deal if issues come to light in the title report. Just be sure that there's a contingency written into the Purchase and Sale agreement to cover this.

 

Title Insurance FAQs


What time frame does title insurance cover?


It's important to understand that insurance covers the buyer and lender only for events that occurred before the purchase date. It does not cover future events, or any clouds or defects that arise after the purchase date.

In other words: If the buyer does something that causes a lien to be put on the house, the title policy will not cover the loss.

What kinds of claims are covered?

Standard policies differ by provider, but most cover:
• Undisclosed prior mortgages or liens
• Improperly recorded deeds
• Forgeries or impersonations
• Undisclosed easements or use restrictions
• Errors in legal paperwork

 

You will need to buy a new lender's policy if you refinance your mortgage. The lender will want to make sure no new claims have come up since you purchased the home.

 

What should I look for in the preliminary title report?


Generally, keep an eye out for the following:

Liens: A lien is a legal claim of ownership. Anyone the homeowner owes money to – such as unpaid contractors or tax authorities – can put a lien on the home. The most common type of lien is the one your lender will have on your home for as long as you have a mortgage.

Encroachments: An encroachment is something that crosses the neighboring property line. The best example would be a fence that has been placed improperly.

Easements: An easement is a legal right to use another person's land for a specific use. For example, you might have an easement to run your sewer line through part of your neighbor's property. An easement doesn't give right of possession; just the right of access.

 

Time is of the essence with your preliminary title report. Go over it with your agent immediately, as you have only a few days to address any concerns.


An easement isn't always cause for alarm, but if you discover one, be sure to investigate it with your agent.

 

How do I address problems that arise in the title report?


Your agent can help. Some issues, like easements, can be worked out, while others may be enough reason to walk away. The key is in understanding the issues and talking them through with your real estate agent.

 

 

Rent or Buy?

8/22/2014

RE/MAX Housing Blog

Rent or Buy? Here’s a Calculator to Help You Decide
Rent or Buy? Here’s a Calculator to Help You Decide

Wondering if you should buy a home or keep renting? You’re not alone.

Millions of people are faced with this decision every day, and your move is dependent on a variety of factors: your income, ability to manage maintenance costs/upkeep, how much you’ve saved for a down payment, job stability, the housing market, rental vacancies, monthly payments, interest rates, proximity to work and school – the list goes on.

If you’re stuck trying to choose which option is best for you and your family, the New York Times has a cool tool worth checking out: a rent vs. buy calculator. Input items such as home price, income, the number of years you plan to stay in a place, taxes, fees, etc.. Once you’re done, the calculator computes the equivalent monthly rent. Give it a try

Luxury Home Market 2014

8/13/2014

RE/MAX Lake of the Ozarks has been busy in the Luxury Home Market in 2014!!

Spruce up Your Laundry Room

8/11/2014

RE/MAX Housing Blog

Prepping for Sale: Spruce Up the Laundry Room
Prepping for Sale: Spruce Up the Laundry Room

In many houses, laundry rooms are little more than semi-neglected utilitarian spaces best left unseen – not an impression you want to make if you’re selling your home.
If your laundry space needs some care, follow these organization and decorating tips to upgrade or cleverly conceal it. 

Closet Up
Laundry rooms are tucked into many different places in a home, including the garage, basement, utility room, the kitchen and, in some urban homes, even the bathroom.
That’s where cabinets can come into play. A cabinetmaker can build an enclosure for the washer and dryer alone or for your entire laundry setup. You can also purchase cabinetry at a home improvement store and install it yourself. 

When possible, conceal your laundry space with doors that match or complement other doors in your home. Avoid the conspicuous "accordion" door often found on laundry closets in older homes.  Alternatives include a sliding-door track system or even curtain panels. Curtains are a cheaper, softer and less permanent way to separate and hide your laundry.

Become Shelf Conscious
If your main concern is to conceal a bulky, full-size washer and dryer, a countertop installed directly above the appliances discreetly says, nothing to see here, folks! Use the countertop space as a display shelf during showings. Install a rod and curtain underneath to hide the machines from view.

Color Cleverly
Coordination is key when it comes to camouflaging a laundry room. Choose soothing, neutral palettes for curtains, wood and paint in your laundry space.
If the laundry room lacks cabinetry or shelving, use baskets and storage cubes in a coordinating color scheme to conceal detergent, hangers and clothes.

Show Discipline in Decor
Put laundry room knickknacks away. The last thing you need when sprucing up your laundry space is a cutesy sign that reads "Loads of fun" or "Drop pants here." Choose laundry area decor that is not personal or specific to cleaning. Homebuyers gravitate toward places they can easily picture living in ­– not picture you living in.

5 Things to Consider about a Neighborhood

8/7/2014

RE/MAX Housing Blog

5 Things to Consider About a Neighborhood Before Buying
5 Things to Consider About a Neighborhood Before Buying
Thu, August 7, 2014

Buying a home is a long-term, important investment, so take the time to discover what makes your targeted neighborhoods tick. There are a number of ways to check the pulse of a community; talking to neighbors can give you a great snapshot of what it’s like to live there. Here are five other ways to determine whether a neighborhood is the right fit for you.

1. Is it an up-and-coming area or still in transition? 
You might start by researching local home values and foreclosure rates. Consider such factors as crime rate, development plans and proposed or new businesses. You can even contact local officials, such as the county property appraiser or the HOA manager (if applicable) for better insights. Sometimes buying a home in a transitional area may prove to be a good investment, but you probably want to make sure you'll feel good about your home in the interim, too.

2. Do the schools make the grade?
Even if you don’t have school-age children, you should be interested in how the schools in your potential neighborhood perform. Homes near high-ranking schools tend to maintain higher resale values. Start your research by visiting GreatSchools.org  or using the SchoolFinder tool at education.com.

3. What’s nearby?
Consider what’s important to you in your future neighborhood, and then explore the surrounding areas near your targeted home. Among things to keep in mind are proximity to stores, schools and green spaces. Aside from being practical, these amenities make it easy to mingle with neighbors, set up kids’ play dates or just play fetch with your pup. WalkScore.com is a great place to search for nearby amenities – all you have to do is plug in an address and mode of transportation.

4. How far is it from work?
Try the new INRIX Drive Time tool on remax.com to determine how long it will take you to drive to work, school or area stores from your new home. You can also time a potential commute by doing a test drive during the time of day you’re most likely to go to and from work. Explore mass transit options. In addition to offering an alternative to driving, good public transportation near your home can have a positive effect on your property value.

5. How safe is it?
A neighborhood watch, well-lit streets, walkways, security systems and little to no signs of vandalism are signs of a safe neighborhood. You can see a picture of the types of crimes that occur in the neighborhood by researching on city-data.com or FBI.gov and the local police department’s website.

Financial Missteps to Avoid When Buying Home

7/31/2014

RE/MAX Housing Blog

5 Financial Missteps to Avoid When Buying a Home
5 Financial Missteps to Avoid When Buying a Home
Tue, July 29, 2014

You might have pulled off a great feat, like saving up for that down payment, but there are several financial missteps that can complicate your prospects of buying a home. Avoid these five blunders by managing your spending and bills long before you look for a new home.

1. Letting Your Credit Score Drop
Your credit score directly impacts your ability to get a home loan, the type of loan you qualify for and the interest rate. If you have borderline credit – a score in the low- to mid-600s – further credit mishaps can prevent approval. If you have credit challenges such as bankruptcy or late payments, start your house search several months earlier. Re-establish your credit by paying down credit cards to 30 percent or less of the limit and correcting errors on your report. And avoid checking your credit score too much; constantly checking it counts against you.

2. Languishing in Debt
Consumer debt accounts for 35 percent of your credit score. A late payment's effect depends on the strength of your score, but the account type and the time since the last late payment also matters. If any of your accounts are in collection, it's highly advised you pay them off before seeking loan approval.

3. Shopping Sprees
Stay far away from credit-driven shopping sprees. Even paying cash for big-ticket purchases can raise red flags with a lender. They'll check your bank statements for unusually large deposits and withdrawals and may require an explanation for them.

4. Changing Jobs
A job change may have an adverse effect on your loan approval because lenders calculate your ability to pay a home loan by averaging your past two years of income. If you can avoid interrupting stable employment during the home-buying process, that's probably best.

5. Maxing Out Your Purchasing Power
Even though your lender qualifies you for a certain amount, only you know whether you can comfortably afford the payment. Try to stick with the price range that yields your ideal monthly payment. Looking for homes at the top of your budget limits your ability to increase your offer in a multiple-offer situation.

Tips to Keep Your Home Cool

7/22/2014

Here are some tips to help keep your house cool when the summer weather heats up:

Program your thermostat.

Set the thermostat to 75 degrees when you’re home, but not much lower. Doing so will make your A/C work harder. When you leave the house, program the thermostat to 80 degrees then adjust it to go back to 75 degrees 30 minutes before you arrive home. It takes more energy to restart an A/C unit after being off for several hours so it’s best to leave it on and program it. Set it and forget it!

Use your ceiling fans.

Ceiling fans are synonymous with life itself in Florida, but I notice that’s not the case in Colorado. We installed fans in every home we’ve lived in. It helps us limit our air conditioner usage and save money on our utility bills. Installing ceiling fans in bedrooms and common areas is fairly inexpensive compared to the price you’ll pay to cool an entire house in the summer months. Make sure your fans are switched to rotate counter-clockwise in the summer to push cool air down.

Close the blinds.

Sunlight is a thing of beauty, but too much of it shining through your windows can heat up your home fast. Keep the blinds and curtains drawn in your home, especially when you’re not there, to minimize the UV rays coming in. You can take it a step further by investing in window coverings and/or window films – available at most home improvement stores – that are specially designed to block out UV rays. Darker coverings will absorb the light and make rooms hotter, so choose carefully.

Open the windows at night.

If it cools off enough during the night, crack some windows to help draw in some breezy drafts. It’s safer to open the windows on the upper level of your home or in areas on the main level that are inaccessible to anyone from the outside. Make sure you shut the windows during the day, though, to keep in the cool air from your air conditioning.

Cook on the grill.

It’s a no-brainer: Using your stove and/or oven during the summer months pumps more hot air throughout your home. The solution: Grill outside as much as possible. After all, you don’t want to sit down for supper bathed in sweat. As a bonus, grilling your food is a healthier way to prepare your favorite dishes. Yum!

Switch out light bulbs.

Did you know incandescent and fluorescent bulbs give off more heat than CFLs? Now you do! Swap those old-school light bulbs for CFLs and not only will you reduce the heat throughout your home, but your electricity bill will reflect some savings too. Win-win!

Sweet Incentives

7/16/2014

RE/MAX Housing Blog

Sweet Incentive for First-Time Homebuyers
Wed, July 16, 2014

If you’re looking to start your home search this fall, there’s a new pilot initiative that will sweeten the deal if you’re a first-time homebuyer. It’s the Homeowners Armed with Knowledge (HAWK) counseling program, which aims to provide FHA insurance discounts to first-time homebuyers who obtain housing counseling and education via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

Here are the perks: Those who complete the HUD-approved counseling before and after a home purchase will receive a 50 basis point reduction in the upfront FHA mortgage insurance premium (MIP) and a 10 basis point reduction in the annual FHA MIP. In English, that means you could save $325 per year, or nearly $9,800 over the life of your loan.

In addition to the monetary savings, you become more knowledgeable about the home-buying process and better prepared for what lies ahead. Sounds good, right? You also can brush up on the ins and outs of purchasing your first home by browsing through the RE/MAX Home Buying Guide.

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