Steering clear of homebuyer’s remorse requires more than just picking the right home in the right neighborhood. According to a 2016 survey by J.D. Power, 27% of new homeowners ultimately came to regret their choice of lender. One major reason for the dissatisfaction was overall poor customer experience, including lack of communication and unmet expectations. Another factor? Pressure from the lender to choose a particular product or loan. You can remove some of the tension and turmoil of house-hunting by carefully vetting potential lenders. Here are some questions to ask potential lenders before you commit.
Oh my…this is a MUST READ for First Time Home buyers! Don’t leave home without it!
What exactly is home insurance and do I really need it?
Ready to buy your first home? Before you dot the I’s and cross the T’s on your mortgage, it is important to understand the ins and outs of homeowners insurance.
Without homeowners insurance, a property buyer is unlikely to secure a house. Homeowners insurance protects a residence and the items stored in a residence against disasters. Therefore, if your home is suddenly destroyed in a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster, homeowners insurance guarantees you are fully protected.
Homeowners insurance should be simple, but there are many factors to consider as you evaluate all of the coverage options at your disposal.
Now, let’s take a look at five common questions about homeowners insurance.
- Why Do I Need It?
There are two reasons why homebuyers must purchase homeowners insurance:
- It enables you to protect your assets. Homeowners insurance safeguards the structure of your home and your personal property. It also protects you against liability for injuries to others or their property while they are on your property.
- Your mortgage lender probably requires you to have it. Most lenders will require you to maintain homeowners insurance for the duration of your mortgage. A lender usually will require you to list the company as a mortgagee on your homeowners policy. Moreover, if you let your homeowners coverage lapse, your mortgage lender likely will have your home insured at a much higher premium and with less coverage that what you had in the past.
Homeowners insurance is a must-have for homeowners, without exception. If you allocate the time and resources to find the right homeowners coverage, you should have no trouble protecting your house and personal belongings for years to come.
- How Does It Work?
Generally, homeowners insurance is considered a package policy because it includes a combination of coverages. The package policy focuses on the following areas:
- Dwelling: Covers the costs associated with damage to your home and structures attached to it, including any damage to electrical wiring, heating systems or plumbing.
- Other Structures: Ensures you’re protected against damage to fences, garages and other structures that are on your property but not attached to your house.
- Personal Property: Guarantees you’re covered for the value of possessions like appliances, clothing and electronics if they are lost or damaged. This coverage applies even when your personal property is stored off-site, like in a storage unit or college dorm room.
- Loss of Use: Provides financial assistance to help you cover some of your living expenses if you need to temporarily vacate your house while it is being repaired.
- Personal Liability: Offers protection against financial loss if you are sued and found legally responsible for injuries or damages to someone else.
- Medical Payments: Covers the medical expenses for people who were hurt on your property or by your pets.
Clearly, there’s a lot to consider as you evaluate a homeowners policy. Review your coverage options closely, and you may be better equipped than other homeowners to secure your house and personal belongings effectively.
- Are There Homeowners Coverage Limits?
You should get homeowners insurance that covers the full replacement cost of your home, not just the market value of your residence.
The replacement cost and market value of a residence may seem identical at first. But upon closer examination, it becomes easy to understand why you’ll want to purchase a homeowners policy that offers protection for the full replacement cost of your house.
For homeowners, the replacement cost refers to the total amount it would cost to rebuild or replace your home if it was completely destroyed. This cost may vary based on your home insurance provider and usually accounts for the plans and permits, fees and taxes and labor and materials that you would need to replace your house. However, the replacement cost does not account for the value of the land associated with your home.
On the other hand, the market value reflects what your home is worth today. It fluctuates based on the current condition of your house, the real estate market and various economic factors.
The market value of your home commonly proves to be great indicator of what your house may be worth if you intend to sell it in the near future. Conversely, when it comes to homeowners insurance, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you calculate the full replacement cost of your home, you can insure your residence appropriately.
- Are There Optional Homeowners Insurance Coverages?
Believe it or not, a standard homeowners policy won’t cover everything. As such, you may want to consider adding some of the following optional coverages to supplement your homeowners policy:
- Flood Insurance: Floods rank among the top natural disasters in the United States, and even an inch of water can cause severe property damage in a short period of time. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers flood insurance coverage that will protect your home for up to $250,000 and your personal property for up to $100,000. Keep in mind that there often is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy goes into effect. This means if you want to buy flood insurance in the days leading up to a hurricane, you may be out of luck.
- Earthquake Insurance: Many Western states are prone to earthquakes. In California, Oregon and Washington, earthquake coverage is available from multiple insurance providers. Or, if you live outside these states and still want to purchase earthquake coverage, your state’s Department of Insurance can help you find licensed earthquake insurers.
- Daycare Coverage: If you take care of a friend’s children and are unpaid, your homeowners insurance offers limited liability coverage. Comparatively, if you provide daycare in your house, you will need to purchase insurance to cover the related liability.
- Additional Liability: You can purchase additional liability coverage any time you choose. These add-ons may require a nominal premium but sometimes makes a world of difference for homeowners.
Of course, if you’re unsure about which coverages you need, it always helps to consult with an insurance agent. This insurance professional will be able to respond to your homeowners insurance concerns and queries and help you get the coverages you need, any time you need them.
How Much Will It Cost?
There are several factors that will affect your homeowners insurance premium, including:
- Attractive Nuisances: If you have an attractive nuisance like a swimming pool or trampoline, you may have to pay more for homeowners insurance than other property owners.
- Coverage Options: Adding flood insurance, earthquake insurance and other coverages may cause your homeowners insurance premium to rise.
- Home Protection System: If you have a home burglar alarm, security devices for windows or deadbolts on doors, you may be able to lower your insurance premium.
- Pets: Some insurance providers won’t offer homeowners coverage if you own certain types of pets.
- The Home Itself: Your house’s age, condition, construction and distance from a fire department and water source may impact your homeowners insurance premium.
Homeowners insurance premiums will vary from person to person. But those who take an informed, diligent approach to homeowners insurance can boost their chances of getting the best homeowners policy at the lowest rate.
Homeowners Insurance Tips
Let’s face it, homeowners insurance can be confusing, particularly for those who are searching for coverage for the first time. Lucky for you, we’re here to help you discover the right homeowners policy.
Here are five tips to help you secure homeowners insurance that meets or exceeds your expectations:
- Shop around. Meet with various homeowners insurance providers and learn about different types of coverages so you can make an informed homeowners insurance decision.
- Bundle your homeowners and car insurance policies. In some instances, you may be able to save between 5 and 15 percent if you purchase your homeowners and car insurance from the same insurance company.
- Minimize risk across your house. Homeowners insurance offers immense protection, but you also can install storm shutters, enhance your heating system and perform assorted home upgrades to reduce risk across your home.
- Look at your credit score. With a good credit score, you may be able to lower your homeowners insurance premium. If you don’t know your credit score, you can request a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Keep in mind that only some carriers use credit scoring.
- Stay with an insurer. If you find an insurance company that you like, stay with this company for several years, and you may be able to reduce your homeowners insurance premium over time.
There is no need to settle for inferior homeowners coverage. If you use the aforementioned tips, you can purchase homeowners insurance that guarantees your home and personal belongings are fully protected both now and in the future.
Source: CB Blue Matter
The most frustrating part of your homeowner purchase if you are not paying cash? The mortgage application and approval hands down! Start off your journey with some great advice!
Prepare for your meeting with your mortgage lender by showing up with these 10 questions.
Buying a home starts with finding the right mortgage lender. Here are the questions you should ask mortgage lenders, before you sign on with one.
1. What mortgage programs do you offer?
In many cases, choosing the best loan for your specific financial situation requires working with a lender who offers a wide array of loans. You don’t want to work with a lender who tries to push you into one loan simply because that’s the only option from their limited selection.
2. Do you regularly handle the type of loan I’m looking for?
If the type of loan you’re looking for is more specific than, say, a conventional fixed-rate mortgage, a little more expertise is useful and in some cases, it might be necessary. An uncommon home loan like a United States Department of Agriculture loan, for instance, must go through an approved lender.
3. What are the qualifications for the loan I’m seeking?
Even when two lenders offer the same type of loan, their minimum requirements could differ. For instance, Department of Veterans Affairs loans require a minimum credit score of 620, but a lender might require a minimum score of 640. So comparison-shop. Don’t assume the same type of loan means the same terms.
4. Do you offer down payment assistance programs?
If you’re concerned about meeting down payment requirements for a loan, this is an important question to ask. Some lenders offer assistance programs. Putting more down generally lowers your interest rate. Even paying just a half-percentage point less in interest can make a huge difference in the lifetime costs of your mortgage.
5. Can you give me an estimate of the rates and fees I might expect to pay?
While an initial estimate doesn’t guarantee your final, out-of-pocket expense, it can be a solid jumping-off point for evaluating lenders. However, rates fluctuate, so try comparing lenders on the same day to get the most accurate mortgage rate comparisons.
6. Can you quickly provide an in-depth preapproval lender letter to my real estate agent?
If you’re house-hunting in a hot real estate market like Jacksonville, FL, or a home for sale in Colorado Springs, CO, time is of the essence. Make sure the lender can quickly provide an in-depth preapproval letter to your real estate agent. You want a preapproval letter that makes the seller confident you qualify for the home â€” and, ideally, you want it to be delivered before competing offers arrive.
7. Will you be able to do a mortgage rate lock?
Since a small change in rates can cost thousands in the long run, check to see if the lender offers a mortgage rate lock. Be sure to ask about the associated fees, including how much it costs to extend the lock should it expire before closing.
8. Do you handle mortgage loan underwriting in-house?
There’s a big reason to ask this one. If the loan underwriting is completed in-house, loans can be processed quicker and questions answered more efficiently. And that means fewer potential complications or delays that could push back a closing date a situation that can sometimes cause a sale to fall apart.
9. What is the time estimate for processing my home loan?
When you’re coordinating the end of a current lease or timing a home sale with a new home purchase, knowing the estimated time it will take to process your loan is key. Of course, it’s always a good idea to build in a small buffer if you can and not just because loan preparation can take longer than expected. Surprises sometimes pop up during the final walk-through before the home sells.
10. Can I expect communication in a straightforward and timely manner?
If your communication thus far hasn’t been efficient and helpful, that could be a bad sign of things to come. Find out if you’ll have a single contact who you can count on or just a general customer service line.
Source: Trulia Blog
Interesting food for thought. Depending on the dynamics of the other homes in the neighborhood, fair market values can vary.
Whether you’re buying or selling, remember that your neighbor’s sale price is just one piece of the puzzle. Whether you’re buying or selling, make sure you look beyond the data to get the big picture on home values.
After researching the sale prices of his neighbors recent home sales, Steve Rennie thought he knew exactly what his Kansas City, MO, house was worth. But when the Rennies decided to sell and started interviewing real estate professionals, they discovered they needed more and more relevant information. While the sale price of homes on your street can provide important insight into the price of a home you’re selling or buying, here are some of the other factors you should consider to make your best deal.
The Rennies quickly realized that recent sales near them wouldn’t be the perfect way to gauge their home’s value. We had interviewed several agents, and most came back with prices for homes that were not truly comparable to ours, because we had a unique older home in an area of newer ones, recalls Rennie. Eventually, the couple called real estate agent Dan Vick, vice president of RE/MAX Results in Kansas City, who offered a different perspective.
Since I didn’t have comps in their exact neighborhood, I went a half-mile away to find homes of similar age and style, says Vick. They’d said they wouldn’t list their home for one penny under $180,000, but based on my comps, I asked: Would you mind if I listed it for more? The house sold the first day it was on the market for $189,500. The Rennies were thrilled.
While comps give sellers a point of reference and an understanding of how strong the real estate market is, Vick suggests calling a professional familiar with your neighborhood to interpret comps properly and gauge what your home is worth. In newer subdivisions, especially if one or two builders have built the majority of the homes there, you can look at similar floor plans. But in older areas, that rule doesn’t apply, because you don’t have the same house four doors down the street.
Even when you’ve studied comps and have noted relevant details about recent nearby home sales, it’s often easy for sellers to overlook important information when setting a price, says Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in Centerville, DE. I continuously encounter sellers who value their home above fair market price, he says. Cosmetically upgrading a kitchen or bathroom won’t usually generate a 100% ROI, so I’m tactful when explaining the reality of property valuations or asset depreciation.
Pricing your property appropriately, regardless of what your neighbor sold for, is key in today’s market, adds Matt Laricy, managing partner with Americorp Real Estate in Chicago, IL. A couple of years back, people would price a home high, get lowball offers, and be willing to negotiate, he says. Nowadays, with low inventory, many sellers are too aggressive: Their neighbor’s house sold in one day, so they think, I’ll overprice my place because I know I’m the only one on the block. But buyers are smart; they may not even look at it until the price comes down.
Bottom line? Don’t be greedy, Laricy says. If you price your home realistically, you’ll likely get more than one offer and net more money in the long run.
Buyers can benefit tremendously from checking what homes in their chosen neighborhood have sold for, says Laricy. In Chicago, we don’t do price per square foot, so knowing what a neighbors house sells for is huge, he says. If it sold really low, that’s good news for you as a buyer.
However, buyers sometimes overlook other crucial details in their quest to zero in on the best price, he adds. That can lead to a harder sale or lower profit in the future. In big markets like New York, Chicago, Miami, and LA, where people are coming and going all the time, you’re buying an investment, he explains. Buyers usually don’t think about value: why certain buildings trade at different rates now, which ones will trade higher than others in the future, and which neighborhoods are worth more. These are things you need an expert eye for.
He notes that younger buyers tend to neglect that all-important real estate factor: location. They chase kitchens and bathrooms, he says. They’ll buy in a less desirable location to get a nicer kitchen. You can always change a kitchen, but you can’t pick up a property and move it.
Yet even as buyers and their agents leverage comps to make a good buy, sometimes the heart wants what it wants, says Vick. I think you can get too caught up in the comparable data. If your buyers have looked at 15 homes, and this is the one they’ve fallen in love with, it really doesn’t matter what the comps are; you’d better go after it with a strong offer, he suggests. A note of caution to buyers: be careful not to overestimate a home’s appraisal value, since an offer that’s much higher than appraisal value could put your purchase at risk.
Especially in red-hot real estate markets, Laricy advises buyers to bid smart the first time or risk losing out to another buyer. Usually, buyers who lowball are the ones who end up missing out on two or three properties before actually getting something, says Laricy. Be realistic by putting in a strong offer upfront.
First-time homebuyer Corinne Hangacsi followed that advice before purchasing her two-bedroom townhouse in Wilmington, DE, this spring. We did our research through Trulia. Our real estate agent definitely clued us in to what was happening in the area, but we also looked at other comparable properties ourselves, she says. That in-person research helped Hangacsi feel comfortable making a strong initial offer. My biggest piece of advice for first-time homebuyers is to be patient and do your homework. Go with your gut; when you find the right place, you’ll know.
Source: Trulia Blog
Lucky for you, Coldwell Banker Kappel Gateway property search function has a drive time filter! A very important consideration you should be aware of if you are a commuter.
If you had to choose, would you pick the dream house or the dream commute?
Anyone stuck in traffic can tell you just how important commute time is.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 11 million of us drive an hour or more to work each way. In addition, Trulia’s Best and Worst Cities for Commuting, an analysis of American Community Survey data, and a 2015 online survey of more than 2,000 American homeowners, shows that commute times in the 50 biggest U.S. cities have steadily increased since 2009.
This could encourage some homebuyers to consider swapping larger houses and longer commutes for more modest properties closer to work. Others refuse to give up on square footage, a big backyard, and other suburban amenities. But no matter what you’re looking for, your future drive time to work is an important part of the house-hunting puzzle.
1. Map out the route from home to work
How your commute will affect your day-to-day life is important to know before buying a home. Start by clicking on the commute tab in Trulia Maps to calculate the distance between home and work. Then do a dry run, says Danielle Schlesier, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Brookline, MA. Get in the car, hop a bus, or take the train and do the commute both in the morning and the evening, she suggests. Picture yourself commuting every day, and if the answer is Yes, I can manage this, then go for it. If the answer is no, keep looking for a home closer to your office. Use Trulia’s analysis of commuting methods to figure out how your city gets to work.
2. Evaluate your work-life balance
Adding a commute can be a big lifestyle change, so consider all the pros and cons involved in that decision, says Jen Birmingham, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Petaluma, CA. Think about how you feel when you’re on the road. Would a longer commute put you in a gloomy mood that could outweigh the perk of having a spare bedroom or space for a pool? Ask yourself: How will the added drive time impact your personal life and family time? How do these concessions balance out with the benefits of the move?
And consider alternatives, Birmingham advises. Does your employer offer flexibility in the commute hours? A commute schedule outside of usual high-traffic times can make a huge difference in the hours spent on the road, she says.
3. Consider your life stage
Are you single, newly married, raising a growing family, or downsizing? Commuting may not be a deal breaker if you have other priorities. Buyers with families often opt for a larger home in a desirable neighborhood that comes with a longer commute, notes Luisa Mauro, broker/owner at Marathon Real Estate in Austin, TX. Clients with children may live further from their office to be in a specific school district. Typically, the further a house is from the central business district, prices are less for additional square footage, which is desirable for growing families.
Buyers may also want to evaluate how long they plan to stay in their current job versus how long they intend to live in their new home, adds Schlesier. You may change jobs, so you better really love where you live, she says.
4. Add up all the costs, not just the financial ones
Buyers may underestimate the true cost of a lengthy commute, notes Jon Jachimowicz, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia Business School who studies the daily effects of commuting on workers. Longer commutes make people more emotionally exhausted, explains Jachimowicz. If you have to drive into work 300 times per year, versus the 15 barbecues you’re going to have in your yard each year, people overweigh how much joy they’re going to get from those 15 barbecues versus the negative experiences from 300 days of commuting.
While you should definitely figure in commuting costs such as gas, tolls, parking, train tickets (and even things like extra hours of childcare), think about the psychological costs of commuting as well, adds Schlesier. No matter how much you love a house, it may not matter if you don’t have enough free time to enjoy it.
5. Seek out alternative routes and travel times
Experiment with different routes and schedules when weighing a new commute, suggests Mauro. Our clients will work out or shop during traffic hours to maximize the time they have between work and driving home, she says. They’re able to get home more quickly by starting their drive home later.
Easy highway access also makes commuting more manageable, adds Birmingham. In a community like Petaluma, living 1 or 2 miles from the freeway can make a 20- to 30-minute difference in a driver’s day, so living near an entrance and exit of a major commuter thoroughfare makes life feel a lot easier, she says.
6. Embrace the upside of a longer commute
Commuting can be a positive experience, says Jachimowicz, especially if you use that time effectively. His research shows that even small tweaks in your routine can make you more productive. For example, plan out your workday or practice for a performance review or a challenging conversation with your boss. One interesting thing about commuting is, you’re moving both physically and psychologically from one role to the next, says Jachimowicz. People who transition into their work roles as they’re commuting experience fewer negative consequences.
If you take public transit, adds Schlesier, catch up on work or clear out your overflowing inbox or voicemail. Commuting can also be beneficial if you reclaim it as me time, notes Mauro. Decompress from the workday and separate your professional and personal lives, she says. Listen to podcasts, books on tape, or learn another language.
While these strategies won’t magically cut your travel time in half, they will help you focus on the big picture. Having the opportunity to escape a bustling city and enjoy a more laid-back lifestyle can add a huge quality-of-life boost when somebody becomes a commuter, says Birmingham.
Source: Trulia Blog
Quandry: You are faced with circumstances that may prevent you from obtaining a traditional mortgage. Don’t panic…you have alternatives!
You want to buy a house, but your credit history isn’t in tip top shape, or you cannot show a consistent cash flow even though you have a lot of money saved in the bank making you an undesirable candidate to borrow in the eyes of the lenders.
What are your options? When it comes to real estate, here are some of the most common alternatives to a traditional mortgage for you to take into consideration:
Borrow from a Self-Directed Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Self-Directed IRAs are different from Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs. A Self-Directed IRA gives you the freedom to invest in many nontraditional assets, such as mortgages, real estate, promissory notes, tax liens, precious metals, private businesses, etc. With a Self-Directed IRA you get asset protection and tax advantages as they are government-sponsored retirement plans. Due to the self dealing rule, the IRS does not allow you to borrow against your own self-directed IRA, or those of your lineal relatives and business partners. This means that you would need to know someone who has a Self-Directed IRA to borrow from, or a third party financial company that facilitates those types of transactions. For more information on how to get private lending with a Self-directed IRA, read more on Self-directed IRA Lending.
Borrow from your Whole Life Insurance policy. Whole Life Insurance is a basic cash-value life insurance. When you pay the regular premium on a Whole Life Insurance policy, you are essentially accumulating wealth through the equity growth that you are contributing which goes into a savings account. If there are dividends or interest in this account, it is tax-deferred. Don’t mistake Whole Life Insurance for Term Life insurance. Whole Life Insurance protects you for your entire life, and allows you to borrow against the cash-value of your policy. A pro tip to borrowing against your Whole Life Insurance is that it increases your borrowing potential however, should you not pay back the loan the face value of your policy reduces. If this is the strategy you choose to implement to buy your dream home, be sure to thoroughly research this option. Ask yourself and your insurance company the following:
1. What would the Pros and Cons be to borrowing against Whole Life Insurance?
2. How long will it take to repay the loan and what would be the interest rate?
3. What would happen if you pass away before the loan is payed off?
4. What are the consequences to dependents who are beneficiaries?
5. How does it affect the annual dividends?
6. Are withdrawals of the Whole Life Insurance taxable or deferred?
7. In what scenarios would the Whole Life Insurance policy lapse if you barrow from it?
There are many things to consider when borrowing against your Whole Life Insurance policy, so be sure that your decision to buy your home outweighs some of the drawbacks of borrowing against your life insurance.
See if you can get Seller Financing. Seller Financing is a great way to skip the whole mortgage approval process. However, it is quite difficult to get for the following reasons:
(1) The seller does not own the house outright, and for the seller to give you a financing option, the seller must have paid off his/her mortgage in full.
(2) Most sellers do not want the hassle and additional risks of being a lender even though they could profit more by being the financier. With that being said, sellers don’t necessarily have to be a lender. The seller can arrange to resell the promissory note to an investor.
Buy a rent-to-own home. Rent-to-own, lease-to-own, or lease-to-buy are all the same. Often times, homeowners who want to sell off their homes but can not, those home owners may list their homes as a rent-to-own. If you and the seller sign a lease contract and you pay the Option Consideration section of the lease contract, the seller is agreeing to rent his/her home to you for a specific amount of time. Once that time ends and you have been paying the rent on the lease agreement in a timely manner and building equity towards the purchase of the home; you will have the option of going through with the purchase or not. For more details about renting-to-own a home, read Pros and Cons of Renting to Own a Home.
Source: Dream Casa
These are serious questions you need to ask when purchasing a home, especially if you are a first time homebuyer!
Here’s how to find a house your growing family will love for years to come.
Unless you’re planning on doing your own version of Fixer Upper, the general home-buying rule of thumb is to look for a place you’ll be able to live in for five years or more. So if you have kids (or are about to), you’ll need to look not just at the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but also consider how a house will work for a crawling baby, curious toddler, rambunctious preschooler and beyond not to mention multiple children, if that’s your plan. Talk to your Coldwell Banker Real Estate professional about your needs and ask these nine questions to help you narrow in on the perfect home for your growing family.
1. Are the neighbors close in age? One of the greatest benefits of buying a home is getting to know your neighbors and having a true sense of community. But while neighbors of any age may be lovely people, having other young families on the block will go a long way toward creating a kid-friendly environment. (Think: company at the future bus stop, community activities like organized trick-or-treating and safety features like a slower speed limit.)
2. Is there ample outdoor space? It’s easy to overlook the yard if you’re childless or baby is still in diapers, but having an outdoor area that’s safe for supervised play is a major win. It’s important to consider the flip side, though at the time and cost of maintaining and make sure you’re up for the task. If not, look for a home with less outdoor space, like a condominium or townhouse, that’s within walking distance of a playground or park. (Not sure what the difference is between a condo and townhouse? Coldwell Banker Real Estate explains that here.) A house with a smaller yard on a quiet street or cul-de-sac could also be a good choice, since you might be able to use the street as an extension of your front yard.
3. How are the schools? Your first instinct may be to look into the quality of the public school district and you definitely should! but if your kids are preschool age or younger, don’t forget to research nanny and day care options in the area. Once you’ve checked those boxes, find out about school transportation (not all homes qualify for bus service), including where the bus stop is, or what the walking path and/or driving route will be.
4. Is it equipped with Smart Home technology? It wasn’t long ago that having network-connected products to control entertainment, security, temperature, lighting and safety seemed out of reach, except for in the most high-end houses. But these smart home features have quickly gone mainstream as they’ve become more affordable and easy to set up in existing houses. They’re particularly great for families with young children having the ability to control night-lights, lighting and window treatments from your phone can help make naptime easier, for example. Consider which features are most important to you, and search for Coldwell Banker Real Estate listings that are classified as smart homes.
5. Is the kitchen large enough to accommodate the entire family? It’s often said the kitchen is the heart of the home, and for good reason. After all, you’ll be spending countless hours there over the years, whether you’re cooking and baking together, grabbing quick bowls of cereal in the morning, or working on school projects. A kitchen with an eat-in dining area, an island/peninsula for bar stools, or even a desk area for homework time will give you plenty of room to do all of the above (sometimes simultaneously).
6. Is there a separate room for playtime? Yes, an open floor plan makes it easier to keep an eye on kids while you’re in the kitchen, but a designated playroom off the living room or a finished basement can be a sanity-saver. You’ll still probably end up stepping on Legos, but having a dedicated room to store all those toys can help you keep the mess under control (or at least hide it).
7. Is there a convenient entrance with storage? Kids of every age come with a whole lot of gear from strollers and diaper bags during the baby stage to sports equipment when they get a little older. That’s why a mudroom or a large laundry room is ideal bonus points if it has its own outside entrance so older kids can drop off their stuff on the way in. If not, a foyer with storage space is a good alternative.
8. How’s the commute to work? Even the most perfect house isn’t perfect if you spend so much time getting to and from work you can’t help your kids get ready for school or see them before bedtime. Do a test run from any potential house to your workplace during rush hour, whether you plan to drive, bike, or take public transportation.
9. Are there shops nearby? No matter how good you are at stocking your pantry and medicine cabinet, it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll run out of diapers at the worst possible time or need to pick up medicine if baby spikes a fever. Having a grocery store or pharmacy a short drive or walk away will save you time and stress especially if it’s open late.
Source: CB Blue Matter / The Bump
The heat is on! You want to improve your credit and you want to get it done NOW!
If raising your credit seems impossible, take a step back from the big hairy goal and tackle the beast one step at a time.
There’s no “instant” button, but there are things you can do now that will help increase your score.
The unfortunate truth about raising your credit score: There is no quick fix.
Hitting the reset button sounds tempting — especially when faced with a less than stellar credit score; but starting over with a blank slate will only set you back further.
Now that a forewarning is out of the way, on to the good stuff: Actionable tips to raise your credit score swiftly and without financial risk. You can expect most of these tips to affect your credit score in about 30 to 60 days, the typical time that’s considered speedy.
How to increase your credit score
- Request a copy of your credit report and look for errors
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission found that one in five consumers carried an error on their credit report. If you find an error, dispute it. Removing negative marks made in error will help you return to your correct score.
- Write a negotiation letter to your credit bureau
If a negotiation letter doesn’t work, contact the company reporting a late payment to ask if it will campaign for the removal. If a payment was incorrectly reported (see No. 1), or if you simply forgot a bill when you’re usually 100% on the ball, you may be able to get the late payment removed.
- Stop using your credit cards You can lower your credit utilization rate in two conventional ways: Lower your spending and increase your credit. Your credit score is largely determined by the amount of debt (credit card and loan balances) compared with your credit limits. Spending around one-third of your credit limit is the recommended credit line, but crossing that debt-to-credit threshold won’t help your score. Alternatively, you can request an increase in your credit or open a new card as a way of increasing your credit-to-spending ratio, but this is a risky move if your spending doesn’t slow down. Be wary of raising limits if it wouldn’t be financially feasible to pay back any and all spending.
- Don’t apply for multiple forms of credit in a short time Each time you request a new form of credit, including car and home loans, etc, you’ll likely face a credit inquiry. Too many inquiries within a short time and the credit bureaus may ding your credit. Keep this in mind as you request credit increases or open up new accounts. Both actions may result in one too many credit pulls and consequently, a decrease in your credit score.
- Settle late payments — then automate your payment schedule Timely bill pay is gut-wrenching when you’re financially strapped, but proactively settling bills will make future payments easier. Credit bureaus count a late payment starting from the first day of your last late payment, so the sooner you can square the bill, the better. This is particularly true if you can pay off past-due debts before they reach the 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day thresholds. It’s scary to confront the financial challenge, but it’s doable. Once you’ve settled any late payments, make future payments even simpler by automating. Automation avoids accidental missed payments and takes the mental clutter of scheduling multiple payments off your mind.
- Building credit builds long-lasting habits Approaching the daunting task of increasing your credit score with the long-term-training mindset helps you build long-lasting habits that strengthen your financial foundation.
Source: Trulia Blog
Here are some GREAT tips to get the skinny on houses that have made it to your hot list. Fire up your Google!
Search-engine sleuthing is worth the effort to unearth the niceties — and perhaps negatives — when searching for your new home.
There’s probably not a day that goes by that you don’t Google something — the weather, a foreign phrase, directions, or news, just to name a few. With all the information Google can provide through its bird’s eye view, not Googling your address is practically a crime — especially when you’re searching for a new home (whether you’re house-hunting for a waterfront home in Benicia, or looking for a ranch house in Vacaville). Here’s what you could find.
Get a sense of the neighborhood using Google’s Street View
We can’t transport ourselves Star Trek–style to other places … yet, so the next best experience may be Google’s Street View, sort of a pre-virtual-reality experience. Simply type in an address, and if there’s an image of the property in the results, click on it. Other factors to note while on your Google stroll? Scope out yard size, proximity to neighbors, how many trees are on the property and the privacy provided by them, a view of the front of the home, a view of the neighbors’ homes (such as any nearby eyesores or hoarders), and the size of nearby roads. Don’t forget to use the aerial view while you’re at it, because it might let you know the condition of the roof (but keep in mind the image could be old.)
A caveat: Google Street View can be outdated, so it’s possible you could be looking at old news. The house you’re interested in might have been newly renovated, but you wouldn’t know that if the remodel happened after Google was there.
2. Map the proximity of the house to potential health hazards
The last thing anyone wants is to find out their dream home is located near a former meth lab or directly under a busy flight path. These aren’t just concerns for comfort; in unfortunate (and rare) cases, homes can be health hazards. When house hunting, be sure to search for whether or not that Los Angeles home for sale is in a safe area. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration maintains a database of homes that have been identified as drug labs, and some of these properties require intensive, expensive cleanup before they can be healthfully inhabited. Radon and industrial and airport zones are also pretty easily discoverable with a Google search and, in most states, via disclosures that most sellers will provide. (Some people find living near an airport or other noisy zone impacts their sleep, even if there is no chemical concern.)
3. Imagine your life in this home and its neighborhood
One of the deciding factors for saying “yes” to a house is if you can imagine yourself living there. Seeing listing photos and stats can let you know whether the house meets your specifications, but sometimes — especially with a long-distance home search — but to really imagine yourself living in that neighborhood could be difficult. Googling can help).
Kids can scope out their potential new school and spot signs of other kids living nearby, you might map your drive to the office, learn whether there’s a local farmer’s market nearby, or look to see whether the house is in a danger zone.
4. Get valuable details about the HOA
When you buy a home that is part of a homeowners’ association (HOA), you should receive the bylaws in advance of your purchase. But if you dig a little deeper by Googling the association’s name, you could find out that your new HOA is one of a surprisingly large number of HOAs that have been reviewed online. Grab your popcorn, because you’ll most likely find a variety of rants (and raves) about the subdivision, complex managers, neighbors, and amenities.
5. Scope out the neighborhood’s potential growth
Will you jump for joy to learn that Whole Foods is coming to town? Or is that just the sort of growth you’re trying to escape? Google your potential new neighborhood’s nearest major street or intersection for permit applications that have been filed recently. You might get lucky. If not, try searching the city or county planning departments. This can help you discover community plans for expansion in that area. Reading the online applications — and any notes from city council meetings discussing the permits — might help you understand the landscape of community-development issues at hand.
So you are thinking about checking out some open houses this weekend? Here are 3 very good tips to arm yourself with as you are going out the door!
When it comes to talking to the seller’s agent at an open house, a little mystery goes a long way.
More isn’t always better — especially when it comes to talking to a seller’s real estate agent. Your buyer’s agent is a guide and advocate in your real estate journey and should know everything about your needs, your desires, and how much house you can afford. But the seller’s agent is an entirely different story, and what you share with them should be minimal.
If you’re buying a home, your agent is almost always your voice to the seller. Speaking alone with the seller’s agent doesn’t happen very often, and it’s easy to forget who you’re speaking with — but there you are at the open house, eating a slice of quiche, and the seller’s agent, noticing that familiar glow in your eye, comes over and starts to chat you up.
Here are 3 things you shouldn’t talk about with a seller’s agent
- How much you like (or dislike) the house.Basically, play it cool. You want the seller to know you could feel at home here and that you would be serious about any offer you might make, but she doesn’t need to know that this house is exactly what you’ve been looking for and that you’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
You also shouldn’t be too critical. If you do end up making an offer, you don’t want to reveal anything that could make you seem like a less-than-viable buyer. Especially in a competitive environment, you want the seller to think you’re as solid as they come.
The seller has the power in hot real estate markets, and he or she may choose to go with an offer that’s more likely to close than one that’s potentially shaky, even if it’s a few thousand dollars higher.
- How much you can and will spend.
You also don’t want to talk about your financial situation. If he or she knows how high you’re either willing or able to go, then your offer could be at a disadvantage. Your first goal is to have your offer accepted. Your second goal is to have it accepted at the best price.
Neither of these goals are served when the sellers think they know how high or low you’ll be able to go on the final sales price. It makes no difference whether your offer relates to finances or personal choice or your last tarot reading. As with romance, a little mystery goes a long way. The seller should get a fair price for what she’s offering, and if you think it’s the right house for you, the fair price has little to do with the most money a bank will give you.
- Be smart and let your agent do the talking.
In the end, your best bet is to eat your quiche,
ask questions at the open house, and let the seller’s agent talk about the house. Anything else worth revealing will be done later when your agent does her job by getting you the house at the right price.
Source: Trulia Blog
And the results are in! This is the year you’ve been waiting for…read on grasshopper!
Still on the fence about becoming a homeowner? While owning a home comes with many responsibilities, its financial and personal benefits can prove it to be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
One of the greatest perks of becoming a home owner is being able to save a little bit on taxes. In the U.S. most homeowners are allowed to deduct money off the interest they pay on their mortgage every month. Not only is your home interest partially deductible, you can oftentimes get money back on extra cash you’ve spent on refinancing, a home equity loan or line of credit. Each homeowner’s financial situation is different, but be sure to inquire about the great financial perks available to you when you invest in a home.
2.Plant Your Roots
Before becoming a homeowner, you probably jumped from rental to rental every few years (or maybe even more). How do you know if you’re ready to take the leap from renting to buying? While it can be nice to have a change of scenery every once in a while, the money you spend on moving, security deposits and other fees can really take a toll on your savings. One of the great benefits of owning a home is having the opportunity to plant yourself in one, secure place and really make a life for yourself there. Being that you’ll live in the same residence for a long period of time, you’ll likely build lasting relationships with neighbors and play an active role in your community. And if you choose to raise a family in this home, your surroundings become a part of your family history, allowing you to make lasting memories.
3. Be Your Own Boss
While renting may come with fewer responsibilities than owning a home, you’re often confined to the rules of the property’s owners. When you own a home, you’re free to paint the walls any color, plant whatever you’d like in your garden and even adopt furry friends you never were allowed to before. Your home should be a place you can express yourself freely and live comfortably in.
Along with getting a sizable tax break, having the opportunity to build equity is another great financial benefit to owning a home. As you pay off your loan over time, you build more and more equity. Equity equates to whatever amount you have paid off on your home and no longer owe. If you decide to sell your home down the line, having equity plus any increase in the current market value of your property can put you in a really great position financially. When you rent a home, you aren’t building any equity at all and have nothing you can walk away with.
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