First-time homebuyers are a declining group. Historically, 40% of homebuyers have been first-time buyers, but that percentage continues to shrink, even as millennials continue to show more interest in becoming buyers (eventually). If you’re already a homeowner, your wheels might be spinning right about now — if people aren’t buying starter homes, then the rental market has to be booming, right? It is in many areas, particularly where unemployment is low, the population is high, and homes are not overpriced. But before you start searching for a home for sale in Austin, TX to rent, you should think about the responsibility that comes with being a landlord — and learning by trial and error is not the best way to go about gathering intel (or a steady income).
You hear it a lot – there are best and worst times to make any sort of purchase. Whether it’s a television, a car, or a home, statistics are available that may influence your decision on when would be the best time to make a purchase.
Numerical data isn’t the only thing you should be taking into consideration, though. Each season has something different to offer in terms of making the home buying process easier or more challenging. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying during the summer or winter.
What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Summer
Did you know there are more homes on the market during summer? According to the National Association of Realtors, inventory in the U.S. is actually 15% greater in the warmer months than in the colder months.
If you have a lot of items on your home wish list, you might be better off searching during summer as you’ll have more homes from which to choose. The only disadvantage (depending on the climate where you live) is that summer results in more competition, as a greater amount of people are likely to visit open houses in nicer weather.
It probably goes without saying, but moving during summer is a bit more pleasant than moving during winter. For many, sweating beats freezing while trying to pack and unpack a moving truck. You can always cool yourself down, but it’s usually harder to warm up. It also tends to be safer if you reside in or are moving to an area that gets snow or ice.
If you have school-aged children, moving during their summer vacation offers more flexibility than trying to move during the winter holidays or spring break.
Lastly, one nice thing about summer is the lack of snow. That can be a huge obstacle when trying to look at the exterior of a home. You might miss the fact that a few shingles (or the entire roof) need to be replaced when there’s a pile of snow on top of it. The same goes for cracks in the driveway, and curb appeal in general.
What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Winter
There’s less competition in the winter as most people are busy with the holidays, their new year’s resolutions, or getting back into the swing of things at work. At this time of the year, buying a home isn’t typically at the forefront of most people’s minds.
What does that mean for you? No bidding wars, and more room to negotiate if a seller is feeling a bit desperate.
They might be if the reason why they’re moving is a pressing one. Combined with having to work around their real estate agent’s holiday schedule, having less showings, and subsequently, less interested buyers, sellers might be willing to give you a better deal or include more bonuses in the offer.
Again, depending on where you live, the weather during winter can be brutal. You’ll be able to easily identify drafts from windows in a house, and you’ll notice how effective the heating system is.
While snow can work against you, it can also work for you as you’ll be able to see how well the roof and driveway handle several inches of accumulation. Are there noticeable dips in the driveway? Have ice puddles formed on the property? These fairly major repairs can give you an advantage during negotiations.
Considerations for Both Seasons
There are a few factors to be concerned with during both seasons – namely, your real estate agent’s availability, and your neighbors.
Obviously, real estate agents may take time off during the holidays in the winter, but if they have children, they may also be likely to take off during the summer as well. Before you work with an agent, ask them about their availability over the next few months. You want to ensure that their planned absence won’t negatively affect your intentions to buy.
On the other hand, an agent looking to work through the winter holidays may be more motivated to help you, given the number of prospective buyers is lower.
Additionally, when you buy a new home, you’ll want to be surrounded by good neighbors, right? Summertime is great for seeing which neighbors excel at lawn maintenance and which ones let their grass grow for weeks on end. If you’re someone that cares a lot about a home’s upkeep, this might concern you.
At the same time, you’ll be able to see if neighbors work together to get rid of snow during the winter, or if houses on the block are nicely (or obnoxiously) lit up with holiday decorations.
Which Season is Better for Buying a Home?
As you may conclude, there’s no right or wrong answer. There are benefits and impediments to searching for a home in any season. You shouldn’t let weather or the trending numerical data hold you back. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll know it.
Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter
Condo and townhouses are often lumped together, but have some significant differences. Agent Jessica Riffle Edwards explains the differences between the two.
I’ll admit it, I’ve owned a condo for the last three and a half years and just found out what the difference was between a townhouse and a condo. While you would think that they’re pretty much the same thing, there are some key differences that might be critical to you depending on your situation and appetite for being responsible for home repair.
Here’s star listing agent Jessica Riffle Edwards explaining what the differences are between the two.
Thinking about investing in a rental property? Here are some great tips that will get you started!
Ideally, you want to live near your rental property
Living close to your property allows you to check on it periodically (after giving your tenants proper notice), take care of repairs yourself, and show the property when it’s time to list it for rent again. Research the best investment areas — but even if you don’t live in a prime rental region, you can still invest in one by hiring a property manager to take care of day-to-day details.
Know landlord-tenant law
Most states have specific landlord-tenant provisions that cover issues such as security deposits, level of access to the property, and how much notice you need to give your tenants when you want them to leave. There also are federal laws you need to know, such as habitability and anti-discrimination laws. “Many landlords gloss over housing discrimination laws because they assume that as long as they’re not racist or sexist, they needn’t worry about fair-housing violations,” says Ron Leshnower, real estate attorney and author of Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals. But fair-housing liability traps can arise in many ways, so it’s important that you fully understand the law and ensure that you aren’t breaking it.
Make sure you can enforce that the rent is paid on time
This seems like a no-brainer, but believe me, if you get too friendly with your tenants, you might just let them slide a couple of weeks beyond the first of the month, or allow a partial payment when they’re between jobs. Before you know it, your tenants are six months behind and you’re struggling to make the mortgage payments. But being firm doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat tenants with respect. Cultivating a good relationship with your tenants often goes a long way to ensure rent will be paid on time and that repair requests will be easier to deal with.
Screen potential tenants
It’s worth the time to do a background and credit check on all potential tenants: online tenant-screening services are convenient, and you should be sure to check potential tenants’ credit scores. A credit score alone shouldn’t be the sole reason to accept or deny an applicant, but it is a useful screening tool: For instance, if your renter is fresh out of college with a solid job offer, they may not have enough credit history to warrant a good score—but could be a great rental candidate.
You should also conduct an interview to make sure you’re comfortable interacting with them, and check references, especially from employers or past landlords. But be advised, it’s hard to find the perfect tenant. According to Casey Fleming, author of The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage, it’s important to have a thick skin, and advises people not to buy rental property if tenant shenanigans will “drive you crazy.” Case in point: Fleming once had an evicted tenant break into the house, change the locks, and move back in!
Customize the lease
If you don’t hire an attorney or a property manager, you can use a standard lease form from Nolo, for example, but you should tweak it to fit your situation. For example, if you allow pets, specify how many, what kind, and any rules that apply. Your lease could state that tenants should leash their dogs when outside the fenced-in yard and stipulate that pets should not become a nuisance to neighbors.
Inspect the property regularly
“Have language regarding inspections clearly written in your lease documents,” says Timmi Ryerson, CEO of Smart Property Systems. She suggests taking pictures to establish a baseline (and document the move-in condition) and conducting an inspection at three months. If you find problems, Ryerson recommends that landlords “issue a notice to comply and set another inspection in one week.”
Understand this is not a get-rich-quick scheme
Being a landlord is not just sitting around collecting a big wad of cash each month. You’ll need to spend some money to ready the property for tenants, buy landlord insurance, and pay property taxes. If you’re taking out a mortgage, be prepared to fork over at least a 20% down payment. Think of being a landlord as part of your overall investment strategy and be realistic about your goals — most landlords aim for about a 5% return on their investments.
Source: Trulia Blog
We are in a hot Real Estate market right now with little inventory. These tips could make the difference in the success of your next purchase!
Buying in a hot house market is sometimes inevitable, but you can save money by avoiding these mistakes.
It’s the never-ending saga of homebuyers everywhere: just when you start looking for homes for sale in Fairfield, CA or Walnut Creek, CA, prices seem to be booming and you’re stuck trying to buy in a seller’s market. House-hunting is hard to time perfectly, and sometimes it’s impossible to avoid buying in a hot market.
But don’t let the fear of tough competition send you into a panic. Avoid falling into one of these traps when shopping in a hot real estate market, and you’ll likely save yourself some money (and a few gray hairs).
Acting out of desperation
It’s hard not to be let down when attractive homes are taken from “new” to “pending” before you even have the chance to look at them, but remember: Desperation has no place in a home-buying transaction.
Once desperation sets in, you risk making an impulsive and otherwise unwise decision, such as talking yourself into a home that isn’t quite what you really want or paying more than you can afford. Even if you can’t or don’t want to make an offer, every home you research and visit will give you a better insight into the home-buying process and the market and allow you to refine exactly what amenities you want in your future house.
Once you know exactly what you want, let others know too. Give your contact information to the listing agents at open houses and ask them to drop you a note if they get similar listings.
2. Hesitating (This is a biggie!)
What’s worse than seeing great properties come and go before you can get out to view them? Seeing them placed under contract before you make an offer.
Before you walk into an open house, make sure your paperwork is up to date and your loan approval hasn’t expired so you’re in position to make an offer that day. If you haven’t already gotten a loan approval, it’s time to start the loan approval process, stat.
3. Ignoring the market entirely
It’s nearly impossible to time the market and make your real estate decisions based on current trends. A better plan is to make your buying decisions based on what’s currently happening in your family, your career, and your life (and what you envision will happen in the next five to 10 years). That said, when it comes time to execute your decision to buy, it’s foolhardy not to pay attention to the market.
You need to be able to play both sides and avoid the panic-inducing fluctuations of the market while staying informed. Ask your real estate agent to help you pay attention to neighborhood-specific information, such as which types of properties move quickly, how many days they generally stay on the market, whether multiple offers are a reality you will face, and how much over asking price homes like the one you want are selling for.
Then use this information to make strategic decisions, covering everything from which properties and areas you’ll focus on to how quickly you’ll need to get out to see listings to — most importantly — what price range you should focus your search on.
4. Misunderstanding your budget
Don’t run the numbers in your head. Don’t ballpark your income, loan payments, and bills, stick your finger in the wind, and guess at how much you can spend on a home. Financially speaking, home buying is the big leagues, so you need to be sparkling, crystal clear on precisely what you can afford.
In a hot market, you may be faced with decisions about whether to increase your price range or your offer price on relatively short notice. If you need help, don’t hesitate to bring your tax adviser or financial planner into the home-budget discussion — especially if you’re a new homebuyer. They can help you understand tax breaks for new homeowners, which can free up some extra money for your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and HOA dues or private mortgage insurance, if applicable.
Also, make sure you include line items for your savings, retirement investing, gifts, school tuition, travel, and recreation — the sort of things that lenders will not account for when they tell you what their guidelines say you can afford.
Hot markets mean multiple offers on the same home, which often result in a bidding war. And once you’ve had one too many homes pulled out from under you after a bidding war, it can be tempting to pay more than you budgeted for.
To avoid overpaying for a home just because it’s in a bidding war, be sure to go through comparable homes with your agent before you even look at the house.
Bonus: If your agent includes active and pending sales in their pull of the comparable data set, you may find out useful information such as whether other competitive properties have just hit the market, or that all of the competition is now under contract — things that might also inform your motivation levels or price strategy.
Source: Trulia Blog
This is information, that you, as a homeowner or buyer, really need to know. Read on for the ins and outs of equity!
Have you heard that owning a home helps ‘build equity’ but still not sure what that means? Get the information from the experts at Coldwell Banker.
You’ve probably heard people throw around the word “equity” when they’re talking about homeownership. You might have heard someone say that owning a home helps you “build equity” or perhaps you heard someone talk about “borrowing against equity.”
But what exactly is equity? And why does it matter?
What Is Equity?
Equity is what you own, minus what you owe. It’s the percentage of your home value that belongs to you free and clear.
If your home is worth $250,000 and your outstanding mortgage balance is $200,000, then you have $50,000 of equity in your home.
How Does Equity Grow?
There are three common ways in which your home’s equity can grow: market appreciation, forced appreciation, and debt reduction.
Market appreciation takes place when the value of your home rises due to factors caused by the overall local, state or national economy. If your home is located in a neighborhood that is experiencing a sudden burst of new jobs and population growth – and if that population growth is outpacing new housing starts – then there’s a likelihood that the value of your home may rise due to market appreciation.
Let’s return to the previous example. Your home is worth $250,000 and your mortgage balance is $200,000, meaning that you hold $50,000 in equity. Let’s assume that home values in your area start climbing steeply. Your home is now worth $300,000. Guess how much equity you hold? You now have $100,000 in equity. As the homeowner, you benefit from all market gains.
Forced appreciation is another common way that homeowners build equity. While market appreciation is based on factors outside of your individual control, forced appreciation is the direct result of your actions.
When you hear about people making upgrades for the sake of boosting resale value, they’re referring to forced appreciation. Imagine that you carefully plan and execute a kitchen remodel. You replace the 30-year-old cabinets with a new set; you replace the laminate countertops with builder-grade-granite; you replace the linoleum flooring with hardwood, bamboo or tile.
Assuming that you managed this remodel in a cost-efficient manner and made upgrade choices that are consistent with your neighborhood, the value of your home may exceed the cost of the renovation.
For example, if you spend $8,000 on the renovation, which results in a home that’s now worth $15,000 more, this means you increased your equity through forced appreciation.
Finally, you can boost equity through debt reduction, which means that you reduce the principal balance of your mortgage. Mortgages are amortized, meaning that a larger percentage of your payments apply to interest at the beginning of the term, while more of your payments apply to principal near the end. If you want to accelerate equity growth at the start of your term, you can make extra principal payments. This boosts your equity while also lowering the total interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
A combination of these factors can accelerate your equity growth. Since equity is the difference between “what you own” and “what you owe,” the 1-2 combination of boosting home value while also reducing the mortgage balance can be an effective way to rapidly build equity.
Why Does Equity Matter?
There are many advantages of holding equity.
First and foremost, equity boosts your net worth. The higher your equity, the higher your overall net worth. Your net worth can give you feedback on your overall financial health, and can help you make crucial financial planning decisions.
Secondly, you can borrow against your equity and, if you choose, invest this money. Some homeowners borrow against their equity to start businesses; others borrow to remodel their homes or to purchase investment properties.
The home equity loan, home equity line of credit, and cash-out refinancing are several options that homeowners can choose from if they want to borrow against their equity.
Finally, homeowners who decide to move can use the equity from the sale of their home to make a down payment on another home. This allows homeowners to “trade up” without needing to save cash for a down payment.
Furthermore, homeowners who downsize (meaning sell their current home and move into a smaller and less-expensive home) may cash out their equity – using some of their equity to purchase their less-expensive home and receiving the rest as cash.
What Should I Do?
Equity can be a form of ‘forced savings.’ Once this equity is locked into your home, you’ll have the advantages and opportunities that come from holding a high-equity position, without the same temptation to spend this money that you might have if it were liquid cash.
Assuming that you’re not planning any major projects that require a large cash outlay – such as starting a business, buying an investment property, launching a renovation or paying for college – you may want to focus on boosting your equity by accelerating your mortgage payoff, making strategic value-boosting upgrades, or both.
Source: CB Blue Matter
This is such an important topic and a MUST READ for buyers!
Buying a house is probably the single largest investment you’ll ever make – learn how getting a home inspection can help you get the most value for your home.
Buying a house is probably the single largest investment you’ll ever make, and you want to ensure you get the best value for your hard-earned dollar. That’s why more and more home buyers today are turning to professional Home Inspection experts. A professional Home Inspector takes a close look beneath a house’s surface, and then prepares a detailed written report for the prospective buyer on such things as the condition of the foundation, electrical service, roof, insulation, and other critical structural factors. Your Coldwell Banker sales professional can help you connect with an experienced trusted Home Inspection service in your community.
Although costs will vary, you can probably expect to spend two to three hundred dollars for an inspection of a single family home. And who pays for it? Well, since the benefit is almost entirely that of the home buyer, it’s usually the buyer who pays the cost of the home inspection …particularly in a “hot” real estate market, where the home sellers have more leverage. All things considered, it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind it provides, and the negotiating power it can give you — especially if it indicates that there are major repairs required, but you decide to make an offer anyway.
When it comes to making your offer to purchase, your Coldwell Banker professional can provide you with good advice on how to allow for a home inspection as a part of this process. Subject to the homeowner’s permission, you can commission a Home Inspection before or even after submitting your offer to purchase. This is done by having your Coldwell Banker salesperson prepare a conditional offer that’s contingent on a Home Inspection report that’s acceptable to you. This approach gives you some distinct advantages: if the conditional offer is accepted, the property is temporarily held against other offers, yet you still have a legal escape route if the report turns up some major negative surprises, such as a bad roof or a crumbling foundation. On the other hand, if the conditional offer isn’t accepted, then the need to pay for a home inspection may never arise. Your Coldwell Banker professional can counsel you on the best approach to suit your market and your individual situation.
Source: CB Blue Matter
First time home buyers…this ones for YOU! Must read!
What are closing costs? What should I know before getting my next loan?
What Are Closing Costs?
Closing costs are fees paid in connection with the refinance or transfer of ownership in real property. They are paid by either the buyer or the seller on the settlement date.
These fees will always vary. What you pay for one refinance or property transfer will not be the same as another. This is due to the different parties involved, different types and locations of property, the financial capacity of a buyer and many more factors.
The law requires lenders to give you a loan estimate within three days of receiving your application. This document sets out what your closing costs will be. These fees, however, are not set in stone and subject to change.
Your lender should provide a closing disclosure statement at least three business days before the closing date. This is a more reliable estimate of your closing costs. Compare it to the loan estimate you’ve received and ask your lender to explain the fees and the reasons for any changes.
What Is Included in Closing Costs?
Your costs will differ depending upon the transaction. Types of costs include:
- Credit report fees (the cost of checking your credit record)
- Loan origination fees (which consists of the cost to your lender for processing your loan)
- Attorney fees
- Inspection fees (for inspections requested by either you or the lender)
- Appraisal fee
- Survey fee (so that both you and the lender know where your property boundaries lie)
- Escrow deposit which may cover private mortgage insurance and some property taxes
- Pest inspection fee
- Recording fee paid to a county or city authority to file a record of the property transfer and/or new mortgage lien against the property
- Underwriting fee to cover the cost of processing a loan application
- Discount points (money you pay your lender to get a lower interest rate)
- Title insurance (protection for you and the lender should there be any issues with title to the property)
- Title search fees (costs incurred by the company who checks the title on the property)
These fees can range anywhere from 2% to 5% of a property’s selling price. It’s smart to get estimates from two or three lenders so that you can take these costs into consideration before making an offer. For the easiest way to compare lenders who may use different terminology to describe their fees, simply ask for a loan estimate from each.
Can I Negotiate These Costs?
Some fees, such as document, processing, service, underwriting and courier charges are open to negotiation. However, third party fees such as an appraisal or survey, are not.
If you’re worried about how much you’ll need at closing you can find a bank that doesn’t escrow real estate and homeowners insurance. Often, banks will escrow six months of real estate taxes and several months of homeowners insurance premiums. When added to the other closing costs, this can be quite a large sum.
Keep in mind, however, that you will be responsible for paying your homeowners insurance and property taxes when they’re due rather than relying on your lender to pay them for you.
Where allowed by law, you can negotiate with the seller to have them pay some closing costs normally attributed to the buyer.
Can I Add my Closing Costs to the Loan?
Most loan programs will allow for a percentage of the purchase price to go towards closing costs. The easiest way to do this is to ask for a seller credit towards the closing costs.
The seller credit means that the seller will receive a smaller ‘net’ amount at closing, however there is a way to make a seller credit more palatable to the seller. If you can qualify for a higher purchase price – say 2.5% over list – the seller won’t lose any money and you can use the seller credit towards the closing costs.
In this scenario, what you’re doing is financing your closing costs over the life of the loan.
You can also do a lender credit. Like a no-cost refinance, you agree to a higher interest rate so that the lender will pay some of the closing costs. You can potentially get a lender credit of $2,000 to $4,000 – a sizeable amount of fees.
Keep in mind, however, that should you continue paying the same mortgage over the life of the loan, you could end paying more than if you were to pay up front.
What Can I Expect?
Before closing day arrives, contact your agent to confirm that he or she has everything for the transaction to go as smoothly as possible. Pull together any paperwork that you have received and keep it on hand for easy reference on closing day.
Be prepared to take your time reading through all of the closing documents. Make sure you completely understand all of the terms you’re agreeing to. If some of the terms are missing or incomplete, don’t sign until they are resolved to your satisfaction.
Your lender will send money to the closing agent via a wire transfer and may require that you set up a new escrow account with them to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance together with your monthly mortgage payment.
You should be advised before closing day how much money you’ll need to have for closing, so bring your checkbook with you to cover any necessary escrow and/or closing costs.
Among the many documents you’ll be signing, three of the most important documents will be the:
- Hud-1 Settlement Statement – a document which sets out the costs incurred with your closing.
- Deed of Trust or Mortgage – a document in which you agree to a lien being placed against your property as security for repayment of your loan.
- Promissory Note – a document which can be described as a legal “IOU” which sets out your promise to pay according to the terms of the agreement.
Source: CB Blue Matter
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.
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.
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