Updated: Friday, April 26, 2019

Speed Along the Real Estate Transaction with a Pre-Listing Home Inspection

As the real estate market becomes increasingly competitive and consumer confidence rises, buyers and sellers are more motivated to seek opportunities to close deals efficiently. Thats why real estate professionals often suggest a pre-listing home inspection -- an inspection prior to putting the home on the market. Pre-listing inspections provide an added benefit for the buyer, seller and real estate agent, and often allows sales transaction to be completed more quickly.

Here are some key points to remember for your pre-listing inspection:

Involve your Real Estate Agent

When it comes to real estate, agents are pros and they play a key role in moving the home buying transaction along. During a pre-listing inspection, agents know what questions to ask the inspector to be sure they fully understand any issues, and to alleviate client concerns. Good real estate agents take the time to work with their clients post-inspection to go over the inspection report. Their goal is to make sure buyers and sellers fully understand the findings of the inspection report.

Build Trust with the Buyer

For homebuyers, a pre-listing inspection builds confidence. It allows buyers to immediately know all the under-the-surface details within the home. If there are parts of the home that need fixing, the sellers repairs can increase the asking price or be touted in the listing description to help a home stand out. Where repair issues are identified but not repaired, credibility through disclosure is gained and the issue is factored into the pricing upfront. In each case, sellers who disclose the condition of a home upfront gain the trust and faith in a buyer during the initial stages of their purchasing decision.

Spotlight Your Home

A pre-listing home inspection report is a great marketing tool for sellers and agents because it clearly points out the best features of the property. Any recent home renovations will be noted and stand out to buyers. These updates can offer both aesthetic and mechanical value with items such as new flooring, new appliances or a new furnace or air conditioning unit. A home buyer likes to see updates have been made to the home as they are often costly -- and it reassures them the home is properly maintained. This assurance will help to accelerate the transaction.

Planning Can Save Time and Money

For the seller, a pre-listing home inspection allows for time to make repairs before putting the house on the market. They can then make these repairs on their own budget and timeline rather than having to pay for a buyers contractor to quickly complete the work.

Remember, the goal of a home inspection is to provide a true reflection of the issues concerning the home and offer a non-alarmist, practical solution. Leveraging the knowledge and experience of professionalsnbsp;ensures important things arent missed, reports are received in a timely fashion and all parties are enabled to move the home smoothly and successfully through the real estate transaction.

nbsp;


Steve Wadlington, president of WIN Home Inspection, one of the fastest growing franchised home inspection companies in the United States with more than 150 operators in more than 185 locations in 32 states.


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Five Is Grass Greener? Challenges in Paradise

Just back from an extended tour of the South Pacific, I am ready to move to almost everywhere I visited.

Travel inspiration may mark the start of a new exhilarating life adventure, but if you jump before you think, paradise may be anything but.

As a quick reality check, consider our Five ldquo;Is Grass Greener?rdquo;nbsp;Challenges for Bringing Paradise into Achievable Focus:

1. Fact or Fantasy?

How much of your strong affinity to this vacation spot is tied to a romantic love interest or a resort-based life>

2. Weather or Not

When you believe the grass is greener somewhere else, you believe that other peoples situations are better or more attractive than your own, but in the few days or weeks of your visit, you may not have experienced typical weather. Check local media to learn whether your vacation coincided with atypical weather or the expected seasonal. During my two weeks in New Zealandrsquo;s summer, even though locals repeatedly referred to unseasonably warm and dry weather, I was taken in by the heat. Instead of cool, windy, rainy days, everyday was a warm, sunny delight that played up the extraordinary scenery and beaches until I was well and truly hooked on New Zealand. Then, for one day, real New Zealand weather hit. Balmy breezes became biting winds, and it rained on and off all daymdash;that was the real New Zealand. Locals noticed nothing; vacationers were in shock and shivering. Yes, New Zealand does have lots of great warm days, but this is not a tropical country as my visit had left me believing.

3. Fabulous or Frustrating

ldquo;Irsquo;d live here in a heartbeatrdquo; places like Sydneyrsquo;s Bondi Beach and Honolulursquo;s Waikiki Beach were highlights of my travels. Yes, I would love to live on or near either beach. However, the reality of living near a world->

When I gushed to locals about how wonderful it must be tonbsp;live in the paradise that is Hawaii, one Waikiki resident told me firmlynbsp;that she was exhausted by the experience. A continuous stream of familynbsp;visitors, kept her so busy that she couldnrsquo;t get out to enjoy Hawaiinbsp;herself. Is having a small family another essential for living out yournbsp;dream of paradise?

4. Consistent or Changed Climate

Southeastern Australia, which includes Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney, is the most populated part of the continent. For a few years now, weeks of 100-degree summer heat waves have taken their toll on crops, animals, residents, and power grids. In parts of southeastern Australia, power outages, wildfires, cyclones, and extensive flooding have become commonplace, expensive realities. Furthermore, floods are sending coral-killing silt out to The Great Barrier Reef. Prolonged heat-waves warm the ocean and cause blooms of potentially-fatal stinging box jellyfish, which keep swimmers in full protective body suits or out of the water. These changing patterns are not unique to Australia. Red algae tides have plagued Floridarsquo;s west coast. California has been besieged by wildfires and the threat will continue. Storms and flooding ravage the Atlantic Coast making waterfront seem a high-risk environment. Whatrsquo;s taking a toll on the paradise you lust after?

5. Economic Wonder or Financial Worries

Successfully financing a new life>

bull; Many of the worldrsquo;s best-places-to-vacation are difficult places to find well-paying, full-time employment. Thatrsquo;s why most of the crew on my American cruise ship were from Indonesia where beaches are beautiful and living-wage jobs are scarce.
bull; Many locals in Honolulu repeated the same story: ldquo;Life is great, but good jobs are scarce, so most people who move here donrsquo;t last long.rdquo; Traditionally, the hospitality and travel industry, that makes our vacations terrific, does not pay high wages and often offers only contract or seasonal work.
bull; If your paradise is offshore, check out government restrictions for working and owning property. Investigate changing politics before you move.
bull; Your savings, pension buy-out, or pension may not last as long as you think. What choices would you have in paradise if you had to supplement your income?
bull; One common global parallel may surprise you: real estate prices have risen sharply in most popular vacation spotsmdash;million-dollar homes are the norm in ldquo;hot spots.rdquo; Local real estate professionals can usually provide up-to-date overviews of housing, foreign ownership regulations, and economic conditions in their corner of paradise, so you can begin to assess the feasibility and practicality of a move.

This list is offered as a practical first step for following up on your passion. Within the United States, there are many variations on paradise, so following your passion may not be a high-risk pursuit, but consider our Five ldquo;Is Grass Greenerrdquo; Challenges first.

An extended stay of one to three months may be an ideal experiment to check out details regarding a longer stay or a permanent move to your paradise.


Whatrsquo;s Coming Next?

Which topic or pending real estate decision would you like PJ to explorenbsp;in a column? Let PJ know:

Additional Resource: For more about Achievable Focus visit PJrsquo;s blog, Whatrsquo;s Your Point?


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5 DIY Things You Can Do Now to Lower Your Electric Bills This Summer

This year, wersquo;re concentrating on the DIY aspect of summer energy savings, so not only can you save a few bucks on an ongoing basis, but keep your cost low initially, as well. Here are 5 low-cost, high-impact changes you can make now.

Practice good window covering management

Seems easy enough, right? You can make a big difference in the amount of hot air getting into your home and the cool air escaping, just by choosing the right window coverings.

Cost: Depends on the product chosen, but could be as little as a Starbucks order if you buy on sale
Energy savings: ldquo;Appropriately hung draperies can decrease the discomfort associated with drafty windows,rdquo; said Energy.gov. And those drafty windows can account for as much as 25 of a homersquo;s energy loss.
DIY level: With a ladder, a level, and an electric screwdriver, you should be good to go.

Clean your window sills

A few seasonsrsquo; worth of dirt and soot can interrupt the seal and make it so your windows arenrsquo;t closing all the way. Even a little air getting in can make your AC less efficient and raise your electric bill.

Cost: Nothing if you already have cleaning spray and paper towels. A few bucks for a toothbrush if you need more help with caked-on dirt.
Energy savings: File this one under drafty windows as well. ldquo;Your windows are the top energy leak in a typical home,rdquo; said Panther Heating and Cooling. ldquo;When you are trying to cool your house, they are letting in heat.rdquo;
DIY level: Easy-peasy. You can even make this a chore for the kids

Get a door sweep

More of that cooled air is likely leaking out from underneath your doors. A couple of door sweeps can easily fix that problem, and all it will take is a quick trip to Home Depot.

ldquo;A common place where air leaks occur is under the door leading from the house to the garage because they are often not as well sealed as doors leading directly to the outside,rdquo; said Energy Star. ldquo;Install a door sweep to seal the gap between the bottom of your door and the threshold to prevent cold air from coming in and warm air from escaping from your home. Stopping this air flow will keep heated indoor living space more comfortable and prevent increased energy bills.rdquo;

Cost: 10 and up
Energy savings: Donrsquo;t be surprised to see a difference in your electric bill when yoursquo;re keeping more of your cooled air in, and keeping the hot air out.
DIY level: If you can use a drill to make holes in the door and screen the sweep in, you can install a door sweep.

Check your ducts

ldquo;Ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems,rdquo; said Energy Star. You can check the ducts yourself, looking for
ldquo;holes, tears, and other signs of leaking ducts and seal them using mastic or metal foil tape never use duct tape, as it is not long-lasting. Insulate all the ducts you can access such as those in the attic, crawlspace, unfinished basement, or garage.rdquo;

Cost: As little as 7.82 for a roll of tape
Energy savings: ldquo;In typical houses, about 20 of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The result is an inefficient HVAC system, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.rdquo;
DIY level: Yoursquo;ll likely be dealing with high places and tight spaces, and may also have to fend off a few creepy-crawlies.

Caulk and weatherstrip

ldquo;Window air leakage can be reduced by applying a continuous bead of caulk around the window trim where it meets the wall, at the mitred joints of the trim, and between the trim and the frame,rdquo; Natural Resources Canada. ldquo;Make sure the caulk is intended for indoor use do not use exterior caulking indoors, can be painted and is of good quality.rdquo;

Cost: Caulking, under 2, just over 2 for weatherstripping
Energy savings: Using Charlotte, NC as an example, the Department of Energy estimated that the average homeowner could ldquo;save 14 on heating and cooling costs each year with proper air sealing and insulation,rdquo; said Panther Heating and Cooling.
DIY level: A rookie can master this one.


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How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a Home?

Your first stop is talking with your loan officer to find out which loan program best suits your needs and qualifications. For instance, if yoursquo;re eligible for a VA loan and you want to come to the closing table with as little cash as possible, the VA loan is likely your best choice. Therersquo;s no down payment required for a VA loan although you can make one if you want and the veteran is restricted from paying certain types of closing costs. If yoursquo;re looking at a higher end home and need jumbo financing, you may be asked to make a down payment of at least 20-25 of the sales price of the home.

Your loan officer will provide the proper loan options and both of you will decide on which loan works best for your situation. Once you decide the type of loan you want, yoursquo;ll need to ask for a Loan Estimate which provides a breakdown on closing costs that yoursquo;ll be responsible for. How much are closing costs? Thatrsquo;s a broad question.

Closing costs will vary based upon the type of loan and where the property is located. But when you make the request for a closing cost estimate, thatrsquo;s your starting point. You can also ask for a lender credit that can be used at the closing table to offset some or all of your closing costs. This can usually be accomplished with a slight upward adjustment with the interest rate selected for your loan program.

There are one-time fees associated with the loan such as money for an appraisal and credit report and title insurance, attorney and escrow fees in addition to various third-party charges. There are also recurring fees that will happen again and again as long as you own your home. Property taxes, home insurance and mortgage interest fall into this category of recurring fees.

Next, yoursquo;ll need to know about your down payment. With a VA loan there are no down payment requirements. There is no down payment needed for a USDA loan. FHA loans ask for a down payment of at least 3.5 of the sales price. For conventional loans, there is a minimum 5.0 down payment. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer special programs that ask for a down payment of just 3.0. Jumbo loans typically ask for a minimum down payment of 20 but there are ways to utilize two mortgages, a first and a second, to finance a jumbo purchase with less than 20 down. Your loan officer will help with that.

So far, wersquo;ve got closing costs, both recurring and non-recurring and down payments. But therersquo;s one more- cash reserves. Cash reserves are funds that will be sitting in your bank account after the closing has taken place. Cash reserves are calculated as the number of months of house payments. If a loan needs six months of reserves and the mortgage payment, including principal and interest, taxes and insurance, is 3,000, there will be 18,000 of reserves identified and verified.


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Whats New in Residential Roofing Styles

Knowing your options for residential roofing materials before repairs are needed also allows you to decide on the best choice for your home and then plan and budget for that new residential roof Check out whatrsquo;s new in residential roofing >

Slate Roofing

Slate roofing is valued for its durability and >

Slate roofs are also very attractive, with a natural look that enhances a homersquo;s overall curb appeal. Donrsquo;t believe the myth that slate roofs are noisy as a roofrsquo;s underlayment and other materials absorb sound and keep a slate roof quiet, even in inclement weather.

Flat Roofing Materials

Flat roofing materials are very durable and easy to maintain and offer a unique look for homes. The PVC or TPO materials used to create flat roofs are watertight and very dense so that the roof isnrsquo;t likely to leak or blow away in a storm

Cool Roofs

A cool or white roof is a reflective coating added over roofing materials. The lighter color of a white roof helps to reflect sunlight and keep a home cooler in summertime.

Not only does cool roof lower your air conditioning bills significantly but it can also reduce wear and tear on the roofing materials underneath it. Overexposure to harsh sunlight and heat often cause asphalt shingles and other roofing tiles to become brittle and crumbly, leading to premature cracking, splitting, and otherwise unnecessary repairs, whereas a cool roof helps avoid that damage.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are not new, as metal has been a favorite roofing material for centuries; however, metal is quickly becoming a popular option for homeowners versus standard asphalt shingles. A metal roof is far more durable than asphalt and can last for decades, even outlasting the home itself

The experts and local roofing contractors in Boston note that many homeowners mistakenly assume that a metal roof is heavy and might damage a home, but this is not the case. Metal roofing tiles are lighter than shingles and an excellent option for older homes and structures that have weakened with age.

Synthetic Roofing Materials

Synthetic roofing materials, including plastic, rubber, and other polymers, are increasingly popular with homeowners today due to their low cost, lighter weight, and durability. Synthetic roofing materials are shaped and formed to resemble other materials including wood and slate, and are often highly fire-resistant.

If considering synthetic roofing materials, note the reputation of the manufacturer and any warranty offered. Ensure that your roofing contractor has experience installing synthetic materials, and itrsquo;s even helpful to see a sample of these materials side-by-side with asphalt or slate shingles, to compare their >

Solar Shingles

Todayrsquo;s innovations in solar technology have allowed roofing materials manufacturers to incorporate solar wiring into shingles themselves. Opting for solar shingles allows a homeowner to enjoy solar power in the home without the bulky appearance of full solar panels

Solar shingles can be somewhat costly and itrsquo;s good for homeowners to note the pitch and angle of their homersquo;s roof and how much sunlight the shingles might realistically absorb throughout the day. Remember, too, to check for rebates, tax credits, and other incentives that help to offset the cost of solar shingles when deciding on a new roofing material for your home.

Concrete Roof Tiles

Concrete might not sound like an attractive material for a homersquo;s roof, but concrete is a very versatile substance that can be shaped and formed and then painted, stained, and buffed so that it resembles many other architectural materials. Concrete roof tiles often look just like their more expensive slate counterparts or they might resemble wood roof tiles, while being far less expensive than slate and much more fire-resistant than wood

The downside of concrete roof tiles is that they are often heavy and cumbersome to install. Not every home is a good candidate for concrete roof tiles and their installation might require a specialty contractor, so keep those considerations in mind when shopping for a new residential roof.

Green Roofs

A green roof combines soil, compost, and living plants to create an actual ecosystem on a homersquo;s roof Live plants on a homersquo;s roof adds a protective layer of insulation between the house and outside elements, keeping a home cooler in summertime and warmer in winter.

A green roof also improves surrounding air quality since plants clean the air around them naturally. Some homeowners even grow edible vegetation on their homersquo;s roof, reducing their grocery bills as well as their utility costs. While green roofs have many advantages, they are best suited for sloped roofs, to allow proper water runoff and to prevent water pooling on the homersquo;s roof.

Colored Roofs

No matter the residential roofing material you choose, todayrsquo;s homeowners have more options for color than ever before. Roofs in a red tone offer a rustic charm while a dijon yellow roof can add a splash of subtle color above a white home. Roofs in a slight blue tone are an excellent option for homes painted blue, as the color is often difficult to match and complement.

When choosing a new residential roofing material, consider adding a bit of personality to the house exterior with a splash of color. You will then have a roof that is not only durable and strong but which also enhances your homersquo;s appearance and reflects your own personal >


nbsp;Sean King is a leader in the industry and offers full roof replacements using the best materials. His New England based company, Risk Free Roofing Boston has changed the industry by never asking for deposits, installing roofs in a day and giving quotes in 5 minutes or less. He also warranties his roofs for the entire lifetime of the home.


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New Program Allows Short-Term Rental Income to Be Used for Refinances

The new program, from Quicken Loans, uses ldquo;rental income earned through VRBO to be used to qualify for a mortgage refinance,rdquo; the lender said in a news >

Typically, investment property income can help a borrowerrsquo;s debt-to-income ratio, but being able to show income from short-term rentals is a sign of the times. "Vrbo helps homeowners use one of their biggest assets as a source of income.nbsp;Now Quicken Loans can accurately review that income and consider it when calculating the debt-to-income ratio ndash; a major data point considers when qualifying for a mortgage," Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans, said in a >

This evolution makes sense when you consider how closely tied the income generated by these short-term rentals is to ongoing living expenses. ldquo;Rental income and mortgage payments are often intertwined,rdquo; said Inman News. ldquo;A June 2018 market report from Vrbo found that more than 50 percent of short-term rental owners utilizing the platform use income generated from their property to cover at least 75 percent of their mortgage payment.rdquo;
The rental income can come from a primary residence or a second home, and primary residences, vacation homes, and investment properties can all be refinanced under the program.

The Vrbo partnership with Quicken comes on the heels of competitor Airbnbrsquo;s announcement last year that itrsquo;s working with both Quicken and Fannie Mae to ldquo;allow anyone who has rented out property on Airbnb for a year or longer to count some or all of that money as incomerdquo; when applying for a refinance, said MarketWatch.


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An Insiders Look at the Reality of Home Staging

But just how do those two contingents break down? The National Association of Realtors NAR 2019 Profile of Home Staging provides some insight. The study separated the study into three categories: Buyersrsquo; Agent Perspective, Sellersrsquo; Agent Perspective, and Buyer Expectations. Wersquo;re taking a closer look at the key points.

Home Staging: Buyersrsquo; Agent Perspective

According to the study, ldquo;40 percent of buyersrsquo; agents cited that home staging had an effect on most buyersrsquo; view of the homerdquo; and ldquo;83 percent of buyersrsquo; agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.rdquo; Buyers agents also noted that, ldquo;Staging the living room was found to be most important for buyers 47 percent, followed by staging the master bedroom 42 percent, and staging the kitchen 35 percent.rdquo;

Home Staging: Sellersrsquo; Agent Perspective

Per the study, ldquo;28 percent of sellersrsquo; agents said they staged all sellersrsquo; homes prior to listing them for sale,rdquo; and ldquo;13 percent noted that they only staged homes that are difficult to sell.rdquo; The living room 93 percent, kitchen 84 percent, master bedroom 78 percent, and the dining room 72 percent were the most commonly staged rooms.

Sellersrsquo; agents offered to do the staging 26 percent of the time, and, ldquo;The median dollar value spent on home staging was 400.rdquo;

Buyer Expectations

Call it the HGTV effect: ldquo;A median of 10 percent of respondents cited that buyers felt homes should look the way they were staged on TV shows,rdquo; while ldquo;38 percent of respondents said that TV shows which displayed the buying process impacted their business.rdquo;

The real effect of staging

Now that we have the buyerrsquo;s agent, sellerrsquo;s agent, and buyerrsquo;s perspective, letrsquo;s look at some real data about staged homes. According to the NAR study, 22 percent of sellersrsquo; agents ldquo;reported an increase of one percent to five percent of the dollar value offered by buyers, in comparison to similar homes,rdquo; and ldquo;17 percent of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between six and 10 percent. 28 percent of sellersrsquo; agents stated that there were slight decreases in the time on the market when the home is staged, while 25 percent reported that staging a home greatly decreased the amount of time the home was on the market.rdquo;

Of course, time on market and sales prices can range depending on a number of factors, like age of home, location, square footage, and price point. The Real Estate Staging Association has found, overall, that staged homes sell ldquo;73 faster, on average, than their non-staged counterparts,rdquo; said The Mortgage Reports.


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What Is Considered an Official Mortgage Application?

Lenders must also determine affordability. When issuing a preapproval letter, itrsquo;s typically after the borrower and the loan officer have had a conversation about monthly payments, down payments and closing costs. This prequalification is the result of a general conversation between the two regarding current credit status, employment, assets and other items. When these items are reviewed and confirmed, itrsquo;s at that point where a preapproval letter can be issued.

Borrowers can also request a Loan Estimate, formerly known as the Good Faith Estimate, which will itemize various potential costs of obtaining a home loan. Costs both from the lender and third parties. But the loan estimate isnrsquo;t considered binding until the mortgage application is considered a valid loan application according to regulations. There are six things that do turn a prequalification or preapproval into an official loan application which will then trigger a host of required disclosures the borrowers need to review, sign and return to the lender. These six items are:

bull; Name
bull; Income
bull; Social Security Number
bull; Property Address
bull; Estimated Value of Selected Property
bull; Mortgage Loan Amount South

When this information is provided to the lender, either over the phone, in person or in writing, the application becomes an official one and the lender then is required to supply an official Loan Estimate to the applicants within three business days. It is this loan estimate that will be used to compare the initial estimate with the final numbers at the settlement table. For example, lender charges cannot vary from the initial estimate to the final settlement statement. Third party charges can have an aggregate variance of 10 percent from the initial estimate. For required services where the borrowers select the provider, which is rare by the way, there is no regulation limiting changes to the final number. If any one of the required six items is missing, the loan application is not an official one and loan disclosures will not be delivered. Most often this is a property address.

Itrsquo;s important to note here that just because one item is missing doesnrsquo;t mean the lender doesnrsquo;t have to provide you with an estimate of closing costs. Your loan officer certainly will upon request. But when a completed loan application withthe minimum six pieces of information are provided, things get official and various loan disclosures will be issued and the clock begins to tick.


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The Biggest Hurdles When Renovating Old Homes and Buildings

Developers, home owners, and businesses alike all have a vested interest in purchasing the best properties within their budgets. Especially true in older communities and cities, a variety of high-quality buildings and homes can be found, many of which use more solid building >

Youve probably heard the phrase ldquo;this home has good bones.rdquo; Particularly important when renovating or remodeling an older home, many owners find that the underlying structures allow for great customization and a plethora of new possibilities.

Nevertheless, there are many potential hurdles facing those who want to renovate or change older buildings. Lets take a look at the biggest obstacles here today.

Historical Building Regulations

In many cities and towns, historical societies exist to protect various historical buildings and features in neighborhoods. For those purchasing, or who are planning to purchase an older home or building, the very first thing they should do is verify whether the building has any historical significance.

The consequences of attempting to renovate or remodel an older building can range from public campaign pressure tonbsp;binding legal requirements. In some cases, remodeling an older building ndash; such as one within a designated neighborhood or with certain historical >

Permits

Any major renovation poses a variety of challenges but obtaining the proper permits and permissions can be a nightmare. Especially in the case of older buildings, there may be an enti>

Having the proper understanding of the building in question ndash; and therefore what will be required ndash; may take several trips to your local zoning or building agency. Because of the complexities often faced with renovating older buildings in urban areas, owners may decide to source assistance from qualified compliance officials.nbsp;

Costs

Obviously, a huge roadblock to renovating an older property ndash; or any property, for that matter ndash; is the cost associated with the endeavor. All too often, renovations for older properties can become expensive very quickly, exceeding that of more contemporary projects.

Due to a variety of concerns >

Environmental Issues

In many jurisdictions, older buildings may enjoy exemptions from modern building codes and environmental regulations. From wiring and plumbing to insulation, many raw materials may create environmental hazards once removed during a remodel.

As such, securing the proper permits and disposal situations for components such as lead pipes and asbestos can be a logistical nightmare. Through agencies such as the EPA, owners can determine what requirements and risks exist when renovating older properties.

These hurdles are not insurmountable but are definitely challenging. Because of this, no purchase of an older home or building should be rushed: it is imperative to do your homework and evaluate the conditions of the property and the requirements needed for renovation. This can help minimize the chances of financial ruin, legal action, wasted time and stress.


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How to Determine a Sellers Market

What the Heck is a Sellers Market?

There are no better words in the English dictionary that can make a home owner do their infamous happy dance than these four little words: ldquo;itrsquo;s a sellerrsquo;s marketrdquo;.

Sohellip;.you askhellip;.how do you know if it really is a sellerrsquo;s market and what exactly does that mean?

Irsquo;m going to bring you back to ECON 101 for a moment. Remember when your professor spent two weeks explaining the concept of supply and demand? Well, I hope you took notes.

In a sellerrsquo;s market, there are fewer homes for sale with more buyers out there looking to purchase. nbsp;The factors that lead to more buyers in the market could be: nbsp;sustained low interest rates, high employment rate, legislative changes which make it easier to purchase a property ndash; events and conditions that make buyers think it would be a good time to invest in a home.

In my experience, there are some advantages to the sellers in this kind of market. Typically, home prices will rise, buyers will quickly make offers and sometimes, buyers will compete for a property. This can lead to a bidding war, ultimately driving the price of the home up above expectations

Now on to your next question. How do I, as a potential seller, know when it really is a sellerrsquo;s market?

How to Recognize a Sellers Market

There is a thing called "Absorption Rate" that many REALTORS and economists alike will use to determine whether the market is in a buyers or sellers favor. First, a REALTOR will use the MLS to determine the number of homes closed in your market over a specific period. Next, they will divide the number of homes by the number of months in the period. This gives a per month absorption rate. Lastly, they will divide the rate into the number of current listings. This will yield the months supply of homes. A six months supply is considered a balanced market - when the number of listings roughly equals the number of buyers. Numbers over six represent a buyers market and those below, a sellers market.nbsp;

Absorption Rate=nbsp; Current Listings/ of homes closed in a specific period/number of months in the period nbsp;

How to Price a Home for Sale

After a REALTOR determines the absorption rate for a specific area or neighborhood, they will create a Comparative Market Analysis CMA of the subject property. This report will be based on the recent usually within six months comparable homes sold in the neighborhood or surrounding area usually within one mile radius. This analysis will give the REALTOR an idea of what comparable homes are selling for, and how quickly. Using this information, along with the absorption rate, the agent will be able to come up with a listing price that will guarantee that the home sells quickly for top dollar.nbsp;


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3 Ways to Reduce Your Closing Costs

Saving up for a down payment is probably the biggest challenge, especially for first time home buyers, but closing costs also need to be addressed. Here are three ways buyers can reduce or eliminate these costs.

The first way is to have your lender quote you an interest rate that provides a lender credit toward your closing costs. When your lender quotes rates and fees to you, yoursquo;ll get a range of rates from lower to higher. Lower rates will require upfront interest in the form of a discount point. One discount point equals one percent of the amount borrowed. On a 300,000 loan, one point is then 3,000.

For example, if your lender offers 4.25 with no points on a 30 year loan you might also be able to get a 4.00 by paying one point upfront. The lender really doesnrsquo;t care if you pay points or not, itrsquo;s completely your call. You have the option of paying interest upfront in the form of a point or you can pay the interest over the term of the loan without paying a point.

If you take that 4.25 rate one step further, say to 4.50, the lender may offer a one point credit. Your monthly payment goes up by a little, but you also saved on closing costs. On that same 300,000 30 year loan, the 4.50 rate gave you a 3,000 credit at the settlement table. There is some math involved to determine which rate is best in your situation and your loan officer will walk you through the process.

Another way to reduce your closing costs is to have the sellers pay them for you. This involves you and your real estate agent making an offer that asks the sellers to pay for all or some of your fees. Your offer might include verbiage that asks the sellers to pay a certain percentage of the sales price, say 1 or 2 of the sales price or you might ask for a specific amount, such as 3,000.

Different loan programs place certain limits on how much the sellers can pay so yoursquo;ll need to check with your loan officer before making the offer. Most such limits are ra>

Finally, if the sellers decide to decline your request, you can adjust the sales price upward. If the sales price is 300,000 and closing costs are 3,000, you can offer 303,000 while then asking the sellers to pay 3,000 of your costs. The sellers net the same amount at the closing table and you donrsquo;t have to come up with an additional 3,000 for closing costs. One potential issue with this method is making sure the property will appraise at the higher amount, but a one percent increase usually wonrsquo;t cause any problems. And yes, when making a higher offer that also means your loan amount will also go up the difference in monthly payment is ba>

Closing costs will need to be addressed just as a down payment needs to be. Your loan officer will provide you with an initial cost estimate that will generally match up with your final settlement, so yoursquo;ll know what to expect. You can adjust your rate upward, have the sellers pay for them as part of your offer, or increase your offer slightly to include an amount reflecting your expected settlement fees.


Full Story >


Tips For Redecorating While On A Budget

Reuse

Before you start buying new furniture, bedding, and fixtures that will quickly eat through your budget, start by taking an inventory of what you already have. Think about ways that things can be reused. Simple furniture pieces can be painted or even just have the hardware changed out that will change the way a piece looks.

Many types of furniture can serve a different purpose. An unused dining table can become a desk. That old sofa table can be used as a mobile bar if wheels are added. Even a broken dresser can be salvaged and transformed.

Simple Appearances

Bigger is not always better. Sometimes a few simple changes can make a big impact, with minimal expense. Updating paint colors or just adding an accent wall is one way. You can also change out throw rugs and light fixtures. A small thing, like changing lamp shades or the glass covers on your ceiling fans or overhead lighting, can have a big visual impact as well.

Add covers to pillows and duvets to bedspreads. But what is a duvet? Think of the duvet like a pillow case for bedspreads. You can put an existing bedspread inside the duvet and create an enti>

Thrifty Shopping

If you still plan to make some purchases, consider used pieces. Second-hand or thrift stores are often great places to buy deacute;cor items without spending a fortune. Wholesale, liquidation, and salvage places can also help save some money. Remember to consider possible alternate uses for items as well.

Keep your eyes open for things that people are trying to sell, too. Visit yard sales and flea markets. You can find a wide variety of items that people are selling for low prices. Swap meets are also good places to locate what you might need, while giving you the opportunity to get rid of something that no longer suits your tastes or needs.

Artwork

An alternative to pricey reprints, or even more expensive originals, is to create your own artwork to display. Try your skill at painting or decoupage. Frame your childrsquo;s latest art piece. You can even find free artwork to print and use at home. Spruce up some old wooden frames. Things like foiling and sponging can help you turn drab frames into decorative displays.

One at a Time

The most important thing to remember is to take it one step at a time. Try not to redecorate every room at the same time. You may need to divide your budget into chunks for each room that you want to redecorate. If you go room by room, you may find that you have some money left over that can be used for other rooms. By going one room at a time, you can avoid getting overwhelmed because you have taken on too much at once.

There are numerous options for redecorating on a budget, regardless of how small that budget might be. In your redecorating efforts, you can make huge changes just as easily as you can make small ones, both impacting the final result of a room. In the end, your home can be a display of the things you enjoy in an atmosphere that best suits you.


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How to Scam-Proof Your Roof

Wersquo;re talking about those who show up at your door unannounced with an offer to check out your roof or repair/replace it for a price that seems too good to be true, and then run off with your money without fixing anythingmdash;or doing a shoddy job.

ldquo;Some of the most unbelievable home improvement rip-offs come from scam-artists disguised as roofers,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofing contractors have to deal with an unfairly tarnished reputation because consumers are too often taken in by unlicensed pretenders.rdquo;

We tapped several top roofers to get their advice on what to watch out for and how to protect yourself from costly scams.

Ignore unsolicited offers

ldquo;Even if you really are in need of a new roof, do not work with a roofer who knocked on your door uninvited,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofers only engage when you have made the first call to request their services.rdquo;

Donrsquo;t sign anything

ldquo;Some roofers, especially the storm chasers, like to use high-pressure tactics to get you to sign a contract,rdquo; said Excel Roofing. ldquo;They may even hand you a document and claim it gives them permission to inspect your roof and contact your insurance company. Bottom line is this: donrsquo;t sign it. Donrsquo;t sign anything a roofer hands you unless you are 110 sure you want this person and his or her company to roof your home.rdquo;

Do your research

ldquo;You want to do your homework before you waste your time talking to a roofing contractor who wonrsquo;t make the cut in the end,rdquo; said Peak Roofing Contractors. ldquo;There are many places you can do research these days including countless sites on the internet. When you look at reviews, remember that you canrsquo;t please all the people all the time so reviews should be looked at in their totality. It may be even more important to see how a company responds to a bad review. Donrsquo;t forget to ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences with local companies and check the Better Business Bureau. When you visit a companyrsquo;s website, make sure they have a local address and talk in detail about the service you need.rdquo;

Never, ever give a roofer any money upfront

ldquo;You donrsquo;t get your paycheck until after yoursquo;ve punched the clock, so why pay a roofer before any work gets done? A roofer has no incentive to follow through with the work once the cash is already in his pocket,rdquo; said Absolute Roofers. ldquo;Make sure you sign a contract first, stating that hersquo;ll get paid once the work is done. If he still tries to get you to pay up front, itrsquo;s time to tell him to hit the highway.rdquo;
Asking the right questions can help you narrow down roofers and choose the best one. A few things to ask, according to Tadlock Roofing, are:

bull; Is the company properly licensed for the job?
bull; Does the company carry liability insurance and workersrsquo; compensation insurance?
bull; Are there more than three testimonials or references you can check?


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Do Energy-Efficient Windows Really Save You Money?

An energy audit of your home is often the best option for evaluating your homersquo;s insulation and the efficiency of your major appliances, and your local utility companies can often arrange such an audit for you. However, note some vital information about new thermal windows and other energy-saving features in the home so that you can make the best decision for your house and your utilities budget

What Are Thermal Windows?

Simply put, thermal windows are windows that have energy-efficient properties. These windows are often made of multiple panes versus a single pane, or they are manufactured with specialty glass designed to offer more insulating features than standard window glass.

Double-glazed and triple-glazed windows are made with two or three panes of glass, attached with a layer of argon gas between them. Argon gas offers excellent insulating properties, keeping heat or cold out of the home while not allowing your own heating and cooling to escape from inside the home
Low-E glass is covered with a thin coating that transmits light but blocks heat. Low-E glass is an excellent option for homes in tropical environments as it allows lots of light into a home but not uncomfortable heat.
Energy-efficient windows often have frames made with dense and durable materials that donrsquo;t conduct heat or cold, also improving their overall insulating materials. Vinyl and PVC are popular choices for frames, adding to the energy efficiency of those windows.

How Much Do Energy Efficiency Windows Save?

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that most homeowners save an average of 126 to 465 per year by choosing thermal or energy savings windows. While this may not seem like much savings, note that upgraded windows also help to create a more comfortable interior environment. When windows are old and outdated and allow drafts into the home, or donrsquo;t block outside heat and humidity, your homersquo;s interior might always feel chilly or hot and stuffy no matter how often you cycle on the furnace or air conditioner.

New windows also improve a homersquo;s overall curb appeal, potentially even increasing your property values. Scratched, nicked, chipped, or otherwise damaged windows often look yellowed and streaky. Upgraded windows look clean and streak-free from both inside and outside the home

Choosing new windows also allows you to opt for an updated window >

Why Do Older Windows Get Drafty?

In addition to considering the benefits of upgraded, thermal residential windows, itrsquo;s also good to note the disadvantages of keeping old windows in your home First note that window glass tends to become thin and brittle over time. This thin glass does a poor job of keeping heat and cold outside the home

A house will also shift and settle on its foundation so that its framework is no longer perfectly level and even. In turn, window frames pull away from the structure itself, leading to cracks and leaks that allow in cold drafts in wintertime and overly hot, humid air in summertime

New double-glazed or triple-glazed windows are without outside nicks, scratches, and other damage, and are strong and thick against exterior temperatures. New thermal windows also typically install with their own frames, closing up those leaks and cutting off resultant, bothersome drafts.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Home Energy-Efficient

Selecting new thermal windows for a home is an excellent means of adding to your overall comfort inside your home and for lowering your utility bills. However, new windows are not your only option for increasing energy efficiency in your home and saving money on your heating and cooling costs. Note five tips for creating a more energy-efficient home environment:

bull; Add window attachments designed for energy efficiency in particular. For example, solar shades are thin enough to allow sunlight into the home while still blocking uncomfortable outside heat. The thermal window experts at EnerPro Window Replacement of Denver note that these window attachments even reduce glare on computer and television screens while blocking unwanted heat
bull; Poorly-fitting doors allow drafts into the home while also letting out your heating and air conditioning. A carpenter can note if your homersquo;s entryway doors are uneven with gaps around its frame and can usually tighten or otherwise rehang the doors to seal up those gaps. Draft guards at the bottom of entryway doors also block lots of outside heat and cold.
bull; Weatherstripping is an easy and affordable means of blocking drafts around movable parts in the home, including doors and windows. A line of weatherstripping over a window sash and around a doorframe will close up gaps and reduce drafts and the loss of heating and cooling in the home.
bull; Water heaters cycle on when the water in the tank reaches a certain temperature. If your homersquo;s water heater is in the basement or a chilly utility room, consider installing an insulating blanket around the tank. This will keep the water warmer and reduce the number of times the heater cycles on.
bull; Ensure that your homersquo;s attic or crawlspace is properly insulated and the roof vents are in good condition and never obstructed. As heat rises in summertime, it tends to get caught in homes with poor insulation and low-quality vents, creating a hot and stuffy home interior. High-quality insulation in the attic or crawlspace also keeps out wintertime cold, especially vital in snowy areas when a homersquo;s roof is often covered with cold snow and ice

Consider all these tips when yoursquo;re in the market for energy-efficient windows. By adding weatherstripping and checking your homersquo;s insulation, along with choosing upgraded windows, yoursquo;re sure to see a reduction in your utility costs and enjoy a more comfortable home environment as well

nbsp;


nbsp;Luis Rios is the owner of EnerPro Window Replacements of Denver and his company as been installing energy efficient windows and doors for over a decade. For new home owners, energy efficient windows and doors are a huge selling point, especially in colder climates and giving his customer the best energy efficient products has saved his customers money on their electricity bills while increasing their home values.


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Why Is Everyone Moving to Austin?

Migration to Austin has skyrocketed over the last decade; according to MagnifyMoney, ldquo;60 of the cityrsquo;s current residents moved here since 2010.rdquo; That increase in population has put pressure on housing, resulting in diminishing inventory and skyrocketing home prices. Yet, still they come. At a rate of nearly 150 people per day

So what makes Austin so ideal? Wersquo;re breaking it down.

The jobs

Austin has the fastest job growth in the nation 40 since 2006,rdquo; according to MagnifyMoney, along with ldquo;>

The city has been called ldquo;the next Silicon Valleyrdquo; and is even referred to as ldquo;Silicon Hillsrdquo; thanks to the many tech and tech->

bull; Facebook
bull; Apple
bull; Google
bull; eBay
bull; Hewlett-Packard
bull; Dell
bull; IBM
bull; Cisco Systems
bull; 3M
bull; Intel
bull; Samsung

Itrsquo;s weird

The cityrsquo;s motto, ldquo;Keep Austin weird,rdquo; originated as a promotion for the Austin Independent Business Alliancersquo;s small local businesses in the city, and stuck. Today, itrsquo;s representative of a culture that remains a little hippy, a little creative, a little more evolved, and decidedly more liberal than much of the rest of the state of Texas.

Itrsquo;s welcoming

ldquo;The creative, collaborative hub still feels like a small town,rdquo; said Culture Trip. ldquo;Street art, local fashion and jewelry designers, art galleries, and studio walks ndash; Austin is a community that values art and working together. In fact, Austin was ranked the number one place in the U.S. to start a business by CNBC in 2016. Though nearly every chain imaginable is available, Austin runs on small businesses, meaning itrsquo;s possible to eat, shop, and explore for months before stopping by a chain store or restaurant. Food, fitness, and clothing brands join forces most weekends with ample flea markets, farmerrsquo;s markets, and pop-ups to attend.rdquo;

An abundance of events and activities

There is always something to do here, from hanging out in Zilker Park to checking out the live music scene. Events like SXSW in March, the Austin Food amp; Wine Festival in late April, and Austin City Limits in October draw more attentionmdash;and more visitors who then become residentsmdash;to the city.

Great restaurants

ldquo;This ever-expanding city is the epicenter of oak-smoked barbecue and the greasy foothold of Tex-Mex fare,rdquo; said Eater. ldquo;While longtime restaurants keep a close eye on the surprisingly abundant bounty the hot climate provides, new restaurants just keep coming due to Austins >

Plenty of housing

ldquo;There are two things that drive population growthmdash;jobs and affordable housing,rdquo; said Medium. ldquo;Austin has bothhellip;and although housing prices and property values in the city proper continue to rise, cheap land and little regulations in surrounding areas make it easy for developers to build large scale projects quickly. For the past few years, Austinrsquo;s home sales hit a record high according to the Austin Board of Realtors, with little signs of stopping.rdquo;

Home values

Despite the aggressive rise in home prices over the last decade-plusmdash;up 54 since 2006mdash;homebuyers still enjoy appreciation in their homes thanks to the popularity of the city. According to Zillow, Austinrsquo;s current median home value is 365,600. ldquo;Values have gone up 7.6 over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.6 within the next year.rdquo;


Full Story >




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