The Low Down on PMI

canstockphoto19869296Purchasing a new home or property involves many aspects including purchase agreements, contracts, inspections, appraisals, closing, escrow and more. As such, there a lot of acronyms used throughout the process. In this article, we explain what private mortgage (PMI) is, why it is required and how you can get rid of it.

When purchasing a home, you will likely make some form of down payment. In fact, when you make a down payment less than 20 percent, the lender requires that you carry PMI. Basically, it’s a policy that protects the lender from losing money if you end up defaulting on your loan. Lenders also require PMI when you refinance a mortgage with less than 20 percent equity.

PMI fees vary anywhere from .3 to 1.5 percent of the original loan amount per year depending on the size of the down payment and your credit score. Also, PMI premiums are tax deductible on certain years depending upon the whims of Congress. Most policies require that the borrowes pay monthly. However, borrowers also have the option of paying for mortgage insurance with a large upfront payment.

How to ditch PMI:

The lender must automatically cancel the PMI when your outstanding balance drops to 78 percent of the home’s original value. Keep track of your payments because you also can ask that the lender discontinue the mortgage insurance premiums when the balance reaches 80 percent of the original value. Although, both of these options will probably take several years.

You can speed up the cancellation two ways; however, both options require money, time and patience.  First, you can make double payments on your mortgage ensuring you reach the 80 percent mark in at least half the time. Next, you can make improvements to your property and refinance at opportune moments. This option can potentially raise the original value of your home to where you already have 80 percent equity.

Room-by-Room Guide to Declutter Your House Before Selling

Clutter—it’s a word that makes many of us shudder, and we like it even less when we’re preparing to sell our home. However, mastering clutter is one of the best things you can do to help buyers see your house as a place they can call home. Clutter and piles make spaces look smaller and can hide your home’s more attractive features.

If you’re looking to sell your home this year, why not start it off right with a resolution to de-clutter? We know that this can feel daunting, so we’ve broken it down into a room-by-room guide. When you approach de-cluttering in smaller chunks it’s easier—plus, we’re sure you’ll be so pleased with the results that you’ll look forward to getting through the whole list.canstockphoto37528235

Entryway & Hallways

The entryway is the first thing a potential buyer will see, so make sure it’s welcoming and not overwhelming.

  • Corral coats, scarves, and other outerwear
  • Store shoes and boots out of sight
  • Remove mail, newspapers, and other clutter (or keep them neatly displayed in an attractive organizer)
  • Eliminate random clutter in hallways
  • Tastefully display art, candles, or other decor to accentuate your home’s positives
  • Remove excessive family photos and other personal items

 

Kitchen

Often called the heart of the home, the kitchen sees a lot of action. Make sure all an interested buyer sees is how they can make their gourmet dreams come true.

  • Keep counters neat and tidy
  • Never leave dishes in the sink or dripping on the rack
  • Store small appliances in cupboards, or box away for moving if not needed
  • Box up extra items from crowded cupboards and drawers, so you can nicely display your best items (buyers will open doors and look!)
  • Organize all cupboards and displays
  • Remove photos and schoolwork from the fridge
  • Put items that point to trouble (like drain cleaner or ant powder) out of sight
  • Place sponges, scrubbers, and towels in a bin under the sink

 

Bedrooms

Bedrooms are supposed to be our sanctuaries, but too often they become dumping spots for everything that has nowhere else to go. Turn yours back into a sanctuary before buyers take a look.

  • Clear out off-season clothing from drawers and closets—an overstuffed closet appears smaller.
  • Tidy your bedside table and remove any medications, personal care items, or cluttered charging stations
  • Select only one or two family photos to display
  • Make the bed every day—and spruce up existing (or splurge!) on new linens, duvet, and pillows to make the room look fresh and appealing
  • Dust any ceiling fans and other hard-to-reach nooks to make sure the room glows

 

Living & Family Rooms

Make sure potential buyers don’t have to look past piles of clutter to envision themselves relaxing in your space.

  • Clear out piles of magazines, newspapers, books, and hobby materials
  • Make any displays on mantels or tables simple, clean, and devoid of personal effects and photos—less is more
  • Make sure the room has ample lighting day and night, rearrange light fixtures or add a lamp if needed
  • Check drapes and blinds for dust and get them cleaned, if needed
  • Corral remotes and other electronic gadgets in a cupboard, drawer, or attractive bin or basket
  • If you have little ones, organize toys into one section of the room and use bins or other attractive containers to keep them under control

 

Bathrooms

Just because these rooms are functional, it doesn’t mean they can’t be beautiful.

  • Clean out your drawers and cabinets—remove any outdated or unused toiletries, medicine, or personal care equipment
  • Tastefully display only the essentials in the medicine cabinet or drawers
  • Pack up rarely used perfumes and jewelry
  • Add fresh drawer liners
  • Organize cleaning items in a safe, unobtrusive spot
  • Remove multiple soap and shampoo bottles from shower shelves
  • Get rid of damp towels, washcloths, loofahs, etc.
  • Make sure towels are displayed neatly on a shelf or in a basket

 

Laundry Room

A well-appointed laundry room can be the difference between like and love for some home buyers. Make the right impression in yours.

  • Don’t leave any laundry (clean or dirty) in piles or otherwise on display
  • If you leave out items to air dry, make sure to put them away before a tour
  • Neatly organize detergents, spot removers, and other supplies
  • Put function on display by arranging equipment, detergents, drying racks, and laundry baskets in an attractive manner that show how easy it is to access everything
  • Wipe down the washer and dryer—make sure no lint or dust is showing
  • Throw lint and other items like dryer sheets in a trash can with a lid

 

Basement or Garage

These are places where we like to hide things that are unsightly or have no other place to call home. But you want potential buyers to see possibility, not defeat, when they enter yours.

  • Properly dispose of opened cans of paint (unless buyers could use it for touch-ups), stain, pest repellent, and other chemicals
  • Organize tools and box up large items if not currently in use
  • Sort through all those old boxes of what-nots and donate unneeded items—organize the rest in neatly-stacked bins
  • Throw out anything that’s musty or shows signs of mold and mildew
  • Dust everything
  • Organize sports equipment neatly, storing as much as possible in bins
  • Add shelves to better corral miscellaneous odds and ends

De-cluttering isn’t fun, but you’ll be happy you did it when you’re calling the moving truck. Get obstacles out of the way so buyers can see what a gem your home is!

We Bust the 3 Biggest Myths About Selling Your Home in the Winter Part 3

canstockphoto37273624This is the third and final installment in our series about selling your home in winter.

Waiting until spring to sell your house is one of the biggest misconceptions in the world of real estate. We’ve already busted myths about selling during the winter and shared the top reasons why selling in the winter is easier than you think.

Now we’re going to focus on those home features that were custom-made to be shown off during the winter. Not everything looks better under the bright rays of the summertime sun. If you’re unsure how to make your property sparkle under winter skies, check out these features that show better in the winter than at any other time.

 

Energy Efficiency

This is one of the most important aspects of any home, and if you’ve invested in maximizing efficiency and cutting down energy costs, now is the time to brag about it. We’re not saying you should “accidentally” leave your latest heating bill lying around so potential buyers can see it, but depending on the numbers—why not?

If showing off your low power bills is too forward for your taste, make up a neat list that details all the energy efficient upgrades and changes you’ve made to the house. Include average heating and cooling bills, so buyers can take those discounted costs into consideration when weighing your home against others. If you’ve taken measures to reduce your home’s carbon footprint, include that information as an extra highlight.

 

Architectural Flourishes

Bannisters, columns, arches, and walkways are custom-made for winter decorations. Tasteful twinkling lights and evergreen garlands draw attention to these architectural features that may be overshadowed in summer by trim green lawns and flowerbeds. If you have special light fixtures or lampposts, add a colorful bow or sprig of holly to draw attention. These types of flourishes look good all winter long—not just during the holidays.

If it snows a lot in your neighborhood, play that up by creating a winter wonderland in your front yard, or on the porch. Create an image of cozy togetherness, where potential buyers can envision themselves enjoying a hot cup of cocoa or rolling up an impressive snowman to watch over the house.

 

Simple Upkeep

Home maintenance is something that potential buyers often have on their minds. If your home is easy to take care of during the winter, be sure to let buyers know it. Keep all driveways, walkways, and steps free of snow and ice—and keep snowblowers, shovels, and ice melt tucked out of sight.

If you present a neat and safe winter appearance, buyers won’t get distracted by how long the driveway is or the number of steps leading up to the front door. Make sure there are no leftover messes from fall cleanup. If snow is scarce, add a layer of mulch across all flowerbeds to make a tidy, well-kept impression on potential buyers.

 

Entertaining Spaces

Whether it’s a wide, open backyard perfect for a family picnic or an open floor plan that just screams holiday get-togethers, make it easy for buyers to see these entertainment perks. If you’re showing your home around the holidays, set up the space as you would for an intimate family dinner or a larger holiday mixer. Set out place settings or arrange furniture into conversational groupings and nooks.

To show off outdoor spaces that might be covered in a blanket of snow, display photos of summer festivities. Pick snapshots that feature outdoor dining, family barbecues, or other warm-weather festivities. If you have award-winning roses or an appealing summer garden, make sure those summertime bonuses aren’t left out.

 

Final Thoughts

Winter can seem like a tough time to show off your home’s greatest assets, but some things look better under a soft covering of snow or in the warm light of a fire. Identify what makes your house stand out when the days are shorter, and get ready to join the winter housing market. It’s the perfect time for your little gem to shine.

Tell-Tale Signs You’ve Outgrown Your Home

canstockphoto7138312Once upon a time, Realtors came up with the term “starter home” to describe houses perfect for newlyweds and small families. Although these starter homes are great, families quickly outgrow them due to various reasons. Whether you’re out of storage space, feeling cramped or just need a change of pace these are the tell-tale signs that it’s time to move on.

New Additions

Often families outgrow their homes because they are expecting little bundles of joy. The addition of children or even pets can easily begin bursting the seams of your perfect newlywed home. When bedrooms have filled up and toys have taken over the entire house it’s time to upgrade to a larger a home.

Aging

Outgrowing your home usually sounds like you need more space, but sometimes you might benefit from downsizing. As couples age and their children leave the nest, a home that was once the right size might become too large and difficult to maintain. Choosing to downsize into a more comfortable space could also help stretch retirement dollars.

Not enough space

As a family grows in numbers so does accompanying furniture collections. Families often opt for over-sized pieces of furniture to accommodate everyone in the home plus guests. These large pieces of furniture take up a lot of space. They easily start to crowd a home and make it feel cramped or small. Many consider upgrading to a larger home to accommodate them and all of their belongings.

Complicated Entertaining

Many families like to entertain their friends and loved ones. For these families entertaining becomes a big factor when deciding to upgrade and purchase a new home. As you grow, you may end up hosting a large holiday party and the need for more space will become more imminent. It might be time to move on if you find out that your current home doesn’t share you sense of hospitality.

Your Finances are in order

Many families move on simply because they are in a better financial situation to do so. A recent job promotion or inheritance can allow you and your family to purchase a larger home or move into that perfect neighborhood. Your improved finances provide the opportunity to live comfortably and enjoy the space that you worked so hard to earn.

All About Purchase Agreements

The purchase agreement is a legal arrangement between a potential buyer and the property’s owner or seller. To streamline the process, it is best to keep records of everything and to stick to a pre-determined schedule.canstockphoto434622small

Escrow                                                        

An unbiased third party such as a title company or an attorney will be selected to act as the closing agent. The unbiased agent holds all funds in escrow and researches the complete record history of the property. This ensures that the title in question is free and clear of restrictions.

Inspections

Once the seller accepts your offer you will need a licensed property inspector to check the property for issues including the roof, structure, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and more. One of two things can happen depending on the outcome of the inspections. If each step in the process is successfully met, you move to closing or after review request for renegotiation of terms and price can be made.

Appraisal

After the inspections are met and you move closer to closing, your lender will require an appraisal to help determine the amount you can borrow to purchase your home. Appraisers are specialized in determining the value of properties based on a combination of square footage measurements, building costs, recent sales of comparable properties, operating income and more.

After the appraisal is completed successfully completed you can close.

Closing

Finally, the closing agent will furnish all parties with a settlement statement that summarizes the details of the purchase agreement. All parties including the closing agent will read and sign the documents and this completes the process.

After closing is complete you will need to get all home services installed and utilities turned on or switched over to your name. Now you are all set to move in to your new home!

Tiny House Movement Q & A

In today’s fast-paced, complicated life many look for ways to simplify. Some even advocate that moving into a smacanstockphoto10371016ller home means having a bigger life.

So what is tiny living?

In a nutshell, the tiny house movement is a way of life. People adjust to smaller spaces and fewer possessions in order to save money while focusing on building relationships and lasting experiences.

What is a tiny house?

The average home size in 2016 ranged from 2,400 to 2,600 square feet. Tiny homes typically offer anywhere from 65 to 400 square feet.

How much do they cost?

A relatively high-end tiny house costs around $20,000 to $30,000 to build yourself. These numbers include buying a brand new trailer, professional construction plans, appliances and other brand new materials.

How to build for less?

  • Use recycled materials
  • Use less expensive materials and appliances that are still reliable of course
  • Complete all labor yourself with the help of family and friends
  • Avoid costly mistakes by doing your due diligence when researching and designing
  • Be patient and find a good deal on the perfect trailer instead of purchasing a new one

Benefits of a tiny home?

  • Less time cleaning
  • Less time spent maintaining
  • No clutter means it’s easier to find your belongings
  • Monthly bills are cheaper
  • Cozy and easy to manage living space
  • Better for the environment

 

Do you want to know more about accommodating families with tiny home living? Check out this blog from TinyHouseTalk.com

Questions You Must Ask When Searching For Your New Home

When it comes to finding your dream home, it can take some time to find the perfect place just for you. There are so many factors which go into finding the right home and the home buying process. As you begin your due diligence in researching the area and getting know your potential neighbors, finding the right schools, hiring a real estate agent, and making sure the home you fall in love with is in your price range (check out this great calculator tool).

pexels-photo-106399

Before you move forward towards homeownership, take some time to chat with a loan officer to find out what kind of mortgage you can afford. If you’re not sure you can afford a home, you should also take some time to chat with a mortgage officer. There are various loans you may qualify for so make sure you get pre-approved first.

As you continue down the path towards homeownership, ask yourself these questions—

  • Why is the home for sell?
  • Are there some issues with the home you should be aware of?
  • What do you like most about the neighborhood? What don’t you like? Can you leave with it?
  • How long has the home been vacant? Why?
  • What is the water pressure like? Insulation in the attic?
  • How many drawers are in the kitchen? Is there enough counter space for you?
  • Do all the electrical outlets work?
  • Is the front door well insulated?

Your home is a place you can take pride in. Take some time now to find the best fit for you, something you can see yourself living in. Write down all the questions you have, what you can’t live without, what you’re willing to compromise on, and so on.

As you move down this path, let us help you find your dream home. We are here to answer all your questions and to assist you in finding your new home.

New Construction Advice

New ConstructionToday’s market has no shortage of cheap, previously-owned homes to pick through. But you have decided to buy a new construction home or have one built to your liking. Despite all of the benefits of buying a new construction home, you will want to make sure you do it right with these seven tips.

1. The Right Agent

A great agent to help you navigate the new construction buying process will have specific experience with builders and buyers in the area. However, they should not be affiliated with the builder. Builders and real estate agents often maintain relationships, but you will want someone to look out for you best interests.

2. Research the Builder

Searching reviews, testimonials and news online might be the best place to start. After that, you can visit other developments and talk to homeowner’s that have worked with the builder. Remember that most builders will have both satisfied and unsatisfied customers. Don’t get turned off by one bad review. Look for trends and cover your concerns in the purchase agreements.

3. Creative Negotiations

You can negotiate other factors besides price as most builders are opposed to lowing their prices. Other options include asking the builder to pay closing costs or performing upgrades at no additional charge.

4. Everything in Writing

Make sure that everything has been negotiated, agreed upon and written in contract form before you sign anything. If you are purchasing an incomplete home, it is important to ensure that you specify in writing how you want the home finished. Keep in mind that verbal conversations are not binding.

5. Remember that you don’t always get what you see

Fully finished, decorated and staged model homes aren’t a true representation of what comes standard from builders. All of those fancy upgrades like stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors come with a price.  Avoid sticker shock when touring the home. Ask the guide which features are standard and which are extra.

6. Guarantee Please

When buying a home that is not completely finished you will want to ensure that you have guarantees the home will be ready on time. Some new construction homes even come with warranties covering the home up to a year for anything they may have overlooked.

7. Home Inspection

Going along with their warranty, newly built homes often have problems too. Hire an inspector to make sure everything is safe and up to code before moving in and signing off. Typically, builders allow the buyers to conduct an independent inspection and agree to repair code compliance issues. However, they do not include a provision that allows buyers to walk away without losing their deposit.

9 Reasons For Sale by Owner Can Backfire

simpolo-1478505_640Every year homeowners contemplate hiring an agent or listing their property for sale by owner (FSBO). However, FSBO might not be the best option for the majority of sellers. Here are a few considerations to mull over before you decide if you have the chops to take on a complex real estate transaction.

1. You probably don’t have the time

Think about it, do you really want to be answering calls and knocks at the door from complete strangers who may or may not actually be potential buyers? Safety and privacy are big considerations when deciding to sell without an agent.

2. After sale issues

Although employing an agent doesn’t protect you from liability or guarantee that there won’t be any after-sale consequences, they help by taking precautionary steps. An example of an after sale issue includes a leaky roof and the buyer now wanting you to pay for a new roof. However, if you disclosed the leaky roof before the sale your bases should be covered. The key to avoiding after sale issues lies with prevention.

3. You may not be saving money after all

One of the most common reasons for someone to try and sell their house on their own is to save money. Although a very valid reason, the average FSBO home sold for $210,00 in 2014 compared to $249,000 for a home sold by a real estate agent according to the National Association of Realtors.

4. You could get scammed

Or taken advantage of. Buyers often feel that they can get a better price or deal for themselves because owners lack the skills and knowledge to negotiate. By employing an agent, you will have an expert negotiator in your corner ensuring you get top dollar for your property.

5. It’s all about the details

Underestimating the complexity involved during the entire real estate purchasing process can be detrimental. The list of potential mistakes is huge unless you are aware of your state’s laws and regulations regarding real estate transactions. Knowing how to read closing documents, fill out purchase agreements and calculate the true value of the property are extremely beneficial skills in protecting you from future litigation.

6. Too many people to negotiate with

Let’s say you decide to list your home FSBO. You should be prepared to negotiate with the buyer, the buyer agent, the buyer’s lawyer in some cases, the home inspection companies and the appraiser all of which work for the buyer. They are looking out for the buyer’s best interests. Who will you have looking out for yours?

7. The internet gets results

And real estate agents have solid internet marketing strategies. According to recent studies, 92 percent of buyers search online for their next home while only 28 percent look at print materials including newspaper ads. Do you have the skills needed to get maximum exposure to potential buyers?

8. FSBO is getting more difficult

The percentage of people listing FSBO has dropped from 19 to nine percent over that last 20 years. One of the main reasons for this drop is that as industry disclosures and regulations increases so does the paperwork involved in selling and buying a home.

9. You will end up hiring a Realtor anyway

Generally, those who are unsuccessful with selling their homes FSBO seek out professional services including hiring a real estate agent. Employing an experienced agent with a history of success gives you peace of mind that your real estate transaction will be handled carefully, respectfully and professionally.

5 Signs You Need To Replace Your Siding

shutters-669296_640Have you been looking at your siding and wondering if now is the time to replace it? To help you determine this, here are 5 signs that it’s time to replace your siding.

  1. Rot run. Your siding cannot be effective if it’s beginning to rot or crumble. If you notice this happening, you may be able to only have to repair the affected area. However, if the rotting has spread across your exterior, you will need to start over. Choose a rot-resistant material to help protect against rotting in the future.
  1. Cracks and gaps. Gaps and cracks in your exterior don’t only look bad, but can allow for moisture to seep into the cracks and rot your wood. This can also allow for critters and insects to enter into your home and walls which can lead to some serious problems.
  1. Hidden hazards. Take some time to walk around your home and inspect the exterior of your home carefully. If you notice any bulging or warped siding panels, this can be a sign of some serious damage beneath the siding. If this happens, contact a professional contractor for consultation to learn more and find out your options.
  1. Moisture and mold. Moisture build up can lead to rot, mold, or mildew which can lead to serious health problems. Bring in a professional to look over the damage and help you determine if you need to update the siding or if more internal work needs to be done.
  1. Higher resale value. If you’re planning on selling your home soon, replacing your siding can boost your resale value. Though this can become costly, in most cases you can recoup the cost in the resale. Your real estate agent can help you determine if this is something worth doing.

The more you can do for your home now to keep your home looking its best, the better off you’ll be (and the less money it will cost you) in the long run. At the end of the day, you’ll be glad you did.