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Three Ways You Can Improve The Curb Appeal When Selling Your Home

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curb-appeal-basicsYour home’s curb appeal is the attractiveness of the first impression that strikes potential homebuyers, but there’s no need to spend a fortune on improvements. From simple upgrades to meticulous landscaping projects, there is a ton of ways to add to your home’s glamour, but the three listed below will allow you to make that dramatic difference on a budget.

Paint Your Front Shutters Trim Or Doors

A gallon of exterior paint will run you less than $100 (small houses), which should be plenty to paint your shutters, trims or front doors of your house. Painting these parts of your home can definitely revive it and add some brightness, while adding curb appeal. Bold colors work great, but ensure they match other exterior areas of the home such as the garage.

This home improvement project may take several hours depending on how big your house is, but be prepared to spend at least a day on painting.

While fixing up the exterior of your home, it is a good idea to fix your garage doors as well. If your garage door is dilapidated due to wear and tear, consider replacing it with a newer one. Replacing your garage door will also improve the energy efficiency of your home because modern doors are better insulated.

Upgrading Your Mailbox Add Curb Appeal

Regardless of whether your mailbox is located on the road or mounted on your doorstep, adding a new one will enhance your homes appearance. Mailboxes are rather inexpensive fixtures, and you can generally buy one anywhere between $10 and $100.

When you do install your mailbox, make sure you abide by all the relevant regulations of your area. Installing a full sized mailbox should take no longer than 2 hours and 30 minutes to mount on your exterior wall.

Replace Light Fixtures And Upgrade Hardware

When trying to enhance the exterior of your house, it is important not to overlook the simple things such as replacing rusty locks, and faded house numbers. Look for modern design house numbers that are rustproof and made of stainless steel, and try to match their finish with the exterior of your home. You can even add paint brushed nicked address numbers on your siding to enhance the visual appeal of your home.

When considering light fixtures, take into account their style as well as functionality. You want your light fixtures to adequately light up your entryway, and make it safer, not exemplify a dull look. To save time with installation, look for light fixtures that have the same mounting system as your current ones.

When you’re selling your home, the last thing you want is for it to go unnoticed. Adding curb appeal will definitely make a significant impact on potential homebuyers and, done right, can be enough to make them stop and stare in awe.

How Do Comparable Sales Affect Your Appraisal?

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comparable-sales-basicsThe term comparable sales refers to the price of any similar land or property generated at this time compared to the potential market sale value of your property, it is the most commonly used appraisal method in residential real estate. The comparable sales are used to appraise the residential homes and properties in an area. Therefore, it is a very important factor, which determines the worth of your house or any other property in the local market. And since it affects the appraisal of your property, it is important to know some of the basics of comparable sales so you can make sure your house is evaluated properly.

Understanding How Comparable Sales Work

Generally when an appraiser puts a value on your property, he or she does so by comparing it to another property close to yours. Depending on the size of your property they will look at similar homes within a half-mile radius of your home that sold within the previous 180 days, your property will be judged and a price fixed. Where no other property match the above mentioned criteria, then the appraiser uses his discretion to either go further away from your property or use some other method to put a value on it.

As we all know, no two homes are the same. Something or other will make a difference, whether it is the material used to build the house or the condition of the material used at this moment. And since the appraiser values your property using the comparable sales technique, the homes near your property with similar amenities and same number of rooms make a big difference on how much your house is worth

How Comparable Sales Can Affect Your Property Appraisal

Abnormal Comparable Sales: There are instances where a property is sold by different means and reasons than just a seller’s wishes to actually sell it. It could be that a seller had to sell the property at a price lower than the debts incurred for building it.

Another possibility is that, due to the mortgagor’s inability to pay the monthly mortgage bills, the lender foreclosed on the property. Pricing your property in comparison to such properties could lead to a loss. So, some ways to solve this is to ask for reappraisal and request the lender to get an appraiser with knowledge about your area.

Home improvements: Any property is appraised based on its condition during the sale. If you spent a fortune on refurbishing your property before putting it up for sale, but nobody in your neighborhood has changed anything, this could also reduce your house’s value. Discuss with your lender or realtor which improvements will improve the price and which will not.

It should be noted that a lender does not have the right to approach an appraiser before or after he comes to appraise the property. However this rule does not apply to buyer and seller who can regularly be in contact.

Three Tips To Close Your Home Loan Faster

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close-your-mortgage-fasterThere are two ways to look at how you close your home loan. When you are taking out a home loan to buy a home, the term closing means the initial setting up the loan with your bank, as part of the escrow process. Indeed you can close your home loan faster by taking precautions before approaching the bank. Having done your homework always helps.

For example, have you received pre-approval from your lender? Do you know how much you want to spend and whether you have the funds to pay back a mortgage at today’s interest rates? If you do your homework and got pre-qualified in advance, the approach to the bank will be a lot more successful. When finding a suitable home, the figures that you need to take into account are important.

Get House Price And Details

If you have knocked the house price down enough to accommodate for any repairs and can show the bank the specific property details, you may close your home loan faster than using hypothetical figures. The reason for this is that the bank has some solid foundation upon which to base their judgment.

If you leave it to the bank to tell you how much you can spend without having a specific house in mind, you lose time and may be offered less. The fact is that banks work on the premise that you earn a set amount and that you have a set amount of debt to pay. They are not overly generous when it comes to lending above your existing debt level.

However, if you have a solid house price and can show them your security for taking out that loan in bricks and mortar, you have a better chance of getting a quicker decision.

Work Out What You Will Save On Existing Loans

Closing a new home loan to pay off existing mortgages turns out to be difficult for some. However, if you can prove to the bank that your equity in the home is sufficient to cover the amount you need to borrow, you can close your home loan more quickly. An accurate market analysis from your realtor is helpful here, at first.

However, to close the new loan the lender will order a certified appraisal of your home before agreeing to anything. This will be based on today’s market and sufficient information on what is left on your home loan. A competent market analysis will prevent any nasty surprises or delays when the appraisal comes in.

Have All Documentation And Calculations With You When Applying

It is important than there are no delays caused because you forgot to take papers with you to the bank. When you have completed tip one and two above, take all your documentation to the bank to back up your application, as this saves a tremendous amount of time. It’s easy to close your home loan if the bank is satisfied that you meet all of their criteria and your loan presents little risk. One solution is to have a folder or case in which all of the papers are put, when you initially gathered them together.

Private Mortgage Insurance Basics

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private-mortgage-insurance-basicsDo You Need Private Mortgage Insurance?

Good practice in real estate lending and homeownership suggests that the homeowner ought to have at least a 20% equity stake in their home. That is all well and good but it would put ownership out of the reach of most people in the country. As a nation we tend to value our homes and the majority of residences are owner-occupied. This is even encouraged by government policy.

The reason having equity is a good idea is that, with variations in the market and other risks, you might not have enough equity to pay off the balance in extraordinary circumstances, such as we have seen tragically happen to so many homeowners in, say, the last five or six years. As with many other things in this life, it is all about the risk.

So, to make it possible for more people to own homes there are two options to insure your low down payment purchase. The first is with an FHA or VA government-backed loan and insurance policy, and the other is to get a conventional loan with private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Here Are The Private Mortgage Insurance Basics

There are a few different options and you might find that you do win with the conventional loan that requires a PMI payment. Discuss this carefully with your lender to find the best option. Depending on your tax bracket you might be able to get a deduction for your monthly PMI payment.

There are some downsides to private mortgage insurance. It is not particularly cheap and it is due on the entire balance of your loan. The beneficiary is your lender not you or your heirs. That’s right! You are paying for their insurance policy.

However, if you do not have an adequate down payment home lenders will only agreed to lend to you if they have cover. Over the long term it might suit you better to find the larger down payment or refinance at the earliest opportunity. Alternatively, look into your options for an FHA or VA government-backed home-loan instead.

The Right Time To Drop PMI

It is time to drop your private mortgage insurance when your loan balance drops below 80% of your home value. That all sounds good but with the ups and downs of the real estate market of the last few years, your lender is going to be more difficult to convince.

In most cases the PMI should drop off when you reach 22% equity stake, based on your initial appraisal, as long as you have never had any delinquencies on the loan. They may add other requirements that make the process of dropping PMI cumbersome and time consuming.

Other than just patiently gritting your teeth and waiting it might be worth carefully looking at the costs of refinancing instead. Like many other financial facts of life, private mortgage insurance can be a benefit when it enables homeownership for those would not otherwise purchase the home they desire.

Who Owns The Home In The Event Of A Divorce?

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Divorce Property BasicsWhen two people get married, they don’t believe that anything can break up their relationship. However, it is a fact of life that sometimes it doesn’t work and ends in a divorce.

Aside from the emotional pain and custody of the children, one of most difficult questions to be answered is who gets the property and other assets. In the United States, this question is answered depending on the state where they live, if it comes under common law property state or community property state.

Divorce In Common Law Property States

Most of the states in the United States come under this category. What this term common law means in simple terms is that any property acquired by a single spouse, even during marriage, will remain with that person after divorce. However, if a property deed has both the spouses’ names, then each one gets one half of it.

Besides this, if one spouse gifts something and has both their names put in the agreement, then it belongs to both and is divided equally. To clarify, let’s consider an example. If a husband buys a car with his money and puts it in his name, then it solely belongs to him. However, if he puts his wife’s name along with his on the purchase deed, then they both have equal ownership of the car.

Some couples enter into a pre-marriage agreement wherein they decide the division of property in case of divorce. However, when it has not been decided beforehand the court makes this decision.

Divorce In Community Property States

Some of the states in the US namely California, Nevada, Louisiana, Texas, Wisconsin, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, and New Mexico come under the Community Property States. The term community property means that every piece of asset acquired during the time a couple is married automatically gets equally distributed among both. Both of them share fifty percent each.

Once two people get married, the community property they own after that point belongs to both and is divided when the couple separates. However, in these states too, assets acquired before marriage belongs to that particular spouse unless transferred or gifted to the other spouse with authentic paper work.

In these situations the spouses are not permitted to make changes to any community property without consent from both. In the event of divorce, all the community property is divided equally; assets like houses, which cannot be physically divided, are given to one and the other gets some other asset worth the value of half the house.

Exceptions to the rule

There are some exceptions to this rule of equal division of property: If one spouse embezzles the community property during or before divorce; or if one of them has taken out an educational loan. There is something called a personal injury award which goes to the injured spouse. If the couple has debts that exceed the value of the property they own, in event of divorce, the court makes the decision depending on the relative ability of the each spouse to pay back the debt.

Is Buying Investment Property A Sound Investment?

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Investment Property BasicsBuying investment property can be looked at from many perspectives. With the fashion of “flipping” houses, it’s difficult to know if the market is saturated with homes for sale. However, a deeper investigation will tell you whether it’s worth buying investment property.

There are several business models that work for investment property. One is to buy at current cheap prices and hope that the market will improve. Another is to buy at rock bottom prices, renovate and sell on and the third way is buying investment property to rent it to help income flow.

Buying And Holding Property

This is only worthwhile if you see something which comes up for sale at a really knock down price. The reason that some homes do come up for sale in this way is that the owners have failed to pay off their mortgage. The home is repossessed and sold cheaply by the loan company because all they want to do is get back what is owed.

There are several disadvantages of buying a property, which is merely going to be left to sit. One is that the house will cost utility bills and housing taxes as well as insurance. Any reckoning of the viability of the investment should take into account all costs over the entire period of ownership.

Buying Investment Property To Renovate

If a home is in bad repair and you make expensive improvements these alone won’t guarantee that you will get your money back. It could potentially be a very rewarding investment. However, there are items to bear in mind when deciding. For example, what is the scope of repairs needed? What is the market that homes in that particular area is aimed toward? Is there a regular market and what is the competition?

If, for example, you buy a house you think you could make into great family accommodation and the market in that particular area is geared toward professional business people, you may be wasting your money. If there is a glut of housing available cheaply within the area of the home that interests you, similarly, there may be too much competition. All of this has to be weighed up when making the decision about buying investment property.

Rental Income

The amount you can gain from buying investment property for rental depends upon the amount of rent you feel you can earn from that property. This must take into account taxes, insurances and repairs of the property. People who purchase small blocks of apartments, for example, may be able to minimize expenditure. All of the properties are under one roof, repairs at the outset offset the possibility of future costs, and the apartment block may actually be in a very upwardly mobile area suited to executives.

It really depends upon what market you are aiming for and whether you can produce cost effective accommodation for others which will not remain empty for any length of time.

Thus, the question of whether to spend money on buying investment property really comes down to expertise in marketing that property, either for rental or for sale, to the right market at the right time.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes in 2015!

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From our family to yours, we hope you only the best in the New Year!



Three Tips to Help Improve Your FICO Score

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fico-score-basicsIf you’re thinking of buying a car or house, your FICO score is the ultimate three-digit number determining your approval. The interest rate that you have to pay also depends on it. Unlike a crash diet to help lose weight fast, there is no quick fix to improve your FICO score, and the best advice is to manage your credit responsibly and it will gradually change over time.

The easiest ways for improving FICO scores include getting a hold of your credit report, paying your bills on time and settling with debt collectors. This is mostly boilerplate advice so listed below are three surprising ways to improve your FICO score.

Clean Your Credit Report

Chances are that if you’re looking to improve your FICO score, you have a copy of your credit report handy. Scour through it for any activity that you may not be responsible for, and contact the credit-reporting agency for any errors.

You may be a victim of identity theft in which case your credit reports payment history, which accounts for 35% of your FICO score will be chock full of errors. These errors are also most likely to occur when someone else shares the same name as you so it is crucial to get them corrected as soon as possible.

Don’t Pay Your Bills At Once

Many individuals wait until payday to pay all their credit card bills, but this habit is to be discouraged. Making micropayments through the month will not only help you reduce your debt quicker, but lower your debt utilization ratio.

This ratio is calculated by the overall debt on your credit cards divided by the total credit limit available on all your cards, and accounts for 40% of your credit score. According to FICO, this number should be in the ballpark of 35%, and any higher is a reason for concern.

More Credit And Less Debt Will Improve Your FICO Score

If you’ve been using a specific credit card extensively, and are good at making the payments, go ahead and ask for a credit line increase. This will help you improve your credit utilization ratio. However, you shouldn’t opt for a credit line increase if you have bad credit as the bank may consider you as a credit risk and reduce your limit.

Common myth among credit card holders is that they have to carry debt on their card to build their credit score, which is not true. The reality is that the less credit you use the better it is even if you’re paying the bill off in full each month. The day your balance on your credit cards is reported to the credit bureaus depends on the specific lender, which may be when you’ve almost exhausted your limit.

Ideally it is recommended that you use 10% of your credit limit, but if you have to make bigger purchases, make more than one payment to improve your FICO score.

Your FICO score is based on the information provided in your credit report, and will take time to improve. That’s why it is a good idea to get your free annual copy of your credit report and monitor your progress.

Where a Mortgage Figures in Estate Planning

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estate-planning-basicsThere are many people who don’t think that planning their estate is something they have to care about, as they don’t own that much. But this is where they make the mistake because everybody has something they would like to pass on to someone once they are gone.

Without an estate plan with proper instructions, you lose control of the distribution of your legacy. Let us learn how an outstanding mortgage loan can impact your estate planning and how you can avoid the hassles.

Understanding Estate Planning

If you are someone who owns anything that has some monetary value and you would like to pass it on to someone else, then you technically own something called an estate. The process of deciding while you are alive about how your estate should be managed, who will manage it and what will go to whom once you die, is in simple terms known as estate planning.

Paying Mortgages And Trusts

Particularly in regions where prices are touching the sky, people are often not able to finish their mortgage payments during the typical human lifetime. In such circumstances, the heir or executor, who gets it after the buyer’s demise, has the responsibility to manage all the financial activities related to the property, including the mortgage. If any loan is remaining, he or she is required to pay it off.

The legal device known as a trust enables you to prevent burdening your heir from having to pay off your mortgage. Unless there is mutual agreement between the lender and the beneficiary about continuing to pay the outstanding debt on the property, it belongs to the creditors who even have the right to sell part or whole of the property to recover the money lent in the first place.

So if the heir to your property is a family member and agrees to pay your debt after your demise, then forming a trust would make sure the property remains safe and secure, as part of your estate planning.

Mortgage and Estate Plan

When an executor is appointed in an estate plan and if there is an outstanding mortgage on a property, then after the owner’s death and before the beneficiary takes possession of the property, the executioner is the one responsible to pay the remaining debt.

One way to make sure that the executor of your estate does not have to go through the trouble of paying your debts is to take out a life insurance policy that has the same term as the mortgage. That way, your estate and your remaining debt would be taken care of without any trouble to the executor.

It is important to remember that, even though you may leave a will saying that your assets should be passed on to the appointed heirs, they do not get the rights to those assets if you have debt remaining to be paid. In that case, the law says that creditors have the first say and only when they have got their share of money would the heirs be allowed to take the rest.

Make Your Small Home Look Larger When You Sell

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Home Staging BasicsYou only get one shot, when you are selling a home, at making that first impression and get top dollar for it. When your home has a small living room, bedroom, and bathroom how do you make these spaces bigger and more attractive? Before listing your small home keep in mind that it’s going to be seen as a commodity on the market. You need to take steps to make it stand out from the crowd.

It needs to be spruced up to compete with other homes listed in your neighborhood. That’s when home staging helps! Many sellers believe that staging is the process of simply decluttering the home and getting rid of the extra trash, but there’s more to it.

The purpose of home staging is to make your home feel cozier, comfortable, colorful and inviting so here are some tips to get you started.

Staging The Living Room

Staging the living room of a small home is relatively easy owing to the fact that it is generally bigger than other spaces in a home. Pick a corner in the living room and set something in place that will scream attention such as a piece of art or even a lamp.

Ensure your window coverings are pulled back or better yet made of sheer material to let in more light. Well-lit rooms make spaces look bigger, and you can apply this same formula to other areas of the home.

Get rid of any unwanted furniture such as oversized sofas, especially if they’re blocking walkways, and scale the remaining furniture to fit the area. Home-staging experts recommend that you remove personal photos, and have no more than three small items on the coffee table

Enlarging Your Dining Room And Kitchen

If you have dining room furniture such as cabinets, make sure they are not stuffed to the brim. It is also a good idea to take all the leaves out of the dining table to make it as small as possible, then positioning the chairs accordingly. Don’t stress too much on setting the table, as that’s not what you’re trying to sell.

Remember your kitchen is the heart of the home and must not only be spotless, but updated to reflect modern décor. Consider getting rid of the coffee maker, and replacing it with simple decorations such as cookbooks. If your kitchen is appointed with wooden cabinets, clean them thoroughly with degreasers and apply lemon oil for a brand new look.

Home Staging The Bedrooms And Bathrooms

We all do it, place a TV in the bedrooms that is, and however comforting and convenient it may be, it’s doesn’t exemplify a romantic, relaxing and cozy feel. Furthermore, it takes up valuable space whether on a stand or on the wall. Just like the coffee table, keep minimal items on the bathroom counter and add some decorative candles, fresh flowers or even a colorful soap dish.

Bathroom curtains are a necessity for any bathroom, but it is important that they be pulled back to display the entire tub area. Speaking of bathroom curtains, make sure all other items of daily life are stored away such as clothes on chairs, laundry baskets and ironing boards.

These are just a few simple tips to make your small house seem bigger, and ultimately you just need to put its best face forward to ensure it stands out among the rest.

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