Author Archive

Spring Cleaning

By Virtual Results

Spring CleaningNow that the weather is finally warmer and spring really seems to be here, it’s time to tackle some of those nasty cleaning jobs you’ve been putting off. If you’re planning to put your house on the market, or getting ready to leave a rental for your newly purchased home, take on these projects now. Don’t procrastinate.

Refrigerator

We don’t know how it happens, but refrigerator drawers and shelves seem to collect gunk and goo. We can swipe them with a wet cloth on the fly, but at least a couple times a year we need to remove all the contents and give those shelves and drawers a really good scrub. Typically, these pieces are too large to fit in the sink, so consider taking them outside. Use a biodegradable cleaner and wash them out over your lawn so that the water does double duty.

Rugs

Those beautiful rugs that kept our toes cozy all winter are due for a good beating. Of course, you can vacuum them as well, but sometimes a good shaking or whacking with a broom or rug beater is just the ticket. Make sure you have a sturdy clothesline or balcony rail to hang them over for carpet drying. Letting them air out in the fresh outdoors can help get rid of that musty winter odor too. Carpet cleaning is very important to me. Ann Arbor carpet cleaning should be top priority for maintaining your home. Enjoy all carpet benefits at home by scheduling a cleaning service regularly.

Mini-Blinds

Though wonderful for controlling sunlight, mini-blinds are a housekeeper’s nightmare. Dusting each of those little slats, or even using special tools doesn’t always work. At least once a year, lay them out on the lawn and give those blinds a good spray with an eco-friendly degreaser. Then, use the hose and a spray nozzle to wash off all the grime. Dry them in the warm sun before hanging them back up.

Comforters and Duvets

Take your large blankets, comforters, duvets and quilts and wash them in your own large capacity washer or take them to a nearby Laundromat. But, rather than pay for all that drying time, bring them home and hang them out on a sturdy clothesline or railing to dry outdoors. Giving them a good airing out can give them a lovely freshness and prepares them to be packed away until the cold weather returns.

Trash cans

Even when you use bags, your trashcans are subject to grime and ooze. Line them all up on the edge of the patio, fill them with organic dish soap and put the kids to scrubbing with big sponges. If a water-fight ensues, all the better! Once the cans are clean, let them dry outdoors.

Inside

While all your carpets, trashcans, quilts and blinds are drying in the sun, now is a good time to mop those floors, dust the overhead fans and tackle the windows. Of course, spring-cleaning all goes more quickly if you round up the whole family to help for just one day a year; however, you can always find a Domestic Staff Agency in Dubai to help you out.

If you’re getting ready to sell your home, there are some other items you should consider tackling too. Give us a call and we can tell you just where you need to invest the most time and effort.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Final Four for Home Buyers

By Virtual Results

Final Four for Home Buyers

Now lets go ahead with the Four things for new homeowners.

 

Affordability

Once you’ve bought your new home it’s too late to really consider if you can afford it. With a house, the bottom line of the sales contract is not the bottom line of expenses. In addition to Principle, interest, taxes and mortgage insurance, you’ll need homeowner’s insurance (not the same as mortgage insurance, which only insures the bank, not you), landscaping (or, if you’re doing it yourself you’ll need all that equipment), downpayments on utilities, travel expense if you’re further away from your workplace and money to set aside for maintenance. If you’re planning on making any improvements, you’ll need to set aside money for that too. So, when you’re planning on purchasing a home, don’t forget to add in all the other costs to live in it once you get it.

Livability

Buying a home, whether or prebuilt or custom built just for you, introduces a host of options about appliances, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, garage space and even the layout of the kitchen. If you don’t know how your family lives in a space, you may end up with a house is beautiful inside and out, but just doesn’t fit your living style.

In fact, you’ll find lots of stories about people that bought new homes only to find out that their current furniture didn’t fit. Talk about a new expense! But when you can see your furniture in the room, and start making decisions about where to place items before you’ve even made an offer, you’re probably on the right track.

Some people move to popular neighborhoods because it seems like a good investment, only to discover that none of their friends live nearby and rules of the association make it difficult for them to work on favorite hobbies. Others move to the countryside, with panoramic mountain vistas or lake views only to discover that they’d rather be in a downtown walkup.

Accessibility

If you don’t travel to and from your potential new home during rush hours, weekends and other potential traffic times, you won’t know how accessible it will be for you and your family. A lovely home that your family enjoys while you commute two hours each way to work is probably not the perfect choice for you. Additionally, if you’re planning to live in the home for many years to come, you’ll want to avoid homes with lots of stairs, narrow doorways and other structural items that might make it less useful as you get older.

Sociability

Living out of town can seem like a dream (and for many people it is a perfect location), but if you like to go out in the evenings or walk over to meet friends at a nearby pub, you’ll find it hard going living a distance from your local haunts.

As your real estate professionals, we can help you find the perfect home for all the parts of your life. We won’t talk you into anything that doesn’t fit into your final four.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Loan Options with Low Downpayments

By Virtual Results

Loan Options with Low Downpayments

U.S. economists expect 2015 to be a strong year for housing. What this means to you is that more homes are selling and the supply of available homes is decreasing. This also means that prices likely will increase.

If you’ve been thinking of buying a home, now might be the time even if you haven’t saved up that full 20% downpayment yet.

Low mortgage rates

Mortgages rates have been at their lowest since 2013, with APRs in the three and four percent rates. With VA and FHA loans beating out conventional rates, even homebuyers with less money saved up can get into a home.

Misconceptions about the “twenty percent down” rule:

  • Many potential homebuyers believe that 20% down is required to get any mortgage. They will delay buying a home because they haven’t been able to save up enough for that large of a downpayment.
  • They may believe that with 20% down they are guaranteed a loan. Potential first-time buyers sometimes get the idea that once they have that large of a downpayment it will cover over any blemishes in their credit report or past credit history.
  • They believe they will get a better rate with 20% down.

What 20% down does:

  • Improves the chance you will get a conventional mortgage. Regular lenders ask for a 20% downpayment because it improves their ability to sell your loan.
  • When the downpayment is as high as 20% it meets some of the rules issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In addition, the homebuyer will need to meet a 43% debt-to-income ratio, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you can get a bigger loan.
  • When you pay 20% or more down, you are not required to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI). This reduces your monthly outgo and saves you a bundle.

Options with less than 20% down:

You don’t have that twenty percent saved up. So can you still get into a home? Yes! Being able to afford a home is not about how much money you can put down; it is about whether or not you can make the monthly payments with your ndis plan management sunshine coast quick and efficiently on time. Larger downpayments mean that your monthly outgo is lower. But there are other options:

  • FHA Mortgage: A FHA insured mortgage requires just 3.5% downpayment. FHA loan guidelines have a liberal approach to both downpayments and credit scores. In fact, borrowers with a lower FICO score can still get an FHA loan if there is a reasonable explanation for why their score is lower.
  • Conventional 97: Available from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Conventional 97 is a fixed-rate loan that requires just three percent down, and the downpayment can come completely from gifts by blood-related or marriage-related donors. A Conventional 97 loan cannot be greater than $417,000 and can only be used on a single-unit dwelling.
  • VA Loans: Members of the active duty and honorably discharged U.S. Military and surviving spouses are eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans offer a zero downpayment and in higher cost of living areas can be made for up to $1,094,625.
  • USDA Mortgage: This no-money-down, 100% financing option is available to non-military borrowers and is offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Known as the Rural Housing Loan, it is also available to buyers in suburban neighborhoods as well. Often, the USDA loans are the lowest cost option for borrowers.

Qualifying

Not everyone will qualify for a lower cost or low downpayment loan because that was a big contributor to the housing bubble, but if you are interested in home ownership, one of these options may be for you.

Compliments of Virtual Results

House or Condo?

By Virtual Results

House or Condo?One of the big decisions facing homebuyers is whether to purchase a home from the Orlando house buyers, or to buy a condominium. Just to be clear, as used here, a condominium is a type of housing where a buyer owns a specific part of shared property. Typically, ownership is of the individual unit and a percentage interest of the community space. So, a patio home that is freestanding but that shares community property, a clubhouse, etc. can be deemed a condominium if the land under the home belongs to the association, while a freestanding home that may share an association pool or community park is not.

Risk

Some homebuyers believe that owning a condominium is less risky than owning a house. This is not necessarily the case. During the economic downturn, condo owners were hit just as hard as single homeowners. The risk is based on your mortgage and your ability to make your payments, so in either case, if you lose your job your home is equally at risk.

Investment

Sometimes it makes more sense to buy a condo if you plan to live in it for a while and then turn it into a rental. Be careful to make sure the association you purchase in allows you to rent the property later. FHA requires that a certain percentage of condominium units be owner-occupied, so make sure that your purchase fits into that criteria.

Maintenance

Single-family homes typically require the owner to handle all of the maintenance from the yard work to replacing the roof or leaking water heater. Not only can this costly, if you are unable to do the work yourself, you have to pay the going rate for contractors. In many condominium complexes, the condominium 24 hour maintenance including the exterior work—and even some interior repairs—are done by the association. Funds for pay for the work come from your regular monthly association dues. Landscaping, masonry, exterior paint and other costly maintenance items are scheduled on a routine basis so you can come and go, have weekends free of yard work and even be away for an extended period without worrying about things getting done.

Dues

One potential challenge with condominium ownership is that the association dues can continue to rise as inflation, cost of repairs, et cetera, rise. Sometimes an association will require a special assessment to cover damage from storms (usually insured, but the deductibles need to be covered), or for upgrades that were not planned into the long-term maintenance.

Which should you buy?

Whether you want a condo, patio home, unit in a high-rise or a single-family home, there are risks and rewards to both. Your real estate professional can help you determine which is the best option for your situation, so give us a call and we’ll show you what is available to you.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Lighting a Fire in Your New Fireplace

By Virtual Results

Lighting a Fire in Your New Fireplace

As the weather chills, snow falls and socializing moves indoors, what could be more inviting than a warm cup of cocoa in front of a bright crackling fire? If your new home has a wood fireplace, here are some basics on fireplace care, once you apply all of these tips head to a local firewood supplier and start lighting your fireplace.

Hire a chimney sweep

Not just characters in Mary Poppins tales, chimney sweeps are professionals trained to protect your fireplace and your home from damage, debris and hazards. Certified chimney sweeps inspect your fireplace for damage to the brickwork and mortar, cracks in the tile flue liners, blockages such as bird, raccoon or squirrel nests, a build of leaves, soot, creosote and other potential causes of house fires and smoke damage.

  • Hire a chimney sweep before you light the first fire.
  • If your certified chimney sweep suggests repairs to your fireplace or chimney, do not ignore their advice.
  • According to chimney repairs dublin, have your chimney inspected at least once a year.
  • Make sure smoke alarms are working correctly and have fresh batteries. You should have a smoke detector on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside the sleeping area. All alarms should be connected so that when one alarm is triggered, they all sound.
  • Test your carbon monoxide detector. If you do not have one, get one installed.
  • Install a chimney cap to keep birds and small debris out of the chimney and fireplace.
  • Keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use. Not only does this keep debris from falling into your fireplace, it keeps the heat from escaping through the flue.

Property lit fires

Once you know your fireplace is safe to use, learn how to light a fire. While you may find several “sure-fire” ways to do the job, make sure to follow all safety procedures when doing so.

  • Open the damper.
  • Prime the flue. If your chimney is on the outside of the house, you’ll need to warm it up before lighting the fire to avoid smoke descending into the room. If your fireplace has a gas insert installation, turn on and light the gas for a few minutes until the flue warms and you feel the air drafting into and up the chimney before you add wood to the fire. If you do not have a gas starter, here are instructions for safely priming your flue.
  • Experts suggest building an “upside down” fire for a cleaner, longer lasting fire. To set up your upside down fire, stack larger fuel logs on the fire grate. Place smaller logs on top of these, and then place kindling and twigs on top of the stack. Lastly, top of your fire with balls of scrunched up newspaper or other tender. Light the fire from the top. As the paper burns, the smoke will exit the chimney while the paper lights the twigs and kindling. As the kindling forms coals, it will like the smaller logs and they in turn will light the larger logs.
  • Allow an ash bed to form under the grate. An inch or two of ash insulates your fireplace and keeps the fire burning hotter. However, don’t allow too much ash to build up, since that will dampen your fire and make it harder to light the next time.

Stay safe and warm

Enjoy your new fireplace, but stay safe as well. If you need recommendations for a professional chimney sweep, let us know.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Holiday Decoration Safety

By Virtual Results

Holiday Decoration SafetyEach year, fire departments across the country respond to home and structure fires caused by holiday decorations. In a study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2011 showed an annual average of 230 structure fires that began with lights and decorations on Christmas trees and another 150 fires caused by holiday lights. Injury, fatalities and millions of dollars in property damage result from holiday fires.

Here are some ways to keep your home safe during the holidays:

Water your live trees

Live Christmas trees require consistent water levels to stay fresh. When purchasing a tree, be sure the needles are green and fresh. If the needles fall off easily, find a different tree … fresh needles are harder to pull out and indicate a freshly cut, healthy tree less likely to catch fire. Once the needles begin dropping, discard your tree.

Buy fire-resistant artificial trees and greenery

Your artificial tree should have a label indicating that it is fire resistant. Greenery should have fire-resistant labels as well. Look for labels from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek, or in Canada, the Canadian Standards Association.

Keep your trees (live or artificial) at least three feet away from heat sources such as furnaces, baseboard heaters, fireplaces, candles or space heaters. Avoid blocking exits (doors or windows) with your tree so that there is not impediment to escape in case of fire.

Choose safe lights

Not only should your tree be fresh and green or fire-retardant, you lights should have safety labels. Avoid using lights that are old, have worn or frayed cords or other signs of excessive wear or damage. Rodents tend to like the plastic coating on stored holiday lights, so carefully check light strands for bite marks if your lights are stored in an area rodents can get to. Turn your tree’s lights off before leaving your home or going to bed.

Do not connect more than three (3) strands of mini lights, or a maximum of 50 bulbs of screw-in type lights. Avoid attaching your lights with staples, nails or tacks. Instead, use insulated light holders.

Outdoor decorations are hazards too

Each year, emergency rooms treat more than 10,000 people injured while putting up holiday decorations. Injuries can include shocks, broken bones from falls, cuts and bruises. Before heading outside to put up those lights, wreaths, bows and garlands, take a moment to make sure the conditions are safe:

  • Shovel and deice walkways.
  • Remove icicles or dried leaves from gutters and the edges of your roofs, railings and window frames.
  • Only plug outdoor lights into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. If you don’t have a GFCI outlet, purchase a portable one at your local hardware store that is rated for both indoor and outdoor use. Only use extension cords rated for outdoor use and make sure your cord is not damaged or worn.
  • Do not hang your lights from gutters using staples or tacks. Instead, use specially made gutter and shingle clips that will not damage your gutters or lift your shingles. Each bulb or icicle cord drop should have its own clip, so be sure to purchase as many clips as you need for safety.
  • Use LED lights. These will save you energy, and because the burn cooler, are less likely to cause fires. Avoid using 7-watt bulbs. Although they are more brilliant, they can get dangerously hot and cause fires. Use 5-watt bulbs instead.
  • Stay away from power lines. In older homes, power lines may come into the home from the roof. Keep yourself and your decorations at least 10 feet away from power lines.

Hire a professional

Above all, stay safe during the holidays. If you do not have the equipment, health and tools required to safely decorate your home, hire a professional.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Seven Small Home Benefits

By Virtual Results

Seven Small Home BenefitsYou bought a starter home that gave you entre into the world of home ownership, but now, your requirements have changed … you’ve added a spouse or children, you’ve moved your office home, that wasn’t as affordable so you had to use coupons from GetYourCouponCodes in order to buy all the furniture you still needed for the house and the office. Now, you want to sell your beloved home, but all the folks you know are looking for McMansions, or at least something bigger than what you’re selling.

How do you sell a smaller home? Who is your target market?

If you’re in the mode to enlarge your living space, it may surprise you to know that there is a movement afoot promoting downsizing to a smaller home. In fact, smaller homes appeal not just to “starter homeowners,” but to empty-nesters, retirees, and even families that are looking to live a simpler lifestyle.

How do your entice buyers to look at a smaller home?

Here are seven reasons why a small home may be a buyer’s best choice.

  1. Uses less energy: a small home, properly insulated, is more efficient with both heating and cooling. A smaller home typically has fewer light fixtures, thereby requiring fewer replacements. And, if you change out regular incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs, you’ll be “greening” your home in more ways than one. If your buyers are interested in investing in a home that reduces their carbon footprint, a smaller home may fill the bill. From lower heating and cooling requirements to less water and electricity use, a smaller home on a smaller lot could be just what they’re looking for.
  2. Less maintenance: whether re-roofing, replacing exterior siding or painting the interior, a small home costs less to maintain than a larger one. Downsizing can be just the ticket for a busy traveler, commuter or active family. The less time and money spent on housing upkeep, the more that is available for making memories.
  3. Lower monthly bills: a small home typically uses less electricity so monthly power bills cost less, and a smaller mortgage and lower insurance costs can improve your bottom line.
  4. Easier to keep: cleaning a large home can be daunting. Singles, Baby Boomers, busy small families and others will find that less home to clean is an easy tradeoff for the larger space. Minimizing and streamlining chores can relieve stress and lead to more organization and comfort.
  5. Great investment: smaller homes make great rental properties. If your buyer does need to upsize later, a smaller home makes a great investment as a rental.
  6. Avoid being “house poor”: a smaller, more affordable home leaves more money available for travel, entertainment, hobbies and other pursuits. It allows the owner to set aside money for investments, save for retirement, or upgrade other areas of your life.
  7. A smaller home can lead to closer family bonds. The sharing, give-and-take, managing joint closet and storage space, and other cozy arrangements required to live in a smaller home often bring a since of cooperation and joint effort to daily life.

The bottom line is that we, as your professional real estate agents know how to reach the target market for your smaller home. There are many reasons a buyer will love your home: location, schools, curb appeal … and size!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Can You Sell Your House with Unpermitted Changes?

By Virtual Results

Can You Sell Your House with Unpermitted Changes?Often, homeowners make changes and upgrades to their home without securing permit. In some cases, permits are not required, but in many cases they are. When you attempt to sell your home, investigations by the buyer’s real estate agent, inspector or legal representation may discover undocumented changes that could hinder the sale. The degree to which this causes difficulties greatly depends on the types of changes made to the original structure, and whether your buyer’s lender will give a loan on property with unpermitted changes.

Sometimes, the changes occurred even before you purchased the home. Since laws may have changed in your municipality over the course of your ownership, changes that did not matter when you bought your home may be questioned when you try to sell it.

If you believe your home has unpermitted construction, there are things you need to know about it:

  • What was constructed? A patio? A second bathroom? A sunroom?
  • When was it constructed? Before you bought the home? After?
  • Was a permit required and is a permit in place that you are not aware of?

Safety is priority so a field level risk assessment is a must to spot hazards.

Grandfathering

A “grandfather clause” is an exception to a requirement, covenant or restriction that allows those already doing or having something to legally continue to so even if the new restriction would not allow them to do or have it. With regard to an unpermitted home upgrade, if the upgrade was added prior to the change in the law and the law does not require retroactive compliance, then the exception typically is allowed to remain. An obvious exception to this would be a change that posed a danger to anyone living in the home or on the property.

Retroactive permits

If you discover upgrades, retrofits, additions or renovations in your home you should check city records to see if a permit was required for that type of work in the year(s) you believe it was completed. Then, search municipality records to see if permits were in place. If a permit was required, but you do not find one in place, you can either request a retroactive permit, or sell your home “as is” (see below). Many municipalities have a method in place to obtain retroactive permits. Check to see what the total cost of the permitting process will be. You may have to pay for permits, fines, inspections and other fees. The total cost of obtaining retroactive permits may be greater than the return on your investment.

Selling “As Is”

If you do choose to sell your home “as is,” you do not need to disclose to the city building department that you believe you have unpermitted construction. Therefore, until you are certain that you want to file a request for a retroactive permit, take care in your research not to disclose information when you communicate with municipal offices that might trigger an inspection.

On the other hand, in the selling process, fully disclose to your real estate agent items that you know about for certain—that is, upgrades or additions you initiated during your ownership. You do not want a sale delayed or to fall through because a lender requires a permit, and you want to make sure that an appropriate “as is” clause is written into the sales contract.

We can help you determine which items need permitting, which need disclosure and which are fine as they are.

Compliments of Virtual Results