Posts for Syndication

Is It Time For New Windows?

By Virtual Results

Is It Time For New Windows?Replacing the windows on your home is a big job that can potentially come with a high price tag. If your windows are starting to show their age, you may be trying to decide whether or not it’s time to make the investment in new ones. Here’s what you should be looking out for and considering when it comes to window replacement.

Consider repairs

If your windows are drafty, won’t open, or won’t stay open, you may be able to get by with some repairs. Broken glass can be replaced, and windows that are painted shut can be freed up. And of course, peeling or chipping paint can be refinished to look like new. If you have a historic home with beautiful windows, it may be worth investing in repairs to maintain the character of your home. Original wood windows are an appealing architectural detail of many older homes. It could be worth the repair costs to have them refinished instead of replaced.

When to replace

If you don’t live in a historic home and are having problems with your windows, it may be time to replace them. If the window sash or frame is broken, damaged or warped, a replacement may be your best option. Do your windows fog between the glass panes, or is the wood around the window rotting? Are they impossible to open and even harder to keep clean? These could all be indications that it’s time for new windows.

Make efficiency upgrades

Some homeowners may decide to replace their windows in order to make the home more energy efficient. Older, single pane windows don’t protect as much against the elements, especially if there are cracks or leaks. In fact, drafty windows can cause your energy bills to be up to 25 percent higher in the colder months. New windows are designed to be much more energy efficient than older models. And if you’re preparing to sell your home, those new energy efficient windows could be a big selling point. If you’re unsure whether or not you should replace your windows before listing your home for sale, talk with your agent.

Think about the cost

One of the biggest factors in determining whether or not to repair or replace your windows is, of course, cost. While the cost of the new windows will be largely determined by what type you purchase and whether or not they include green features, you can expect to send at least a few thousand dollars. Standard windows generally cost approximately $600 per window. With upgrades, you can expect that figure to be closer to $1,000 – or more. A typical single-family home has about 10 windows, so you can expect to pay up to $10,000 or more to replace all the windows on your home.

The bottom line

In the end, you’ll need to examine your current windows, crunch the numbers and decide whether or not it’s time to replace them. By having the facts in hand and knowing what to expect, you can make a more informed decision that you’ll feel comfortable with.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Buying a Home While on Maternity Leave

By Virtual Results

Buying a Home While on Maternity LeaveBuying a home and starting a family often go hand in hand. But if you’re preparing to apply for a mortgage while you’re on maternity leave, it may impact your ability to qualify. Here’s what you need to prepare for should you decide to purchase a new home while you’re taking time off to have a baby.

Is your income needed for pre-approval?

Do you need your current income to be factored into the pre-approval for your mortgage? Then you’ll need to take this into consideration when it comes to timing your home purchase. If you will not be receiving income during your maternity leave, then that will impact your ability to qualify for the loan. If possible, you should be working during the approval and closing process, to avoid potential problems.

Be prepared for extra paperwork

If you will be collecting income during your maternity leave, you’ll likely be eligible but will need to jump through more hoops. Lenders use your salary information to determine how much of a loan you qualify for. During your maternity leave, those figures will often be different, which can give some lenders pause. The income you’re collecting is determined by a variety of sources, including short-term disability, paid time off and through guidelines established by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Since maternity leave is considered a temporary leave in the mortgage industry, it can be a red flag for some lenders. You’ll likely be asked to supply additional paperwork to verify your income. This could include a letter from your employer that details when you were hired, your anticipated date of return and your current salary. Your mortgage application will not include any questions about your pregnancy, so you should be upfront with your lender. They can help you understand what kind of documentation you’ll need and how best to go about securing a loan.

Know the law

It is important to understand that being pregnant is not a legal basis for a lender to deny a loan. While you do need to have verifiable income, you cannot be denied the loan simply because you are expecting a child. It is against the law for lenders to discriminate based on your family status, which was established in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act.  If you feel you have been denied a loan based on your pregnancy, there are steps you can take. Contact HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Buy what you can afford

Having a baby and buying a home are both life-changing experiences. Completing both at the same time can be both challenging and rewarding. It can be tempting to splurge on that dream home to celebrate your baby’s arrival. But keep in mind how having a new family member is going to change your financial situation. Make sure you are purchasing a home that you can reasonably afford, given the new expenses you are about to encounter.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Using Gift Money For a Down Payment

By Virtual Results

Using Gift Money For a Down Payment

Receiving cash to use towards the down payment for your house is a generous gift. Especially considering that some loans require you to pay at least 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment. But there are certain requirements that must be met when using a cash gift towards your deposit. Here’s what you need to know.

Who can give the gift?

Lenders tend to be restrictive when it comes to allowing cash gifts to be applied to a down payment. The gift can’t come from just anyone. In most cases, the money must come from a relative – usually a parent, grandparent or sibling. You may also receive a gift from your spouse or the person to whom you are engaged. If you’re applying for an FHA loan, you’ll have a little more leeway. For these loans, your gift can come from an employer, labor union, close friend or even a nonprofit.

You’ll need a gift letter

In order for the gift money to qualify, it must be properly documented. The first step is to write a gift letter. The letter should outline the amount of the gift, the relationship between parties and the property address. It should also state that the money is a gift and not a loan that will need to be repaid.

Receiving the gift

Once the gift letter has been written, you’re not done yet. You can’t simply deposit the money in your bank account and call it a day. You need to create a paper trail to show where the money came from. Write a check for the exact amount of the gift and make photocopies. The check should then be deposited in person into the account that will be used for closing. Make sure to get a receipt for the deposit, and do not deposit any other money at the same time.

You may also be required to show additional documentation about where the gift money came from. This can include copies of the donor’s bank statements or even documents from the sale of stocks and funds transfer from a brokerage account to another account. When in doubt, save the paperwork.

If possible, try to get the gift money as early as you can. If you can secure the gift money while you’re still in the planning stages, you won’t need as much paperwork down the line as you would with a last-minute gift.

Gift taxes do apply

Once the check is written and the funds deposited, you’re still not done. Be aware that there may be taxes due for the money that was gifted. The donor generally pays these taxes, although both parties can agree to have the tax paid by the recipient instead. Talk with your accountant about what the current monetary thresholds are for incurring taxes and how your gift may affect your tax liability for the year.

If you’re the recipient of a cash gift for your down payment, congratulations! It’s a great way for loved ones to help with your home purchase, particularly if you’re a first time homebuyer. Follow the steps outlined above to ensure that you’ll have no problems using your cash gift come closing day.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Should You List in Winter?

By Virtual Results

Should You List in Winter?

The nights are getting longer, temperatures are dropping and the holidays are approaching. That means you should wait to list your home for sale until next year, right? That isn’t necessarily true. While spring and summer tend to be the hottest seasons in the real estate market, there are arguments to be made in favor of selling in winter.

Buyers are motivated

It’s not uncommon for people to relocate for work at the beginning of the year. That means those folks will be looking for a place to live. Since they’ll need to be in a new location by a specific date, they’re more motivated to buy a home. In winter, you’ll get fewer people who are “just looking” and more who are serious about a home purchase.

Buyers have more free time

Chances are the buyers who are looking at homes in winter will also have more free time to browse. Since many people take time off over the holidays, they’ll often use it to do their home searching.

Less competition

Some home sellers aren’t locked into a timeframe. They’ll be more likely to postpone their listing until the holidays are over and schedules are less hectic. With fewer homes on the market, there’s less competition for those motivated buyers you’ll see in winter.

Your home will look cozy

It’s easier in the colder months to make your home look cozy and inviting to potential buyers. Build a fire in the fireplace and light some candles around your home. There’s nothing quite like the soft glow of the fire to make a home feel and look warm and appealing.

Curb appeal is easier

Unless you live in a climate that is temperate year round, you won’t need to go out of your way to plant flowers and create curb appeal. Just make sure the driveway and walkways are clear and clean the yard of fallen leaves and other debris. Consider hanging some twinkle lights and a simple, tasteful wreath on your front door.

Timing is better

If you’re a seller who will also need to be buying a home in a new location, the timing can work in your favor. By listing and selling in the winter, you’re free to begin your home search in early spring without the stress of trying to sell at the same time.

More agent attention

Winter is generally a slower time, even in an active market. Chances are your real estate agent won’t be as busy as they are at other times of the year. This means less stress for them and more time to focus on finding you the right buyers. The same holds true for mortgage brokers and anyone else involved in the closing process. You’re more likely to have a relaxed closing day than if you were to sell in the middle of summer.

Don’t let “conventional wisdom” keep you from listing your house in the winter or during the holiday season. Now can be the perfect time to sell!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Buying a House That Isn’t For Sale

By Virtual Results

Buying a House That Isn’t For SaleAre you house hunting in a competitive market and having no luck finding a home? Did you find your perfect home – but it’s not for sale? Then you may be wondering if you can try to buy a home that doesn’t have a “for sale” sign in the front yard.

While trying to buy a home that isn’t currently listed is an option, it has its challenges. Here’s what to do if you really want to buy a home that isn’t for sale.

Finding the perfect home

Some homeowners will be more open to offers than others, so it’s best to tailor your search to reach those who may be receptive. There are a couple of ways you can do this.

The first is to find expired listings or listings that were taken off the market. There could be a variety of reasons why the listing was removed or the home didn’t sell. Perhaps the sellers wanted to work with a different agent, or they weren’t getting the offers they had expected. Whatever the reason, these homeowners might be responsive to your offer.

Secondly, drive around the neighborhood where you would like to buy and make a list of homes that are appealing to you. Then search for those properties online and find out how long the current owners have lived there. If the sale is recently new, chances are the owners aren’t ready to sell. But if they’ve lived in the home for five or more years, it could be worth reaching out to them to see if they would entertain your offer.

Making an offer

Once you’ve found a home you’d like to buy, the next step is to make an offer to the owners. Showing up unannounced on their doorstep with an offer probably isn’t going to win you any points. The best way to reach out is to write a letter.

Work with your agent to craft a specialized offer, and explain to the owner why you would like to buy their home. It’s possible that the owners receive letters like this regularly, especially in an active market, so you need to make yours stand out. Don’t be afraid to be personal, and appeal to them on an emotional level. However – do be aware that you don’t want to get stuck with a home that has major issues not apparent from the street. Your offer should contain an appraisal contingency, so you’re not paying more than what the home is worth.

Be ready for rejection

Ultimately, most of your offers will go unread, or the owners will not respond. Be patient and remember that people can be emotionally tied to their homes. And often they weren’t expecting an offer. They will respond in their own way and in their own time.

While trying to buy a house that isn’t for sale can be a long process that comes with its fair share of disappointment, don’t write it off as an option. You never know who will say yes, and that home you’ve always dreamed about becomes your reality.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Is Your Dog a Good Neighbor?

By Virtual Results

Is Your Dog a Good Neighbor?

Is your dog the one on the block that neighbors flock to when they see you out walking? Or is he the one that causes people to cross the street in order to avoid you? Dogs have become undeniable members of our families, and by extension, members of our neighborhoods. Which is why it’s important to consider whether or not your dog is a good neighbor. These tips will help make sure that your best friend is also a favorite neighbor on the block.

Keep a collar on

This applies to your dog, of course – not you. But it is essential that you always keep a collar on your dog with ID tags. Although you may go the extra mile to ensure that your dog is properly secured on your property, some sneaky canines are talented escape artists. Make it easy for your neighbors to identify your dog and to get in touch with you should your dog become lost. Don’t rely on microchips alone, which usually require a trip to the vet or shelter in order to be scanned.

Always use a leash

Even if your dog is the best behaved one on the block, always follow local leash laws. You never know when something will attract their attention or provoke them. It will also help should your dog encounter another dog that is not quite as friendly. Dogs should only run loose in your fenced yard or designated parks.

Know your dog’s behavior

If your dog is shy or does not like to be touched in certain places, make this known to anyone who may approach you. Give instructions to the neighbors you may meet when you’re out walking, and let children know to ask first before petting.

Be sure to curb

This applies to dog owners more than to the dogs themselves. If you’re out walking and your dog takes a break to relieve himself on your neighbor’s lawn, don’t just leave it there. Carry plenty of disposable bags with you so that you can remove the mess and dispose of it properly. Your neighbors will thank you.

Beware of excessive barking

A continuously barking dog can wear on even the most patient neighbor’s nerves. Be mindful of how much your dog is barking and whether or not it may be disturbing your neighbors. Don’t leave your dog outside unattended for long periods of time. If any neighbors complain about excessive barking, then work through issues in a friendly way.

Invest in canine training

If you’re concerned your dog’s behavior isn’t up to snuff, then invest in some behavioral training classes. These programs will teach your dog how to get along with other dogs, how to walk through a crowd without becoming too excited, and how to come when called. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to teach him a couple of fun tricks that will delight your neighbors and make them happy and excited to see you when you’re out for your daily walks.

By following these suggestions, you can make your dog not only a good neighbor, but also the star of the neighborhood!

Compliments of Virtual Results

How to Clean After Halloween Pranks

By Virtual Results

How to Clean After Halloween Pranks

Was your home the target of Halloween pranksters this year? Are you worried about how to clean up that dripping egg or disintegrating toilet paper – and fast? A post-Halloween cleanup can be scary, especially if your home is on the market. Here are some great tips about how to get your home back to normal in a jiffy.

Clean up egg splatters

If your house has been egged, you’ll want to act quickly to remove the splatters. Eggs can stain siding and corrode paint. If the egg hasn’t hardened, then use a garden hose to spray away the mess. If you own a pressure washer, this would also work well. If the egg has hardened, first soften the mess with a mix of water and vinegar, then wipe off with a clean cloth. If there are remnants of shells, gently pick them off. Eggshells can scratch paint.

Remove toilet paper from trees

Toilet paper is relatively easy to clean up if it hasn’t gotten wet. Simply use a rake to comb the toilet paper from the branches. You can also try using a tree trimmer or even a leaf blower to reach the higher branches. If the toilet paper has gotten wet you’ll want to act quickly. As the paper gets wet, it shreds and spreads. Avoid using a garden hose to remove the paper, as that will make the situation worse. If there are any pieces you can’t reach, let Mother Nature take its course. The paper will eventually break down.

Wash soaped windows

If pranksters are feeling extra sneaky, they may run a bar of soap over your windows, making it difficult to see out of them. If a blast of water from the hose doesn’t wash it off, use a rough sponge or cloth. If it still doesn’t come off, it could be wax. In that case, use a razor blade to get most of it. Then remove remaining residue with rubbing alcohol.

Erase shaving cream stains

Was your driveway the scene of a shaving cream fight? If so, you may have noticed that once the shaving cream has been washed away, it leaves behind an unsightly stain. Fortunately, those stains can be removed with a mixture of hot water and laundry detergent. The mixture will also work to remove those stains from siding.

Get rid of silly string

Silly string can damage painted surfaces, so try to remove it as quickly as possible from your home or car. First try spraying it off with the hose. If there are any remaining bits, don’t try to scrape it off as it could also remove the paint. Instead, soak a cloth with water and dish soap and gently remove the residue.

Prank-proof your home

Finally, the best way to deal with Halloween pranksters is to make it hard for them cause a problem. Park your car in the garage and keep outdoor lights on. Keep pumpkins in windows instead of on your porch. Turn lights and a TV on inside so mischief-makers know that someone is home. And most of all – be friendly when you hand out candy.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Buying a Home From Friends or Family

By Virtual Results

Buying a Home From Friends or Family

Buying a home from someone you know, like a friend or family member, seems like it should be a great deal, right? After all, you already have a relationship with the seller, and you’ll probably get a better price and complete the process more quickly. While buying from friends or family can work out well for everyone, there are some things you should know and prepare for before you jump in.

Make agreements in writing

While it can be tempting to cut some corners when buying from someone you know, you should make sure to get all agreements in writing. This helps to ensure that everyone knows exactly what is being agreed to. It also leaves a paper trail should any problems arise down the line.

Be honest about the relationship

When you are securing financing for the home, you need to be honest with the lender about your relationship to the seller. There may be added restrictions when buying from friends or family, and not disclosing the relationship could cause problems. In fact, it could constitute mortgage fraud. That could result in the delay of closing, denying of the loan or the lender calling the loan after closing, making the full balance due. You could even get a call from the district attorney if the lender loses money. The bottom line is – be transparent.

Don’t skip the inspection

If you’re buying from someone you know, chances are you’ve been in the house a number of times. You may even be a tenant purchasing a home from your landlord. Even if you think you know the house inside and out, you should not skip the home inspection. Hire a licensed professional who will let you know about any possible issues so that they can be addressed in the deal.

Have the home appraised

Likewise, you should also make sure to have the home appraised so that you know the estimated value. If you’re financing, the lender will likely require an appraisal.

Agree on a fair price

While it’s normal to want a good deal on your home purchase, the seller should not give you any excessive discounts. While a small break isn’t a big deal, the IRS will be watching to make sure the home is priced at a fair market value. If not, and you sell shortly thereafter, you could end up paying capital gains taxes.

Hire a professional

It’s wise to get some legal advice during this process, so you may want to consider hiring a real estate attorney. They can help you complete all the necessary paperwork so you aren’t accused of mortgage fraud at a later date. You should also hire a title company to transfer the home from seller to buyer. And while you may feel it’s not necessary to hire a real estate agent, it could be helpful to hire one as a consultant. Many agents will work as a consultant for a flat rate to advise you on the process and make sure you’re doing everything necessary to properly finalize the deal.

Compliments of Virtual Results

What Is Your Home Worth?

By Virtual Results

What Is Your Home Worth?

Knowing what to price your home is one of the most important aspects of selling. Choosing just the right listing price can mean the difference between a quick sale and a home that languishes on the market for weeks or even months. But how do you know what your home is worth? Here are some suggestions about how to find that magic number.

Online calculators

There are many online calculators available that will use existing public data on your home to generate a price. They run that data through different computer models to determine a value. These calculators can be a good place to start to get a ballpark estimate of what your home may be worth. But be aware that they can be off, and they may even differ wildly from one another.

Neighborhood comps

Once you’ve gotten an idea of the estimated value of your home, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Start by looking at the comps — properties in your neighborhood that are for sale or have sold in the last year. Find homes that are reasonably comparable to yours. Compare using number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and lot size. Also take into consideration any unique characteristics, such as an outstanding view or amenities like a guesthouse or pool. You can expect your home to be worth approximately what the comparable properties in your neighborhood are also worth.

Appraiser

Another way to narrow in on the market value of your home is to hire a professional appraiser. They will evaluate your home based on its size, condition, recent improvements, and unique extras. Appraisers can be hired locally and generally cost up to around $500.

Tax assessment

You can also get an idea of your home’s value by looking at your most recent property tax bill. The bill will show what the tax assessed value of your home is. Depending on where you live, that value can represent the fair market value of your home or a percentage of that value. Find out if your area uses an assessment rate, and use that to calculate the fair market value of your home. This method can be a little tricky, but looking at the assessed value will give you an understanding of what your local government thinks your home is worth.

Real estate agent

At the end of the day, your best course of action for pricing your home is to work with a trusted real estate agent. Agents have access to private industry databases that give a much more detailed picture of your home. They will use that detail and their knowledge of the local market to conduct a comparative market analysis. Working with a human who can better understand the subtleties of a property will give you a much more accurate price than any computer algorithm alone can.

Ultimately, determining the value of your home is equal parts art and science. By thoroughly examining the local market and working with an agent you trust, you should be able to arrive at that magic number that both you and the buyer will be happy with.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Buying After Foreclosure

By Virtual Results

Buying After Foreclosure

If you’re one of the millions of homeowners who faced foreclosure in the last few years, you may be wondering what your chances are of buying again in the future. Will you qualify for a mortgage? How long do you have to wait? While buying another home may be a difficult process, it isn’t impossible. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s a waiting game

It’s important to know that having a foreclosure on your record doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to buy a house again. But it does mean that you’ll have to wait a period of time before you’re eligible. The length of that waiting period is determined in large part by the type of loan you are applying for. For a conventional loan, lenders require that borrowers wait at least seven years since their foreclosure was complete. However, if you’re applying for a VA loan or an FHA loan, that waiting period can be as little as two years.

You may be able to reduce your waiting time

One way that you can help shorten the period of time you need to wait is to demonstrate that the foreclosure was the result of a significant financial setback. This could include a layoff, health problems or even a divorce. You’ll want to collect documents and keep a detailed file to back up your claim. You can submit these documents as well as a letter to your mortgage lender, to see if it can help speed up the process.

You need to rebuild your credit

Your credit score takes a big hit when you go through a foreclosure. Rebuilding your credit is the first step towards eventually being able to qualify for a mortgage. So how do you do that? Be sure to pay all of your bills on time. Don’t max out credit cards and don’t take on other debts, like a car loan. You’re going to need a score of at least 580 to qualify. Periodically check your credit report for errors that could count against you, and work to have those errors removed.

Start saving now

Unless you’re applying for a VA loan that does not require a down payment, you’ll want to start saving right away. You’ll need as much as 10 percent down – maybe more, depending on the lender.  Lenders will want to see proof that you have savings that can help offset future financial hardships like the ones that may have led to your foreclosure. The more money you have saved, the more likely you are to qualify for a loan, and the better your interest rate will be.

Don’t be afraid

In the end, don’t let a past foreclosure keep you from pursuing your dreams of homeownership. Though you’ll have to jump through some extra hoops in order to qualify for a new loan, you won’t be prevented from ever owning a home again. As long as you repair your credit and save, you are well on your way to making those dreams a reality.

Compliments of Virtual Results