What Should You Fix Before You List?

When you’re getting ready to list your home, you want to be sure you’re showing it in the best light. Taking time to highlight its strengths (and fix up some of its possible weaknesses) can make a big difference in how fast it sells. Here are our top five recommended repairs to make before selling your home.

Repaint walls.

Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is one of the most cost effective ways to spruce it up, and generally, it can be a DIY project. Make sure to cover any walls with scratches and chips and consider updating any accent walls with a more neutral coat.

Repair floors.

Hardwood floors are a very desirable feature in a home, so you want to be sure yours look their best by fixing scratches or dull areas. If your carpet is worn or stained, consider replacing them. And don’t forget the tile in your kitchen or bathrooms — re-grouting can go a long way in making dingy tile work look brand new!

Refresh the landscaping.

Show buyers your home is the full package by dressing up the outside as well as the in. Clean walkways and driveways, plant seasonal flowers and plants, trim hedges and trees, install outdoor décor pieces and fill in mulch and gravel.

Fix your fixtures.

Leaky faucet? Rusted drains? Loose drawer handle? Making these small fixes can make a big difference to potential buyers with detailed-orientated minds. Improve your kitchen. An outdated kitchen can be a real eyesore in a home. Updating cabinetry, repairing or replacing countertops, and installing new faucets and sinks may be worth the investment

These small improvements can make a major difference in your home’s appeal. If you’re ready to sell your home, we’re ready to help make it official. Give us a call today!

Real Estate Terms Explained: Short Sale and Foreclosure

As unfortunate as it can be when homeowners fall behind on mortgage payments and must face the possibility of losing their homes, short sales and foreclosures provide them options for moving on financially. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different, with varying timelines and financial impact on the homeowner. Here’s a brief overview.

A short sale comes into play when a homeowner needs to sell their home, but the home is worth less than the remaining balance that they owe. The lender can allow the homeowner to sell the home for less than the amount owed, freeing the homeowner from the financial predicament.On the buyer side, short sales typically take three to four months to complete and many of the closing and repair costs are shifted from the seller to the lender.

A foreclosure occurs when a homeowner can no longer make payments on their home so the bank begins the process of repossessing it. A foreclosure usually moves much faster than a short sale and is more financially damaging to the homeowner. After foreclosure the bank can sell the home in a foreclosure auction. For buyers, foreclosures are riskier than short sales, because homes are often bought sight unseen, with no inspection or warranty.

Neither of these are an ideal situation for any homeowner to find themselves in, but understanding the difference is important to know you’re making the best financial choice for yourself. If you’re thinking of selling your home in a short sale, or interested in buying a foreclosed property, give us a call today

Should You Make a Smaller Down Payment?

You’ve most likely heard the rule: save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20-percent is solid. It shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal, and helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can be financial benefits to putting down a smaller down payment—one as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

THE DOWNSIDE

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You might have to pay private mortgage insurance, which is a type of insurance that is typically required for buyers with a conventional loan and less than 20-percent down payment. The lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You could also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20-percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.

THE UPSIDE

The national average for home appreciation is currently a little less than five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20-percent or three percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities. 

THE HAPPY MEDIUM

Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment-focused, small down payment. As always, it’s best to work with a team of trusted experts that can provide some answers as you explore your financing options.

Ready to close on your dream property? Give us a call today!

What Should You Negotiate?

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned veteran, negotiations on a property purchase can be a little daunting and stressful. That’s why you should always work with trusted experts (like us). So, what should you negotiate when buying a home? 

Closing Costs 

Your closing costs are determined by a variety of factors, but you can expect it to be between 2% to 5% of the purchase price. Ask the seller to cover some or all of the closing costs upfront, or request a closing credit that can be used to make specific updates and fixes to the home.

Furnishings

Love how the seller has furnished and decorated the home? Buyers often negotiate keeping couches, fixtures, landscaping items, patio furniture, appliances, and more. Many sellers will agree, because they want to make the home more appealing and get the deal they’re looking for.

Inspection & Closing Timing 

Offers that include a quick inspection and closing timeline are often more attractive to sellers, especially those who have been going through the process for a long time. Just make sure you aren’t moving too quickly — even with quick turnarounds, you need to allow yourself ample time to get your financing in place and conduct proper, thorough inspections.

Home Warranty

Sellers will often agree to pay the premium on the home warranty at closing and then hand it off to the new homeowner, who is responsible for the deductible on any future claims.

Repairs

Your inspection may uncover small or large repairs needed to bring the home up to standard. You can negotiate to have these items fixed before closing or ask for a price reduction to cover the costs.

Whenever you’re ready to start negotiations on a new property, make sure you’re working with the right team of experts. We’re dedicated to making sure your closing is quick, efficient and as cost-effective as possible. Give us a call today!

What is a Home Appraisal?

You’ve found your dream home, and now it’s time to make it your own. One of the first things you’ll want to check off your final closing list is the home appraisal. So, what exactly is that?

The home appraisal is essentially a value assessment of the home and property. It is conducted by a certified third party and is used to determine whether the home is priced appropriately. If you’re buying your home using a mortgage, your bank will require the home appraisal. This is different from a home inspection — an appraisal protects the financial interests of the lender, and while a home inspection protects the buyer from potential maintenance or repair issues.   

During a home appraisal, the appraiser conducts a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the home. Their assessment will factor in a variety of things, including the home’s floor plan, functionality, condition, location, school district, fixtures, lot size, and more. Adjustments will generally be made if the home was recently renovated, or exterior upgrades like a deck or pool were put in place. The appraiser will also compare the home to several similar homes in the area — known as comps — that sold within the last six months.

Unlike a home inspection, an appraisal only looks at the surface value of the property. The appraiser will note any obvious damage, such as a badly dilapidated roof, but won’t conduct the same thorough tests you’ll get from a home inspector. The final appraisal report must include a street map showing the property and the comps, photographs of the interior and exterior, an explanation on how the square footage was calculated, market sales data, public land records, and more.

After the appraisal report is complete, the lender uses the information to ensure that the property is worth the amount they are investing. This is a safeguard for the lender, as the home acts as collateral for the mortgage. If a buyer defaults on the mortgage and goes into foreclosure, the lender generally sells the home to recover the money borrowed. 

As a buyer, the most important thing to note is that home appraisals protect the bank, not the homeowner. You’ll still need to schedule a home inspection to be sure that your home is in good condition and won’t require any unexpected repairs. 

Are you ready to close on your dream home? Give us a call! 

What Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Know

Buying a home can be an incredibly intimidating process, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But fear not! Here are some simple tips to keep in mind to make your first home-buying experience run smoothly. 

Start saving early. 

Most people will tell you that a 20% down payment is standard, but some lending programs will allow you to put down as little as 3%. This doesn’t always mean you’re saving money, however. A low down payment often results in higher costs in the future. Even if you are able to negotiate a small down payment, that can still be a lot of money. For example, a 10% payment on a $200,000 home is still $20,000.  

Know your mortgage options.

There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re applying for your first mortgage, and a lot of opportunity for less-than-scrupulous lenders to take advantage. Make sure you do your research and work with a mortgage expert so you know you’re getting the best deal. 

Get a pre-approval letter.

You can pre-qualify for a mortgage, which means you can get a basic idea of how much a lender is willing to approve based on factors like your income, credit history, and down payment. As you get closer to finalizing your home purchase, make sure you get a pre-approval letter in writing. This will help you look more serious to sellers, and help protect you from last minute approval changes that could cost you.   

Budget for additional expenses.

It can be hard to see past the asking price of your dream home, but don’t forget there are other expenses to consider. Closing costs, title insurance, moving costs, or necessary updates and repairs can add up quickly. It’s helpful to have a little extra set aside to cover these final costs so you don’t find yourself going over budget. 

Trust the experts.

You may have seen every episode of House Hunters, but that doesn’t always translate to real world knowledge. Work with a realtor and a closing attorney you trust (hey, we know a guy!) to make sure everything runs smoothly and is cost-effective. 

Becoming a homeowner for the first time is an exciting experience, and one you’ll remember forever. Make sure you’re ready to take the leap, and know that there are plenty of people ready to help you open the door to your dream home! 

What is a Cash-Out Refinance?

Refinancing your home means asking a lot of questions. Like any major financial decision, you want to be sure you have all of the information you need to make the best choice for you and your family. Understanding the way refinancing works can seem overwhelming, but that’s okay! If real estate finance was easy, you wouldn’t need us around. We’re here to help explain a few things that you need to know. 

Today’s Lesson: Cash-Out Refinances

In real estate, there are two basic refinance options: rate-and-term and cash-out refinances. While a rate-and-term refinance could help you save money over time, a cash-out refinance could be a good option for anyone looking for a boost of cash flow in the short term. Cash-out refinancing means that your home equity is converted into cash by creating a new mortgage for a larger amount than what you currently owe. 

For example, if you took out a $200,000 home loan and have paid off $100,000 over time, this means you have $100,000 worth of home equity. If you wanted to convert $50,000 of that equity into cash, you could opt for a cash-out refinance. In this scenario, you would get a new loan for $150,000 — the remaining balance on your original loan plus the $50,000 cash. You pay the balance on the first loan ($100,000) and keep the remaining $50,000. You still owe that $100,000, but you’ll be paying a new lender at a new interest rate.  

Lenders will look at your property’s loan-to-value ratio to calculate how much equity you have, and how much you could potentially cash out. If your home has drastically increased in value since you purchased it — but you’re not ready to sell anytime soon — a cash-out refinance could be a good option. This type of refinance could also be a smart choice if you want to renovate your current home, because you’re essentially using the equity you already have to increase the value of your home. 

Cash-out refinances typically come with much higher interest rates than your initial mortgage, so they’re not always the right option for someone looking to save money long-term. Instead, a cash-out refinance could work for someone looking for extra money in the immediate future. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme, though. You might be getting a boost of cash right away, but could end up paying more over time. 

As always, make sure you’re working with a team of trusted experts. There are so many individual factors to consider when refinancing your mortgage, and you’ll want someone who has the time to answer all of your questions and make sure your specific needs are meant. If you think a cash-out refinance is right for you, give us a call today!

What is a Rate-and-Term Refinance?

Mortgage rates are lower than in recent years, which means now is a great time to think about refinancing your existing home loan. A mortgage refinance is a big decision, and making the right choice now could save you thousands of dollars in the future. If you’ve never considered refinancing before, you’re probably finding yourself overwhelmed with questions and unfamiliar terms. And that’s okay! If real estate finance was easy, you wouldn’t need us around.   

We’re here to help explain a few things you might want to know.

Today’s lesson: Rate-and-Term Refinance

A rate-and-term refinance changes the interest rate on your loan, the term (or length) of the loan, or both. Unlike with a cash-out refinance, this type of change doesn’t advance any money on the loan — which means you won’t see a lump sum of cash. Instead, this type of refinance can save you money by lowering your monthly payment or by allowing you to pay off your loan faster (saving you money in interest). Rate-and-term refinances are driven by drops in market interest rate values. 

If you purchased your home during a time of high market interest rates, you might want to consider a rate-and-term refinance now while the rates are lower. This type of refinance is also a great option for homeowners who have seen positive changes in their financial situation since they purchased. If your consumer credit score has improved drastically over the last few years you’ve owned your home, you could qualify for a much lower interest rate. 

Rate-and-term refinances aren’t right for everyone. If you’ve only been in your home for a few years and you haven’t experienced any major financial changes, you might be better off waiting a few years or looking for a different type of refinance. 

No matter what you decide, make sure you’re working with a team of trusted experts. There are so many individual factors to consider when refinancing your mortgage, and you’ll want someone who has the time to answer all of your questions and make sure your specific needs are meant. If you think a rate-and-term refinance is right for you, give us a call today! 

Real Estate Terms Explained: Title Insurance

If you’re a first-time buyer, you’re probably faced with a lot of unfamiliar terms as you complete the closing process. But don’t worry! We’re going to use the power of the blog to explain (most of) them to you. 

Today’s lesson: Title Insurance

What the heck is title insurance? 

Technically there are two answers to this question, because there are two types of title insurance: the lender’s insurance and the owner’s insurance. Both policies protect against future financial losses. To put it simply, if your home purchase falls through after closing, these insurance policies can save you and your lender from being financially responsible for a property home that you didn’t actually purchase. Most lenders will require this insurance, and you’ll find it included with the rest of your closing costs. Owner’s insurance is optional, but highly recommended. Both policies are a one-time fee that you pay at closing.   

Why would my purchase fall through after closing?

It’s an unlikely scenario, but it is possible. When you purchase a property, a title researcher will check the ownership history to make sure you have what is known as a “clean title.” This means that there are no pre-existing issues that could prevent the title from becoming legally yours. 

A pre-existing issue could be that a previous owner failed to disclose a creditor’s lien on the house, or the property is caught up in an inheritance dispute, or there are uncollected taxes on the property. In most instances these issues are the result of a minor error and can be cleared up quickly, but there are cases where the title issues take months or even years to resolve. And if you find yourself in one of those situations, you’ll be facing a mountain of legal fees and the potential that you’ll lose the property (and the money you invested) before you even unpack. 

Alright, I hear you. How do I get title insurance? 

Typically your agent or closing attorney will start the process for you. You’ll be charged a one-time fee (the exact cost will vary depending on a variety of factors), and even though you only pay for it once, the coverage will insurance your financial transaction as long as you own the property. Please note: this is NOT homeowners insurance — that’s a completely different type of policy and coverage. If you’re not sure how to find the right title insurance, talk to your closing agent or attorney. We live for this stuff. 

Title insurance may seem like yet another unexpected cost, but trust us, it’s worth it. If you still need convincing, give us a call! We’re here to help you every step of the way. 

Are You Ready to Refinance?

As mortgage rates dip lower and lower, you might be wondering if it’s time to think about refinancing. Many homeowners could find themselves able to negotiate a lower rate, and be able to pay off their home loans sooner than they initially planned. If you’re thinking about refinancing your mortgage, here are a few things to consider before you do: 

Know how much your home is worth.

The amount of equity you have on your home is one of the most important factors in refinancing. Your loan to value ratio, or LTV, is what lenders use to calculate how much equity you have. The less equity you hold, the higher your rate will end up being. A real estate agent can compare your home to similar homes in the area and create a competitive market analysis, so you can have a better idea of how your home is currently valued. 

Have clear financial goals.

There are a few reasons that homeowners decide to refinance. You could lower your monthly payment and give yourself extra room in your budget for other expenses. Another option is to continue making the same payment, but pay off your loan a few years earlier than expected. Some homeowners opt for a cash-out refinance, where you borrow more than the balance due and take the difference as a lump sum of cash. This money can then be used to pay off other debts, such as credit cards or student loans, or used to finance remodeling or other expensive home improvements. There is no right or wrong option — it’s best to work with a financial planner or lending expert to decide what will work for you. 

Don’t wait too long.

The mortgage interest rate market is as fickle as the stock market, and interest rates can change quickly. If you feel comfortable with the way the math is adding up, work with a loan officer (and a closing attorney!) that you trust. Get the necessary paperwork — such as current mortgage statements, pay stubs and bank statements — in order so you’ll know you’re fully prepared. Once you and your loan officer find the best rate for you, be sure to request a written confirmation of the rate you’re being offered. Remember, if it’s not in writing, it’s not legally binding! 

Refinancing your home mortgage can seem like an overwhelming and impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be! We’re here to help connect you with the best agents and loan officers in town, and make all of the necessary paperwork and negotiations are completed properly. Contact us today!