Tag Archives: Home Buyers

Home Buying 101

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Home Buying 101

Home Buying 101

Basic guidelines for the first time home buyer and the home buying process, simplified- Home Buying 101.

by Tracy Tkac 
Making an offer to purchase a house can be intimidating and scary, it’s a big commitment that will require a chunk of your financial resources. It’s also exciting and wonderful! You will be building equity and getting tax breaks for mortgage payments, but importantly , you will have a place of your own to do with what you wish.  Most of all, your home will be the place where you will make memories and entertain friends and family. You will make your house into your lovely home. Below are the basic guidelines and the home buying process simplified or Home Buying 101.

 Making an offer

Even though it’s early in the buying process, you still must sign a legally binding contract. With your signature, you’re committing to moving ahead with the seller. Keep in mind you can add contingencies to many real estate contracts. For example, most real estate buying offers will be contingent on a property inspection, radon inspection, loan approval, appraisal and sometimes other matters. Such contingencies enable buyers to opt out of the contract if unexpected problems or concerns pop up.

 Disclosures

In most states, sellers are legally required to provide buyers with disclosure documents including any know defects, lead based paint information, real tax bills from the current year and the estimated property tax bill for the next year. In addition, sellers must disclose any known issues that might affect the property’s value or habitability. Usually, in a transfer disclosure statement, sellers must answer a series of “yes” or “no” questions about the property, and provide the neighborhood homeowners association/ or condo information. If there have been leaky windows,  work done without permits or plans for a major nearby development, the seller must disclose them. You will have the opportunity to view the areas master plan and the will be provided with a list of nearby airports. The disclosures will need to be signed by the purchaser and will become part of the offer to purchase and then after all terms are agreed to, they will be part of the contract.

The appraisal

Most buyers put a certain amount of money down toward the purchase price. The balance will come in the form of a bank loan (usually). But a bank isn’t going to hand over that money without due diligence. An appraisal is the financial institution’s way of making sure the contract price is the right price. So the lender sends out a third-party appraiser, which the buyer pays for, to confirm that the contract price is in line with the neighborhood’s comparable sales. If it’s not, the bank can deny the loan or change the terms.If a property does not appraise, the contract price can be renegotiated or contract voided.

Inspections

As part of the real estate contract, you have the right to a property inspection One of the most common, is a “specific” property inspection, in which the inspector checks the home from the foundation to the roof and investigates all major systems and components. As the buyer, you should follow along with the inspector to learn more about the property. For example, you’ll want to know about the components (such as the water heater) and have a plan in place for maintenance.

After the property inspection, the inspector may suggest having a specialist come out. This could be a roofer, electrician, HVAC specialist or even an engineer. Listen to the inspector and have any recommended follow-up inspections. Remember: This is your one chance to approve the property from top to bottom. If issues arise, you may be able to negotiate repair or a buyer credit.  If something major arises and it’s not what you signed up for, you can void the contract via your inspection contingency.

Loan approval or commitment

In addition to making certain the property appraises at no less than the contract price, the bank will want to fully approve your credit, debt and income history. The bank will also want to approve the property’s preliminary title report to make sure there are no liens recorded against the property that might affect its value. The bank can take up to 45 days to complete its review, which should result in a loan commitment or full loan approval. Once that’s completed to the bank’s satisfaction, you’re guaranteed a loan, and you’re one step closer to closing. How much money do you need?

Final walk-through

Before closing, you will do a final walk through in the property to make sure it’s in the condition it is supposed to be in, if you have negotiated for repairs, check the receipts and repairs to make certain they were done correctly. Make sure the seller didn’t remove any fixtures, make modifications or leave behind garbage or debris. Check the plumbing, air or heat and that everything that is supposed to remain at the property is there- this your your last chance to make sure all is as it should be!

 

Settlement

Depending on the market, the closing may happen at an attorney’s office or at a title company. In some situations, the buyer and seller don’t ever meet. Each goes in to sign their closing papers separately. In others, the buyers and sellers sign the closing documents together. Regardless of how a closing happens, if you’re a buyer and getting a loan, plan on signing dozens of documents at closing. You’ll need to show photo ID, as your signature will be notarized. Prior to the closing, your lender will work with the settlement attorney and send you a closing disclosure statement to review at least 3 days previous to the settlement. The statement details your final closing costs and the money you need to bring to the closing. The funds can be wired in or paid with a cashier’s check on closing day.

 

Enjoy your new home

Don’t be afraid to call your realtor and ask questions, for direction or help. She is a great resource  for the big and  little things that come up when owning your own home.

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.
Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

 

 

Ready to Buy a Home?

Ready to Buy a Home?

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Ready to Buy a Home?
Are you ready to buy a home this year? It’s time to get moving!

Laying the foundation by taking the steps to prepare will ensure a seamless transition from just dreaming about it to actually being ready to buy a home.

 Step #1

Speak with a lender.  Call or email your Realtor and ask who she recommends, Realtors work with many different lenders and will likely know who will be the best fit for your situation. A lender will talk with you about your income, debt, and credit situations and will be able to give you a price range of the homes in which you should be looking, and also tell you approximately what your monthly payment will be, including taxes. Don’t be shy, you are not obligated to anything at all. If you are not ready to speak with a lender, you can check your own credit first by following the steps below.

Make sure your credit is good and if it isn’t – fix it by paying on time and disputing any erroneous information. Every person is entitled to one free credit report annually from all three credit reporting agencies;

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

Be ready to print the report or convert to PDF and save, you will only have one chance to get this information free.  https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

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Step #2

Save money for downpayment and closing costs. If you are applying for  a conventional mortgage and put down 20% or more of the purchase price, you won’t have PMI (private mortgage insurance). There are other types of financing such as an FHA loan which only requires 3.5% down payment but very likely has a slightly higher interest rate than conventional loans. VA loans are available to those who have served and do not require private mortgage insurance like FHA and less than 20% conventional loans. Closing costs are approximately 3% of the purchase price. Learn more about types of loans and the requirements of loans below.

http://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/20-percent-down-payment-for-a-home/

Your Realtor can help you with a offer strategy if you need to ask the seller for a credit at closing to ensure you have the funds needed for closing costs. Asking for closing costs may work in the right circumstances.

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Ready to Buy A Home?

 

Step #3

Contact your Realtor. If you don’t have one,  get a referral or look on line, most home and agent searches now start at the computer or smart phone. You can research what Realtors service the area in which you would like to live. Read the reviews, pick up the phone and talk with a real estate agent to make certain the agent seems to know what they are talking about and you have a comfort level with her. Use a professional, not someone that sells 2 or 3 houses a year, but an agent that is working hard and is a career professional, and is up to date on the area and has a great track record. http://www.zillow.com/profile/Tracy-Tkac/ Ask your agent to set up an automatic email of home listings so every morning you will be emailed new home listings and not miss anything when you are ready to buy a home.

You will be ready to buy a home- chose the one that makes you happy!

 

by Tracy Tkac

Evers & Co. Real Estate

cell    301-437-8722

office 202-364-1700

tracy@eversco.com

www.WashingtonHG.com

Licensed in Maryland, Virginia and the District of ColumbiaYour referrals are warmly welcomed and appreciated!

Real Estate Disclosures

Real Estate Disclosures

Real Estate Disclosures

 

It’s standard practice in real estate to give a home a fresh coat of paint before putting it on the market. Nine out of 10 times, the intention is to show the property at its best. But every so often, the seller paints the house in hopes of covering something up.

In most parts of the country, sellers (and agents) are required to document any known defects —  whether current or past — to potential buyers. But some sellers don’t play by the rules and will try to get one past a buyer.

Whether you’re a listing a home for sale or in the market to purchase, this is what you need to know about disclosures.

What is a disclosure?

Disclosure statements, which can come in a variety of forms, are the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much as they can about the property and the seller’s experience in it.

Potential seller disclosures range from knowledge of leaky windows to work done without the benefit of a permit, to information about a major construction or development project nearby.

Not only do disclosure documents serve to inform buyers, but they can also protect the sellers from future legal action. It is the seller’s chance to reveal anything that can negatively affect the value, usefulness or enjoyment of the property.

How does a seller make a disclosure?

Disclosure laws vary from state to state, even down to the city and county level. California has some of the most stringent disclosure requirements. The law requires that sellers (and their agents) complete or sign off on dozens of documents, such as a Natural Hazards Disclosure Statement, Local and State Transfer Disclosure Statements, Advisories about Market Conditions and even Megan’s Law Disclosures.

Disclosure typically comes in the form of boilerplate documents (put together by the local or state real estate association), where the seller answers a series of yes/no questions about their home and their experience there.

Additionally, sellers must present any documented communication (between neighbors, previous owners, the seller or the agents) about a substantial defect or item that could have an adverse impact on value.

Depending on where you live, sellers can be on the hook for what they disclose (or fail to) for up to 10 years. Sellers should err on the side of caution. If you know it, put it out there. If you try to hide something, it can come back to haunt you in the form of an expensive lawsuit.

What do sellers disclose to potential buyers?

Previous improvements, renovations or upgrades done by sellers are typical disclosures, as well as whether work was done with or without permits.

Buyers should cross check the seller’s disclosures with the city building permit and zoning reports. Work completed without a permit, or approval by the municipality, may not have been performed to code, which could result in a fire or health hazard.

Other standard disclosures include the existence of pets, termite problems, neighborhood nuisances, any history of property line disputes, and defects or malfunctions with major systems or appliances. Disclosure documents often ask sellers if they are involved in bankruptcy proceedings, if there any liens on the property, and so on.

Is a disclosure the same as an inspection?

Disclosure is something given to the buyer by the seller documenting their knowledge of the property. It is not the same thing as an independent inspection by a third party. An examination may reveal defects that the seller may not have been aware of.

The buyer should always do a full property inspection, before moving forward with the purchase. The inspector checks all systems and components from the roof to the basement. Often, in the interest of the ultimate in full disclosure, a seller hires a property inspector before going on the market and supplies the written report to the buyer.

When does the buyer receive disclosure statements?

In most markets, disclosure documents are provided to buyers once the seller has accepted their offer. In addition to their inspections or loan contingency, the buyer has an opportunity to review the seller’s disclosures. If the buyer discovers something negative about the property through disclosure, she can usually back out.

In some markets, sellers provide these disclosures to the customers before an offer. Smart sellers let buyers know everything they need to know up front. It’s smart because it saves everyone time, hassle and expense by preventing deals from falling apart once they’re in escrow.

Buyers must sign off on all disclosures and reports. So it’s important to review them carefully and ask questions if you need to. Full disclosure upfront is the way to go. Providing full disclosure can help a seller. By laying their cards out, sellers can give buyers a sense of comfort or peace of mind, making their home more desirable than a competing one.

BY BRENDON DESIMONE,  Zillow

 

 

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.
Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

 

 

Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Owning a home can be a big expense, but the good news is some of your expenses are actually tax deductible. Read on to see how you can maximize homeownership write-offs on your tax return. (Note that this information is valid for tax year 2015 only.)

Mortgage interest

You can deduct all of the mortgage interest (not principal) payments you make on your home, up to a $1-million loan for a couple filing jointly. This applies to your home equity line of credit (on a loan up $100,000) and second mortgage as well.

If you own a second home, such as a vacation cottage or mobile home, you can deduct the mortgage interest for it as well, so long as you reside there for the longer of 14 days per year or 10 percent of the time it is rented out.

Mortgage points and insurance

In addition to the mortgage interest, you can also deduct the points you pay on your mortgage for your main home in the year you pay them, as well as points paid for a home equity loan. Points paid for refinancing your home mortgage generally have to be amortized over the length of the loan.

You can also deduct any premiums paid for private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your loan if you earned less than $109,000 in 2015 and the policy was taken out after 2006.

Property taxes

As strange as it sounds, you can deduct taxes on your taxes! Your property taxes are a deductible expense. Keep your property tax bills and proof of payment.

Home office

If you have some sort of home-based business, you may be entitled to a home office deduction on your taxes. There are several hoops to jump through to qualify for the deduction, the two biggest being that your home must be your primary place of business, and that you use the office space only for work. (The IRS spells out the rules for claiming the home office deduction in Publication 587.)

There are two ways to calculate your deduction. Under the simplified option, you can deduct $5 per square foot of your home office’s area, up to a maximum 300 square feet.

The more complex (but often more advantageous) option involves dividing the square footage of your office by the total square footage of your home; this yields the “business percentage” of your home. You then multiply allowable home costs — namely mortgage interest and utilities — by the business percentage to arrive at the deductible amounts.

Energy credits

If you implemented energy-efficient improvements to your home, you can get a credit of up to 10 percent of the cost of those improvements, to a maximum of $500. This covers expenses like new windows and doors, insulation, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. You could also get a credit for 30 percent of the cost of renewable energy systems, like solar power.

There could also be state tax credits for these items as well which you can stack on top of your federal credit.

Medical home improvements

If you have a medical condition that necessitates home improvements, such as adding a stair lift because you have arthritis or an air filter because your spouse suffers from allergies, you may be able to write off some of these costs as part of your medical deduction.

However, you can deduct only that portion of your medical costs that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (7.5 percent if you are 65 or older).

And in most cases, you can deduct only the difference between the cost of the equipment and the increase in value to the home from this improvement. Some improvements (such widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair) add no marketable value to the home but are fully deductible if you meet certain income requirements.

Home sales

If you sold your home in the last year, you could be eligible for some tax savings resulting from that transaction. The costs of your real estate agent’s fees, advertising, and title insurance are deductible expenses. You can also deduct improvements you made to the home in order to sell it, but only if you have a taxable capital gain from the sale.

Home damages

If your home was damaged by weather, fire, theft, or another disaster, you’ve suffered a casualty loss, a portion of which may be deductible. If your loss was greater than 10 percent of your income and was not covered by insurance, you can deduct the loss. You’ll need to be able to document the value of what was lost, however.

by Brette Sember

 

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

The Hot (and Not) List of Home Features

The Hot (and Not) List of Home Features

fireplace2

DianaLundin/iStock

The Hot (and Not) List of Home Features

The things we consider to be must-have home features are constantly changing—less than a half-century ago, plush, “can’t see my feet” shag carpeting (in bold colors such as gold, orange, and purple) was all the rage, and kitchen appliances came in coordinating hues. A quarter-century ago there was no HGTV to tell us to knock down a wall to open up the kitchen or swap out bathroom vanities. And just a few years back, tiny homes were just, well, really small homes.

We wondered what home qualities are must-haves right now, what the up-and-comers are, and what’s heading straight for the dustbin of home features history. To find out, our data team dug deep into our millions of listings and sifted out the most commonly used phrases for home features, going back five years.

Voila!  Here are the 20 features that are most often touted in our listings. These are the stuff that home dreams are made of—a mixture of classic favorites and rising stars.

At first glance, the results aren’t too surprising. After all, who doesn’t love fireplaces and wood floors? (Well, other than those who prefer carpet, which is No. 3.)

“Rather than a barometer of trends, those are really adoption cycles,” says Javier Vivas, data analyst at realtor.com®. “It’s more about how long it takes a particular new feature to become prevalent. It’s like car technology: First you see the cutting-edge stuff in luxury cars, then it spreads into the mainstream.”

Listings have gotten ever-more detailed and adorned in recent years, and certain features appear more and more often as selling points. So popularity among listing descriptions is kind of like being listed on the S&P 500—it shows that a feature is no passing trend. For example, granite countertops, once a splurge, are now a go-to feature—they’ve shot up from being mentioned in 8% of listings in 2011 to 13% today.

Got it? Good. Let’s go home shopping! Don’t forget to bring your checkbook.

Fireplace (No. 1)

On a chilly night, nothing competes with snuggling up near a crackling fire—or maybe it’s the hissing, considering that the leading type of fireplace mentioned in 3.2% of our listings is gas. After all, it’s easy to clean and maintain and comes in some cool modern designs. Still, there’s nothing like the charm of a wood-burning fireplace, and its popularity is picking up fast.

And in total, fireplaces—wood-burning, gas, brick, stone, or kiva—are the stars of 23.8% of our listings.

Flooring: Wood (No. 2), carpet (No. 3), and tile (No. 11)

Always popular, the classic elegance of a wood floor continues to gain ground, particularly since last year. Not surprisingly, carpeting’s popularity seems to rise and fall in opposition to wood. It’s made a comeback before, but wood seems to be pulling ahead. In 2015, wood floors appeared in 15% of listing descriptions, 2 percentage points ahead of carpet.

Meanwhile, the tile floor—though never a major contender for the top spot—has slipped from No. 4 in 2011 (when it beat out walk-in closet and open floor plan) to today’s No.10. Still, it will probably hold onto its niche in humid, warm climates such as that of Florida.

Granite counter

realtor.com

Granite countertop

Granite counter (No. 4)

Once a rare luxury, granite has become more affordable and is now practically standard for anyone who gives a hoot about kitchen design. It shot to fame quickly over the past five years, making its slick presence felt in 13% of all listings. For those who think all this trendy granite craziness is on the wane, reports of its death, as Mark Twain might (or might not!) have said, are greatly exaggerated—at least according to our listings data.

Stainless-steel appliances (No. 5)

With their elegant and modern appearance fitting into almost any kitchen design, stainless-steel appliances have made their way into more and more households since the 1990s. “Stainless” is now mentioned in 9% of all listings, almost double its share of five years ago.

Open floor plan (No. 6) vs. formal dining room (No. 8)

A house divided? Not these days. Separate living rooms, dining areas, and kitchens have been edged out by the open floor plan, which knocks down or eliminates walls to create a sense of spaciousness and light.

The open floor plan has seen a rapid increase in popularity, and in 2014 it surpassed the formal dining room for the first time. In 2015, an open floor plan is the fifth most popular feature, representing 8% of listings. The much-debated open kitchen, which encompasses the dining as well as the cooking area, also made it onto the list at No. 9.

Walk-in closet

realtor.com

Walk-in closet

Walk-in closet (No. 7)

In a time of over-the-top “glam rooms” dedicated to, um, getting ready, the walk-in closet is another feature that has seemingly gone from luxe to a near necessity. Stashing all your clothes in a shallow closet with hangers crammed together and no shelves? How primitive! It’s no wonder 7% of home listings mention walk-in closets as a big selling point.

Chef’s kitchen

realtor.com

Gourmet kitchen

Chef’s kitchen (No. 16) vs. open kitchen (No. 10)

The kitchen used to be all business—a place to churn out meals, nothing more. Again, we’ll point the finger at TV—not just HGTV, but also the Food Network—for fueling homeowners’ desire for a kitchen worthy of a chef, featuring a center island, a large stove/oven with hood, and granite or marble counters (see No. 3).

And it’s not just for cooking, but also for hanging out while you prepare the meal—especially if you have an open kitchen, touted in 5.7% of listings. We’ll also point out that five of the top 20 home features are kitchen-related.

Garden tub

realtor.com

Mesa, AZ

Garden tub (No. 20)

No, a garden tub is not set amid the lovely and fragrant rose beds so you can bathe in the open air (and get bitten by insects). The term generally refers to a wider and deeper bathtub that usually has steps but no jets. Nice! Providing a relaxing soaking experience with less cost and cleaning difficulty, the garden tub has gained popularity over the years, but it’s still a niche feature.

———

We’ve talked about features that have made their way into the mainstream, but we also saw a couple that are clearly on their way out:

House with vinyl siding

realtor.com

House with vinyl siding

Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding was once one of the most popular cladding choices, because it’s affordable, long-lasting, and virtually maintenance-free. But over the years it’s become something of a gauche punch line in some quarters. It’s no wonder its lead has slipped substantially in recent years, while fiber cement is gaining ground, according to PlasticsNews.com.

Oak and cherry cabinets

The last time honey oak cabinets were trending, Monica-gate was a thing, Will Smith was the prince of Bel-Air, and Y2K loomed as the biggest threat the world faced. Yes, the ’90s were particularly friendly to oak cabinetry and cherry wasn’t far behind, popularitywise, but those days are long past. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find either in listings or in new home construction. But maple cabinets? Welcome to the future!

By
Yuqing Pan, Realtor.com

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

Buying a Home This Fall?

Buying a Home This Fall?

autumn-homes

DenisTangneyJr/iStock

Buying a Home This Fall?

Spring might be the most popular time to buy a home, but there’s a real case to be made for fall: It’s cooler, so you’ll have less competition at the open houses. Because it’s considered the off-season, you’re more likely to get (or make) a deal. And, with the season’s variable weather, you can get a good idea of what the home’s like in hot and cool times alike.

After all, you’re buying a home that will fit your needs in every season—even if you can only scope it out during one.

That means you need to look for things “that aren’t as noticeable in the fall as they might be in the winter or summer months,” says Realtor® Andrea Davitt of Lauer Realty Group in Madison, WI.

Want to make sure that amazing autumnal escape continues to be fantastic year-round? Keep these six things in mind.

1. Check out the air conditioner

First: Does the place even have an air conditioner? This might be easy to spot if you’re house hunting during unseasonably warm temps. But if the weather’s already turned, heed this: The air might be cool now, but it won’t be forever. And with summer nine (long!) months away, it’s easy to forget to check.

If the home does have AC, you’ll want to give the unit a thorough inspection. Your inspector will likely examine the system to make sure it’s functioning, but it never hurts to run a few tests yourself—or even call an HVAC specialist.

Davitt recommends first checking to see if the AC’s filter has been recently changed. Then try turning down the thermostat and see if the unit runs. Meanwhile, make sure air is blowing through all the vents—it’s better to find blockages now, with time to fix them, than at the beginning of summer when sweat’s starting to pool. Check out the outdoor condenser, listening for any strange sounds, and make sure the condensation line in the evaporator coil—likely found in the furnace—is flowing smoothly. Last, examine the ductwork, looking for any rusting or poor fittings.

2. How’s the drainage?

Gutters are the obvious thing to check, Davitt says. In the interlude between the rainy and snowy seasons, don’t forget to check the drainage. In the yard, look for areas where water is accumulating in small puddles, which could indicate a leak in buried pipes or grading problems that need to be addressed before the rainy season.

If it looks like the sewer might be clogged, bring out a professional sewer inspector to do a camera inspection of the line. That can reveal problems that could cause a backup—as well as a world’s worth of annoyances later. Better to know before you buy.

3. Note the surroundings

What’s nearby? Look across the street, behind you, and next door. Are there bulldozers and cranes? Empty lots awaiting brand spankin’ new homes? Ask your neighbors about seasonal street construction nearby—there’s nothing worse than having a peaceful, quiet home all winter until work begins with a literal bang in the spring.

Double up on the investigative work if you’re near a large intersection, or if your home is directly connected to a major road. Going door to door is not only a good way to meet your future neighbors—it’s also a novel way to find out what seasonal surprises lay ahead.

4. Look for slopes

How steep is your driveway? Sure, it’s easy to navigate now—but will it be when it’s covered in ice?

A less-than-ideal driveway shouldn’t automatically disqualify a home, but it’s better to know in advance if late-winter parking is going to be a challenge.

Similarly, Davitt recommends checking out the landscaping’s pitch around your new home’s exterior. Are there any steep hills that might cause water runoff and flooding? What about the area around your basement? If land slopes toward your basement, it could indicate potential flooding.

5. Check out standing water

At the end of the summer, we’re all just happy that the mosquitoes have died or moved on to bother poor souls elsewhere. But they’ll be back—and you should know in advance where they’ll be hanging out.

“We’ll look for anything that holds standing water,” Davitt says.

Most of these are movable: trash cans, buckets, birdbaths. But if your home is located on a lake or small pond, there’s not a whole lot you can do besides prepare yourself mentally and invest in bug spray and citronella.

If you’re buying in fall or winter, when bugs are hiding, keep in mind the potential ramifications of living on the water.

6. Examine the windows

If the windows in your potential home are older (or don’t even open), you’ll want to replace them immediately—otherwise you risk wasting energy or even breaking them in a freeze.

But if winter is coming quickly, there might not be time. In those cases, Davitt recommends putting plastic over the windows until you’re in a position to replace them.

Will you need storm windows? Find out in advance.

“If you’ve only lived in an apartment, you don’t know you have to change out your screens,” Davitt says.

That can be an added expense and stressor, and one that’s better to know in advance.

Don’t let fall’s peaceful, chilly weather lull you into a false sense of security. When you’re buying a home, examine everything that can go wrong—even if the rainy winter or spring seem far away.

By
Jamie Wiebe Realtor.com

 

11053371_383914575115047_8548886157930102220_nTracy Tkac Evers & Co Real Estate 301-437-8722

 

Moving Apps

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Moving Apps

You’ve found your new home — congrats! But before you dream about settling in and cozying up on your couch for a Netflix binge, you have to actually prep for and execute that big move.

While the process of moving can be exhausting, planning your move doesn’t have to be. Check out these apps to help ease your transition into your new home — and get you closer to that movie night.

Home Inventory Photo Remote

Antsy to start planning your move, but feeling overwhelmed about where to begin? Creating an inventory of the items you intend to take with you is easy with Home Inventory Photo Remote. The app allows you to take photos of your items and then group them by category, collection and even location — keeping you so organized that none of your family members can use the excuse, “I don’t remember where anything goes!”

Once you’re unpacked, the information you’ve gathered in the app will serve as an inventory of your possessions should the unexpected happen and you have to file an insurance claim.

My Move

The My Move app lets you read moving company reviews, complete a moving checklist for every step of the process, calculate the weight of the items you plan to take with you, and more. Perfect for calculating potential costs, My Move helps you plan your move on your own terms — and your budget.

Moving Checklist Pro

If you’re just looking for a thorough moving checklist, Moving Checklist Pro comes with a list of 200+ common household moving items, and you can add your own, too. Creating your own custom lists — such as schools to research, services to cancel or items to return — ensures that you’ll never forget a thing. And if you find that this app doesn’t quite meet your needs, Jimbl Software Labs will even refund your purchase.

Bonus: Gogobot

Once your moving itinerary is planned and you’re on the road, Gogobot is a must to download. Referred to as “a Pandora for travel” by TechCrunch and named “one of the best free apps for travel” by Mom Aboard, Gogobot offers you personalized recommendations on where to eat, play and stay wherever you are on your moving journey.

Moving can be a pain, but these apps can make it a bit less of a headache. No need to wait until you have a moving date to try, though. Download a few of our favorite moving help apps today and see which one best meets your moving need.

 

by SARAH PIKE

The Home Buying Process

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The Home Buying Process

Basic guidelines for the first time home buyer and the home buying process, simplified.

by Tracy Tkac

Even when you love the house, making an offer to purchase it can be intimidating, it’s a big commitment that will require a chunk of your financial resources. It’s also exciting and wonderful! You will be building equity and getting tax breaks for mortgage payments, but importantly , you will have a place of your own to do with what you wish. When you make  improvements to your home, you will likely make a return on your investment while you enjoy living in your home. Most of all, your home will be the place where you will build memories and entertain friends and family. You will make your house into your lovely home. Below are the basic guidelines and the home buying process simplified.

 Making an offer

Even though it’s early in the buying process, you still must sign a legally binding contract. With your signature, you’re committing to moving ahead with the seller. Keep in mind you can add contingencies to many real estate contracts. For example, most real estate buying offers will be contingent on a property inspection, radon inspection, loan approval, appraisal and sometimes other matters. Such contingencies enable buyers to opt out of the contract if unexpected problems or concerns pop up.

 Disclosures

In most states, sellers are legally required to provide buyers with disclosure documents including any know defects, lead based paint information, real tax bills from the current year and the estimated property tax bill for the next year. In addition, sellers must disclose any known issues that might affect the property’s value or habitability. Usually, in a transfer disclosure statement, sellers must answer a series of “yes” or “no” questions about the property, and provide the neighborhood homeowners association/ or condo information. If there have been leaky windows,  work done without permits or plans for a major nearby development, the seller must disclose them. You will have the opportunity to view the areas master plan and the will be provided with a list of nearby airports. The disclosures will need to be signed by the purchaser and will become part of the offer to purchase and then after all terms are agreed to, they will be part of the contract.

The appraisal

Most buyers put a certain amount of money down toward the purchase price. The balance will come in the form of a bank loan (usually). But a bank isn’t going to hand over that money without due diligence. An appraisal is the financial institution’s way of making sure the contract price is the right price. So the lender sends out a third-party appraiser, which the buyer pays for, to confirm that the contract price is in line with the neighborhood’s comparable sales. If it’s not, the bank can deny the loan or change the terms.If a property does not appraise, the contract price can be renegotiated or contract voided.

Inspections

As part of the real estate contract, you have the right to a property inspection The most common is a “general” property inspection, in which the inspector checks the home from the foundation to the roof and investigates all major systems and components. As the buyer, you should follow along with the inspector to learn more about the property. For example, you’ll want to know about the components (such as the water heater) and have a plan in place for maintenance.

After the general property inspection, the inspector may suggest having a specialist come out. This could be a roofer, electrician, HVAC specialist or even an engineer. Listen to the inspector and have any recommended follow-up inspections. Remember: This is your one chance to approve the property from top to bottom. If issues arise, you may be able to negotiate repair or a buyer credit.  If something major arises and it’s not what you signed up for, you can void the contract via your inspection contingency.

Loan approval or commitment

In addition to making certain the property appraises at no less than the contract price, the bank will want to fully approve your credit, debt and income history. The bank will also want to approve the property’s preliminary title report to make sure there are no liens recorded against the property that might affect its value. The bank can take up to 30 days to complete its review, which should result in a loan commitment or full loan approval. Once that’s completed to the bank’s satisfaction, you’re guaranteed a loan, and you’re one step closer to closing.

Final walk-through

Just before closing, you will do a final walk through in the property to make sure it’s in the condition it was when you last saw it. Make sure the seller didn’t remove any fixtures, make modifications or leave behind garbage or debris. You also want to be sure any fixes you negotiated with the seller have been completed.

The closing

Depending on the market, the last step of the home buying process, the closing or the settlement, may happen at an attorney’s office or at a title company. In some situations, the buyer and seller don’t ever meet. Each goes in to sign their closing papers separately. In others, the buyers and sellers sign the closing documents together. Regardless of how a closing happens, if you’re a buyer and getting a loan, plan on signing dozens of documents at closing. You’ll need to show photo ID, as your signature will be notarized. Prior to the closing, your real estate agent or attorney should send over a closing statement to review. The statement details your final closing costs and the money you need to bring to the closing. The funds can be wired in or paid with a cashier’s check on closing day. Be sure to ask for the statement early, so there aren’t any last-minute surprises.

The home buying process will go more smoothly when guided by an experienced real estate professional.

 

New Mortgage Rules

Some Builders Like New Mortgage Rules, But Toll Calls Them “Dumb

A Pulte home being built in Phoenix.
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Some home builders are heralding federal regulators’ move this week to ease mortgage-qualification standards  as a key to reviving the entry-level market but at least one is panning it as a return to dangerous lending.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency indicated this week it will expand mortgage availability with changes such as allowing borrowers to make a down payment of 3% of a loan’s value rather than the typical 20% for a high-quality mortgage.

On Thursday, two national builders reporting quarterly results touted the change as key to bringing first-time buyers back into the market. First-time buyers accounted for an average of 29% of new home sales from 2001 to 2011, according to the National Association of Home Builders. But this year that figure has dropped to an estimated 16% , because of tepid job and wage growth, mounting student debt and tight lending standards.

“I don’t think anybody is a proponent for going back to what happened in 2006 or 2007 at all, but a little common sense goes a long way,” said Larry Nicholson, chief executive of builder Ryland Group Inc., in a conference call with investors Thursday, adding, “I do think it helps the entry-level buyer with the 97% (loan-to-value) program. I think that will get some people off the fence.”

Richard Dugas, CEO of builder PulteGroup Inc., called the proposed changes “a positive statement” during his quarterly conference call with investors on Thursday. “Over time, as some of these ideas get put into practice, it certainly has the potential to affect activity, particularly for the entry-level category,” Mr. Dugas said.

But a different view was expressed Wednesday by Robert Toll, founder and executive chairman of luxury home builder Toll Brothers Inc., during remarks at a Urban Land Institute conferencein New York. He called the proposed loosening of credit standards “a really dumb-ass idea.”

“Yeah, we have a slow recovery, but it appears to be going to continue,” Mr. Toll said, adding, “Why do we want to go do what got us into this problem in the first place? … Three percent down doesn’t make any sense.”

Mr. Toll concluded that lenders have required a 20% down payment on top-rated mortgages for decades “and we had a hell of a housing program.”

Mr. Toll has a little less at risk than do other homebuilders. His company caters to affluent buyers, selling homes at an average price of $717,000. Pulte and Ryland, by contrast, serve more entry-level buyers than Toll, though they sell to others as well.

Quarterly results released by Pulte and Ryland on Thursday reflected a new-home market that remains stuck between neutral and slow growth. Pulte reported inking 3,779 sales contracts in its third quarter, flat from the year-ago period when analysts expected a gain of 5%. Ryland posted a 7.2% increase in orders to 1,707 when analysts expected a double-digit gain.

Ryland’s average selling price registered $331,000, up 11.1% from a year earlier after gains in the high teen percentages earlier in 2014, according to Raymond James & Associates analyst Buck Horne.

Toll, for its part, reported in September a 6% decline in orders in its latest quarter, which ended July 31.

Why Being Pre-Approved for a Loan Matters

Why Being Pre-Approved for a Loan Matters

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So much has changed in the past few decades that the old ways of buying or selling a home simply won’t work today. For decades, buying a home was pretty much the same thing: You shopped around, made an offer and then went to the bank to get a loan. If you were denied or there were problems, you walked away.

Today, a buyer needs to speak to the bank and get approved prior to shopping and definitely before making an offer on a home. Not beingpre-approved today won’t get you past the front door. Here’s why:

Markets move faster today

With online listings and so many real estate resources available to buyers and sellers, it’s easy to quickly get a property in front of the masses. Buyers aren’t waiting on a call or fax from their real estate agent like they did in the 1980s. Instead, motivated buyers get push notifications from Zillow or texts from their agents and see homes as soon as possible. It’s more efficient.

Transactions happen at the same speed. If you’re not approved for a mortgage when you make an offer, the seller risks waiting weeks to see if your loan will go through. That’s not good for them. Show that you’re pre-approved, and you’ve eliminated one huge hurdle for the seller.

Know what you can afford

People today are focused on their monthly payments more than the total purchase price. Why? Because, unlike the typical buyer a generation ago, many of today’s buyers don’t plan on staying in their homes for 30 years. Instead, they can commit to 7 to 10 years and are open to alternate mortgage options that could save them money on their monthly payments.

It’s helpful to know exactly what a $425,000 mortgage will cost vs. a $500,000 mortgage on a monthly basis. Also, in some parts of the country, there are options for FHA loans with as little as 3 percent down. Knowing all your options before you start shopping allows you to shop and buy smarter. There’s no sense looking at homes in the $400,000 range if you can afford more, and vice versa.

Competing with pre-approved buyers

Few buyers today get into the real estate market without forging a relationship with a local mortgage professional. It’s simply smarter to have your ducks in a row. In a competitive market, you may face multiple offers on one property. If you don’t have a pre-approval letter to go with your offer, you have zero chance of getting your offer accepted. Not being pre-approved means you aren’t a serious buyer in the eyes of the seller.

Getting pre-approved means organizing all your documents, documenting your income, debt and credit, and understanding all the loan options available to you. There should never be a cost to be pre-approved for a loan. And you aren’t committed to a mortgage when going through the pre-approval. Got a signed contract from a seller? Then you’re ready to lock in a rate and choose the mortgage that’s best for you.

AUTHOR: 

301-437-8722/ 202-364-1700 Real Estate Professional Licensed in Maryland, Virginia & Washington, DC