Tag Archives: real estate

What’s Really Included In Closing Costs?

Expect property taxes, homeowners insurance, and lender’s costs to be part of your settlement-day tab.

With your house-hunting and lender searches now in the rearview mirror, you can start steering your way around the final bend that leads to the driveway of your new home: settlement day and closing. A few days before you meet with your real estate agent, a title company representative, and your loan officer for this joyous event, you should have received from the title company a copy of your closing documents. Read these documents carefully — they will include details on the closing costs that are due upon settlement.

  • What are closing costs?

    Closing costs are lender and third-party fees paid at the closing of a real estate transaction, and they can be financed as part of the deal or be paid upfront. They range from 2% to 5% of the purchase price of a home. (For those who buy a $150,000 home, for example, that would amount to between $3,000 and $7,500 in closing fees.) Understanding and educating yourself about these costs before settlement day arrives might help you avoid any headaches at the end of the deal.

  • What’s included in closing costs?

    Closing costs will cover both recurring and nonrecurring fees that are a part of your transaction. Recurring costs are ongoing expenses that you will continue to pay as a homeowner, with a portion due upon closing; nonrecurring fees are one-time fees associated with borrowing money and the services that were required to purchase the property.

    Recurring closing costs are placed in your escrow account, which you might view as a forced savings account for those upcoming home expenses you’ll be facing. They can vary, but the most common ones are property taxes (one to eight months’ worth, depending on when your home purchase coincided with the local tax billing cycle), homeowners insurance (the annual premium is typically due at closing, plus another two or three months’ worth of payments), and prepaid loan interest (for the number of days you’ll have the loan until its first payment is due). Also placed into escrow are costs for title insurance, which is considered a must because it protects you in case the seller doesn’t have full rights and warranties to the title of the property.

    Nonrecurring closing costs are fees paid to your lender and other professionals involved in the transaction. They include: any home inspection fees; any discount points you’re paying upfront to lower your interest rate; an origination fee, which is charged by the lender to process your loan; a document-prep fee, which covers the cost of preparing your loan file for processing; an appraisal fee, which covers the cost of a professional estimating the market value of the home; and a survey fee for verifying the home’s property lines. Also expect as nonrecurring costs: an underwriting fee for the cost of evaluating and verifying your loan application; a credit report fee for pulling your credit scores; title search and recording fees; and a wire-transfer fee for wiring funds from the lender to your escrow account.

  • How to prepare for closing costs

    The best time to study closing costs is when you’re shopping for a lender and can compare your desired loan amount with interest rates you’re offered (plus any discount points you might plan to pay upfront to lower those rates). Then use a closing-cost calculator to determine what your costs might be. The calculator will gauge your monthly mortgage payments, based on whether you’re financing the closing costs into your mortgage or whether you’ve decided to pay them upfront.

6 Apartment Upgrades That Landlords Hate (Bye-Bye, Security Deposit)

When you move into a place, it’s normal to want to make it your own, by hanging pictures or even painting an accent wall cherry red. But when you’re renting, you’d best remember: Any changes you make may be reversed by your landlord once you move out and with your money. That’s why renters have to walk a fine line between making themselves feel at home and making changes that will cost them their security deposit.

“If you decide to paint the walls while you are there, you must return them to their original color or the landlord is within their rights to use the deposit to pay for it themselves,” says Trent Zachmann of Renters Warehouse. He explains that many landlords treat modifications or improvements and accidental damages the same when it comes to taking money from your security deposit. “An owner can withhold all or part of the deposit to correct either type of issue,” he says.

But all is not lost: Sometimes modifications can be made with the owner’s approval. Just make sure you’re 100% clear about the stipulations of your lease before you pick up a paintbrush or hammer. Straight from the mouths of landlords, here’s a list of upgrades tenants have attempted that they hate—and will use your security deposit to fix.

1. Painting

This is the No. 1 alteration that landlords complain about.

Annmarie Bhola, a landlord in New York City, understands that for first-time renters especially, there’s an excitement with moving into a new home. And, to many, that means breaking out the paint.

“To feel at home, a fresh coat of personality-defining color is the icing on the cake,” she says. “That’s all cool, but know that if you paint the walls hot pink, it will be coming out of the security deposit! That was one of the most memorable colors I’ve had to repaint.”

Atlanta landlord Bruce Ailion describes creative painting projects as his biggest headache.

“You would think a tenant would pick a neutral color and have a professional paint,” he laments. “Instead they paint purple or black, get paint on the ceiling, on the trim, on the door knobs and outlets. Some will paint around the bed and pictures. It’s a mess.”

2. Hanging pictures

After repainting, filling in holes in drywall is one of the most common issues landlords have to deal with after a tenant moves out.

“Everyone likes to put up pictures, and fortunately new technologies have brought about alternative, less destructive hanging methods, which is great,” says Bhola. So then why don’t more people think to use Command strips instead of nails? “Nine out of 10 times, I always have to fill in the holes and bust out the spare bucket of paint.”

3. Installing window treatments

We know: Those white plastic vertical blinds are so ugly. Your impulse to put up a curtain rod or Roman shades is completely normal. But the holes you have to drill into the wall to mount the window treatments, like those for your pictures, will require patching once you move out. Landlords fume every time they see big screw marks around the window frame.

“Repairing the holes ends up being expensive and time-consuming,” says Zachmann. If you must hang curtains, use large Command hooks that adhere to the wall and don’t leave any stickiness behind.

4. Mounting a TV

What’s worse than hammering nails into the drywall to hang pictures or curtains? Drilling holes in the wall to mount your flat-screen TV.

“The screws have to go directly into the center of studs,” says Brian Davis, director of education at real estate service company SparkRental. “At best, the renter will have screwed 10 to 20 holes into the wall. At worst, the TV will crash to the floor [because it wasn’t mounted correctly], possibly injure someone, shatter the TV, and take a chunk of the wall down with it.” He recommends that renters use a TV stand.

5. Gardening

You would think that planting a few tulips would delight a landlord. But that’s not necessarily the case.

“As a landlord, I want the most maintenance-free rental as possible,” says Atlanta-area property owner and real estate writer Laura Agadoni. “In some cases, I pay for a landscaping service, but I would not want to keep up a garden.”

So, don’t make any changes to the landscaping without the landlord’s written permission. And if you do, don’t be surprised if your security deposit is used to return the yard to its previous state.

6. Updating appliances

If you’re not a fan of that noisy old refrigerator in your rental, it’s perfectly fine to swap it out with a new one of your own so long as you talk it over with your landlord first, and then reconnect the old one after you move out.

“What’s never acceptable is swapping out an appliance, throwing the old one away, and then taking the new one with you when you move out, leaving a gaping hole where there was once an appliance,” says Davis.

So if there’s something you’d like to update, just ask your landlord about it first. You never know.

“What some landlords will allow may be different than what other landlords allow,” says New York City broker Eric D. Rosen. “In some cases, it might even be possible that a landlord will share the cost.”

Article originally found on realtor.com

3 Common Moving Nightmares (and How to Prevent Them)

There’s no other way to put it: Moving is stressful. But it doesn’t have to be a waking nightmare. Here’s how to avoid a move from … you know where.

Nightmares aren’t supposed to take place in broad daylight, but some common life events bring so much tension, uncertainty and anxiety that they can easily rank as “quality nightmares.” Moving house tops the list of stressful experiences that can feel like a bad dream — and it can easily come true unless you take precautionary measures.

Problems can occur at every stage of the relocation process: A violent storm hits just when the moving truck is parking in front of your door. The elevator is out of order when you arrive at your new high-rise building. You lose the keys to your car on the morning of moving day. The list goes on.

However, the most common moving nightmares fall into three main categories. Here’s how they typically play out — and how to avoid them.

Bad movers

Many moving horror stories involve rogue or incompetent movers.

  • The movers are late or don’t show up at all. The agreed-upon time comes and goes, but you see no sign of an approaching moving truck. When you call the moving company to demand an explanation, your relocation nightmare begins. Regardless of the excuses you receive (a traffic jam, a breakdown, a delay on a previous job, a mistaken date, etc.), the inevitable result will be lots of stress and wasted time. Worst of all, you may not be able to reach the moving company at all: fraudulent movers may have taken your deposit money and disappeared with it.
  • The movers are careless or inexperienced. If your movers arrive late, in a smaller moving truck than needed, or lack the required know-how and the proper equipment to handle your items safely and efficiently, your relocation can quickly turn into a nightmarish experience. The amateur movers may drop your plasma TV, break your heirloom china, scratch your antique dresser, dent the floors, or cause other overwhelming emotional and financial damage.
  • The movers are scam artists. In the worst case scenario, you may fall victim to unscrupulous moving scams. Rogue movers will often request much more money than previously negotiated based on some alleged extra services. They may hold your belongings hostage until you pay a considerable extra “fee” as ransom, or steal your more expensive belongings and just discard the rest.

The good news is that there is an easy way to avoid such nightmares. All you need to do is carefully research your movers before hiring them to make sure you are dealing with licensed and experienced professionals you can trust. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

Traffic problems

Heavy traffic or road accidents can also turn your move into a real nightmare.

  • Traffic jams. The moving truck is delayed and there may not be enough time to proceed with your move as planned. You may have to postpone the relocation to another day, or you may miss your flight.
  • Traffic accidents. if there has been an accident on the road, the moving truck will have to wait until the damaged vehicles are removed and normal traffic is restored. However, the scenario could get much worse: You may lose all your possessions or receive them badly damaged if the moving truck crashes, catches fire, or gets trapped somewhere because of adverse weather conditions like heavy snowfall or torrential rains. It’s even possible that thieves could break into the vehicle and steal your goods.
  • Breakdown. If the moving truck breaks down on the road, you’ll have to wait for the moving company to send another vehicle. What’s more, your items can easily get damaged while being transferred.
  • Parking issues. The moving truck has to circle the neighborhood for hours until an appropriate parking space is vacated, or the movers have to park far away from the entrance to your home. In such cases, you’ll not only lose valuable time, but will also have to pay an extra fee for the delay or an additional long-carry fee.

Of course, there’s nothing you can do to prevent traffic accidents or breakdowns. But you can at least reserve a parking place directly in front of your old and new homes, and choose a moving company that has experienced drivers and several moving vehicles in good condition.

Poor organization

The only way to avoid problems when moving house is to plan each phase of your relocation adventure in meticulous detail and stay one step ahead all the time. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing any of the following all-too-common moving ordeals.

  • Packing chaos. It may turn out that you’ve packed more items than previously discussed with the movers; packed items that can’t be loaded onto the moving truck; haven’t labeled the boxes properly; or forgotten to prepare an “essentials box.” Worst of all, you may not be ready when the movers arrive. All these packing mistakes will result in lost time and money.
  • Furniture troubles. If your large furniture doesn’t fit through the doors, you may be forced to leave some treasured pieces behind, or request hoisting services that will cost you dearly and will delay your move considerably.
  • Paperwork problems. If you forget to transfer the utilities, you won’t have electricity, gas, and water on move-in day. If you forget to change your address, you won’t have your mail delivered to your new home. If you forget to update your driver’s license and car registration in time, you’ll be fined. Not taking proper care of your documents will most certainly get you in trouble.
  • Overspending. If you book your movers at the last moment, require too many extra services, fail to create a realistic moving budget, pack all your items without sorting them out first, or allow any other financial imprudence, you’ll end up paying much more than you expected.
  • Safety issues. Make every effort to prevent injuries and accidents on moving day, as getting hurt is one of the worst things that can happen during your relocation endeavor.

Post courtesy of zillow.com

Real Estate Investing: How to Make Money in the Current Housing Market

Forecasters say that mortgage rates above 4 percent are here to stay. With that in mind, it’s important to realize what high mortgage rates mean and how they affect your current and future real estate investments.

As a seasoned real estate investor and house flipper, I’ve seen a lot of changes come and go in the housing market. I’ve come to realize that even the toughest and hottest housing market can still leave investors reaping the rewards.

Right now, prices for houses are higher due to the extremely low supply of homes. Very few homes are being built, especially in the low end-range. While it may seem like it’s slim pickings in terms of real estate investing, there are still good deals available; it just takes time and savvy investing smarts to find them.

Even though there are fewer listings in today’s market, rising prices present opportunities for people to sell homes that need work. While there are opportunities in both buyers’ and sellers’ markets, my advice when it comes to real estate investing is to always leave yourself plenty of room for unknown costs or changes in the market. That way, you can flip in good, bad or even mediocre markets. The trick is never assuming prices will increase and accounting for all costs. Investors get in the biggest trouble when markets change and they bought based on estimated future appreciation.

Real estate agents have also felt the effects of the current housing market. Along with the market changes and higher rates, real estate agents are competing in a smaller pool of homes. There are many buyers and prices are rising. Normally this makes a good seller’s market, which is good for agents, but this market is different because there are so few homes for sale. (Agents love a seller’s market, but not when there are no homes to sell!) They are suffering under fewer sales and less money, causing many to drop out of the business altogether. The bright spot for investors is that agents still in the game have much more time on their hands and investors may be able to find hungry agents who have both the time and the drive to find them deals.

As far as worrying about the current political climate, I don’t think the market will change much based on new policies. If anything, lending guidelines will get looser, making it easier to get loans. Prices are higher, but if you invest wisely based on ratios and profit margins, you can make money with low or high prices. It can be tougher to get cash flow on rentals in a hot market, but there are many markets in the U.S. that are still great for rental property investing. I think supply and demand are the biggest factors when looking at housing prices, and supply is not going to increase for single-family homes any time soon, so bear that in mind.

While rising mortgage interest rates can hurt buyer demand and buying power, you can still make money in real estate no matter what the market is like. It takes a huge jump in rates to significantly affect buying power.

Furthermore, I don’t think rates will cause a housing crash, either. The last crash happened because of inflated demand caused by loose lending guidelines. The builders over-built, and it all started to crumble when everyone realized how many people who should have never gotten a loan in the first place got one they really couldn’t afford. This time around, the people who are getting loans have much stronger financial capabilities and stability. There is also not the over-building that caused issues we saw in the past. So, even if there is a crash, many investors will do just fine. In fact, the last crash created more tenants and increased rents in some areas, while prices decreased. The trick is creating equity by purchasing below market, buying with cash flow, and not over-leveraging.

Regardless of the current interest rates, people will always buy and sell homes, which means there will always be opportunity to make money flipping or as a landlord.

Post courtesy of RISmedia.com

Easy Ways to Keep Outdoor Spaces Looking Fresh

Photo credit: rawmn / shutterstock.com

A very important part of the majority of landscape designs is the garden furniture that is to be used in the garden and lawn around your property. Outdoor furniture included in a plan of landscaping is a way of creating special places in your garden, where the family and their guests can meet comfortably, relax and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. In addition, furniture for the outdoors will make people feel attracted to the special meeting area so that that they will be more willing to make use of the landscaping and appreciate your efforts for landscaping. Here are some tips on how to keep your outdoor space looking fresh.

Added Living Space

A beautiful and a marvelous landscape on your property, it will help your property stand out and enjoy the hike in its monetary value, the benefit of which, you will feel when you plan to sell your property. A superior landscape design not only produces beautiful surroundings, but the most advantageous landscaping concepts carve out extra living space that extends the useful square footage of your house. Depending on the size of your own land and landscape design, these outdoor living spaces can on certain occasions double the area people have for social gatherings of family and friends. The seating arrangements make a big difference in how well these spaces are finally used and the manner in which your guests will enjoy all your efforts on entertaining outdoors.

There is a wide range of furniture that is made primarily for use in areas that are outdoors. There are styles ranging from the formal to relaxed and elegant and comfortable. Numerous different types of materials are used in making frames of outdoor pieces of furniture as well as for cushions and covers which are used to make them comfortable and inviting.

Choosing The Right Colors

When making the right selection of garden furniture, some people prefer to select styles, colors and textures that blend and reflect the total design of the landscaping around their house. This type of approach has a tendency to create a harmonious blend that helps the people experiencing it to relax and feel more involved in the garden that surrounds them. Greens, browns and more muted tones of nature are well liked for those who want to create a smooth flow between your garden and furniture design they add.

Other homeowners enjoy furniture for the garden that pop out and end up getting attention. Often, the colors are bright and the designs are very bold and are not intended mix in with the natural background. The pieces normally have an artistic type of feeling are primarily intended to make a statement and on certain occasions reflect the personality of the homeowner. These types of options in outdoor furniture create a lively atmosphere of fun and frivolity.

Flowing Design

Another approach that some individuals take when it comes to their outdoor living spaces is to make you feel as though the garden or patio which they have just stepped into is no more than a continuation of the interior living space. This is accomplished by the selection of styles, fabrics and colors that intimately imitate the furniture inside the house. Numerous individuals like this approach because it can fool the eye and make both the house and garden spaces seem more prominent, as they flow together smoothly.

Once you have selected just the right outdoor furniture that will make your guests more comfortable and will continue with the overall theme and the feel of your living area outdoors, it is a good idea to give attention to the lighting in the area. Good landscape lighting really complete the outdoor spaces and make them feel even more welcoming and warm, particularly if you will be doing nigh time entertaining.

7 Ways To Compete With Cash Buyers In A Seller’s Market

If you really, really want the house, here’s how to play ball.

The old adage “money talks” rings true in real estate. After the stock market crash in 2008, homebuyers with all-cash offers quickly became sellers’ most sought-after suitors. All-cash, after all, means no mortgage, and no loan means no need to rely on lenders. So now that the market has heated up again, bidding wars are the new normal, from Alexandria, VA, real estate to homes for sale in San Angelo, TX. Unfortunately, it’s common for a seller to favor an all-cash offer over an offer from a buyer whose deal hinges on a mortgage approval.

“If you’re shopping for a home, there’s a good chance you’ll be competing with all-cash offers,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. “As of February 2014, 43% of all offers were all-cash! Couple that with the fact that it’s a seller’s market out there, and it can be very difficult — and competitive — to get the house you want.” So what’s a homebuyer to do? Here are seven ways to compete with all-cash buyers in a seller’s market.

1. Put your best foot forward

Don’t wait to submit your best offer. If you want a specific house and it’s a competitive market, you need to put in your very best offer first. “Assume that you will not have the opportunity to negotiate on price, so make your best offer upfront,” advises Lazenby. Adds Ross Anthony, a real estate agent with Willis Allen Real Estate in San Diego, CA: “If you are afraid of overpaying for the home, make sure you look at the current appreciation rate for the market. You may pay a little extra today, but if prices keep increasing and you keep getting outbid, you may find yourself priced out by the end of the year or paying significantly more for the same property anyway.”

2. Go a little higher

The highest offer doesn’t automatically mean a sale — but in many cases, it can’t hurt to inch your price up a bit, says Anthony. “It sounds obvious because it is, but this is often the most important thing to consider when offering on a home in a competitive seller’s market. More often than not, cash buyers are investors and investors want to increase their margins as much as possible by getting the property for as little as they can,” he explains, and that gives you a little negotiation power. “You must understand that in order to make your offer more attractive, you will most likely have to beat out the competition on price. Make sure your agent takes a close look at the comparable sales and can justify the purchase price, but also adjust your expectations of getting a home for less than it’s worth. Sometimes as little as an extra $1,000 on top of the list price can be the determining factor in the seller’s eyes.”

3. Find out the seller’s terms

“When telling agents that I might be coming forward with an offer, I first ask them what terms the seller is looking for,” explains Heather Witt, a real estate agent with Partners Trust in Los Angeles, CA. “Does the seller need extra time in the property to find a new home to live in? Are they looking for a quick close? Do they want to control who processes escrow and title? Do they already have those services picked out so that I might write an offer that won’t need to be countered?” Having a real estate agent who can handle this early negotiating on your behalf can mean the difference between landing a home and losing it.

4. Be flexible

“In any market, the buyer who is financing must be creative when up against all-cash buyers,” says David Dubin, a real estate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York, NY. One key to creating a winning offer? Emphasize your flexibility. If your agent can find out the sellers’ desired terms, you can sweeten the deal by letting the sellers drive the timeline and some of the specifics. “The more flexible and accommodating the buyer is, the more a buyer’s bid will pique the interest of the seller,” says Dubin. Simple things such as being accommodating with the closing date, offering to rent the house back to the sellers while they continue to hunt for their new home, or requesting minimal repairs can go a long way when competing with an all-cash offer.

5. Be thorough

“If you have already done your homework and know the seller’s specific needs, make sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed in your offer,” says Ross Anthony. “The fewer items that the seller will have to include in a counteroffer will make them more likely to sign and accept your offer.” Don’t forget to include things such as an updated pre-approval letter. You could even offer “to put them in touch with your lender if they would like added assurances of your ability to follow through with the purchase,” adds Anthony. “If the lender is confident and can convey this to the seller, it will help put their mind at ease.”

6. Show some personality

“I always recommend my buyers write a sincere letter to the seller to include with their offer that shows a genuine love and interest in the home,” says Anthony. “If you are just starting your family and let them know you can already imagine your future children playing in their beautifully manicured yard, then the seller is likely to imagine this too. Tug at their emotional heartstrings! Some sellers may not take this into consideration at all, but it certainly can’t hurt your chances and it takes very little effort.” Whatever you do, make sure your offer letter is memorable so that it will stand out from the crowd.

7. Throw in the “as is” offer

What could be more attractive to a seller than an offer that states the buyer will take the home “as is”? “Putting in an offer that says you’ll buy the home without asking for any repairs or any extra money to fix something that pops up in inspections can make a noncash offer way more alluring,” explains Anna Marie Simpliciano, a real estate agent with Hilton & Hyland in Beverly Hills, CA.

Courtesy of trulia.com

8 Times When It's Smarter to Rent a Home Than to Buy

8 Times When It’s Smarter to Rent a Home Than to Buy

8 Times When It's Smarter to Rent a Home Than to Buy

Photo Credit: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock.com

Buying can make financial sense for some people, and home ownership has been the American dream for many families. This dream vanished for many during the housing market crash of 2008. Since then, home prices have increased, and mortgages have become more available with interest rates that haven’t been seen in decades. However, life has changed for many families, and home ownership may not be a good plan for people who fall into one of the following 8 categories.

  1. You Might Not Be Able To Stay In a Home for Five Years

 

Experts say it takes about five years for your investment to earn money, or more importantly, to not decline. The most important factor influencing your decision to buy or rent is how long you believe you will be in the home. Changes in your career path and your personal life should be considered. Make a realistic assessment of your lifestyle preferences. Can the home you buy now fulfill the expectations you have for your life?

  1. If You Can’t Put 20% Down

A small down payment means higher costs. The interest rate will be higher, and you will be charged a mortgage insurance premium to protect the lender should you default. If you have to sell the home soon after you move in, then you will likely have to pay to sell.

  1. If You Have Found a Rental Bargain

If you are renting a lovely home at a low rent payment, then you might consider using this time as an opportunity to save money towards a down payment. You will need to weigh all factors including savings in maintenance and the loss of a tax deduction.

  1. When the Housing Market Is Priced Too High

Carefully consider the price of homes compared to what you can get for the money. A home may be priced too high for your budget, but it may be what the market is selling at.

Equally important is the need to assess your ability to buy a home in this type of market. Know your budget limitations and don’t let someone talk you into purchasing a home that you know you can’t afford. Purchase price is one thing, but taxes and upkeep are a totally different and often expensive part of buying a home.

  1. If Buying Extends Your Commute

If you need to drive a car to your job, then you need to consider commuting time and costs. Sitting in traffic on a freeway gets old quickly. Gas and car insurance costs increase along with the commute. Free time is valuable time.

  1. If Your Credit Isn’t Very Good

Your credit score will determine the interest rate you will pay and even your down payment requirement. Think about the impact of a low credit score over the life of the mortgage. You could be paying a lot more money for many years.

  1. If You Are Not a Person Who Likes To Do Maintenance Chores

There will always be things to do around the home – both inside and outside. The costs of maintenance could be up to 10% of the price of your home each year. You might also have to pay an HOA fee. Some tasks are very foreboding like cleaning gutters and inspecting the roof for leaks.

  1. If You Are New To the Area

It can take up to a year to get to know a new area well enough to know where to buy a home. Let your brain guide you and not your heart. Be sure of the area you select. Even if you don’t have children, the quality of the schools will be essential for sustaining the resale value.