Consumer Real Estate News

    • Home Maintenance 101

      29 January 2020

      Your home is likely your largest (and most important) investment. Not only is a home purchase a huge financial undertaking, but your house keeps you safe from the elements and welcomes you home after a long day. To keep your home as comfortable as possible (and to protect your largest asset’s value) it is crucial that you understand the basics of home maintenance. 

      Here is your crash course on home maintenance 101.

      Monthly to Seasonal Maintenance Items:

      • Change HVAC filters (frequency need depends on pets and dust in your home)
      • Test smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers
      • Each season’s respective outdoor maintenance (including lawn and garden care)
      • Vacuum lint from dryer vent
      • Clean gutters

      Each season will come with its own list of to-dos, and while it may be easy to push them aside until later, a small time investment now will mitigate the need for costly and time-consuming repairs in the future. With each season, be sure that you know the extra tasks you need to complete in addition to the ones listed above (such as covering spigots and wrapping pipes in winter).

      Annual Maintenance Items:
      • Roof Inspection
      • HVAC Inspection
      • Flush Water heater (You may need to do this as often as monthly depending on the mineral content of your water)

      As you can see, annual maintenance involves a good deal of inspections to the more expensive components of your home. While you can go the DIY route, experts recommend that you hire a professional to check for any issues that a novice may have difficulty spotting. Issues like loose tiles on a roof can cause extensive home damage under the right circumstances; it can be well worth the investment to hire a professional.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 7 Insurance Factors to Consider When House Hunting

      29 January 2020

      If you plan to buy a house, you’ll also need to purchase homeowners insurance. An insurance policy can help protect you, your family and, of course, your new home in case the unforeseen happens. Because coverage can add a significant amount to the overall cost of homeownership, however, it may pay to keep in mind that certain features of a home can affect the price and availability of insurance. To help you save and ensure that you’re properly protected, the Insurance Information Institute offers some factors to consider when house hunting:

      1. Quality and location of the fire department.
      Houses that are located near highly rated, permanently staffed fire departments usually cost less to insure. This also holds true for homes that have a hydrant nearby.

      2. Proximity to the coastline.
      Houses located on or near the coast will generally cost more to insure than those further inland. They’ll also likely require a separate hurricane or windstorm deductible. In some coastal communities, private homeowners insurance coverage may not be readily available. Instead, you may need to purchase insurance through a state-run insurance program.

      3. Age of the home.
      A stately, older home can be quite beautiful, but ornate features like plaster walls, ceiling molding and wooden floors may be costly to replace and can raise the cost of insurance. And plumbing and electrical systems can become unsafe with age and lack of maintenance. If you’re considering buying an older home, find out how much it’ll cost to update these features and factor that into the cost of ownership.

      4. Condition of the roof.
      A new roof matters to insurers and keeps you and your family safer. Make sure to check the roof's condition. Depending on the type of roof and whether or not it's made with fire- and/or hail-resistant materials, you may even qualify for an insurance discount.

      5. Quality of construction.
      Find out whether the house has been updated to comply with current building codes. Homes well built by careful craftsmen and those constructed to meet modern engineering-based building codes are likely to better withstand natural disasters.

      6. Risk of flooding.
      Damage from flooding isn’t covered by standard home insurance policies. If you’re buying a home in an area at risk from flooding, you’ll need to purchase separate flood insurance, which is available from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few specialty insurers.

      7. Swimming pool or other special features.
      If the house has a swimming pool, hot tub or other special feature, you’ll likely need more liability insurance. You may also want to consider purchasing an umbrella liability policy to provide added protection in the event that someone gets injured on your property and decides to sue you.

      The Insurance Information Institute also emphasizes the importance of getting a home inspection before buying a house. For more information on home insurance, visit iii.org.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Should You Choose a Conventional or FHA Mortgage?

      29 January 2020

      If you’re planning to buy a house, you can choose a conventional mortgage or one insured by the Federal Housing Administration. It’s important to understand the requirements for each to make the right decision.

      Primary Differences Between Conventional and FHA Loans
      FHA loans are serviced by private mortgage lenders and insured by the FHA. Conventional loans are not insured by the federal government. 

      FHA and conventional lenders limit loan amounts based on location. An FHA mortgage can only be used to buy a primary residence. A conventional loan can be used to buy a house for any purpose. To quality for an FHA mortgage, the property would need to be appraised to determine its value and to make sure it was safe and conformed with local building codes.

      If you had a credit score of 580 or higher and you took out an FHA loan, you would have to put down at least 3.5 percent of the purchase price. If your credit score was between 500 and 579, you might be able to get an FHA mortgage with 10 percent down. 

      To qualify for a conventional loan, you would most likely need a credit score of at least 620, although exact requirements vary by lender. With a conventional loan, you might be able to put down just 3 percent, but you would need a higher credit score. If you had a low credit score, you would most likely have to pay a higher interest rate. 

      To get an FHA mortgage, your debt-to-income ratio (the percentage of your pre-tax income that you spend to pay your debts each month) could be no more than 50 percent. You might be able to get a conventional loan with a DTI ratio that high, but most conventional lenders want a ratio of 43 percent or less.

      Mortgage insurance compensates a lender if a borrower defaults on a loan. With a conventional loan, you would have to obtain private mortgage insurance if you put down less than 20 percent and pay for it until you reached 20 percent equity. With an FHA mortgage, you would have to purchase mortgage insurance no matter how much you put down and continue to pay for it as long as you had the loan if you put down less than 10 percent. 

      Mortgage insurance premiums for an FHA loan are the same regardless of credit score, but with a conventional loan, a higher credit score means lower PMI premiums. Either way, the amount of your mortgage insurance premiums would be based in part on the amount you put down.

      You might be able to eliminate mortgage insurance by refinancing an FHA loan. The FHA Streamline Refinance is much simpler than the process to refinance a conventional loan. 

      Get Expert Advice
      The type of mortgage you choose will affect the amount you pay each month for years to come. Talk to a mortgage professional about your financial situation to decide whether to apply for a conventional or FHA mortgage.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • First-Time Homebuyer Checklist

      28 January 2020

      As more millennials start to think about homeownership, first-time homeowners are on the rise. But not everyone is as prepared as they should be. 

      There are some obvious questions first-time buyers need to answer, such as “What can I afford?”, “Where do I want to live?” and “What size home do I want?” But some less obvious considerations need to be asked as well, including things about school districts, neighborhoods and access to public transportation.
      Here are some things first-time homebuyers should be doing to make sure they’re prepared:

      Choose a Reputable Agent
      Buying a new home is one of the most important decisions of your life, so you want to make sure you’re working with someone you’re comfortable with and who has a strong reputation. This doesn’t mean you have to go with the most experienced person—some might prefer to work with an eager up-and-comer—but make sure it’s someone who will communicate with you the way you want and knows the neighborhoods you’re  interested in.

      Get Your Finances in Check
      Just because you have money in the bank doesn’t mean you will qualify for a mortgage. Meet with a financial advisor and get a handle on what you can truly afford. If you want to do the numbers yourself, make sure to create a comprehensive list of every possible expense—loans, student debt, monthly expenses—and don’t rely on your lender to figure out a total for you. Lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio and not necessarily at your day-to-day spending habits. 

      Get Pre-Qualified
      Now that you know what you can afford, check that the bank agrees with the assessment by getting pre-qualified for a loan. The pre-qualification process is not a guarantee that the lender will offer you funding, but it does take into consideration your credit score and income level. This will determine how much the lender might be willing to offer through a mortgage program. The next step is getting a pre-approval letter so that when you find your dream home, you can offer proof that you can get the financing to buy.

      Shop for Lenders
      Mortgage rates are still great, but that doesn’t mean you should jump at the first one that comes along. Compare at least 3 - 5 lenders to determine which one best serves your interests. Make sure to disclose that you’re a first-time buyer because that could potentially make a difference in the types of programs a lender offers you. 

      Seek Out First-Time Homebuyer Programs
      There are a slew of programs designed specifically to assist first-time homebuyers with benefits, such as down payment assistance and no closing costs. Others offer first-time buyers competitive interest rates designed to make borrowing easier. Be sure to understand what’s out there to help you.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 4 Essential Bed-Buying Tips

      28 January 2020

      After finding the perfect home for you and your family, it may also be time to buy the perfect bed.

      After all, your old bed may be pretty worn out, and buying a new one is an effective way to make your move a bit easier as you won’t have to worry about lugging your current bed from your old home to your new one. All you have to do is order the new bed and wait for it to be delivered to your home.

      However, buying a new bed is a big deal. Beds aren’t cheap, and it’s something you spend a third of your life in, so be sure to put some thought into the process.

      Do Your Research
      Starting out your search for the right bed online is fine, but part of your hunt should include a visit to a store so that you can see the bed for yourself. You want to know that the bed you have your eye on is comfortable, but it’s also important to consider its size and design.

      Get the Family Involved
      One person shouldn’t decide what everyone in the family is sleeping on. While couples need to work together when it comes to choosing the right bed and mattress, be sure to give your children the opportunity to test out beds, as well. After all, if your kids aren’t sleeping well at night because they’re not comfortable, you won’t be getting much rest either.

      Mattress Options
      Pillow-top mattresses are popular these days, but while they can feel like a dream when you first use them, the pillow-top effect can wear out over time. They’re also pricey. The three basic types of mattresses include innerspring, which are an affordable and dependable option; memory foam, which is more expensive but provides more cushioning, and latex foam.

      Pick the Right Bedding
      When you buy a new bed, you should also buy new sheets, blankets and comforters. If you’ve moved into a large house with a stately bedroom, go with a color scheme that matches the room. If you’re moving into a country home, choose something homey and inviting.

      Buying a bed isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. If you take the time to do some research before making a purchase, you’ll be sure to enjoy restful nights for years to come.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.