Updated: Friday, September 20, 2019

The Role of iBuying in Todays Market

Large, institutional property investors traditionally focus on multi-family units. The great housing recession last decade, when the stock market was providing lack-luster returns, opened the door for big money to find its way into the single-family acquisition market. As hedge funds began buying large blocks of single-family homes, rehabilitating them with primarily cosmetic facelifts such as carpet and paint, and offering small investors shares in these behemoths, they created an investment vehicle that had the potential to beat Wall Street. If it could work in the ldquo;hold-and-rentrdquo; market, su>

Many fortunes have been made buying, renting, trading and selling real estate. Historically, real estate values trend up, making it a smart investment, so large firms jumping into the real estate investment game made perfect sense. Will it make sense long term? What about the newest entrants to the iBuying fray? How long will they find this practice attractive? Frankly, there is no reason that this approach cant co-exist along with more traditional real estate ownership. Take ERA Real Estatersquo;s "Sellers Security Plan.rdquo; It has been in place for decades and survived both housing booms and busts. Why? Because the price that anyone will pay for a property is based on economics 101: the law of supply and demand. Not only this, but ERA is doing what many iBuyers are not, and that is keeping the real estate agent at the center of the transaction. While iBuying is certainly a buzzworthy term in real estate these days, there are many consumers across the U.S. who still donrsquo;t know what it means and are intimidated by its unfamiliarity and at the prospect of gambling with one of the biggest transactions of their lives. The components that enable iBuyer programs to cut through the clutter: simplicity, convenience and efficiency.

So, as long as an institutional real estate buyer doesnt panic in the midst of a housing downturn and "dump" large blocks of homes on the market, driving prices down further, nor get too crazy when faced with a housing bubble and over-extend their financial resources, natural economic factors will drive prices up and down, allowing these new, large buyers to benefit from changing market values.

What do traditional real estate professionals need to consider when advising their clients about iBuyer options? Here are some questions to ask:

1. What is the clientrsquo;s motivation? MUST they sell by a particular date in order to move forward with their plans?
2. What repairs are needed to get the most money for the property? Does the client possess the financial resources to make the home marketable for top dollar?
3. Are home prices trending up, making waiting to sell a better option or is waiting simply costing the Seller time with little chance of bigger gain?

If the client needs to sell in a hurry, lacks the funds necessary to make the property marketable or wonrsquo;t benefit financially by holding out for a better price, it might be in the clientrsquo;s best interest to take advantage of the iBuyer option.

There is no doubt that there is risk. There is in most financial transactions. But isnt that where all big money is earned? As long as iBuyer companies are well-funded, take a long-term view of this business and focus on adding a measure of value to the end-user buyer and seller, there is no reason that this practice canrsquo;t be a permanent part of the new American real estate landscape.

nbsp;


Greg Martin is the president and managing broker of ERA Sunrise Realty in northern Metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. Together with his business partner David Moody, they opened a new branch of ERA Sunrise Realty in 2002 and have since expanded the company to seven offices with more than 130 agents. He is very proud of the work ERA Sunrise Realty does, and of their recognition as the winner of the 2018 ERA ldquo;Jim Jackson Memorial Award for 1st in Service.rdquo; Greg has been in real estate since 1998, before which he served as a marketing and sales team leader for Union Pacific Railroad and Southern Pacific Railroad. Greg is also part owner of Sure Close Title Services LLC and is co-owner and school director for The Real Estate Productivity Center, a state-approved real estate school devoted to improving the knowledge and professionalism of real estate agents across Georgia.


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The 9 Best Tips on How to Find a Property for Profitable Investing

Tip 1: Buy a Property in a Top Real Estate Market

Anyone in the real estate industry will tell you that location is the first and foremost factor for a profitable investment. Where your rental property is located will determine the price you have to pay for it, the rental demand, the best rental strategy, the type of tenants you can expect, the rental rate, the occupancy rate and vacancy rate, and ultimately the return on investment. Thus, the first thing which any investor preparing to buy a property should do is to read about and research the best places for real estate investing in the US housing market. Donrsquo;t make the mistake of many beginners who focus on large cities only. Sometimes small towns and even villages offer a much higher return than major cities. For example, according to data from Mashvisor, a real estate data analytics company, the census-designated area with a population of about 7,000 people, Joshua Tree, has been one of the top locations for Airbnb rentals in the past few years.

Tip 2: Donrsquo;t Spend More Than What You Can Afford

As a beginner investor, you should always start with a small, cheap, easy-to-manage property. After all, the best investment property is the one which you can afford and which you can manage. To find such a property, you should prepare a budget. On the one hand, factor in your savings, the income from your full-time job and other sources, and the money you expect to make from your rental property. On the other hand, make a list of all the one-time and recurrent costs associated with buying, owning, and managing an investment property such as the property price, appraisal cost, home inspection fee, closing fees, fixes and repairs, monthly mortgage payments, property tax, insurance, property management, maintenance, and others. In this way you will be able to figure out exactly how much you can afford to spend on a property without risking a foreclosure.

Tip 3: Find the Best Financing Method

One of the great things about real estate investing is that you have many financing options to choose from. You can go for a conventional mortgage, a hard money loan, a private money loan, a syndication, or a partnership, to mention a few possible choices. You should study each option carefully and decide on the best one for your particular case, based on their pros and cons and your specific situation.

Most probably, as a first-time investor, you will end up taking a mortgage loan. In this case, it is advisable to make the down payment as big as possible, without overspending on it of course. The higher your down payment is, the faster you will be able to repay your loan and the less money you will end up spending on repayment. Figuring out the best financing method is crucially important for profitable real estate investing.

Tip 4: Use Different Sources for Your Property Search

To find a property for profitable investing, you should put efforts into searching for properties for sale far and wide. Now that you know where you want to buy an investment property and how much you can afford to spend on it, start checking out local newspapers and real estate websites with both MLS listings and off market properties, talk to your friends and acquaintances, network with other investors in the area who might be selling a property, and connect with a local real estate agent. Each one of these sources will have access to a different kind of properties, and you should check them all out before deciding on the best type of investment property for you and narrowing down your choice.

Tip 5: Consider Investing in a Foreclosure

The most lucrative investments in real estate are those properties which you can buy below market value. Thus, you should consider investing in a foreclosed property. Forget the popular myth that foreclosures are always houses in a dire situation which makes them bad real estate investments. To the contrary, it is feasible to find a foreclosed property in a good shape which will bring you high return on investment. The reason is that you will most likely pay only a fraction of the fair market value of the property as the bank or other financial institution is trying to get rid of it quickly, while you can still charge full market value rental rate.

To find foreclosed properties to invest in, talk to the banks in the area, search for specialized real estate websites with foreclosed property listings including government agenciesrsquo; websites, and look for agents who work with foreclosures.

Tip 6: Hire a Real Estate Agent

Avoid the mistake of many first-time real estate investors who think they can manage the whole process of finding and buying a property on their own. It is recommended to look for an agent who works mostly with property investors and hire him/her to help you along. Your agent will be able to help you find lucrative properties for sale, connect you with lenders, prepare the offer, negotiate the best price, and close the deal quickly and smoothly. Moreover, you donrsquo;t have to worry about inflating your budget as agent fees are usually covered by the property seller and not the property buyer.

Tip 7: Conduct Thorough Property Analysis

An indispensable step in the process of making the most profitable real estate investments is performing an investment property analysis. Once you have narrowed down your choice to a few top properties, you should study them in detail to calculate exactly how much return on investment you can expect from them, based on your preferred rental strategy. Find out the cash flow, the cash on cash return, and the capitalization rate which you can expect. To beat the competition in the local real estate market and find the best property for profitable investing, make sure to use real estate investment tools such as a rental property calculator. This will save you a lot of time in analyzing properties and allow you to make an offer before the other investors in the area.

Tip 8: Choose the Best Rental Strategy

You can rent out your investment property on short-term basis as an Airbnb rental or long-term basis as a traditional rental. The optimal strategy in each case depends on the location, the demand, the rental rates, and other factors. So, in your investment property analysis you should see which rental strategy will bring you a higher return on investment. If you decide to go for a short-term rental, donrsquo;t forget to study the local regulations carefully as many places have adopted major restrictions on this type of rentals in recent years. Ideally, you should look for a location where both owner-occupied and non-owner occupied properties can be rented out on short-term basis in all residential neighborhoods. For example, the Dallas real estate market is one of the major cities with the least Airbnb legal issues in the US at the moment.

Tip 9: Select the Best Property Management Strategy

Profitable investing in real estate doesnrsquo;t end with finding and buying a property with a high potential for return. Afterwards, you have to manage your rental property in the best possible way. If you invest in your local housing market, have some free time, and exhibit the right personality welcoming and kind but also assertive, you can become a landlord and deal with a rental property and tenants on your own. However, before you decide to manage your property by yourself, you should know that this can take a lot of time and efforts and can turn into a real headache.

If, on the other hand, you invest out of state, have a busy job and a family to take care of, and/or are simply not fit to be a landlord, you can hire a property management company to deal with your investment property. You should be prepared to pay them a monthly rate, but it will be worth it as they will be able to maximize your profit while you can enjoy the positive cash flow in your free time.

How to find a profitable investment property is the first thing you have to learn as a real estate investor in order to make money. The good news is that it is absolutely feasible and doable if you follow our 9 tips above.

nbsp;


Daniela Andreevska is Marketing Director at Mashvisor, a real estate analytics tool which helps real estate investors quickly find traditional and Airbnb investment properties. A research process thatrsquo;s usually 3 months now can take 15 minutes. We provide all the real estate information in easy to understand visualizations.


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USDA Loans: Theyre Not Just for Homes in the Boonies

If yoursquo;re saying to yourself, ldquo;But USDA loans are only for homes out in the sticks,rdquo; we get it. Itrsquo;s true that the loans were designed to help buyers in rural areas. But ldquo;ruralrdquo; is a broader term than you may know.nbsp;

On the USDA website, you can enter an address in the search bar and check if its eligible, or you can drop a pin in a location to find out whether USDA financing is available in the area. We tested a couple of locations with interesting results: Frisco, TX, currently the fastest-growing city in the nation, is not eligible for a USDA loan, but Prosper, just to the north and being called, ldquo;The next Frisco,rdquo; is. The popular Valencia, CA masterplan north of Los Angeles is not eligible, but areas of Santa Clarita, the city in which Valencia is located, are.nbsp;

For single-family homes, there are two main options for USDA loans:nbsp;

USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program

There is no down payment required for this type of loan and the low minimum credit score requirementmdash;scores as low as 620 make the cutmdash;make it even more attractive for buyers.nbsp;

Your income must fall within the ldquo;moderaterdquo; category, which is defined as an amount below 115 of the arearsquo;s median income. You can check by state and county here. Loans are for 15 or 30 years, and there is no limit to the amount of square footage on eligible properties.nbsp;

USDA Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans

This program is intended for low-income homebuyers. Down payment requirements are low, and subsidies can take the down payment to zero. ldquo;Payment assistance, also known as subsidy, is granted to eligible very low- and low-income homeowners who obtain a Single Family Housing Section 502 Direct Loan from USDA Rural Development,rdquo; said the USDA.nbsp;

ldquo;The borrower signs RD Form 3550-12, Subsidy Repayment Agreement, at loan closing. The agreement outlines the subsidy repayment terms, the requirement to repay all or a portion of the subsidy received over the life of the loan i.e., subsidy recapture, and how subsidy recapture is calculated.rdquo;

Loans are for 33 or 38 years, and income limits are strict; you can see individual county limits here. In addition, the USDA mandates that properties generally benbsp;2,000 square feet or less. The direct loan typically requires a 640 minimum credit score.


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Remodeling Stats and Spending Trends to Inform Your Improvement Plans

The study found that, ldquo;Spending on improvements and repairs to the US housing stock continued on an upward trend in 2017, setting a new high of 424 billion. This represents a 10 percent increase from 2015 and more than 50 percent gain from the low in 2010.rdquo; According to their analysis, 22 million homeowners across the country completed at least one home improvement project in 2017, the last year studied.

ldquo;The report, which charted changes in home renovation activity through 2017, attributed part of the increase to a shortage of new construction and a >

The primary ldquo;spendersrdquo; are spread among three main sources: Homeowners using surging equity to make improvements; others playing catch-up on deferred maintenance and much-needed updates; and ldquo;a significant increase in spending by rental property owners,rdquo; they said. It should be noted, however, that owner-occupied homes made up the largest segment of the remodeling market, ldquo;accounting for fully 55 percent of total expenditures in 2017.rdquo; Not surprisingly, the average spend was higher in places where price appreciation was the most robust.nbsp;

A fourth driver is the aging population, ldquo;given that households age 55 and over not only have higher homeownership rates, but many also have the resources to pay for renovations and replacements,rdquo; they said.nbsp;

Spending breakdown

The average expenditure on home improvement was rather modest; 40 percent of participants reported spending a total of less than 2,500, and almost 75 spent less than 10,000. ldquo;Even so, owners that completed large projects accounted for a significant share of the 233 billion homeowner improvement market in 2017,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Indeed, owners spending 50,000 or more contributed a third of national improvement outlays, while owners spending at least 25,000 contributed over half.rdquo;

Most popular home improvement categories

From a historical standpoint, homeowners typically allocate about 40 of their total expenditures on replacements and upgrades. In this study, the percentage was higher.nbsp;

ldquo;Coming out of the last downturn, however, the replacement share climbed to almost 50 percent, where it has remained,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The growing focus on interior and exterior replacements and system upgrades likely reflects necessary investments deferred during the recession. The aging of the housing stock is also a factor. With homebuilding activity still below historical averages, the median age of owner-occupied homes nationally rose to 39 years in 2017, up from 32 years in 2007 and 29 years in 1997.rdquo;nbsp;

Homeownersrsquo; desire for increased energy efficiency also plays a role. The report shows that ldquo;many common replacement projects are also directly >

Most common improvements

The most common project in 2017 was adding/replacing flooring, with 5.2 million homeowners, or 7 percent, reporting. The other most common projects included:

bull;nbsp;Adding or replacing plumbing fixturesnbsp;
bull;nbsp;New windows or doors
bull;nbsp;Built-in dishwashers or garbage disposals
bull;nbsp;New water heaters

ldquo;Nearly 1 in 4 homeowners had some type of replacement project in 2017 to update home components or systems, compared to 9 percent of owners making improvements to their lot or yard such as driveways or walkways, fencing or walls, sheds, landscaping, etc. and 8 percent making discretionary improvements including kitchen and bathroom remodeling, room additions, and porches or decks,rdquo; they said.

nbsp;


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Creating the Smart Home of Tomorrow, Today

Real estate agents should champion these facts.nbsp;

Real estate agents should apprise clients of these facts, so as to reveal how real estate appraisers consider these facts.

On a practical level, homeowners should invest in technology that is as substantive as it is stylish. To distinguish between the twomdash;to know the two are not always the samemdash;is to invest in those things people want and need.nbsp;

For example: Rather than buying an appliance that is expensive but no better than the cheapest product on the market, rather than wasting an egregious sum on an everyday itemmdash;something people use every day, for years if not decadesmdash;it pays to look beyond how a product looks and feels.nbsp;

Forget the logo, the badge, and the emblem. Put aside the symbols of wealth, including the status symbols that have no currency among the wise and frugal, because a homebuyer is in the market for real estate, not products worthy of a high-end estate sale.

The homebuyer has an eye for value, not personal validation.nbsp;

The real estate agent, in turn, has particularly good eyesight. He sees what others do not notice; she notices what others may never see, that a costly appliance does not justify the advertised cost of a home, that the cost of an appliance does not always reduce the costmdash;in food and powermdash;of running a home, that less costly products match or exceed the features of the costliest appliance.

Take, for instance, Fridge Eye: a durable, rechargeable via USB-C, water-resistant camera that transform a refrigerator or cupboard into a smart appliance. Install the camera and download the Fridge Eye app, and streamline food shopping instantly.

I mention Fridge Eye not to tout a product, but to promote a way to shop and live more productively. I mention this fact to change the facts, because the average U.S. family throws out about 2,275 in food annually.

We cannot afford such decadence. We cannot sustain so much waste amidst so much squalor. We cannot continue to fill our stomachs and starve our souls.

We can, however, assuage our concerns.nbsp;

If we concern ourselves with saving lives by saving money, if we have more money to feed the hungry and help the homeless, if we have the intelligence to know and the strength to do, if we have the smarts to apply ourselves, there will be no question about the value of smart appliances.

The expense is minimal, the total expenditure minor, the benefit of maximum importance.

The future awaits us.


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Falls on Stairs Fill up Emergency Rooms

Scary but true: there were more than 50,000 emergency visits for injuries from falls on stairs in Ontario in 2015, according to Ontario Injury Compass, which analyses and discusses injury issues in the province.

ldquo;In B.C., stairs were involved in approximately 8.2 per cent of all hospitalizations for fall->

And it gets worse: a 2011-2015 B.C. Vital Statistics report says, ldquo;On average, 38 people are killed every year in B.C. by falling on stairs.rdquo;

Whorsquo;s at risk? The young and the old are most prone to stair->

Whether itrsquo;s a long flight of stairs or just a step or two, falls happen.
There are three main contributing factors to why people fall on or from stairs. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. CMHC says they are environmental factors such as poor design, construction and maintenance; health factors, for example loss of balance, weakness or vision problems; and behavioural factors including wearing unsuitable footwear or carrying something that obstructs vision when using the stairs.

How do you prevent stair->

- Experts recommend removing reading glasses when travelling up or down stairs. They also recommend caution when wearing bifocals or progressive eyeglasses.

- Install handrails. CMHC says occupational therapists recommend handrails be installed on all staircases, even if they have three steps or less. Have at least one handrail. Two is even better. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says, ldquo;You should be able to run your hand smoothly along the entire length without having to adjust your grip.rdquo;

- Use handrails: Neglecting to use your handrails defeats the purpose of having them. Teach children to navigate stairs using the handrail so they can learn good habits early.

- Proper lighting is crucial, especially for people with vision problems. Having a light switch at the top and bottom means stairs can be well lit whether a user is travelling up or down.

- Make sure the edges of the steps are visible. CMHC recommends painting a contrasting colour on the edges of wooden or concrete steps, or on the top and bottom steps. Special strips that can enhance the visibility of each step are also recommended.

- Wearing proper footwear helps reduce the chance of falling on the stairs. Heels may get caught on the edge of a step, says the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. ldquo;Such mishaps are a routine cause of twisted ankles, sprained knees or more serious injuries incurred by a total fall.rdquo; Slippers that are loose or slip-on footwear is also not recommended.

- Pay attention when yoursquo;re using the stairs. This is especially important when yoursquo;re not familiar with the stairs or the staircase has uneven or narrower steps, such as those on a circular staircase.

- Rubber, metal or slip-resistant paint can help reduce the slipping risk.

- Make sure your stairs are in good repair and ensure stair treads are non-slip and are properly fastened.

- Consult an occupational therapist for advice about changes that can be made to the home to reduce the risk of falling on stairs, CMHC says.nbsp;ldquo;Simple modifications can be made to increase the safety of stairs, for example, adding a second handrail or installing visual contrast strips at the edge of stairs for easier visual detection.rdquo;

- Use baby safety gates at the top and bottom to keep very young children off of the stairs.

- Ensure stairs are kept clear of clutter and other tripping hazards.

- Do not carry bulky objects that block your vision.

- If yoursquo;re building or renovating a home, ensure stairs are built to code, with uniform steps. Handrails should be on both sides and continue one foot past the top and the bottom of the staircase, according to Fall Prevention Programming, a book by V. Scott.

- If stairs are too much of a challenge, install a stair lift or elevator.

- The majority of stairway falls result from a loss of balance, so be aware and take precautions.

- Experts also suggest removing loose carpets or throw rugs from the stairway landing.

The World Health Organization says falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injuries worldwide after road traffic crashes.

ldquo;Prevention starts by keeping in mind that there are risks in using stairs. Good planning and simple strategies can help prevent falls and injuries,rdquo; says CMHC.


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Americans Obsession With Murder Spurs Intriguing New Design Show

But is there a cap? Do we just want to see and watch and read about murder, or does it go further? How do you feel about buying a house where a murder was committed?

Thatrsquo;s the question new mobile streaming platformnbsp;Quibi is posing. When the platform launches in April 2020, it will offer a new show featuring renovations of some of the countryrsquo;s most ldquo;infamousrdquo; homes. The show will partner builders and decorators with forensic specialists and spiritual healers, with the goal of transforming both the ldquo;homersquo;s physical appearance but also its spiritual energy,rdquo; said Inman. ldquo;Are you a fan ofnbsp;fixer-upper shows,nbsp;haunted or otherwise creepynbsp;houses and true crime TV? Then you will love the latest home renovation show:nbsp;Murder House Flip. ldquo;Thinknbsp;Flip or Flop, with a sordid, and in some cases, paranormal, twist.

Over the years, there have been many stories of people buying ldquo;murder houses,rdquo; perhaps out of morbid curiosity, but also because, well, you might just be able to find a bargain.nbsp;

ldquo;Homes where a high-profile crime or murder occurred can sell for as much as 10-25 under market ratemdash;an enticing invitation for intrepid bargain hunters,rdquo; said The Hustle. ldquo;The mere presence of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmerrsquo;s Milwaukee apartment building depressed the value of surrounding homes for years, until a community development group bought it at a premium just to demolish it.rdquo;

In 2016, tech entrepreneur Braden Pollock purchased the ldquo;Los Feliz Murder Mansion,rdquo; where Dr. Harold Pe>

Most recently, Zac Bagans, actor, author, and host of the Travel Channelrsquo;s Ghost Adventures, purchased the Charles Manson murder housemdash;the luxury L.A. residence where Lenonbsp;andnbsp;Rosemary LaBianca were slaughtered by Mansonrsquo;s followers in 1969.

ldquo;Its unclear if the house is haunted, or filled with energy from the brutal murders, but Bagans is ready to find out,rdquo; said Newsweek. ldquo;He shared a story of dogs disappearing from the property, and said that past tenants have been spooked silly by seeming paranormal encounters. This isnt Bagans first interaction with objects or places >

Bagans may take his interest to a more detailed level than the average American, but we predict hersquo;ll be in good company watching Murder House Flip when it premieres next year.

nbsp;


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Home Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth Even More Moolah

Replace the Windows

Poorly insulated, drafty, or cheap windows can bring down the value of a home like nothing else. Todays discerning home buyers expect double or triple pane windows with elements like Argon gas, low-e coatings, and all the other elements that make good-quality windows look good and function well. According to money.com, homeowners who replace the windows in their homes get a 73 return on investment when they end up selling their home.

Replace the Roof

A damaged or faulty roof is one of the biggest reasons that homeowners have to hand over money to buyers during the buying process. Inspections frequently turn up issues with cracked shingles, holes, old tiles and all the other roof damage that can put your house at risk. A faulty roof not only makes the outside of the house look bad, but it also raises the risk for damage inside your house.

Do a Minor Bathroom Renovation

Bathroom renos can often take quite a bit of money. If you dont have a lot of money, you can still do a renovation that not only looks good but offers a great return on your investment. Doing something like replacing old, dingy tile or adding a new bathtub can completely change how the bathroom looks. If your tile floor has seen better days, consider replacing it with high-end vinyl flooring or adding a heating element. With small changes like these, you could see as much as a 100 return on your investment when you sell, making these moves a good choice.

Do a Little Kitchen Reno as Well

The same way that a small bathroom renovation can make a huge difference is the same way that a small kitchen renovation can make a huge difference. Like a bathroom, a full kitchen reno can cost well over 100,000, something that you may or may not have. If you have it, go for it. If you dont have it, you can still make small changes that will make a huge difference and how your kitchen is perceived by buyers. When we say "small kitchen renovation", were talking about things like replacing the cabinet doors, replacing the apron on a farmhouse sink or redoing your countertops. One of the easiest things that you can do that will make it look like you have a brand new kitchen is to replace your sink and faucet. Simply upgrading those two elements can create a visual transformation that is a sight to behold. Small changes like these can result in a more that 80 return on investment, according to Nerdwallet.

Replace Your Front Door

Theres nothing like a shabby, broken-down front door to negatively influence a potential buyers opinion of your home. No matter how good the inside of your house looks, that shabby front door will always be the first impression. The buyer may even go so far as to assume that because the front door is shabby, the rest of the home is secretly shabby, even if it looks good Its in your best interest to replace that front door as soon as you can. Buying a good front door will not only make your home look good, but it will give you as much as an 85 return on investment, according to Consumer Affairs.

By following the above home reno tips, youll not only be enjoying the way your home looks. Youll also feel confident that youve increased the value of your home as well.


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First Time Home Buyers: Your Six Month Plan

Herersquo;s what to do financially when yoursquo;ve decided to stop renting and start owning.

Month 1:

Yoursquo;re still sort of in the exploratory phase but yoursquo;re still committed on buying your first home. Yet buying a home isnrsquo;t something you should do on your own, especially as it >

Month 2:

Now itrsquo;s time to get some referrals for financing. You can get them from your selected real estate agent, friends and family or your financial planner or CPA if you have one. Once you make your choice about where yoursquo;re going to get your first mortgage, yoursquo;ll then speak with your loan officer over the phone or at the place of business. This is the prequalification stage. After a >

Month 3:

Itrsquo;s getting closer. But now itrsquo;s time to submit a loan application to your loan officer. Most often this is done online but your loan officer might offer to come to your home or place of business and take the loan application face to face. Yoursquo;ll sign a list of documents, most importantly your loan application and authorization forms allowing the lender to inquire about your employment and credit history. Your loan officer will electronically submit your application to an automated underwriting system which will, within a matter of moments, provide a list of items needed to get your loan to the full approval state. You will then have a preapproval letter in hand. Itrsquo;s time to submit copies of your pay check stubs, bank statements and tax returns if needed.

Month 4:

Your loan officer told you not to make any sudden changes about your work, employment or make any >

Month 5:

By now yoursquo;ve likely looked at your fair share of homes and you may very well be in a position to make an offer. You should always keep in close contact with your loan officer as well. Interest rates move over time and itrsquo;s possible that rates have gone up which effectively lowers the amount you can qualify for. Conversely, rates may have gone down and your buying power received a boost.

Month 6:

Yoursquo;ve found a home. Wheels begin to spin rather quickly after the contract has been signed. Your lender will need an appraisal and many lenders ask for money to pay for an appraisal upfront. Your loan will be reviewed one more time and any expired documentation will need to be updated. Credit documents such as a credit report, pay stubs and bank statements need to be no more than 30 days old when itrsquo;s time to fund the mortgage. Once your loan has received full approval and yoursquo;ve met all your loan conditions, loan papers are orders. At your closing, you will sign a host of closing documents and have your down payment if needed and closing cost money wired to the settlement agent. After signing, the lender does one more review of your file, making sure all the documents have been properly signed. Yoursquo;re now a first time home owner.


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The Many Steps You Can Take to Start Saving For Your First Home

Find Out How Much You Should Save

Many potential first time home buyers do not know how much they need to save in order to pay for a home. Now is the time to find out. In general, mortgage lenders expect all buyers to have at least ten percent in savings. A good mortgage will typically account for no more than a third of the buyers take home income. Its also important to keep in mind that lenders also do not want to see that youre carrying much debt. Now is the time to think about how to accomplish other goals such as paying off any credit card debt and student loans.

Think About Your Time Frame

Buying a first home can take time. Its good to start the process of thinking about it right now. Set up a short time and long term time frame. The short term should include thinking about your present housing situation and where it may fall short. Over the long term, it should include looking at potential neighborhoods in person. Stroll areas that appeal to you directly. Go to open houses and see whats on offer. Open houses let you see houses directly and examine them from attic to basement in great detail. Know where you want to be six months from now, a year from now and five years out.

Create a Streamlined Budget

Now is the time to create a streamlined budget. You can still travel now and then, however, its also important to pay close attention to all the little details that will add up over time. Avoid spending money you dont need. Make coffee at home rather than buying it on the way to work. Buying items like toilet paper in bulk can save money. The same is true of other changes. Put off buying that second car. Continue using your current model. Think about using public transportation to get to work or take a walk there and save on the fares.

Bank Any Windfall

If theres an unexpected windfall, its best to bank it rather than spend it. If you file for the Earned Income Tax Credit, take the money thats being deposited in your account and keep it right there. The same is true of any and all raises as well as an inheritance, a bonus check or any other funds that are not needed right now. Designate them as part of your home down payment plan by putting them into a separate account designed solely for this purpose.

Be Flexible

While working hard and saving money for a down payment are good, keep in mind that life may have other plans. You may face other bills such as car payments, health issues or a sudden layoff. Its crucial to have an emergency fund on hand that youve built up in advance. This will make sure you can meet such expenses with ease. Any sudden financial issue should also not push you away from your ultimate goal. Your goal is to keep saving up enough money for the kind of first home youd like to live in going forward.

Taking the long view is crucial. Saving up enough money for a first home can take lots of time. You should never lose sight of what youll get in turn. Youll have a first home where you can set down roots and enjoy life.

nbsp;


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Clever and Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Use Less Electricity

One of the easiest ways to lower your carbon output is to use less electricity. You can easily start by turning off lights when youre not in a room and unplugging devices when you are not using them. You may think that turning off your devices is enough, but electronics like your television still use electricity even when switched off. You can also save power by running your air conditioner and heater less and hanging your clothes on the line instead of using the dryer.

Use Solar Power

If you really want to use less electricity, consider installing solar panels. These panels can drastically reduce the amount of electricity you use. While there is a cost associated with solar panels, you will eventually save money on your electric bill. You can also easily learn how to clean solar panels, so upkeep is minimal.

Reduce the Amount of Meat You Eat - or Go Vegetarian

The meat industry produces more carbon emissions than any other industry, so reducing the amount of meat you eat can help to lower your carbon footprint. Red meat is the worst offender, so if you are not ready to give up all meat for good, consider eating less red meat and you will still make an impact.

Walk When You Can

Fossil fuels are another major cause of carbon dioxide emissions, so the less you can drive, the better. If you live close enough to your work, shopping and restaurants, it is easy for you to walk or ride your bike. As an added benefit, you will be getting in some extra exercise while you are helping the environment. For those times you have to use a car, make sure your car is well-maintained with proper oil changes and tires with the right amount of air pressure. A well-maintained vehicle uses less fuel. If you are in the market for a new car, consider an electric car or a hybrid.

Use Less Water

Using less water is important for many reasons. It can reduce your carbon footprint, and, as water is a finite resource, it is important to conserve it. There are many ways that you can conserve water. Avoid watering your lawn, take shorter showers and turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Surprisingly, using your dishwasher actually uses less water than washing dishes in the sink.

Create Less Waste

There are many ways to avoid waste in your everyday life. Look for ways to reuse things you may throw away, such as cardboard boxes. Use fabric bags instead of paper or plastic bags to carry your shopping. Try to avoid buying large amounts of "stuff" that you do not need. When possible, buy items that are used.

Plant a Garden

The agriculture industry has a huge carbon footprint. By growing your own food, you can help reduce carbon emissions. Growing your own fruits and vegetables has the added benefit of encouraging you to eat healthier. If growing a garden is not an option for you, you can still make an impact by buying foods that are locally grown.

Climate change and global warming are important issues that we as a society must address. While you may think that as an individual there is little you can do to help or make a difference, if everyone would follow the simple steps listed above, we could greatly reduce carbon emissions and help slow down global warming.


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A Checklist for the New Homeowner

1. Notify the Post Office and the Bank

The first thing that you should do is make sure that you contact the post office and make sure that theyrsquo;re aware of the change. All you have to do for this is fill out a change-of-address form. Head into the closest Post Office and fill out the form. Then, call your banks and make them aware of the change as well. This would mean that you should also change your billing address for credit cards and for any online shipping like Amazon.

2. Switch Your Utilities and Services

Step two is just as easy. After yoursquo;ve taken care of the important things with the Post Office and the bank, call your utilities to let them know that yoursquo;ve switched addresses. This will stop you from receiving any bills from your old address which is important if yoursquo;re renting it out and ensure that you are receiving the bills for your current address. If you had any pest control services, lawn care, or any other service performed on your old home, give them a call and make sure that they know yoursquo;ve moved. Hopefully, they can still service in your new area and the change will be quick and easy.

3. Make Sure Yoursquo;re Safe

Once most of the finances are taken care of, itrsquo;s time to make sure that yoursquo;re as safe as possible. If yoursquo;re buying a home from someone else, itrsquo;s possible that they still have copies of the keys used for the house. To be safe, contact a locksmith and get all of the keys remade and changed. Change all the codes for the home and garage as well. Then, head inside and make sure that all of the safety features of the home are working. This means checking the Carbon Monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers. It doesnrsquo;t hurt to hire someone to come out to double check the home for mold or termites either this should have been done before the house was put up for sale.

4. Fulfill Promises to Your Family

Things are going to feel weird in the new home for a couple days. The fastest way to move in and get settled is by making the home feel like itrsquo;s really home. If there was anything that you sacrificed to the get the new home, make plans with your family to get it. For example, if all your kids wanted was a new pool but the house didnrsquo;t have one, create a financial plan to get there and think it out step by step. Start by researching for a company that does custom pools in nbsp;your city.. Then, work with the company to create a financial plan to put in the pool. In order to help your children best adjust to the idea of moving to a new place, make sure that yoursquo;re honest with them the entire process.

5. Review the HOA Rules

If yoursquo;ve purchased a home in an HOA area, make sure that you review the rules a few extra times. Hopefully, you already know what to expect from your HOA, but reviewing the rules will help ease any stress while yoursquo;re figuring out the area. The Home Owners Association usually has very strict rules for what you can and canrsquo;t have outside in the area. They can also be strict about the upkeep of a property and the >

After yoursquo;ve taken care of the important things, go ahead and do the fun steps. Go out and meet your neighbors, explore the area, decorate the inside of the home, and >

nbsp;


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Are You Ready for Some Football? Move to One of These Top NFL Cities

Yes, for some people, there is no greater motivator to move to a city than whether or not therersquo;s an NFL team to root for, and the chances of them actually ending up in the Super Bowl. Now that the new NFL season has started, wersquo;re taking a look at the best places to live for football fans.nbsp;

We used WalletHubrsquo;s study of the Best and Worst Cities for Football Fans, which compared more than the 240 U.S. cities with at least one professional football team or college, but that didnrsquo;t rate on our list across 21 key metrics, as our base. Then we weaved in some additional info about each of the top 4 cities on their list. Is one of these cities a touchdown? Depends on what yoursquo;re looking for.nbsp;

No. 1 Pittsburgh

WalletHub has Pittsburgh at the top of their list. The city came in third for their best-performing team metric, was fourth for most accessible stadium, and tied with Green Bay for most engaged fans. ldquo;The six Super Bowl titles for the Steelers are the most for any NFL franchise,rdquo; said CheatSheet. A list of the teamrsquo;snbsp;greatestnbsp;players includes a fair share of the NFLrsquo;s best all-time players. Throw in the devotednbsp;fans,rdquo; and itrsquo;s no wonder Pittsburgh leads the pack.

So is this a great place to move? Livability thinks so. They ranked the city No. 8 on their new list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live in America. ldquo;The Burgh scored high in the studyrsquo;s economy category, as well as infrastructure,rdquo; said CBS Pittsburgh. ldquo;Editors also say that Pittsburgh has seen an influx of young people and tech companies in recent yearshellip;with local universities including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh driving innovation and nurturing talent. Editors also talked about Pittsburghrsquo;s climate, home values, brewers, dream jobs and weather.rdquo;

No. 2 Boston

Not surprisingly, Boston is at the top of WalletHubrsquo;s best-performing NFL city list, and is ranked No. 3 for the most engaged NFL fans. ldquo;Boston College and Boston University play football within the city limits, and Harvard plays just across the Charles River in Cambridge,rdquo; said CheatSheet. ldquo;But college football isnrsquo;t why Boston makes the list. It has a little something to do with the New England Patriots and their five Super Bowl titles. Those [six] championships and the legions of fans who live and die with the Patriots will keep Boston high on the list of top football towns for a long time to come.rdquo;

U.S. News amp; World Report has Boston ranked No. 27 on its national list ofnbsp;Best Places to Live and No. 25 innbsp;Best Places to Retire. ldquo;Boston often feels like a small town with all the perks of city life,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The metro area features a diverse culinary scene, access to the cultural institutions, and proximity to world->

The downside? ldquo;Boston is a notoriously expensive metro area. If you are looking to purchase a home in Boston, prices can vary drastically based on the neighborhood, though they tend to be higher than the national median.rdquo;

No. 3 Green Baynbsp;

This city has fervent fans, as evidenced by their No. 1 ranking in a tie for most engaged fans in the WalletHub study. Green Bay also ranked first for most accessible stadium. ldquo;The Green Bay Packers are the No. 1 reason people in northern Wisconsin leave the house in autumn and early winter,rdquo; said CheatSheet. ldquo;OK, that might be stretching the truth, but not by much. At least the team givesnbsp;Packers fansnbsp;something worth watching. Their topnbsp;quarterbacksnbsp;are among the best to ever play the game. The team has four Super Bowl titles, and itrsquo;s always a contender to win another one.rdquo;

Green Bayrsquo;s median household income is a bit higher than the state and U.S. median, but rising home prices have taken a bite out of affordability. Prices are up in the hot Green Bay market by more than 15 over last year, and many homes get multiple offers and sell for over asking price. Still, the average sales price is only 190,000mdash;significantly more attainable than homes in other parts of the country.

No. 4 Dallas

Dallas has five Super Bowl titles and a loud and proud legion of fans across the country and around the world. WalletHub has the city ranked as the No. 4 best-performing NFL team. ldquo;Theyrsquo;re called Americarsquo;s Team for a reason, and the Super Bowls have something to do with it,rdquo; said CheatSheet. ldquo;Theyrsquo;ve been better at crushing fansrsquo;nbsp;dreamsnbsp;recently, but their legacy of success makes Dallas a great football city.

Dallas has been growing at a rapid rate for several years and shows no sign of slowing. The job market is strong, and, while home prices have risen alongside population gains, transplants from places like New York, California, Seattle, or Chicago will be surprised at the >

nbsp;


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How Lenders View Retirement Income

Social security is a given. You can apply for social security up to three months before you turn 62. However, if you wait until 65 your monthly social security income will be higher. There are arguments on both sides as when to take social security, so itrsquo;s important that you have a discussion with your spouse and financial planner. And yes, social security income is considered taxable income.

Dividend income and interest come from savings and retirement accounts. Therersquo;s a special section on the loan application labeled ldquo;Interest and Dividend.rdquo; As it >

Borrowers will need to provide the last two years of federal income tax returns showing the amount of interest income received during that time frame. Lenders will average those two years together and then divide by 24 months to arrive at a qualifying amount. At the same time, lenders must also make a general determination that the interest income will continue into the future. Itrsquo;s a judgment call but lenders typically want to be assured the income will continue for at least three years. Borrowers may also be asked to provide copies of statements from these accounts showing the account balances issuing interest as well as the terms of the amounts being paid. Itrsquo;s important to show that the accounts providingnbsp;interest payments are sizable enough to make these payments without directly withdrawing from the account balance. This would reduce monthly interest income.

Dividend payments are a bit trickier because they may not come on a regular enough basis where borrowers can use the dividend payments to service debt and monthly expenses. If a dividend payment comes once per year, it wonrsquo;t be available year-round for debt service. For dividend payments that come quarterly, it can be assumed the funds will be available to help pay the bills in retirement. As with any other type of income, there needs to be at least a two-year history of receiving it and the lender makes an internal determination the income will continue into the future for at least three years.

A 401k account will also pay dividends. Borrowers should be prepared to fully document the terms and payouts of a 401k account, when the borrowers expect to withdraw funds from the retirement account and if there are enough funds available to help service any type of monthly debt.

In essence, any income outside of social security needs to have a history prove the likelihood of continuance well into the future. Even though someone is receiving some type of retirement income, therersquo;s the possibility it canrsquo;t be counted toward qualifying income. For this, yoursquo;ll need to speak directly with an experienced loan officer.


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Reasons to Power Wash Your Home Before Putting It On the Market

Soft wash pressure washing dramatically improves the overall curb appeal of your home. Safely yet adequately cleaning away dirt, mold, mildew, and other debris will make your property look brand new. You dont have to stick with just your homes exterior either. Pressure washing decks, patios, driveways, walkways, fencing, roofing, and everything else you can see is a guaranteed way to increase your property value and sell your home faster.

Power Washing Makes Your Home Stand Out Against the Rest

Chances are, there are several homes for sale in the city or town that you live in. When people start talking with a realtor to find their next home, they will explore all of the properties within the area they have an interest in. By having a professional pressure washing company come in and properly clean away years of dirt and other blemishes, your property will look like it was just resided or had a fresh paint job.nbsp;

The draw for you is that its a lot less expensive than actually completing one of the more significant projects. You might think that your homes exterior needs to be replaced because youve been looking at all the problem areas for so long. However, you might be surprised to find out that what you thought needed to be updated only needed a proper power washing.

Someone cruising around looking at houses for sale will notice whether or not your property has been taken care of. People want to have the feeling that theyre getting something brand new even if it isnt. Pressure washing your home gives the look and feel of a just-built home for a fraction of the cost.

Step out into the street or drive by your house and take a look at it in its current condition. Is it something that you would get a good first impression looking at? If you havent had power washing done within the past year or so, the answer is likely no. Get it pressure washed by a trusted company, and you might find yourself reconsidering even selling it in the first place because it will look so stunning.

Going Beyond Pressure Washing Your House

When you think of pressure washing your house, do you only think about siding, shutters, and maybe windows? While thats what plenty of homeowners will have done regularly by a power washing company, there are so many more options that are going to work in your favor.

A pressure washing company that has the proper tools, equipment, and experience will be able to offer you other cleaning services for your home pre-sale that will make it look even better. Some of the other features you should think about having professionally power washed include:

bull; Decks
bull; Patios
bull; Driveways
bull; Sidewalks
bull; Roofing
bull; Gutters

This information was given to us by a local Michigan pressure washing company called ProClean Pressure Washing West Bloomfield. The more dirt, mold, debris, salt, algae, and other blemishes you can wash away, the more attractive your house will be to those driving by. Its a small investment that you can make now. It comes with a high probability youll get a 100 return on your initial cost because of how great your house looks.

Power Washing Before Inspection

Unless someone walks up and offers you an all-cash payment for your home, you will be seeing a lending house inspector at some point during the sale process. Banks and mortgage companies have to go out to the location to ensure the money they are borrowing to a homeowner is worth it.nbsp;

By having your professional power washing done before the inspector gets there, it will cut down on the amount of time it takes them to go over your property thoroughly. Not only that, but they will be able to easily see that the siding, roof, windows, and other surfaces that have been washed are in good condition.nbsp;

When there is dirt or debris stuck to these areas, they have to take the time to do a closer inspection. If you want to sell quickly without a lot of questions being asked, professional power washing is one of the most effective ways to reach that goal.

Power Wash the Outside to Improve the Inside

Experts suggest that serious homebuyers are more attracted to homes that have an open and well-lit interior. Before you power wash your home, you might not even realize that the natural light that was once coming in has been obstructed. Time passes, and dirt and grime on the windows and the rest of your homes exterior build up.nbsp;

After you have your favorite pressure washing company show up and do the cleaning of your homes exterior, the interior will shine a lot more brightly. The debris that was blocking the sunlight from coming in has been blasted away. Afterward, youre left with a much cleaner and fresher environment that buyers look for.

Well-Maintained Homes Sell Faster

People dont want to buy someone elses problem. If you lived in your house for 20 years and never took care of the power washing of the roof, siding, or other surfaces, expect buyers to keep driving on by. They dont want to have to do everything that you neglected for so long to get their new house livable.nbsp;

After pressure washing is complete, your home instantly looks like its been taken care of. Even if you didnt replace the windows or fix the roof, just by it being cleaner, the problem areas arent as noticeable. People that see a clean house on the outside will automatically believe that everything on the inside was taken care of the way it was supposed to be as well.

There are people out there that look for homes that need a little bit of work so that they can get it at a lower price. If you arent worried about how much money youll get for the sale of your home, then go ahead and sell it as-is. If you want to get the most out of your investment, then proper professional power washing is a no-brainer.nbsp;

Make sure to request pressure cleaning of your siding, windows, roof, gutters, driveway, sidewalks, and other surfaces when you call a power washing company near you. It will increase your chances of getting that higher asking price faster.

nbsp;


Nate Knebl of ProClean Pressure Washing West Bloomfield has been offering his wide range of exterior cleaning services through Michigan for over 15 years. Over the years he has earned himself a 5 star reputation and consistently gets referrals from clients looking for his spotless cleans. He stays in touch with the industry and is always on the cutting edge.


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Updated: Friday, September 20, 2019

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