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How to Prepare for Emergencies in Your New Home (Part 2)

by Melissa Dierks

30 May, 2014

How to Prepare for Emergencies in Your New HomeIn a new home or neighborhood, preparing for emergencies in advance might just save you or your family member’s life. In Part 2, we cover the basics for inside your house.

Know your home:

Learn how to turn off gas, electrical and water lines in the event a disaster damages power lines near your home. Memorize the easiest exits from all rooms in your home. Keep hallways and doorways clear of clutter on a regular basis to avoid family members being trapped, confused, or injured if the power goes out or during an emergency evacuation.

Build A Kit

Create and maintain an emergency kit and keep your kit in an accessible place.

  • Water: Keep at least a 3-day supply of water for everyone in your family. This means 1 gallon of water, per person, each day.
    Ready.gov advises adding a small amount of household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper to your kit. “When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color-safe or bleaches with added cleaners.”
  • Medicine: Keep a 7+ day supply of any medicine your family needs.
  • Food: Keep a supply of non-perishable food that you can make easily.
  • Tools: Buy an extra tool set. Add any additional gear you may need specific to your emergency zone. Keep several flashlights, matches, a camera, whistle, dust masks, can opener and a map of the local area. Add to your set plenty of batteries (any type you need for a radio, hearing aids, cordless power supply, flashlights, etc.).
  • Clothing and Comfort: Prepare a 3+ day supply of varying types of clothing for each person in your family. Keep and emergency blanket and personal sanitation wipes and towels in the kit.
  • Radio: invest in a battery operated or hand-crank radio so you can stay informed.
  • Contacts: Buy an emergency cell phone (a pre-paid one works fine), keep it charged, and with your kit—keep a charger in the kit that you do not remove. Put all your emergency contacts in the phone AND in a notebook in the kit.
  • Paperwork: If possible, prepare copies of all important documents for you and your family.
  • Situation Specific: Remember to adjust the content of this kit for your situation and your family. If you have babies, elderly family members, or pets, if you live in the city or the country, in a single-family home or a multi-unit building the items you need for your kit will vary. Make sure you know what you need.
  • Pets: Many shelters cannot accommodate pets. Find pet-friendly shelters in advance and assemble a pet-specific kit to keep your “best friend” safe.

Involve Your Family

Do not wait until emergency strikes to make sure your family knows what to do. You might be prepared, but if the whole family is not on board it can be a struggle to keep everyone safe. Walk your children through the emergency process you design and make sure they have an understandable instruction manual to reference (we suggest images like on airplanes) if you are not home and they need to act. Post the instructions on the fridge, in the bathroom and on the interior of their bedroom door. Make sure they know exactly how to reach you and emergency services.

Prepare well in advance for important documents or treasured photos. An option is to store images of them on a cloud server accessible from any computer. That way, you are not tempted to waste time searching for them when you need to leave your home.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Greening an Older Home

by Melissa Dierks

30 May, 2014

Greening an Older HomeYour budget dictates that you buy an older home, but your heart wants that home to be environmentally responsible, so what do you do? Here are some ideas for making any home greener. If you plan for these in advance of your purchase, you might just lower your bottom line.

Apply for an energy-efficient mortgage that includes the cost of energy efficient upgrades. You will be required to have an energy audit by an energy rater that reports recommendations for energy efficient upgrades. The potential upgrades include improved insulation levels, energy efficient windows, whole-home systems like heating and cooling, and air leakage. Qualifications for energy-efficient mortgages may include certification that after the improvements the home is more energy efficient and that the upgrades will save more money than is being borrowed to implement them over time.

Other energy-efficient upgrades that save both energy and money include both expensive, big-ticket items and simple DIY projects.

Big Ticket Items:

Add a geothermal heat pump, residential wind turbine, solar energy system, or fuel cell for and get a federal tax credit as well as ongoing savings.

Energy-efficient replacement windows dramatically mitigate the cost of heating and cooling. Not only do they reduce heating and cooling bills, they reduce power consumption during peak load times. Green windows improve personal comfort by reducing drafts and hot spots—areas that heat up due to direct sunlight.

Replace the roof with an energy efficient roof. New roofing materials, designed to drastically reduce household energy use, can minimize greenhouse gas emissions, lower utility bills, and beautify hour home. Some options are cool roofs made of materials that reflect sunlight and heat away from the home. In warmer climates, reflecting away 65 percent of the thermal heat helps keep your home cooler and puts less stress on your cooling system. Low-sloped roofs may benefit from the application of a cool coating or single-ply membrane, while steep-sloped roofs benefit from cool-colored tiles or metal that contains reflective pigments. A more extreme change is a green roof: a roof garden or mini-ecosystem covering an existing roof. Green roofs insulate in colder weather, absorb rainfall, which improves rainwater management, and reduces air pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen.

Energy star rated windows and roofing materials also may qualify for both federal tax rebates and state sales-tax exemptions, or credits or rebates through local energy providers.

Budget-Conscious Items:

Upgrade your appliances to more efficient models and qualify for a rebate through your local energy provider. Appliances that may qualify include refrigerators and dryers, pool pumps, portable room air conditioners, whole-house fans, evaporative coolers, and water heaters.

DIY Projects that Won’t Break the Budget:

If you’re handy or willing to put in some hard work, there are energy efficient projects that are both inexpensive and simple to implement. DIY projects include installing aerators on faucets, replacing weatherstripping, changing out lightbulbs for energy efficient ones, or just simply cleaning your refrigerator’s coils.

If your home has can lights, consider getting a retrofit kit that seals the “can” and improves insulation. You can even change your can lights to more attractive pendants or LED versions to get the most bang for your buck.

Change out your existing ceiling light fixtures for a smart ceiling fan. A “smart” fan is not just well dressed and good-looking, it can reduce heating and cooling costs, sense unoccupied rooms and turn itself off when no one’s around. Just look for the Energy Star rating and install it as directed.

Install a programmable thermostat. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat learns your schedule, can program itself, is controllable with your phone, and might lower heating and cooling bills as much as 20 percent. Other options include adding a tube-style skylight and putting a clothesline in the back yard to reduce dryer use.

From Hi-Tech Race Car to Hi-Tech Home

by Melissa Dierks

30 May, 2014

From Hi-Tech Race Car to Hi-Tech HomeNecessity drives innovation. Last week, quadriplegic former Indy 500 driver, Sam Schmidt drove a modified Corvette around the Indianapolis Speedway by moving his head and biting down with his teeth. Arrow Electronics, a medical and consumer electronics company used existing technology in novel ways to develop this Semi-Autonomous Motorcar (SAM).

It’s not just racecars getting hi-tech treatment. A couple weeks ago, the Nod Gesture Control Ring entered the market. Nod is a hi-tech gadget geared to make your life easier. The ring—designed for wearing on the index finger—allows for continuous control of all your smart devices including phones and tablets, watches, Google Glass, televisions and computers, and even your home’s appliances with a wave of your hand through the air. It comes in 12 ring sizes and works for both right- and left-handed users.

But Wait, There’s More…

Less esoteric devices for home use hit stores earlier this year. These include a sensor to adjust your watering schedule like the Skydrop Sprinkler Controller, that senses fluctuations in moisture and precipitation, and adjusts when and how long your sprinklers run. On the other hand, consider a device that feeds and waters your pets from your smartphone, like the Petnet; no more worrying about overfeeding, and the device sends updates and reminders to your phone too.

You may not want Big Brother looking over your shoulder, but maybe you need Sense Mother to keep you on track. Sense Mother’s “Cookies” sensors attach to almost anything in your home and learn your family’s habits and behaviors. You can train the devices to remind you to drink enough water, or if you leave the refrigerator door open too long. It will tell you if your kids need to brush their teeth longer and let you know you forgot to water the plants.

Home Intelligence Devices

Belkin’s WeMo devices work with your home electronics and even your outlets, sockets and switches. Connecting through IFTTT (if this then that) Web technology, WeMo controls turning lights on and off, and measures and monitors energy consumption. It adjusts for the weather, responds to sports scores, and reacts to pretty much any other scenario you can create for it. It interfaces with Google Calendar, Evernote, Facebook, Twitter, and your home’s smart security system so if someone enters your home, WeMo can tweet you. You no longer have to pay for a cook, just let WeMo turn your oven or slow cooker on and offer your family perfectly cooked meals. Use its motion technology to warm (or cool) rooms as you enter them. The WeMo App, for your smartphone or tablet, works over Wi-Fi and 3G/4G.

Tech Just for the Kitchen

More narrowly focused devices make life in the kitchen easier. Consider the Egg Minder if you worry about salmonella, or the Prep Pad to keep your macronutrient levels just right. The GE Brillion app for your Android or iPhone works with several GE Profile wall ovens to enable remote cooking from turn-on and preheating to temperature changes and checking your roast’s internal temperature.

Walk in the door from work with dinner DONE!

Complements of Virtual Results

Use Memorial Day Sales to Your Home’s Advantage!

by Melissa Dierks

23 May, 2014

Memorial Day SalesKeeping your home comfortable and up-to-date seems like an expensive endeavor. With trends changing so fast, our wallets can hardly keep up! Lucky for us, Memorial Day is just around the corner. If you shop smart at the sales this holiday you can give your home the facelift you desire.

5 Simple and Affordable Options to Look for Deals on This Holiday:

1. Curtains: For bathrooms, bedrooms, or living rooms, a simple curtain change can do wonders to the look of your room. Memorial Day is great for getting those curtains you have been lusting after for months, on clearance! Look for great deals on trending summer patterns. If you shop early and wisely, you can update multiple rooms in your home by making the one simple change.

2. Couch and Chair Covers: Want to lighten your furniture for summer? Look for great couch covers to change up your look and create a blank canvas for new colors and patterns. Try out upholstery changes in your dining room by purchasing chair covers with patterns and colors similar to upholstery changes you might be considering.

3. Throw Pillows and Blankets: Experiment with new colors and patterns without breaking your budget or making big changes to your home using pillows and throws. Find new styles to mix and match this summer and let them marinate in your home a couple months before you make more permanent renovations.

4. Duvet Covers: Give your boudoir multiple personalities to match your different moods! You will keep your wallet in check by giving yourself simple ways to switch it up without making large purchases.

5. Rugs: Rugs come in varying sizes, shapes and prices but you don’t have to make a large investment to get something classic, classy and fun. Summer rugs are usually lightweight canvas, jute, and sisal. These materials add a fresh, airiness to your home that is great for warmer months. Shop rug sales over the next few weeks and grab yourself a second option to use until winter!

Great Stores for Home Decor Deals:

Online and Off

TIP: Many of these stores offer their best deals on site instead of online. This being the case, we remind you of a typical sales tip. GO EARLY! Most of these shops are located in or near malls; you might only be shopping decor but everyone and their mother is shopping for something. Be sure to get in early to get what you want!

Online Only Shopping

TIP: Many stores/brands also have an Amazon or Wayfair presence in addition to their brick and mortar location or even their own website. Since consumers expect to find deals at these locations, sometimes it is best to find what you want online then search for it again at a place like Amazon—pricing is not always different, but when every dollar counts, it is worth the extra Googling.

Plus! Do not forget to check in with your local boutiques. They might be small but they love to get you a good deal too! Big stores seem to have better sales, but a truly unique home comes form that special piece that only you have.

TIP: Check in with your favorite boutiques early and make sure you know when their sales start. Small shops do not carry as much inventory as chain stores and they tend to start their sales a couple days (or weekends) early to keep up with the competition.

Our Gift to You! Here are some links to promo codes and coupons for upcoming sales!

Compliments of Virtual Results

DIY Renovation Tips

by Melissa Dierks

23 May, 2014

DIY Renovation TipsIf you’re thinking of buying a fixer-upper for the first time, whether to live in yourself or to flip, doing some of the renovations yourself can be satisfying and economical. You’ve watched plenty of television shows where novices remodeled a house in two or three days, so how hard could it be? But, before you start tearing out walls and ripping up flooring, there are a few important renovation blunders to avoid.

Know your limitations

Despite what you’ve seen on TV, until you have some experience under your tool belt, you won’t know your own strength, endurance and patience for the time, difficulties and potential setbacks you’ll encounter. Often what seem like minor projects can turn into major issues if you run into mold, mildew, old wiring and other costly issues.

The best strategy is to start with one small project to see if you

  • Enjoy doing it.
  • Can complete it in a timely fashion.
  • Don’t run into difficulties or problems you cant solve.

Know who to call

Before tackling a project, take time to contact an experienced friend, family member or helpful neighbor to get their advice. If you don’t have a knowledgeable acquaintance, visit your local DIY or neighborhood hardware store and speak to their department expert. Many times, they offer weekend classes to teach the basics of home improvement projects.

Know if you need a permit

Most people know that they need a permit for a major construction or home addition, but many municipalities require permits for smaller changes you may not realize or consider. Some cities require permits for projects as simple as replacing the front door or changing the exterior color. Often, homeowners assume that interior upgrades don’t require permitting, but if you add a kitchenette to your game room or create a mother-in-law apartment, many times you’ll need a permit.

Neglecting getting a permit may derail your home’s sale or add costly changes and repairs later on.

Know which tools you need

Home renovations are not the opportunity to try your “MacGyver” skills. Repurposing tools and household objects seems great … until you’re in the middle of your project with drying mastic trying to hold tiles in place with your knees and toes. Tools are expensive. If you don’t have the right tools, and can’t afford to buy them, see if you can rent them from your DIY, rental or farm store. Some local libraries offer tool rental too, so check out all the options before you need that pipe wrench, specialty saw or clamp.

Purchasing specialty tools for a single renovation project may make it cost prohibitive. In that case … hire an expert.

Know the resale value

According to the Remodeling annual cost vs. value report, less expensive upgrades like entry door, garage door and window replacements perform better on resale over more upscale changes to kitchens or bathrooms.

Renovations need to be appropriate for the neighborhood to add true resale value, according to Bob Vila. So, while you may love a gourmet kitchen, and want it in your own home, don’t plan to recoup the expense when the time comes to sell.

Compliments of Virtual Results.

What to Know about Your FHA Mortgage Insurance

by Melissa Dierks

19 May, 2014

FHA Mortgage InsuranceAn FHA mortgage is a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, insures loans so that lenders will offer appealing rates to less qualified borrowers at a lower down payment. Typically, an FHA loan requires a down payment of just 3.5 percent and allows sellers and lenders to offer special incentives. In return, FHA-approved lenders may charge a higher interest rate, so borrowers should shop for the best rate among FHA-approved lenders. Your payment includes a premium amount to pay for the mortgage insurance the FHA provides.

Result of Premium Hikes

Many of the mortgage defaulted on during the housing collapse were FHA insured homes. In response, the FHA began raising premium rates and fees in 2010. Now at their highest to date, premium rates and fees were raised at least five times since then, resulting in borrowers paying roughly $100 more per month in out-of-pocket expenses for home ownership on a $150,000 home. Upfront premiums are higher too. According to Robert Freedman at the National Association of Realtors, the result is a reduction by 90 percent in mortgage originations among borrowers in the 620 to 680 credit score range among moderate-income households simply because they cannot afford the additional $1200 in annual payments.

Is an FHA Loan Still a Good Deal?

If you dream of homeownership but cannot quite save up the 20 percent needed for a conventional loan, an FHA loan may still work for you. Just know that your payments will be higher than in the past. Qualifying is more stringent too, since lenders my baulk at credit scores lower than 620 even though the FHA only requires a score of 580 to meet its 3.5-percent down payment option. As a potential aid to borrowers, the upfront premium may be rolled into the loan, spreading that cost out over time.

Ways to Reduce Payments

The annual premium varies according to the size of down payment, or if you are refinancing, by the amount of equity you have in your home. If your down payment is at least five percent, you may qualify for a lower premium. Additionally, utilizing a graduated payment loan or adjustable rate loan may result in lower initial payments. The best way to reduce payments, however, is by making a larger down payment. The FHA allows portions of the down payment to come from family gifts as well as from personal savings, so if your family is on board, you could get a lower rate.

Qualify for a Better Loan

More than anything else, borrowers should consider avoiding these mistakes when looking to qualify for an FHA loan. Do not make large purchases on credit before applying for your loan. Your debt-to-income ratio weighs heavily in your ability to qualify for a loan. Work on your credit score. The higher your credit score, the better your chances. Be careful and deliberate in how you use credit, make payments and pay down existing loans. Avoid overbuying. Your first home does not have to be your dream home. Consider it a starting point on a lifelong journey to the right home at the right time.

We specialize in helping you find the right home for your situation. Call us today to get started.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Current Color Trends — Sophisticated Gray

by Melissa Dierks

15 May, 2014

Current Color Trends — Sophisticated GrayOut with the old … beige, cafe au lait, pale mocha, bone … favorite neutrals for the past decade, may give way to more sophisticated gray-based neutrals. So you might ask, isn’t gray just black and white mixed? Well, yes and no.

Know Your Undertones

Paint makers offer more than 50 different shades of gray, so before choosing a new color-scheme for your home, you need to know how grays work with other colors. Have you every put a gray top with gray slacks only to see that they clash? That is because they had incompatible undertones. In color theory, an undertone is an additional color added to a base color to give it subtle shading. The cosmetics industry popularized a designer’s secret by offering warm and cool shades to match varying skin tones. In paint color science, undertones add coolness, warmth, edginess, calm and a myriad other feelings. In the gray families, you will find blue-grays and red-grays, golden-grays and green-grays, and even purple and brown/beige grays.

Finding the Right Gray

Years ago, local paint shops were colorists. Designers might request three drops of green and two drops of black in their “white” paint to give it a pleasant not-quite-so-harsh-white “feel” even though to the naked eye it just looked white. Alternatively, color specialists would add one drop of blue with two drops of black to give a bluish tint to a pale gray wall. Many designers had their own special color mixes. The advent of big box DIY stores gives homeowners access to designer color pallets without the designer consulting fees, but being able to buy any shade you want does not mean you are buying the right one for your needs. If you already own furnishings, artwork, carpeting and upholstery that you intend to keep, finding the right gray neutral is paramount to enjoying your decor.

  1. Select from several paint brands, types (eggshell, semi-gloss), and designer offerings. Do not just select colors from brands in your “price range.” Many paint stores offer to color match custom colors if necessary.
  2. Hold the various paint swatches next to woodwork, upholstery, brick or stone, carpeting and other furnishings to narrow down your choices.
  3. When you have three or four choices, have your paint store mix a sample (most stores will do an eight ounce sample for you).
  4. Grab a roll of butcher paper and paint large swaths of color on separate sheets.
  5. Tape the swaths to your walls, moving them around throughout the day so that you can see how light reflects off them. If you have LED lights, the colors will appear different from compact fluorescent lights or sunlight.
  6. Since incandescent light bulbs are phased out, now would be a good time to change out your bulbs so that your color choice will delight you for years to come.
  7. Be sure to place colors near your carpet, woodwork, stonework, trim and windows.

Be patient with the process. Selecting the right color—one that works in daylight and lamplight, sunshine and overcast—might take time. Getting in a hurry might end up costing you more when you find your color scheme depresses you in the early morning light.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Pamper Your Home with More Spring Cleaning Tips

by Melissa Dierks

10 May, 2014

Spring Cleaning TipsWe all love a good pampering. Your home is no different. A little spring sprucing gives you house that extra special attention it needs. Whether you start on the inside or the outside, give your home some special treatment and it will reward you with more comfort, extra space and a bright, clean environment.

Post Winter Clean Up

During inclement weather, dirt and grime builds up in corners and crevices. Attack tight spaces between fences and garden sheds or around foundations with a strong stream of water to dislodge debris. Rake decaying leaves and foliage from around your foundation. Clean out your gutters (or call a gutter service), because clogged gutters during a heavy rain puts your roof at risk of water damage. In fact, this is the perfect time to have your roof inspected too.

Stow Your Winter Equipment

If you have cold-weather equipment, now is the time to clean and service it, check for rust, salt or de-icing residue and store it away for next year. In fact, storing away your fall and winter paraphernalia gives you more space to set up a garden bench, composting bin or patio furniture. Remember to schedule the reverse in the fall: clean and stow your summertime equipment in preparation for winter. Pull out your gardening tools and make any repairs needed.

Take a moment to go through the contents in your car. Switch out anti-freeze for bug cleaner and stow your winter emergency gear. Change out that ice-scraper for a sun shield, and replace your wiper blades. Add a summer survival kit (water, sunscreen, insect repellent, towel) to your trunk.

Clean the Outside

Whether you have vinyl siding, brick or stucco, soot, grime, mold and mildew builds up. If your siding is vinyl and you can reach, a Bob Vila recommends using a soft cloth or brush and a mixture of 70% water with 30% white vinegar or, alternatively, a mixture of an oxygen-based bleach with powdered household cleaner. Other general cleaners, especially if they are biodegradable, will work well too, but avoid harsh cleaners or abrasive scrubbers. If you use a pressure washer, make sure to follow the advice of your siding manufacturer.
To clean stucco, stone or brick, use a power washer, but watch the PSI since too strong a stream can dislodge mortar and loose stucco. Remove mold, moss stains and mildew with chemicals specially formulated for your exterior type.

Moving Indoors

Now that the outside is sparkling, you can tackle of those projects you have been putting off. Clean out the pantry. Get rid of expired foods and cans, and wipe down the shelves. Move older items to the front for easier access. Pull everything out of your freezer and toss those with freezer burn (and anything older than this list compiled by at Food Safety). If you do not date your frozen foods, now would be a good time to start.

Gather all your old books, magazines and newspapers. Recycle the newspapers and pass the magazines and books along to a shelter, senior center or free library. Get rid of envelops and junk mail that may have gathered and toss the holiday cards (or store them if you’re sentimental). Clean the clutter from your refrigerator front to make room for new photos, art and postcards.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you can clean it using this 15-minute method, or call a chimney sweep.

Purge the Closet

Pull out winter clothing you didn’t wear this season and pass it on to someone else. Store your remaining cold-weather duds in plastic storage bags. If space is an issue, use the vacuum-style storage. Switch out flannel sheets for summer-weight ones and put away the heavy comforter in favor of a lighter coverlet.

When you’ve spruced up your house, you can decide if now is the right time to put it on the market. We can help you with that decision, so give us a call.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How Does a Pool Affect My Home Value?

by Melissa Dierks

10 May, 2014

How Does a Pool Affect My Home Value?As temperatures begin to rise, the lure of sparkling sunlight reflected off rippling blue water draws many homeowners to invest in an in-ground pool. That a pool adds to quality of life, there is no doubt. When it comes to adding value to your home, however, that question is more difficult to answer. Before you dive in, consider these points.

Know your buying pool

The general demographic of your neighborhood often determines if a pool is an attraction or a definite turnoff. When the trend is young families with small children moving in all around you, a pool would hinder many potential buyers from looking at your home since pools are a hazard to small children. Conversely, if most nearby homes otherwise comparable to yours have pools, adding a pool might draw buyers.

For homeowners without children, or for families with older children, the right pool can be a great attraction. Pools often become the gathering place for neighborhood youth, single adults or child-free couples, and extend a home’s entertainment space.

Know your long-term plans

When you know that you’ve bought a starter home, and that you will be selling and moving within five to seven years, a pool may not be the best investment for you even if it increases the market value of your home. In-ground pools are expenses, often running into the tens of thousands of dollars between ground preparation, installation, adding protective fences and alarms, and obtaining permits. Unless you keep the home long enough for the market price to surpass the cost of the pool, it could be a net loss.

On the other hand, if you intend to live in the home for a decade or more, the cost of the pool may be absorbed into the increase in value of your home. A caveat however: as the pool ages, the potential for mechanical or structural failure increases. Constant maintenance will keep the pool in the asset column but a poorly maintained pool can detract from your resale value.

Other aspects to consider:

  • How much space do you have?
    Adding a pool to your yard decreases the usable yard space. If you have plenty of room, say a third of an acre or more, giving up space to a pool is no problem. A smaller yard, however, might require a smaller pool. If the pool is too small to be useful for exercise, recreation or entertainment it might be a distraction.
  • What privacy level do you need?
    Consider your comfort level and whether you will use a pool that is exposed to your neighbors’ view from upper windows and decks, low fences, terraced lots or otherwise visible to passersby.
  • Does the community have a pool?
    If your community development shares a pool, having a private pool may be less of an enticement to purchase, so factor the availability of nearby facilities into your calculations.
  • Do you have the time to maintain a pool?
    As noted above, pools in poor condition may hinder a home sale, so determine ahead of time if you have both the time and ability to maintain a pool. If you are very busy, or physically unable to clean and care for your pool, but you still want one, hire a qualified pool service professional to keep your pool looking and functioning at its best. Factor the cost of a pool maintenance service into your investment.

Every location differs when determine the return on investment for a pool. If you are looking at selling within five years, give us a call and we will help you determine if a pool is right for your property. If it is not, and having a pool is a high priority for you, we will help you find a home with a pool or where a pool is a more beneficial investment for you. Contact us now. We can help.

Compliments of Virtual Results

4 May, 2014

Real Estate TerminologyClosing costs include all of the fees and costs associated with completing the sale or purchase of a home using a mortgage, that are in addition to the actual cost of the property itself. These costs are due at the “close” of the deal, with the disbursal of loan monies, transfer of deed and completion of other final paperwork and are included on your HUD-1 settlement statement. Some of these costs go to the lender and some to third-party participants. Since many different costs may be included at closing, we’ll separate these out for you.

 

What costs are included at closing?

Although costs can very by state or locality, in general they can include:

  • Activation fee: (see Points)
  • Application fee: a fee charged by the lender to cover the cost to process loan information.
  • Appraisal fee: the fee charged by the qualified appraiser for completing the appraisal report (estimating the market value). Appraisal fees may be a fixed amount or based on a percentage of the estimated value of the property.
  • Attorney fees: a real estate closing attorney coordinates and reviews the documentation required to complete a real estate transaction including the payoff of existing mortgages, examining the title, reviewing loan documents, filing government forms and a myriad of other actions required before the deal is closed, and explaining all of these documents to the buyer. For these services, the attorney charges certain fees.
  • Credit report fees: as part of the mortgage approval process, lenders request a credit report. Since the agency creates a credit report work at the time of the request, the fee for this report is due regardless of whether or not a loan actually is disbursed.
  • Documentation fees: fees real estate brokerages may charge for preparing documents for both the buyer and the seller.
  • Escrow deposits: an escrow is a separate account established to hold the monies associated with a real estate transaction prior to and after closing. These can include the earnest (money deposited to show the seller good faith), seller payments toward closing, prepaid private mortgage insurance and property taxes. The escrow company releases the funds as the required transaction is completed.
  • Escrow fees: the fees charged by the escrow company to set up and maintain escrow accounts and pay out the monies when require may be combined into the term “escrow fees”. These can also include wire transfer fees, legal documentation preparation fees, notary fees, demand order fees and the like.
  • Flood title certification fee: mortgages made to homes in a flood zone may have specific requirements. If a title search specific to flood zones is required, there may be a separate fee. Homes located in flood zones require a flood insurance policy.
  • Inspection fees: often, a real estate transaction includes a home inspection. This fee, charged by the company completing the inspection, may be a flat fee, based on square-footage or the amount of time required to inspect the home.
  • Loan origination fees: (see Points)
  • Pest infection control fees: a certified pest inspector checks for termite and carpenter ant activity and submits an inspection report. A lender may require pest mitigation in order to complete the loan process. Either the buyer or seller may pay fees associated with the inspection. Pest mitigation and associated fees might be included as part of the closing requirements.
  • Points: In simple terms, a “point” is one percent of the total amount of a mortgage loan. There are several types of points connected to loans, but the two most common are origination points and discount points.
    Origination points are the fees as a percentage of the loan charged by a mortgage broker for the service of processing the loan, also known as loan origination fees or activation fees.
    Discount points are a form of prepaid interest borrowers may purchase to decrease the interest amount on future payments. For each 1% of the loan amount (point) the borrower pays, the lender lower the interest rate by an agreed upon percentage.
  • Recording fee: the municipality or government agency (county clerk, etc.) responsible for recording the transfer of ownership charges a fee for completing this paperwork.
  • Survey fees: the title company may require a survey to determine the exact size and boundaries of the property.
  • Taxes and insurance: during the closing process, property taxes and homeowners insurance fees are prorated to cover the time between closing and the first mortgage payment due (or for period specified by the lender) and collected in advance. Escrow holds the funds until payments to the government agency and insurance company are due.
  • Title search and title insurance fees: a title search is a detailed review of historical records relating to the property in question. The title search may reveal liens, unpaid taxes, judgments against the seller and other property defects. Title insurance protects the buyer or lender against any such defects that may have been missed during the title search. There are two types of title insurance, one that protects the lender’s interests and one that protects the buyer’s interests. Typically, the lender’s title insurance is a required fee while the buyer’s title insurance is optional.
  • Underwriting fees: a lender charges a fee for “underwriting” the loan on your home. Often this fee is one of the largest on your Good Faith Estimate and closing statement. Sometimes document preparation fees are included in underwriting fees. The underwriting process is what a lender uses to determine the risk of offering a mortgage to a specific borrower.

Lowering Closing Costs:

Some lenders offer a no-closing cost mortgage. When you get a no-closing cost loan, however, those fees still have to be paid, so may be hidden in higher interest rates or higher loan amounts than the cost of the home. VA loans require the seller to pay a portion of the closing costs, so if you qualify for a VA loan, you can reduce some of the fees you pay. A highly motivated seller may offer to pay some or all of the closing costs to get the home sold more quickly. We can help you determine if the seller is motivated and willing, so talk to us about adding that option to your sales contract.

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Melissa Dierks
Keller Williams Professional Partners
7025 W Bell Road, Suite 10
Glendale AZ 85308
Direct: (623)229-0154
Office: (623)643-1092
Fax: (623)201-7562

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