4 Tips for Home-Buying During the Colder Months

By Meghan Belnap Are you planning to move? Is it going to be cold when you relocate? Here are four ideas to help make the home search process faster and more convenient during the colder months. Attend cozy open houses. Use the time you’re looking for a home to mingle and fight the winter blues. Go see what’s open in your area, check out a new location or inspect a home you really want. Open houses provide many opportunities, including the chance to mingle and network. Even if you don’t like the house you visit, you may hear of others nearby. You’ll find many houses for sale in the winter that have open houses, and checking them out in person can show you exactly what the house will be like during the colder months. Read the home inspection reports. While it’s chilly outside, pull up a comfy chair and a mug of hot chocolate or coffee and do some research. With the bad weather and cold air that come with the season in some areas of the country, it’s easier to sit inside and get the monotonous part of moving out of the way first. Plus, getting some of the boring stuff done early gives you more time to spend on the fun things like getting open house gifts. Look for drafts and other leaks. There’s no better time than winter to check out houses for sale. With the home working at the highest level, potential buyers can easily check out windows and doors for air leaks. Gaps are easier to find because drafts are often present when the winter wind...

How to Prepare for Making an Offer on a House

So you’ve found the perfect house and you’re ready to move forward and make an offer. The number you put forth is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the entire home-buying process, so before you make that offer, be sure to consider the following: You might not be the only bidder. Chances are, especially if you’re in a hot market, or simply on a desirable street in a particular neighborhood, that there will be a competing bid or two on the home. If that’s the case, before you raise your offer, dig deep and decide what this home means to you. If this is truly THE house for you, then go ahead and raise your bid if you can afford to. Consider writing a letter. While not effective in every situation, sometimes a personal letter to the seller can help make your offer more attractive. Talk to your real estate agent to find out if the seller has a particularly strong emotional attachment to the home, in which case, a letter describing why the home means so much to you could make a difference. For some sellers, it may mean a lot to know their home will pass on to someone who will love it as much as they do. Be prepared for a counteroffer. If the seller considers your bid too far below the asking price, they may come back with a counteroffer. Take a deep breath, and keep in mind that the seller can only negotiate with one buyer at a time. If you can’t afford their counter but are intent on pursuing the house,...

Can Building a New Home Be Cheaper Than Buying an Old One?

By Meghan Belnap In most cases, it makes sense to search for older things rather than their newer counterparts when you want to save money. This doesn’t, however, always hold true when it comes to buying a home. Here are several factors that can lead to older homes costing more than new construction: Energy Efficiency One of the great things about buying a new home is that everything inside is new. This generally means that most of the appliances and systems were built in the last few years, which in turn means that they tend to be more energy-efficient. On top of better appliances, newer homes feature the latest in design for insulation, from the framework to the material used in building. This means that, over time, the cost of owning new construction can actually be substantially less than the cost of owning an older home. Perks Specific to Older Homes Sometimes buying an older home can also cost more simply because it has perks that aren’t available in new homes. Classic architecture, antique fireplaces or period-specific additions can command a great deal of money, and they’re simply not features that you get in a newer home. Buyers who want these features are willing to pay a premium, which drives up the price of homes that have those touches. As such, new construction may be much cheaper in comparison. Maintenance Costs Older homes cost more to take care of than newer homes, if only because time tends to be unkind to any building. In the short term, at least, it’s also more likely that a homeowner would have to replace big-ticket...

4 Ways to Ensure a Smooth Closing

Buying a house is a thrilling experience! But before you can cross the threshold, you have to get through the closing…which, unfortunately, can be a confusing and stressful process for many. While every homebuyer’s situation is different, there are some steps everyone can take to make sure the closing goes as smoothly as possible: Have cash available. Make sure you have extra cash that is easily accessible well ahead of the closing. You will need the cash to pay some of the closing costs, and be sure to build in a 10 percent buffer for final costs that come in higher than estimates. Have all your documentation ready to go. Ask your lender and real estate agent to provide you with a list of every piece of documentation you will need for the closing. Make sure it is complete and gathered ahead of closing day, so that you have time to double check and troubleshoot as needed. Preserve your credit score. Keep in mind that your loan approval was based on your credit score at the time you signed the purchase agreement for your home. If you’ve taken out any new loans or debt since then, such as a credit card or car loan, this could affect your credit score and jeopardize the home loan. Wait to make any large purchases until after the closing, and make sure you’re paying everything on time. Keep your employment steady. Don’t change jobs or decide to quit and start your own business prior to closing. Keep your employment record and income steady. Settle the inspection. Review the inspection and make sure you are satisfied with the...

Building a New Home? Here’s Why You Need an Inspection

  With every detail brand spanking new, why would you possibly need an inspection on a new construction home? For several reasons, say the experts at Home Team Inspection. For one thing, inspecting a new construction home will allow you to check out the structural and mechanical components of the home before they’re covered in concrete and drywall. You’ll also have a chance to see your home’s features and systems, and uncover any issues before they turn into more expensive problems down the line. In fact, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, 2 – 3 inspections should be done during the building process: before the foundation is poured; after the framing has been built; and before the final walk-through. Home Team outlines the details of these inspections: The pre-pour inspection. This allows the inspector to make sure the foundation complies with the engineered drawings, review the proper placement, support, sizing and spacing of graded rebar and ensure that it’s supported using proper beam depth, width and placement. The vapor/moisture barrier placement will also be checked. The framing inspection. This allows the inspector to make sure the framing complies with building standards or engineered design, ensuring proper door and window egress placement, as well as confirm that framing members are properly attached, spaced, graded and aligned—and that joints aren’t stressed and are fastened with the proper materials. Additionally, the plumbing, electrical wiring and duct installations along with the roof structure and roof surface will be inspected. Final inspection. Similar to a standard home inspection, this process will prepare you for the final walk-through with your builder. It includes a review...

5 Big Myths About Your Homeowners Insurance Coverage

By John Voket Until it happens, most homeowners think of disasters as something that won’t happen to them. Disasters can be as minor as a tree branch falling and breaking a few windows, or as concentrated as a pinhole roof leak slowly dripping water into a residence—causing mold or other ripple effects. Sadly, too many people who experience disaster on a large or small scale may find the trauma continues when it’s time to file an insurance claim. Paul K. Improta of Underwriters, Inc. offers the following myths involving typical homeowners coverage that could minimize re-traumatizing already shaken homeowners when it’s time to file a claim. Myth 1: Wear and Tear Is Covered Fact: Coverage typically includes damage from fire, weather and theft, not damage due to general wear and tear or neglect. As a policyholder, Improta says it’s up to you to maintain your home, including making routine repairs and protecting your home from pests. Myth 2: You’re Safe in Case of Flood Damage  Fact: Although some weather-related damage is generally covered, such as from hail, Improta says other natural disasters may not be. – Floods require specific flood insurance. – Earthquakes might be covered, but sometimes they require additional insurance. Myth 3: All Personal Belongings Are Fully Covered Fact: Homeowners insurance typically covers furniture, clothing and other personal items, but more valuable items like jewelry and artwork may require an add-on policy. Improta advises homeowners to routinely inventory belongings to determine if policy limits meet their coverage needs. Myth 4: You Have Protection Against Any Injuries That Happen at Home   Fact: Your policy’s liability coverage protects you...

Ask These Questions When You’re Buying a House

Getting ready to put an offer on a home? Before you do, ask these questions to make sure you’re moving ahead on the best possible deal. Were there any renovations to the home? The sellers may have made improvements over the years that weren’t recorded at City Hall. Make sure you have a full run-down of all the changes that have been made, both to ensure structural safety and legal compliance, and to fully assess the home’s value. How old is the roof? Just because the roof is currently in good condition doesn’t mean it’s not soon on its way out. Make sure you know how old it is and if repairs or a replacement may be in your near future. How long have the appliances been here? You’ll also want to know how old the appliances are and what shape they’re in. Many home sellers update the appliances before putting their home on the market, so find out if this is the case. Make sure all manuals and warranties are left behind as well. What are the neighbors/neighborhood like? You’ll have to drill down to avoid getting general responses, so ask if there are families with young children on the block vs. retirees, what traffic is like, what amenities are nearby, etc. For further intel, take a stroll around the neighborhood and chat with someone out walking their dog or doing some yardwork. Their friendliness – or lack thereof – could be an indicator in and of itself. What’s included in the sale? Many sellers will include certain items in the sale of the home to help sweeten the deal, such as select...

Don’t Fall For These 6 Real Estate Scams

  By Yazir Phelps Getting involved in real estate can be both rewarding and lucrative. Whether you’re a novice home flipper, a licensed professional or fall somewhere in the middle, real estate done right can be financially life-changing. If you’re looking to rent a property or potentially buy a home, there are countless resources and websites at your disposal to narrow down your search. Just like any industry, there are certain deals you’ll probably want to avoid when deciding how to spend your time and money. Real estate scams can be financially devastating, but there are ways to identify red flags that can alert you of fraud before it’s too late. Beware of These 6 Real Estate Scams If it’s too good to be true…it probably is! Here are six real estate scams not to fall for. 1. Rental Rip-Offs When looking for a rental, you’ll first want to use a reputable website. Facebook postings or ads on Craigslist are often legitimate but aren’t platforms meant for advertising specific real estate listings, which means it can be easier to post fraudulently. Online swindlers have been known to post about a property, ask for money upfront as a security deposit or down payment, and then disappear once they receive money. Young adults are especially susceptible to rental fraud, as scammers often target first-time renters. Beware of this scam, as it’s standard to see a property in person and have the opportunity to ask basic questions before being required to make a deposit. Red Flags The seller demands payment upfront Post from a social media account with no pictures Avoids sending further...

Looking to Buy Your First Home? Settle These Things First

By Meghan Belnap Very few events in your life are going to be as exciting as purchasing a home, but first-time buyers need to remember that this process can be very complicated. Well before you make an offer on a home, you will need to carry out a few important tasks: Narrow Down the Location Finding a great neighborhood can be quite challenging, and you don’t want to bid on a beautiful home in the wrong location. After you’ve narrowed your search to a few specific neighborhoods, you should try to visit those areas during different times of the day. You also need to speak with some of the homeowners and neighbors about the pros and cons of those areas. Get Pre-Approved Just about any lender that offers conventional mortgage services can pre-approve you for a mortgage loan. Once you’ve been approved, you will know exactly how much money you can offer and which price range you should be looking at. Many sellers are also very eager to work with buyers who have been pre-approved because closing will take just a fraction of the time. This also can help you avoid looking at homes that you know you won’t be able to afford. Write Out a List of Necessities It might be tempting to look at luxurious homes with incredible upgrades, but the necessities should always come first. Some of the variables that you’ll need to consider include the location of the home and the total number of bedrooms. You might also be interested in the age of the appliances. Buying a home with older appliances might be cheaper initially, but you...

Renter’s Insurance: Why You Need It

You may think having insurance for the roof over your head and the belongings underneath it is only necessary once you become a homeowner…or if you’re lucky enough to own some valuable antiques or expensive jewelry. But the reality it, all renters should have insurance, no matter how small your place is or seemingly insignificant your possessions are. Here’s why. Renter’s insurance provides an important level of coverage for items not covered by your landlord’s insurance. For example, while your landlord is responsible for taking care of expenses related to fixing structural problems – such as a leaking roof or faulty wiring – he or she is not responsible for repairing or replacing items damaged by those problems, like your television or sofa. Your landlord is also not responsible for expenses incurred should you have to live elsewhere while repair work is taking place in your apartment. Renter’s insurance, however, will take care of expenses related to such scenarios and many more, such as water damage, fire and theft, as well as an array of random costs that can arise, such as running over your neighbor’s weed wacker or fixing the chandelier your son broke. What is and isn’t covered all depends on the type of renter’s insurance you choose to buy. Generally speaking, there are three types: Personal property coverage: Will cover the cost to repair or replace any damaged or stolen clothing, furniture, valuables, electronics, etc. Renter’s liability insurance: Helps cover the costs of repairing damages you make to someone else’s property, or if someone blames you for injuries sustained while at your place. Additional living expenses: This will cover...

Love or Lust: 7 Ways to Know a House Is the One

By Adam Slivka Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or looking for your forever home, purchasing a house can be a daunting task and the fear of buyer’s remorse can cause serious anxiety. How do I know this house is right for me? What should I be considering when purchasing? How do I avoid the dreaded buyer’s remorse? These are all valid questions one could ask before entering into a purchase or sale agreement. Here are some things you’ll want to consider before making that decision: Can I afford it? Nothing is more disappointing than finding your dream home just to be told by the mortgage company that it’s out of your price range. Before venturing into the real estate market, have an in-depth look at your financial state and meet with a mortgage broker or bank representative to obtain an accurate number for purchase. This will help you to avoid heartache and allow you to consider real options versus something that’s not feasible because of your budget. Does this house meet my must-haves? When considering homes for purchase, it’s a good idea to make a list of your must-haves. Features such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms should be high on that list. Things such as walk-in closets, an ensuite and lot size might be negotiable; however, if you’re unwilling to compromise on certain amenities, be sure to only look at properties that offer them. Is this property in the right area? Whether it’s a certain desired neighborhood or area of town, narrowing down where you want to live is crucial. Finding a perfect house that adds an additional half-hour...

Tips for Choosing a Lender When Buying a House

Are you ready to buy your own home? That may sound like a bit of a weird question; however, many homebuyers are just not prepared when it comes to buying their first or a new home. On the surface, it may seem that taking out a mortgage is going to be easy. Often, the opposite is true. There are many people out there who are poorly prepared when it comes to taking out a loan. It’s essential to understand that getting ready to procure financing is a process, and an important one at that. Choosing an exceptional mortgage lender is crucial to making the home-buying process go smoothly. Remember, like any other industry, there are going to be those you immediately recognize as professionals and others you might have your doubts about. Make sure you don’t pick the latter. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a lender: Your Credit Score Matters The mortgage lending process starts way before you even step into the bank. You first need to make sure that your credit score is in great shape. That doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Before you even begin looking around for your first home, you should check your credit score. Consider it good financial housekeeping to know your credit score. You can check it once a year for free with leading credit agencies such as Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Make sure your credit report is correct and doesn’t contain any errors. You should also have an understanding of the reasons a credit score can drop. All mortgage lenders will check your credit score to...

Tips for Avoiding Scams

Unfortunately, scammers continue to get more creative in their attempts to trick the general public into relinquishing funds and personal information for nefarious purposes. Here are some important best practices from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to help protect yourself next time you connect with an unknown caller, or come across a suspicious link online: Try to only answer the phone when you know who is calling. Our curiosity is piqued by those unknown phone numbers, and many times, they look just familiar enough, but don’t answer your phone unless you know who it is, says the BBB. Today’s scammers are very convincing once you do pick up, pretending to be anyone from your grandchild to a bill collector from your utility company, but think about this: anyone who genuinely needs to reach you (like a family member or someone to whom you actually owe money!) will leave a message. Don’t provide personal information without asking why. In today’s digital environment, we tend to give away our personal information online with ease. But always question if a site really needs your contact information, credit card information, or Social Security Number. In fact, before entering any information at all, make sure the site has ‘https’ in its URL, which signifies that it is secure. Don’t send payments via wire transfer or prepaid gift cards. The bottom line is, no legitimate business only accepts these payment methods, so when this request is made, you can be pretty confident it’s a scam. Wire transfers and prepaid gift cards are the quickest and most untraceable ways to send money, according to the BBB. If you can’t...

Do Your Homework: A Checklist for First-Time Buyers

By Barbara Pronin Buying your first home is exciting and rewarding, and a tribute to your financial planning. But since your home is likely to be your largest investment, you need to be sure when the keys are handed over that you’ve chosen the right house. Career homebuilder and consumer advocate Bob Vila advises first-time buyers to consider these issues before signing on the dotted line: Know what’s really important. Seeing a super-charming home can make it hard not to lead with your heart. Before you start shopping, have a clear idea as to what’s most important to you. Specific school district? A short drive to work? Garage big enough for a workshop? Take your time and try not to fall in love with a home that falls short of what you need. Check out the neighborhood. You want to love where you’re living as much as you love your house, so even if you think you’ve found the home you want, find out what you can about the neighborhood. Do the surrounding homes look neat and well-tended? How far are the nearest stores? You can even check with local law enforcement to learn about local crime rates. Know your DIY limits. Unless you can be your own handyman, be leery about a home that needs too much TLC. Paying others to bring the home up to your standards can put a big crimp in your budget. Consider all your costs. Besides knowing what your monthly mortgage payment will be, know how much you’ll be paying for property taxes, utilities and homeowners insurance. Once you’ve determined these costs, budget extra money for maintenance...

When Can You Negotiate the Price on a Home?

If you’re searching for a home to buy, you probably know by now that a lot goes into that all-important offer you make on the house you’ve finally decided is the one for you. Hopefully, you’ve connected with a professional, informed real estate agent who has great knowledge of the local market and has been able to advise you on the best offer to make, based on a comparative market analysis and other factors. But what about negotiating? Is it possible that sellers will accept less than what they’re looking for? In certain situations, you can negotiate the price of the home. Here are certain factors that make negotiating possible: You can buy the home with cash. If you’re coming to the table with an all-cash deal, that’s a very attractive option for most sellers, which means they’ll probably be willing to come down on the price. You’re not in a hurry. If you don’t have a house that needs to be sold before you buy a new one, or some other pressing situation that makes moving into the house time sensitive, you have the luxury of toying with price a bit. If the deal falls through, you won’t be left homeless. The sellers are under duress. Ask your agent if there are any particular reasons that the sellers might be under pressure to move things along, such as a divorce, a financial emergency or the need to quickly move elsewhere. You’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage. While this is more the rule than the exception in today’s market, if you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, it shows that you’re a credible buyer and,...