Real Estate Library

10 Tips For a Good Move

1.     Develop a master “to do” list.

Your mover is sure to have one.  Set up a calendar with dates keyed to when tasks on your list need to be completed.

2.     Sort through belongings and eliminate stuff you no longer need.

Ask yourself, When was the last time I used this?  How does it make me feel?  What’s the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t have it?  If you experience a great degree of hesitancy, keep it.

3.     Recycle belongings you’re leaving behind.

Garage sales are great for this as well as profitable.  Donations to homeless shelters, hospitals, and schools also can be rewarding.

4.     Use up supplies that are not transportable.

About a month before the move, use up cleaning supplies and eat your way through the freezer items.

5.     Pack “like” items together.

Games, pet supplies, photos, and toys are some items that should be grouped by kind and packed together.

6.     Organize moving documents and place them in a portable file box to take with you on moving day.

Keep important papers together: the moving registration number, the driver’s name and vehicle number, and the name and phone number of the moving company at point of origin and destination; include your personal address book in case you need to reach someone.

7.     Put different colored stickers on boxes sorted by room in your new home.

Then place a matching colored balloon on the door of the appropriate room.  Fun for the kids!

8.     Pack a “survival box” of items you’ll need immediately on arrival.

This should include such items as light bulbs, linens, paper products, individual snack food, bottled water, moist hand wipes, bandaids, paper and pen, garbage bags, soap, and tools.  Take this with you – do not pack it in the truck or van.

9.     Schedule your usual rounds.

Get hair cut, car serviced, and prescriptions filled shortly before the move.  This eases the pressure of finding new services right away at your new location.

10.  Send out change-of-address cards.

Creditors, insurance companies, magazine subscriptions, friends, relatives, utility companies, schools, physicians, and so on should be high on your list.  Your local post office has change-of-address kits filled with cards and a helpful checklist.  Leave a forwarding address with the post office when you know where your new home will be.

Have an easy, trouble free, stress free, safe move.

Agent Representation

Real Estate Agents have traditionally represented the sellers who paid the entire brokerage fee from the proceeds from the sale. Many states now require all licensed Real Estate Agents to provide their Buyers and Sellers with a written disclosure of agency or a declaration of whom they are representing in the transaction. New contracts have been developed to meet this new disclosure requirement.

The new regulations require that the agency disclosure be made at the "first substantial contact" between an agent and the consumer. An agent who is representing a buyer or seller must have a written agency agreement which includes a termination date, a fair housing statement, and an exact description of agency relationship.

Such disclosure requirements are good for the Buyers, Sellers and Agents. A recent Federal Trade Commission poll found that 72% of buyers did not realize that "their" agent, in fact, represented the seller. The new disclosure requirement will clarify the Real Estate Agent's role, especially for buyers.

An Agent's Role

Basic Radon Facts

The below fact sheet, updated February 2013, contains basic radon facts, including: 

  • radon in general
  • radon health risks
  • radon testing
  • fixing radon problems

You may need Adobe Reader to view files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.

General information, test for radon, how to get a test kit

Source: www.epa.gov/radon

Building and Designing

If you are planning to build a new home, you should take full advantage of the opportunity to design a custom-built home that takes into account your needs and includes all the amenities you want in your home.  If you want a kitchen for a “gourmet cook” – you can have it!  If you want a master bedroom suite at the opposite end of the house from the kids, you can have it!

This may be the biggest project of your lifetime, so be certain to select a team of professionals to work with you.  Your home team should consist of a Real Estate professional, an Architect, a Builder, and a Lender.  Your “Dream Team” will work with you to assure that all the legal requirements are met and that there are no “surprises” in your future.

Interview each member of your team and get references so that you have the best professionals for the job.  You will be working closely with these professionals for over a year, so you want to be sure that your team will be able to work well together.

Buying Real Estate "Subject To" an existing mortgage

Taking over a property "Subject To" an existing loan is not as hard as it may seem as long as you know what it is.

If you know what it is and how to explain it to the seller, and what steps to use to protect the loan from being called, you can buy many more properties faster than you can if you have to go get new loans on each purchase.

Here is how . . .

When financing a property, the note says I owe x amount of money and the Deed of Trust or Mortgage says, "here is how the lender proceeds to take over the collateral or sell it if I don't pay the note as agreed upon." Generally, the person borrowing the money is personally liable on the loan. This means that if the collateral that backs the note, once sold, is not enough to cover the debt, the borrower must make up the difference from their other resources.

Traditionally, if you don't get a new loan when you buy a property, you will take over ownership and "assume and agree to pay the loan as was agreed upon."

However, for many years now, lenders have had a "due on sale" clause in their collateral agreements. This means that anytime the original homeowner sells or transfers any interest in the property to someone else, the lien holder may (but does not have to) require full payment of the loan now rather than continue to accept payments.

In the early years of the "due on sale" clause, the current interest rates were much higher than the rates on old loans, so lenders had a good reason to call the loans due where the "due on sale" had been violated. Now that interest rates have reached historic lows and interest rates are still low, lenders in general have not been filing "due on sale" cases at all. And, as a rule, unless something out of the ordinary happens, the lender never notices that a transfer has occurred. If you don't make the payments, they will notice. If you cause them a lot of paper work, they will notice.

Taking a property "subject to" existing mortgage means that you get the deed but you do not assume the loan. The loan stays in the original homeowners name, but you now control the property and make the mortgage payments on it. If you don't make the payments, you could lose the property and any equity in it. However, if you don't make the payments and you lose the property, there will be no personal liability beyond the loss of the property.

Typically homeowners who are behind on payments, in foreclosure or have no equity in the home are the most common types of motivated sellers you will be dealing with and perfect for buying "subject to". Even though these types of motivated sellers will agree to almost anything, it's a good idea to explain what you are doing, how it works and how they can benefit from it. They will benefit because you will be making their payments on time so it will help their credit. If they are concerned about what you are doing, you can explain to them that the risk of losing the equity is enough to keep you from missing payments or you can use a clause where you agree to pay off the sellers loans within a certain amount of time.

If they still are unsure, you could have some sort of an intermediate collect and disburse the payments. An intermediate would be a loan servicing company or trust company that can do this for you. Another idea is to have the seller open a savings account at the Savings & Loan that is carrying the loan, and you make the payment into that account and set that account up for auto pay of the loan. This way, the seller can check the account and see that the payment was made and paid out.

The idea has the added advantage of the S & L still seeing a payment come from whoever they were accustomed to seeing it come from.

The biggest problem comes with insurance. You must have insurance. And the homeowner's policy is only good for 30 days after the transfer. So, for starters, call or write the insurance company that has the existing policy, and ask them to add you to the policy. If you do this, remember to follow up in two weeks and change the policy to a "renters" policy rather than a homeowner's policy. Or, get a new homeowners policy in both your and the seller's name. Or just leave the original policy and go get a second policy. But now you have two insurance payments.

Yet another approach when dealing with insurance on subject to deals is to use a land trust. A land trust holds title to real property and is commonly used by homeowners for tax purposes and estate planning. The homeowner would be the beneficiary and you would be the trustee who carries out orders and controls the property. Then you would write a letter to the lender explaining the change and all correspondence be directed to the trustee who then changes the policy. To protect your interest in the property, beneficial interest would also be assigned over to you.

There is a chance, as interest rates climb in future years, that lenders will be more interested in who is making the payments. But the sure way to catch their attention is to get behind on payments. So those of you who are using "subject to" as a tool, make sure you do everything else by the book and on time.

Can you afford a home?

It is important to know how much you can afford before you start looking for a home.  You should talk to a lender and get pre-approved for a loan.  This will put you in a stronger negotiating position with a Seller.

As a rule, your monthly housing costs should not be more than 28% of your monthly pre-tax income, including mortgage payment, real estate taxes, and insurance.  If you have long term debts, such as student loans or car payments, your monthly payments, including your housing costs, should be less than 36% of your pre-tax monthly income.  Loans such as VA and FHA are more flexible with these basic guidelines.

Depending on which type of mortgage you select, you can consider homes in various price ranges. An adjustable rate mortgage will usually enable you to qualify for a higher loan amount.  Remember, buying at the top end of your price range gives you more time to outgrow your home, and can save you money in the long run.

Children and Moving

When you decide it is time to move, it is important to include your children in your decision.  Depending on your reason for moving and the distance, moving can be stressful for children as well as parents.  It will often mean a new school, leaving friends and a lot of concerns with what a new neighborhood will be like.

Things get a lot easier if your children are involved in getting your current home sold.  Children should be cooperating by picking up their toys and clothes.  Teenagers are likely to not let strangers invade their space and may resist in keeping their room in “showing” condition. 

How can the whole family get involved in the sale of your home?  Include everyone in the discussions about the move and invite children to come along to look for homes and offer their ideas.  Work with a Real Estate Agent who is comfortable with children and can remain sensitive to your children’s needs and concerns.

Choosing A Lender

When you are buying a new home or refinancing your present one, it is wise to do some comparison shopping among Lenders. A low interest rate isn't the only criterion by which to evaluate a loan. You should also consider the terms of the mortgage, what your closing costs will be and the reputation of the Lender.

Real Estate Agents are a good source of information about loans and lenders, whether you are buying a home or just refinancing your present home. We routinely assist Buyers when they need a mortgage in order to purchase a home.

The companies with the lowest rates sometimes have very conservative underwriting guidelines, and may not be willing to make loans on certain types of property or to Buyers who are marginally qualified. We can tell you which companies and Loan Officers will go the extra mile to provide excellent service to make sure that the transaction closes.

Communication Tips

There are two basic types of Buyers:

The first kind of Buyer is one who thinks that the way a Real Estate Agent makes house hunting easier is by eliminating all the houses that are either too big or too small, too unattractive, too overpriced by unrealistic owners, or houses that are just not what their Buyer wants.

The second group of Buyers is terrified that the Real Estate Agent will miss the absolutely perfect house, and they want to see everything.

You don’t really have to see every house on the market if you can establish good communication with the Agent you are working with.  If the Agent listens to what you have to say and you feel the Agent truly understands your criteria, he/she will be able to narrow down your choice to homes which suit your needs, then there is really only one type of Buyer to be!

Community Response

Do you think your neighborhood schools could do a better job of teaching your children? Do you feel that your local services are not up to par? If you are waiting for someone to do something about it, you might consider a different approach. Around the country people have made a big difference by taking responsibility for what goes on in their community. Whether through PTA or a local citizen's association, individuals are asking what they can do to improve things. Even though there are elected officials whose job is to make the community work, they can't work miracles without the support of their constituents. The neighborhoods where people are involved are typically the ones which newcomers find the most desirable places to live! The next time you get a notice about a public hearing or other activity that has an impact on your community, try it on for size. It just might fit!

Concealing Defects

It is important to be absolutely candid with your Agent and Buyers about the condition of the property when you are selling your home. If there is anything wrong with the roof, the plumbing, the wiring or structure, it will probably not remain a "sleeping dog". "It" will probably wake up, snarl, growl and snap at your ankles at the precise moment your buyers feel their first stirring of buyers' remorse.

Concealing a defect is a serious matter when you are selling a home. It is unlikely that such defects will go undetected because most buyers get a structural inspection before they are contractually obliged to complete the purchase. Even if the problems do not surface before the closing, your liability does not end after the closing for any defects that may have been concealed. Buyers almost never accept misrepresentation graciously, but they can usually deal with a house that is short of perfection if they know what they are getting into from the beginning. When selling your home, your Real Estate Agent will provide you with a seller's disclosure form.

Considering Locations

The large, stately house that you drive by every morning on the way to work has had a "For Sale" sign for months. When you finally call for an appointment and see the house--you love it! And the price is lower than prices for similar houses on quieter side streets.
Houses located on busy streets may represent some of the best buys in terms of space and amenities for the price.

Some Buyers who are very sensitive to noise or concerned about small children or pets may automatically rule out houses that are located on busy residential streets. If you don't share these same concerns, you won't hold such a location against the property. If the Sellers have made pricing concessions on the property based on its location, this could open up an opportunity for you to own a far grander house than you thought you could afford!

Just remember that when you sell the house, the pool of prospective buyers may be smaller, and you may have to pass on a similar price break to the next Owner.

Contingency Sale

Sellers may be reluctant to accept an offer that is contingent on the sale of another property.  However, such a sale can be structured to minimize risks.

The Seller should put a limit on the amount of time that the Buyers have to accept the offer, as they should keep their home on the market.  They should also require that any contingencies be met within a short period of time, (24-48 hours), if they get a second offer.  This is called a “First Right” contingency.

Contingent sales can work well for sellers.  The buyer is not in a position to ask for concessions on price or terms and may be able to get interim financing.  Each situation is different, so go over the terms with your Real Estate Agent before accepting a contingent offer.

Credit Card Traps

It is not unusual for first-time buyers to be free of debt. They have been saving for their first home for many months or even years. After moving into their new home, they are deluged with pre-approved credit card applications from banks and stores they have never heard of. Before they realize what is happening, some new homeowners can get over their heads in debt.

The consumer credit agencies know that mortgage companies do thorough checks before approving a loan, and those who have passed through that process are considered good credit risks. They also know that new homeowners often need to make major purchases of furniture and appliances at a time when they have depleted most of their savings accounts.

After years of savings, new owners may be faced with a tremendous temptation to just say "charge it" for the things they need. If you have just purchased a home, be aware--and wary--when those applications start pouring in!

Easements

Every property has some kind of easement--utility, water and sewer or driveway easements which give access to landlocked parcels. As a property Owner, you may be affected by easements at some point.

The easement in gross is the most common type of easement used by public utilities. These easements are often under or above the ground, so they do not consist of actual land. If a utility gains the right to an easement in gross over your land, it must pay you for the diminishment in value of your property.

Easements by prescription become easements simply through unchallenged use by the landowner for a specified number of years (usually 10-20). To avoid such an occurrence, the landowner must periodically make a formal objection to "start the clock over".

The most familiar type of easement is easement appurtment that allows access to public roads and is used to create driveways and walkways for subdivided parcels. This type of easement should be treated by both landowners (and beneficiaries) as actual land parcels to be described and recorded meticulously.

Facts about Mold and Dampness

There is always some mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Mold grows where there is moisture.

Mold and Your Health

Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold. These people should stay away from areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas.

In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

In addition, in 2004 the IOM found sufficient evidence to link exposure to damp indoor environments in general to upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people and with asthma symptoms in people with asthma. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking exposure to damp indoor environments in general to shortness of breath, to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children and to potential development of asthma in susceptible individuals. In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional guidance, the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mold there recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies, but more research is needed in this regard.

A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects.

Mold and Your Home

Mold is found both indoors and outdoors. Mold can enter your home through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing, shoes, bags, and pets can and be carried indoors.

Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.

You Can Control Mold

Inside your home you can control mold growth by:

  • Controlling humidity levels;
  • Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes;
  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding;
  • Ventilating shower, laundry, and cooking areas.

If mold is growing in your home, you need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors, and can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present. You do not need to know the type of mold growing in your home, and CDC does not recommend or perform routine sampling for molds. No matter what type of mold is present, you should remove it. Since the effect of mold on people can vary greatly, either because of the amount or type of mold, you can not rely on sampling and culturing to know your health risk. Also, good sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable quantity of mold have not been set. The best practice is to remove the mold and work to prevent future growth.

If you choose to use bleach to clean up mold:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes.
  • Open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
  • Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
  • If the area to be cleaned is more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Although focused on schools and commercial buildings, this document also applies to other building types. You can get it by going to the EPA web site at https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-remediation-schools-and-commercial-buildings-guide.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach or any other cleaning product.

MOLD PREVENTION TIPS

  • Keep humidity levels as low as you can—no higher than 50%–all day long. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low. Bear in mind that humidity levels change over the course of a day with changes in the moisture in the air and the air temperature, so you will need to check the humidity levels more than once a day.
  • Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Use exhaust fans which vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.
  • Fix any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so mold does not have moisture to grow.
  • Clean up and dry out your home thoroughly and quickly (within 24–48 hours) after flooding.
  • Add mold inhibitors to paints before painting.
  • Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products.
  • Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried promptly. Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.
  • To learn more about preventing mold in your home, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s publication A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-10/documents/moldguide12.pdf

For Sale By Owner

The virtue of self-reliance is as American as baseball and apple pie--except if you are trying to sell your own home. Here such a "virtue" can cost you time, effort--and possibly money.

The overwhelming majority of homes that sell are listed with a Real Estate Agent, so you will be going against significant odds if you decide to sell your own home. The experience of a Real Estate professional may get you a better price and help you to avoid all the "little" things that can go wrong in a real estate transaction.

The desire to "save" the commission on a property is the reason most people decide not to work with a Realtor. Prospective Buyers who look for properties that are "For Sale By Owner" (FSBOs) are also wanting to avoid the commission--and to get a less-than-market-value deal. However, nothing is saved in the majority of FSBOs. Listing your home with a Real Estate professional can save you money and spare you the inconvenience of showing your home, and save you the time talking to buyers who are not qualified for a loan to purchase your home.

Home Buyers Education

As the number of mortgage lenders increases, competition forces lenders to get more creative in finding ways to lend people money.  This often takes the form of a “break” in the down payment.  The downside of this approach is that statically, the smaller the down payment, the more likely the borrower will default.  Lenders have to put together an education program to prevent delinquencies, which fills a much-needed gap in the increasingly complex world of home finance.

Home  Buyer education classes focus on a variety of money management topics, including all the costs connected with obtaining and owning a home.  One lender got together with FANNIE MAE (a government sponsored loan guarantor) to launch a 3 percent down payment loan which requires participation in this education course.  Other lenders have shown a decline in the default rate with five percent loans hat are associated with similar education courses.

Home Inspections

You have been searching for you dream home.  Finally, you have found it, the perfect house!  Remember, no house is perfect.  You should have an Inspector go over the home from the foundation to the roof to ensure you  the  home you are buying is indeed “perfect”.

An Inspector will be checking the electrical wiring, plumbing, the roof, condition of appliances , air conditioning units, structure, foundation, heating systems.  If you have requested additional services such as radon or lead testing, this would be the time to do it all.

You will feel at ease knowing the condition of the property you are buying.  Real Estate is a long term investment, one of the biggest investment in a lifetime.  The cost of a home inspection and peace of mind is well worth it.  Juniper Realty & Associates can provide a list of Home Inspectors in your area.

House Too Big?

As the Baby Boomers of the 1950's send their children off to college, they join the part of the market called "empty nesters". At this point they no longer need six bedrooms and three baths, a family room and a gigantic yard. Many "empty nesters" are trading in the family home for something that is smaller, easier to maintain and has the amenities that are important to their more carefree lifestyle.

If you are considering such a move, start out by consulting a good Real Estate Agent whom you like and trust. If you are under age fifty-five and are buying a home that is less expensive than your present one, there will probably be capital gains considerations to take into account.

If you are moving downtown from the suburbs in order to be close to cultural centers, theaters and restaurants, there may be "quality of life" issues, such as noise or parking. Your Agent can help you find a home that has all the conveniences and amenities you desire.

If You Are Self Employed

There's no doubt about it, it could be more difficult for you to get a mortgage loan if you are a free lance piano player than if you are a government accountant. Traditionally lenders have been more cautious when evaluating loan applications of Buyers who are self-employed than people who work for a regular salary.

If you are self-employed, there is no reason for you to shy away from applying for a home mortgage loan, however, especially if your earnings have been in the same field for at least two years.

It is a good idea to meet with one or more Loan Officers before you begin your search. They will probably want to analyze your tax returns for the past 2 or 3 years, keeping in mind that many self employed people can look impoverished on paper, since you can write off some expenses that salaried individuals can not.

Try to get pre-approval by the lender, and ask for a letter stating that you have pre-qualified for a loan which your Agent can attach to any offer you submit on a home. This will make you more attractive to the Sellers.

Interior Decorating

Many people recognize a decorating style they like when they see it, but they find it difficult to put together colors, fabrics, furnishings and window treatments to create the look they want.

Where can you find a good decorator? If you like your friends' home, ask them for recommendations. Many communities have decorator showcases where you can see first hand the work of several local designers. Furniture retailers sometimes hire professionals to assist their customers.

Before you commit to working with a designer or decorator, you should sit down and discuss their fee structure, your taste and goals, and your budget. Pay particular attention to whether the person is a good listener and communicates well. Whether you are trying to make your home look wonderful in order to sell it or want to fix up a new home, the investment in professional advice can save you costly mistakes and make your home a reflection of your good taste.

Investment Strategy

Real Estate Agents can provide you with information about how the local market has performed historically, but they can't predict what the market will do next monthor next year.
Historically Real Estate has been a superb long-term investment, and many people have created fortunes on short-term investments in hot markets. If you are considering an investment in real property, ask your Agent whom you trust to help you work out your strategy.

Remember that the local market will be influenced by things beyond your control, such as interest rates, economic trends, local employment opportunities, and the demand for and availability of rental housing. All of these factors are subject to change, so timing is crucial.

A slow market can mean real values for buyers, but a fast market could heat up for several years, pricing timid buyers out of the market. Your Agent can't predict the future, but he/she can help you interpret the present.

Land Lovers

Great curb appeal goes a long way toward attracting buyers to a home that's for sale. Many sales have been generated by a "For Sale" sign in front of a home because buyers who admire a home's exterior often prove to be our most valuable prospects.

An investment in attractive landscaping can help your home sell more quickly. If you have a moderately green thumb, you can get a lot of free advice from local nurseries. They can give you tips on what will look good in your yard, considering the time of year, the available light, and the type of plants that do well in the area. You will probably be able to choose from many attractive low-maintenance plants that will add color and vitality to your yard.

Whatever the season, a few dollars invested in your front yard will usually reap much greater benefits than your original investment.

Legal Documents

The stacks of papers that you have to sign in order to buy a house can leave you very confused.  The person conducting the closing of the property will ask you to sign your name on  many documents that are filled with legal terms.   Some Buyers just glance at the forms and sign them without a lot of questions, while others find it very frustrating to try to read everything at the closing.

You should read the papers before you sign.  If you are getting a loan to buy a property, most of the paperwork will come from the mortgage company.  Most times, there is little time to read everything in advance because the papers arrive at the closing office shortly before the closing is scheduled. You should also consult with a Real Estate Attorney who will explain the documents to you.

Most of the documents use standard language, however, you should be able to get copies of your documents ahead of time from the Lender so you can have your all of your questions answered ahead of the closing.  Knowing what you are signing will make you more comfortable and relaxed.

Let the Sunshine In!

When your home is being shown, you want the prospective buyers to feel good and get that warm feeling about your home.  Your home should shine, let the sunshine in!  The more light in your home the more comfortable prospective buyers will feel.  The light and airy feeling makes people feel good.

When you are preparing to show your home, open the curtains, blinds, shades and put the lights on.  The light will make your home look clean, spacious and warm.  Prospective Buyers feel they are at home in a light filled home.  A great selling feature!

Liens

Occasionally homeowners who are trying to sell their home are surprised to learn that their title is encumbered by a lien. There are several types of liens; the most common are mechanic's or contractor's liens.

The lien (or debt) must be paid to be cleared. If the owner prefers to challenge the lien, he can release it by posting a bond, pending adjudication.

In some types of liens, a title search may disclose claims against the property by an ex-spouse or long-ago heir of a former owner. A simple "quitclaim" deed may be used in these cases. By signing the deed, the person involved signs over whatever rights he or she might have, without laying any claim to the property.

Listening To Your Needs

Some Buyers purchase the exact kind of house they said they were looking for, in the neighborhood they preferred. Other Buyers surprise us by falling in love with a house that is the complete opposite of what they originally wanted.

Real Estate Agents listen carefully when Buyers describe their needs and preferences. We screen our current inventory of homes to come up with possible matches. Since there is almost always some compromise involved when selecting a home, we may suggest alternatives that might work for buyers.

If you prefer a specific neighborhood where there are no homes in your price range, we may suggest homes in other areas with similar amenities. If you want four bedrooms, and one of them will be used as a home office, we may look for a den or family room that could serve your needs. When you look at houses, remember that your feedback is important to us--and it won't hurt our feelings.

Locating A Buyer

Listing your home with Juniper Realty & Associates is like setting a group of "busy beavers" to the task of finding a buyer--quickly. We try to arrange showing appointments that are convenient to both parties, but it does not always work out that way.

Last-minute appointments are sometimes necessary because Buyers who are relocating from other areas are often on tight schedules. This can be annoying to Sellers unless they understand the nature of the Agents job. When selling homes, we sometimes have to rely on our intuition. Many sales have been consummated as the result of last-minute appointments.

The prospective Buyer who is on a very short house hunting trip may need a house now! In this kind of situation, the Agent can make things can happen fast! So when the phone rings at the last-minute, keep in mind that the appointment represents an opportunity for the sale.

Location and Timing

There is an old saying about the three crucial factors in determining value in real estate--location, location and location. Actually, there are also three more factors--timing, timing and timing!

Real Estate values tend to go in cycles, with property values reflecting what is going on in the community. If the local economy is doing well, prices tend to increase. During an economic slowdown, prices tend to stabilize or decrease.

People who have done very well with Real Estate over the years have great instincts about when to buy and sell. They have mastered the art of buying when the market is on the way down and selling when it is on the way up, without a lot of concern about whether they made the best possible bargain in the transaction. They understand that investments are long-term, so it may take years for a rental property to turn a great cash flow or for the equity to become substantial. In the real estate business, timing is absolutely crucial.

Low Ball Offers

In every Real Estate market, there are Buyers who make offers that are far below the current market value. How should you react if your Agent brings you one of these “low ball offers”?

If your home is priced right, you can reject the offer and be reasonably confident that a better one will follow. In a Buyers market however, you may not have that luxury. Try to get the Buyer’s strategy and can they afford to pay a higher price? Should you counter offer? It may be necessary to look hard at your asking price for your house. If your price is on the high side, the offer may not be that unreasonable. We recommend that you don’t just say “no” to a low offer until you have explored all of your options.

Major Fix-Ups

You have decided that it is time to sell your home. After taking an objective look around, you realize that you have a lot of work to do in order to prepare your home for the market. If it will take more than just cleaning to get your home for showing, it may be time to call in two professionals--a home improvement contractor and a professional Real Estate Agent.

The ideal listing has a modern kitchen and bath, fresh paint, and beautiful wood floors or wall-to-wall carpet. Your Agent can offer suggestions about what your house needs, what colors or cabinet styles are popular with buyers, and tips on cost-effective improvements.

The contractor can work with you to put your plan into action. If you feel that the costs or disruption of a major remodeling project would be overwhelming, you have the option of marketing your home as a "fixer-upper." If you decide to sell your home "as is", your agent can prepare a market analysis to give you an idea of what you can expect to net from the sale of your home.

New Homes

Buying a house that is under construction gives you the opportunity to customize your new home by adding "extra" features to the basic home. When deciding on special features, consider how they will affect the re-sale value of the home and whether these additions will over-improve your home.

Money spent to improve and modernize kitchens and bathrooms is almost always a good investment. Corian, Granite counter tops, side-by-side refrigerators, quality flooring and whirlpool tubs are good ideas. Hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms are a plus when selling a home. If the builder's standard flooring for the foyer is carpeting, it is definitely worth changing to wood or ceramic. And even if you don't enjoy sitting around a roaring fireplace, the next owner may want one. If you plan to finish the basement later, you may want to "rough-in" the plumbing for a bath during the original construction. You should consider your own enjoyment--and what will increase the value of your home when you sell.

 

Personal Property

When you purchase a property, it usually includes the land and everything attached to it, such as buildings, trees, shrubs, etc. Most Buyers are only interested in purchasing the Real Estate, not the Owner's personal property. What happens when personal property has become a part of the Real Estate, is it actually a "fixture" which now passes with the Real Estate?

There are three tests which usually need to be satisfied. Has the personal property been permanently annexed to the Real Estate? Is it intended to become part of the Real Estate? What is the local custom? Fixtures may include: shades, heaters, ranges, screens, storm windows, lighting fixtures, etc. To save misunderstanding at the closing and perhaps the sale, it is important that the Seller spell out specifically in the sales agreement what will go to the Buyer as part of the Real Estate.

Plumbing

Keeping your plumbing in good shape is important anytime, but especially when your house is on the market. Dripping faucets and toilets that sound like a fountain not only add to your water bill, they also create the overall impression that your home has not been well-maintained, especially if the leak has begun to discolor the tub or sinks.

Even if prospective Buyers don't notice the plumbing when they first look at your home, they will probably request a structural contingency if they decide to buy it. This will allow them to have an expert to check the systems and appliances thoroughly. You will have to make repairs anyway, so we recommend that you do it as part of your preparations for placing your home on the market so that it does not become an issue with buyers. If your kitchen and bathrooms need work, the buyers are likely to discount the value of your home much more than it would cost to make repairs--or even to renovate.

Preparing your Home for Sale

Real Estate Agents sometimes receive calls from people who are asking for advice on what they should do to prepare their house for the real estate market.  They may have settled for living a less than optimal circumstance for years, and are now going to spend money to make it nice for someone else to enjoy.

If you are considering painting, updating the kitchen, landscaping, or any other improvements that would increase your home re-sale value, think about making those improvements while you are still there to enjoy them.  Create your own dream kitchen or Jacuzzi, your garden deck, or restore your wood floors now.  Maintaining your property well will make your home more enjoyable, will help maintain the property values in your neighborhood, and will expedite the sale of your home when you re ready for a move.

Private Mortgage Insurance

Private Mortgage insurance or MI is a type of insurance provided by a private mortgage insurance company to protect a lender in the event of default on a loan.  This type of insurance is generally required when the borrower has less than 20% equity in a home, that is, the loan amount divided the property value is 80.01% or greater.

Who pays for mortgage insurance?

The borrower pays for mortgage insurance on a monthly basis in addition to the principal and interest payments that are made on a loan.  The lender transfers these premium payments to the mortgage insurance company.

Besides a monthly premium, are there any up front fees to pay?

 Yes.  MI companies offer several options to the borrower at the time of closing.  A monthly premium plan requires two monthly premiums be paid during the closing, with a set monthly premium due thereafter as part of the required mortgage payment.  An annual plan requires one year of premiums paid at time of closing, with a lower monthly premium due thereafter.

It is generally recommended that the borrower choose the lower up front insurance premiums at the time of closing with a slightly higher per month premium due thereafter.

Do I have to pay mortgage insurance if I have less than 20% down payment for a home?

No.  There are several ways to avoid private mortgage insurance premiums.

1.    Purchase a home with a combination first and second mortgage.  The first mortgage would be limited to 80% of the home’s appraised value.  The second mortgage would provide for the difference between the home’s purchase price, less the 80% first mortgage, less the down payment available.   In other words, if you have a 10% down payment available, your first loan would provide for the 80% mortgage with a second mortgage of 10%.  This is commonly referred to as an 80-10-10 transaction.

2.    Another way to avoid incurring MI payments is to find a lender that offers self-insured programs.  This type of loan would have a higher interest rate in place of the private mortgage insurance premium.  While mortgage insurance premium payments are not tax deductible, the interest associated with a self-insured mortgage would be fully tax deductible.

Quitclaim Deed

Occasionally a Seller will be surprised to learn that a contractor's or mechanic's lien must be paid on their house. To challenge such a lien, the Buyer can release it by posting a bond pending adjudication. In other cases, a title search may disclose other claims against the property by an ex-spouse, past heir, or a former Owner. A simple quitclaim deed may be used in such a case. A quitclaim deed allows the person involved to sign over whatever rights he or she may have had in the property without laying any claim to it.

Real Estate Agent Questions

Real Estate Agents begin their professional relationship with buyers by asking a lot of questions about the Buyer’s personal and financial situation.  The answers to these questions will give the Agent a better idea about their housing needs and a price range.  It is a waste of time for an Agent to show a Buyer a home they cannot possibly afford, for it can be very depressing.  In order to do a great job for you, your Agent will need basic information about your income, debts, and the amount of cash you have available for your purchase of a home.  We will also have to know something about your lifestyle.  How large is your family? Where do you work?  Do you have school age children? Do you like to entertain?  What hobbies do you have? What are you looking for in a home? Etc.

A Real Estate Agent's Reality

The process of guiding a home sales transaction is in reality more complex than many people realize. When qualified Buyers present an offer on your home, it might seem that the deal is done, but this is only the beginning of the negotiations process. Ideally, this aspect of the transaction culminates in a meeting of the minds. At no point can the Real Estate Agent just sit back and relax, because the "glue" that holds each transaction together is subject to a variety of factors and forces that may cause the deal to fall apart.

We can only hope that there are no surprises during the home inspections. We have to presume that the appraiser will think the house is worth as much as the Buyer and Seller do, but this is never guaranteed. As the Buyers make their loan application, we cross our fingers that the credit report reveals they always pay their bills on time.

Rarely is a transaction completed without a few problems. A Real Estate Agent's professional skills come into play primarily during the time between contract ratification and the closing. At this point, we use our creativity, patience and negotiating skills to achieve a happy resolution to your transaction.

A Realistic Evaluation

Your Real Estate Agent's job is to find you the perfect home, in the right location, with all the amenities you want--and at the right price. It is the home inspector's job to find any skeletons in the closet -- or in the plumbing, wiring, roof, basement and beams. The Inspector won't pass or fail a home based on what he or she finds, but will go over the house thoroughly to help you understand the condition of the property you are buying. If there are any serious problems, your inspector can give you a realistic idea of how much the repairs will cost. If there are material defects that were not reflected in the asking price, you will have the opportunity to re-open negotiations with your Sellers before you commit to the purchase. A good Inspector will also explain the operation of the basic emergency systems such as the main water cut off valve and the circuit breaker box, and will go over items that will need routine maintenance.

If you are buying a house, we recommend that you make a professional home Inspector part of your home purchase.

Real Estate Jitters!

You want to sell your house and you are fortunate because buyers have made you an offer that you couldn’t refuse!  Once the ink dried on the contract, it seemed everything threatened to come unraveled.

Once the Buyers’ earnest money check cleared their account, they came up with a list of concerns that never occurred to their structural expert.  Their fears and demands caused you to see them more as an adversary rather than the sweet young couple who want to start a family in your house.  How could the atmosphere have changed so quickly?

You should know that buyers and sellers are both susceptible to different forms of “temporary insanity”.  “Buyers’ Remorse” and “Sellers Remorse.”  Fortunately neither one of these conditions is contagious to Real Estate Agents!  An important part of our job is to help our sellers and buyers through their buying and selling “jitters” with understanding and humor.

Referrals

After the close of your property, you leave the table feeling really good and proud you had an easy and less stressful close than other people have had.  You feel good about your Real Estate Agent and how all the transactions were handled smoothly.  All of the small problems did not amount to anything big.  The horror stories that you heard from friends about their Agent really had you on edge.  Your transaction went so smooth that you smiled all through the closing.  Thank goodness for my professional Real Estate Agent.

Real Estate Agents depend on referrals for a big part of their business.  An Agent who has served a client well will probably do a professional job for your acquaintances or colleagues.  The nicest thing to say thank you to your Agent is to pass on the name of a prospective Buyer or Seller. 

Rental Property

When you own an investment property, your goal is to get the highest monthly rental with the lowest vacancy rate and to keep quality tenants. How can you pull it all together?

It pays to keep your property in good condition, not only while you are trying to rent it out, but after the tenants move in.

You obviously want the property to look its best while it is being shown, but if you work at keeping it in top condition when tenants are living there, they are likely to stay around for a while. When something needs to be repaired, be sure they know whom to call to get the job done.

Arrange for periodic inspections of the property to check for leaking roofs or pipes, defective wiring or malfunctioning appliances. If you are an absentee Landlord, it makes sense to hire professionals to keep a close eye on your investment for you.

Renting Your Home

If you are trying to sell in a market where you can't get the price you want, should you consider renting your home until the market conditions improve?

It is a good idea to consider the issue fully before putting a "for rent" ad in the local classifieds. First, there are no assurances about when the market will be better than it is right now. Even if the market improves, selling a tenant-occupied home can be tricky, depending on your lease with the tenants and local tenant protection laws. The tenants may reasonably want to limit the access of Realtors and buyers to your house (which they have now come to think of as their own). If your home has been rented, it may not reflect your pride of ownership when you are ready to sell.

If you decide to rent your home, be sure to familiarize yourself with local tenant/landlord laws, conduct a credit check, and contact the references listed on the application before signing a lease agreement.

Selling Before Buying

Timing can sometimes be difficult if you have to sell a home before you can buy another one. Most people need the equity from the sale of their first home for the down payment on the new house. If your present home goes on the market first, you may be concerned that it will sell before you find the one you want to buy. If you find the perfect home before your present home is under contract, the sellers may be reluctant to accept your offer, and you may be too nervous to sign a contract.

It is a good idea to sit down with your Agent for some professional advice before you begin your search. It will probably be necessary to be flexible on the closing date because it is usually easier to find a home that you want to buy than to sell your present home. If you have found the house you want, you can ask the lender about arranging a short-term bridge loan that can make it possible for you.

Selling, Selling, SOLD!

Although your Real Estate Agent is responsible for marketing your property, it requires a joint effort to get your home sold.

First of all it is very important that you feel absolutely confident that your agent is able to produce results-no matter what the market is like in your area!  It may sound strange, but it is important to let your Agent know that you trust them to get the job done. 

Support that trust by putting a realistic price tag on your property and keep it in showing condition.  Work out showing instructions that will make it easy for Agents to preview or show your home, and meet periodically to discuss any feedback from buyers who have seen your home to determine how you can improve its appeal.  Don’t hesitate to share ideas you may have about marketing your home.   We have received some great ideas from clients, “what ever works”!

Selling your Home!

Its that time, time to move to a bigger home or downsizing to a smaller one.  It takes a lot of courage to move on.  Real Estate Agents can help you feel confident and comfortable in dealing with this stressful time.  It takes a lot more than putting a For Sale sign on your property. 

Many things will occur before the actual closing of your property.  The prospective Buyers will have an inspection, apply for a mortgage, an appraisal will have to be done.  Sometimes, Buyers can go through “buyers remorse” and will consider backing out of the transaction.  The services of a professional Agent will be invaluable. 

A Real Estate Agent will continue to present your home in the best light possible and use our professional skills to solve any problems that may arise. 

Showing Your Home

What should you do when a Real Estate Agent comes by your home accompanied by potential Buyers? You should go for a walk, run an errand or just make yourself scarce!

It is better for you to be out of the picture when your home is being shown, even though you know more about your house than anyone and may be afraid that the agent will overlook something important. Your presence will have an impact on the Agent's ability to work with buyers. Prospective Buyers need to feel comfortable about giving the agent feedback about your home, but this dialogue can be easily interrupted. Your presence during a showing may make you appear anxious to sell, giving the Buyer the impression that he can buy the house for much less than your asking price.

Your most important contribution is to keep your home in prime showing condition so that the Agent can maximize every showing opportunity.

Taxes Implications

Most of our Sellers make a profit when they sell their home.  They often have questions about capital gains and how the tax will impact them.

 If you are selling your primary residence, you do not have to worry about paying taxes on your profits if your gain does not exceed $250,000 as a single taxpayer, or $500,000 as a married couple filing jointly.  Unmarried people who jointly own a home and separately meet the tests described below can each exclude up to $250,000.

The new tax law comes for the Taxpayer Relief Act passed in August of 1997.  Regardless of your age, you are now free to roll from none to all of your gain into another home with further tax consequences.

Tips for a Great Closing

The closing table is the ideal place to sign papers, trade keys, and drink a toast to the new homeowners. Sometimes that setting is filled with tension and pressure as each side tries to work out important details of the transaction at the last minute.

How can you help make your closing a relaxed and happy one? First, try to get the details worked out ahead of time. There may be a few unresolved issues, such as repairs that were not completed, a disappearing dining room chandelier or a pre- or post-closing occupancy agreement. The atmosphere doesn't need to become adversarial, and minor upsets should not threaten the entire transaction. If you anticipate a problem, no matter how minor it may seem, be sure to communicate the situation to your Agent in advance, so that it can be handled before it has a chance to escalate.

The Title Search

The people who do title searches have an extremely important job. They must ensure that the Sellers really own the property being sold and that all liens against the property are being paid off as a result of the sale.

If the Seller has had financial difficulties, for instance, and didn't pay his bills, there may be judgments that must be satisfied on or before the closing. Someone in addition to the party who signed the sales agreement may have an interest in the property. If so, it will be necessary for that person to sign the sales agreement and the deed that transfers ownership to the new Buyer. The preliminary title report will also show any easements that run with the property. In addition, the Title Company can go back many years, examining what is called the "chain of title". If you learn that the property you are buying has title problems, don't worry, most issues are resolved easily and in plenty of time to avoid delays in the closing.

Too Many Experts!

You have just found the house, and you are feeling excited and confused at the same time. You trust the Agent who helped you find it and feel that the advice you received is solid. But you also want to get opinions about the house from your best friend, your parents, and your Uncle Chuck, who has an inactive Real Estate license.

If you get too much input, you could find yourself even more confused than you already are. Your best friend can provide moral support, but probably doesn't know the Real Estate market. Your parents may go into shock because they feel that they got so much more house for their money 30 years ago--and it cost them a fraction of the price you are going to pay. Uncle Chuck may have passed the real estate exam a few years ago, but his insights are not as crucial as those of a professional who is currently working the market. It's not that you shouldn't consult your family and friends--just don't go overboard. Rely on the advice of professionals you trust--a structural Inspector, Loan Officer, and a good Real Estate Agent so you can feel comfortable about having made an informed decision.

A Tough Sale

You found the perfect house and you made a very low offer. The Sellers responded with a counter-offer which was several thousand dollars lower than their asking price. You came back with a slightly higher bid, and they came down some more. After many times of back and forth, you finally reached a meeting of the minds, and you are very pleased with the results.

If you have driven a hard bargain for a house, try to be sensitive about making any additional requests from the Sellers. As you move toward your closing date, keep in mind that the Sellers may not share your elation. They may still be suffering from the negotiations. If you and the sellers are feeling a little ragged after a rough negotiation, you still have time to help everyone walk away from the transaction feeling satisfied with the outcome.

Understanding The Contract

When you are selling a home, the most important part of the transaction occurs after you have found a Buyer. If your property is being marketed professionally, your Real Estate Agent will put together the purchase offer and present it to you.

Each local Board of Realtors has standard contract forms which reflect the legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which you live. These contracts include the sales price, financing contingencies, completion deadlines, and other items that are required in order to meet local government requirements.  Meet with your Agent and discuss the process of contracts.

Upgrade Before You Sell

Real Estate Agents sometimes receive calls from homeowners asking for advice on what they should do to prepare their house to go on the market. They may have settled for living in a "less than optimal" circumstance for years, and are now going to spend money to make it nice for someone else to enjoy.

If you are considering painting, updating the kitchen, landscaping, or making any other improvements that will increase your home's re-sale value, think about making those improvements while you are still there to enjoy them. Create your own dream kitchen, master suite or spa, build an outdoor living room or restore your wood floors now. Improving your property will make your home more enjoyable, help maintain the property values in your neighborhood, and expedite the sale of your home when you are ready for a move.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale is when a lender accepts a discount on a mortgage to avoid a possible foreclosure auction or bankruptcy. Instead of buying from a seller, you are purchasing the property directly from the lender for a discount. For example: A homeowner, who is facing foreclosure, has an existing first mortgage of $300,000. You write an offer to the lender for $220,000, which is accepted as full payment for the loan. This is a short sale. Why are they willing to take such a discount? Several reasons. First of all, banks do not like excess inventory and bad loans on their books; therefore, if they see an opportunity where they can sell the property without a huge loss, they will do it. Secondly, lenders know they could lose a lot more money if the property goes to auction. There are so many fees involved if the property goes to auction, that they would be better off taking the discount beforehand and be finished with the headache of it all.

At the time of this writing, foreclosures are at an all-time high, which basically translates into more opportunities for you. Since foreclosures are increasing, this is the perfect time to jump into this because there will be more and more lenders discounting properties. It is safe to say that most lenders will accept a short sale, however, you may come across one or two lenders who will not discount. If the numbers work out for the lender they will do it.

It is best to do a short sale when the property is in the pre-foreclosure state. Yes, you can perform a short sale when the bank owns the property, however your profits will more than likely be smaller. There are two stages within pre-foreclosure. The first stage being those individuals who are behind on payments and the second stage are those who are behind on payments with a notice of default. In order for this to work properly and for you to successfully get a short sale, you must find the homeowners who are in the second stage of pre-foreclosure or more than 3 payments behind on their mortgage. Once the notice of default has been recorded, banks become motivated as well, so you are more likely to get a discount. Until that time, very rarely will a bank ever discount a mortgage that soon. Why would they? The homeowners still have time to cure the loan and make up the back payments.

It does not matter what type of house or condition it's in, all mortgages can be discounted. The best properties to perform a short sale on are the houses that need lots of work and repairs because lenders will give you a bigger discount if they see they are "don't wanters". Properties that are over leveraged are also prime candidates. Most rookie investors who see a house over leveraged with an upside-down mortgage may think there is no hope for this property. On the other hand, this is a sweet deal to the savvy investor. Properties with large 2nd mortgages are also treated as gold because the 2nd mortgage is wiped out at the foreclosure auction. Lenders with a 2nd and 3rd mortgage position would rather have something than nothing.

3 Stages of Buying Foreclosures

The strategy of buying pre-foreclosures is to create a situation where everyone wins. This type of strategy involves just you, the homeowner, and in some cases the lender. Because the homeowner has been delinquent on his or her mortgage payments, they are now in a position to entertain offers made by investors. Keep in mind, you may not be the only investor looking at this property. However, when buying pre-foreclosures, you can expect very little competition.

When buying pre-foreclosures like this and in turn make a profit, you must do some research on these types of properties. The following are some basic guidelines:

  1. locate loans in default,
  2. evaluate each property by comparing and contrasting location, price, and property condition
  3. narrow your selections to a few
  4. inspect the properties
  5. determine the property owner's needs, his motivation and flexibility
  6. determine the market value of the property, fix-up costs, potential sales price and profits
  7. arrange default work out by negotiating with the owner and the lender
  8. close on the property, fix it up, and flip it quickly

Buying Foreclosures at The Auction

Buying foreclosures at the auction is a great way to purchase a property under market value. Most properties are auctioned on the courthouse steps. The property is auctioned off to the public and the highest bidder walks away with the property. This can be very rewarding to those who are in a position to buy the property within a short amount of time and can be devastating to those who bid without proper financing in place. Most auctions require a small deposit down of the purchase price on the spot and the remaining balance usually within 1-30 days. So, make sure You have you deposit ready and your financing is in order before you bid. If you are unable to get financing within the allotted time, you will most likely lose your down payment, and they will auction the property off again. Buying foreclosures at the auction is also the riskiest place to pick up a foreclosure. You are buying the property in "As Is" condition so it's very important to do your homework before you just go to an auction and bid on a property.

When buying foreclosures at the auction, we recommend you:

  1. first visit a local auction to get a feel for the bidding procedure, find out how much is required as a down payment and when the rest is due
  2. get proper financing in order
  3. research properties and do your homework prior to the auction date
  4. calculate potential profits
  5. determine the most you will bid for the property
  6. follow the property to the auction and participate

Buying Foreclosures that are Real Estate Owned (REO)

Buying foreclosures that are REO primarily involves the lender. REO just means the lender reclaims the property and establishes control over it to minimize its losses. Buying foreclosures that are REO is by far the easiest way to pick up a distressed property. Lenders are always listing properties that come back from the auction, because they don't like excess inventory. They are in the lending business, therefore it is quite easy to find these types of properties. Most of the time they will hire a broker or real estate agent to handle the REO's just because there are so many of them. Lender's in this situation are very motivated, especially if they have a large number of them. These properties are considered to be a huge expense which need to be eliminated. This gives the investor numerous ways to creatively negotiate with the lender on a purchase price. One disadvantage when buying foreclosures that are REO, is that you will pay close to market value for these properties because the lenders will have paid off any outstanding liens, taxes, and other expenses. This is good for you though, because most of the time you will find these types of foreclosures with clear titles.

What is a Tax Lien Certificate?

A tax lien certificate is nothing more than a lien on a property for not paying taxes. Essentially, each and every year Owners of Real Estate have a tax lien (aka financial obligation to pay taxes) placed on their Real Estate. If the property taxes are paid on time the tax lien is removed. If they are not paid, in due time the county government will allow investors to pay on behalf of the Real Estate owner. The winning bidder at the public tax lien auction receives a tax lien certificate as proof of purchase. As the Owner of the tax lien certificate the investor may expect one of two possible outcomes, 1) An annualized return of 16%, 18%, up to 50% per year on what they paid to obtain the tax lien certificate or 2) Through foreclosure, become the owner of the real estate free and clear of any junior liens (aka mortgages and mechanics liens).

Once you become the Owner of the tax lien certificate all you must do is sit back and wait. When the property Owner finally decides to pay his tax obligation he / she must pay a visit to the county tax collector’s office where he/she will repay what you paid to acquire that tax lien certificate plus interest. At this point the government will contact you, ask you to return the tax lien certificate and upon receipt of the tax lien certificate the government will generate a check in the amount you paid to acquire the tax lien certificate plus interest.

For those of you who are investing in foreclosures, this is another great investment that compliments foreclosures. For those of you that know lien priority you know that property taxes get paid first above everything else, even mortgages. Therefore, tax lien certificates are a very safe investment. So, next time you come across a foreclosure and you run a title report and find unpaid property taxes, you may want to see if you can invest in the certificate. It may be worth your time. The best part about Tax Liens is that they are available in every county in the U.S. The most popular county is Maricopa, in Arizona.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil.

Where Can I Find Asbestos?

Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. Asbestos has also been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.

Where asbestos may be found:

  • Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
  • Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Automobile clutches and brakes

How Can People Be Exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.

Health Effects From Exposure to Asbestos

Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects.

Disease symptoms may take many years to develop following exposure.

Asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to identify. Healthcare providers usually identify the possibility of asbestos exposure and related health conditions like lung disease by taking a thorough medical history. This includes looking at the person’s medical, work, cultural and environmental history.

After a doctor suspects an asbestos-related health condition, he or she can use a number of tools to help make the actual diagnosis. Some of these tools are physical examination, chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats diseases caused by asbestos.

Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are:

  • lung cancer
  • mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lung, chest and the abdomen and heart
  • asbestosis, a serious progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs.

Source: www.epa.gov/asbestos

What is Carbon Monoxide?

CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can be harmful when inhaled in large amounts. CO is released when something is burned. The greatest sources of CO to outdoor air are cars, trucks and other vehicles or machinery that burn fossil fuels. A variety of items in your home such as unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, leaking chimneys and furnaces, and gas stoves also release CO and can affect air quality indoors.

Source: www. epa.gov/co-pollution

What is Foreclosure?

Foreclosure is to shut out, to bar, to extinguish a mortgagor's right of redeeming a mortgaged estate. It is a termination of all rights of the homeowner covered by a mortgage. Foreclosure is a process in which the estate becomes the absolute property of the lending institution.

Foreclosure numbers are growing daily. Of the one hundred twenty or so million homes in America, more than 4% or roughly 4.8 million of them are facing foreclosure. Some of these homeowners are able to work their way out of foreclosure, however, according to MBA there were about 500,000 homes that went through foreclosure last year. Foreclosure threatens these homeowners because they are late or seriously behind on their mortgage payments.

The Foreclosure process begins when the homeowner fails to make payments of the money due on the mortgage at the appointed time. This may be due to several reasons. Unemployment, divorce, medical challenges, terms of the loan, sick of property management, and even death.

Foreclosure is applied to any method of enforcing payment of the debt secured by a mortgage, by taking and selling the estate. Borrowers and lenders now face a challenging situation. Both seek a compromise that permits a win-win outcome. The Borrower to keep his home or business, the Lender to keep receiving mortgage payments.

Foreclosure proceedings typically start with a formal demand for payment which is usually a letter issued from the lender. This letter of notice is referred to as a Notice of Default (NOD). Depending on your state, the lender will issue this notice when the homeowner has been 3 months delinquent on the mortgage payments. Keep in mind that the notice is a threat to sell your property, terminate all your rights in that property and evict you from the premises.

What is Pre-approval?

A credit pre-approval decision provides potential buyers an opportunity to be pre-approved for a mortgage, even before they find a home.  Applying for credit pre-approval is easy. 

If approved, you’ll be given the maximum loan amount or a monthly payment for which you may qualify.  Then, you’ll have 90 days to find a property. 

Final approval is subject to a completed sales contract when you find a home, verification of your assets, and a satisfactory appraisal of the property.  Our In-house mortgage specialist, can help you get started. 

What is Radiant Heat?

Some homes that are built on slabs contain radiant heat. 

What is Radiant Heat? 

When homes are being built on a slab foundation, a poured single piece of concrete, some builders will actually install heating pipes in the concrete.  The homes that are older in age that contain this type of heat have metal pipes with coils inside of them to heat the floors in the home.  

The boiler to heat the coils are usually under a kitchen cabinet or piped to a garage.  Contractors today build homes with radiant heat using pvc pipes with coils inside instead of metal.  The reason for this is that metal pipes in the earth tend to corrode and cause leaks in the system and PVC tends to wear longer.

Radiant heat can be installed in bathrooms or kitchens to heat the flooring.

When You Are Buying Property to Build

You noticed a lot for sale in a suburban area that looks like a perfect place to build your dream home. Buying undeveloped land can provide an opportunity to build a house that will meet your needs, but you will need certain information before you sign on the dotted line.

Most suburban areas have zoning regulations which govern the type of structure that can be erected, the dimensions, and even the material used on the exterior. Historic preservation groups work with builders in many areas to ensure that any new construction fits in with the existing buildings. If you want to build out of the city limits, check the availability of public utility services and the cost of bringing those services to the site. Local planning and zoning boards can provide you with information about proposed development that could change your quiet country lane into a busy street.

It is a good idea to consult an architect and zoning expert to confirm that your vision will work on the property you have selected.

Whole House Fan Facts

With today’s airtight energy efficient homes, it is nice to get fresh air indoors whenever possible without driving up your utility bills.  Using a whole house fan is the most effective and efficient means of bringing fresh air indoors quickly when the outdoor temperature drops.

A whole house fan is a large fan that mounts in the attic floor. It is often located over a hallway to draw air from the entire house without creating drafts or noise in the rooms.  The fan draws outdoor air in through opened windows and exhausts the air into the attic area and out the vents.

A secondary benefit of using a whole house fan is the air flow through the attic helps cool the attic and the roof.  A hot attic and roof can radiate heat down through the attic insulation to the living areas below.

A whole house fan uses about 80 percent to 90 percent less electricity than a central air conditioner.

During the hot summer weather, run the central air conditioner during the day and then use the whole house fan at night. Whenever the outdoor air temperature drops to about five degrees lower than your thermostat setting, running the whole house fan will comfortably cool your house and create a gentle breeze indoors.

There are many whole house fan designs with various features from which to choose.  For most average sized homes, a direct-drive model with a motor in the center of the fan is a good choice.  The most quiet models have vibration blocking rubber hubs and sound-absorbing air flow shrouds. For sizing a whole house fan, a rule of thumb is the air flow in cubic feet per minute should be three times the house size in square feet.