What Makes a Great Neighborhood?

neighborhood

The place where we live is a fundamental contributor to our overall well-being. That said, buying a house in a great neighborhood is of utmost importance.

When you’re in the market for a new house, it pays to remember the golden rule of real estate: You’re not just buying a house, you are also becoming a part of the neighborhood.

In this article, we’ll help you distinguish a great neighborhood from the mediocre ones.  Here are a few characteristics that are common to all great neighborhoods.

Promote sociability

A neighborhood is not just a set of individuals, but a set of relationships. And a neighborhood that allows those relationships to form is where you’d want to live in.

Crime rate

As crime rates in many parts of the country get higher, more and more homebuyers become concerned about the safety of their family and home as well. Low crime rates give a neighborhood a sense of calm and ease.

Do not rely on newspaper reports and hearsays. Instead, do your own research. Go online to check the types and frequency or crimes in the area. Or better yet, call or visit the local police department to verify the information.

Close to public transportation

Easy access to public transportation is a solid upgrade to any neighborhood and an amenity for any lifestyle. This is especially beneficial for a millennial or a retiree who uses public transportation to go to the park, restaurants, market, office or other amenities the neighborhood has to offer.

Lifestyle match

A great neighborhood is one that matches your needs and is in sync with your current lifestyle. If you have a family with small children, you’ll want to be in a family oriented neighborhood with less noise. If you are a young, single professional, living in a condo in a hip neighborhood would be a great choice.

 

Essential Tips for Single Home Buyers

In today’s market, buying a home requires confidence. Single women don’t seem to have a problem with that. In fact, a rising number of women are taking that bold step of buying a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, single women accounted for 21% of all home purchases last year; whereas, only 10% was accounted for single men.

Realizing that single women are also entitled to the American Dream, they go out there and take the home buying plunge while wearing a pair of red stilettos.

In this article, we have compiled a few tips to ensure that the Jane’s of the world make smart choices when buying a house.

Keep an eye on the future

So, you have decided to buy yourself a nice little home. Although you may not need a big space today, you also have to consider that you might not be single someday. You’ll get married and possibly have children. Make sure to keep an eye on the future when making decisions about buying a house.

Stay within your budget

Buying a house on your own can be exhilarating, but be sure that the house you are eyeing on is something that you can afford.

Should something happen to your income, let’s say you lose a job, get sick or injured,  keep in mind that you do not have a partner or a spouse to fall back on for your monthly payables. Stay within your budget and make sure that the home you purchase fits within your financial capabilities.

Safety

Being single, you’ll be on your own majority of the time. Of course, you want to feel safe in your own house. That said, buying a property in a low-crime area should be a priority.

Drive by the area during the day and night. Talk to the neighbors and see what they have to say about the neighborhood. Go online and research about the crime rate or better yet, drop by the police precinct and ask the police officer about the issues in the neighborhood.

How to Overcome Hurdles to Homeownership

clear_hurdlesBuying a home is not always an easy process. It’s not unusual to encounter stumbling blocks or obstacles to home ownership. That said, it is important to be prepared for these obstacles before you go out there and start looking at houses.

So, how can prospective buyers overcome these obstacles? Read on and we’ll tell you more about it.

Clean up your credit

Being informed is the first and most important step in dealing with your credit woes. Secure a copy of your credit report from any of the 3 major reporting bureaus such as TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

Bankruptcy, foreclosure and missed or delinquent mortgage payments are the 3 of the most critical marks on your reports. So, make sure that there aren’t any errors on your account.

Save money

Unless you won the lottery or you’re just independently wealthy, you will need to get a mortgage. Keep in mind that every loan requires a down payment. Conventional and FHA loans often require homebuyers a down payment, which ranges from 3.5 to 10% of the sales price.

Having a hefty down payment in your pocket does not only put you at an advantage in qualifying for a loan, it also helps you secure a better rate and improve your chances of winning a bidding war.

Obtain a minimum FICO score

Qualifying for a mortgage is one of the biggest roadblocks to homeownership. You may not qualify for a mortgage if your FICO score falls below 620 for FHA and 720 for conventional loans.

If you’ve got tons of credit card debts, it would be best to pay down what you can before applying for a loan to increase your credit score. Make sure not to exhaust your assets while doing so.

Work with a mortgage broker

If you didn’t find success with the tips given above, you might want to consider working with a mortgage broker. These people have access to a wide variety of loan programs; thus, giving hope to borrowers that were turned down elsewhere.

 

Bidding Wars: Tips to Win the House of Your Dreams

bidwar

In case you’ve missed the news, the real estate market is starting to pickup. Given the lack of good inventory, it is becoming a war out there when it comes to buying a home.

As more and more sellers are fielding multiple offers to their properties, an increasing number of potential homebuyers are finding themselves in fierce competition with other buyers. So, what does it take to win the war for your dream home? Here are some tips on how to create a compelling offer and claim victory over your competitors.

Get pre-approved for a loan

Almost every multiple offer will be accompanied by a lender letter. Asking your lender for a pre-approval letter will help you stand out. When a seller sees that the bank has already expressed their willingness to finance the deal, this gives the seller an assurance that you are serious in buying the house, making you a stronger buyer in the eyes of the seller.

Make your best offer

In an effort to generate multiple offers, some sellers set a price that is deliberately below comparable sales. If you are particularly fond of the house and find yourself in a bidding war, be sure to make your bid attractive by offering your highest price. Otherwise, the seller may go with another bidder. Remember, you only have one shot to get it right.

Cash is king

Sellers are more likely to negotiate a deal with buyers who are willing to pay for the full amount in cash. This is because it is less likely to fall through before the sale closes.

If you have enough cash to buy the house of your dreams, then make sure to bring as much cash to the table.

Write a letter to the seller

In the hopes that they may make a connection with the seller, some buyers would write a letter stating why they are interested to buy the house. This works particularly well if the sellers are attached to their home.

 

Pros and Cons of Buying a House with Cash

house with cashYou have just sold your house recently and are looking for a new house to buy. For the first time in your life, you have enough money to pay for a new home with cash. But is it a good idea to forego the mortgage and just cut the builders a check?

Let’s explore the pros and cons of buying a house with cash.

Pros

More negotiating power

According to Nasdaq, buyers who are willing to pay for the full amount often nab the house for 5% less than the listing price. This is because sellers understand that there will be no contingencies on getting a loan, making it easier to close a deal. As a result, sellers agree to reduce their asking price to accommodate cash buyers and close quickly.

Avoid gruesome mortgage process

We all know how lengthy and complicated the mortgage approval process can be. In the recent years, the amount of paperwork required for borrowers has increased. By paying with cash, you can bypass the mortgage process, buy the house you want and own it outright.

Sense of security and ownership

By paying with cash, it gives you the freedom and peace of mind of not having to think about your monthly mortgage payments. No matter how bad things may get financially, you are sure that you have a roof over your heads and a place to lay your heads at night. There is a big benefit in knowing that you own your house free and clear.

Cons

Reduced liquidity

Paying cash for a home may be a no-brainer if you can afford it, but paying that much money upfront can drastically limit your overall liquidity. Putting all your liquid assets into buying a house will make it difficult for you to free up money in case of an unforeseen life event or a financial crisis.

You should only consider buying a home outright if you have at least 6 months of liquid assets tucked away for backup.

No tax deductions

For most tax payers, there can be great tax rewards for having a mortgage. The interest and some fees you pay to get the loan are tax deductible. Buying a home with cash will not provide any tax deductions.

 

Important Questions to Ask Before Buying a House

before you buy

Most buyers jump into buying a house because they have fallen in love with it. As you gear up to find your dream home and prepare for the home buying process, you probably have a few questions on your mind. While the answers might make scare you off, you can be confident that you are making the right move by answering these questions.

In order to make sure that you are financially and emotionally prepared to own a home, here are some of the most important questions you should ask yourself before you go out house hunting.

Why am I buying a home in the first place?

Forget the finances for a minute and think about what pushed you to buy a house in the first place. Ask yourself this question and be honest with your answer.

What benefits will you get from owning a home? What are your reasons for buying a house? Do you need more space for you and your family? Are you looking for a place where you can keep your family safe? Do you need a place to raise your kids and give them a good education?

Are my job and finances stable?

In today’s economy, there is probably no such thing as 100% job security. But if you are planning to buy a house, make sure that you have enough money in the bank to cover at least 6 month’s worth of living expenses. This is important so as to make sure that your finances could handle a temporary loss of income in case you lose your job.

What is the neighborhood like?

Potential buyers rarely spend enough time examining the area before buying a house. They would drive by the area, but most of them wouldn’t even get out of their car, let alone talk to the neighbors.

Before buying a new home, it is important to check the neighborhood. Remember, the neighborhood affects the children, too. Be sure to ask around about the schools, safety and crime rate. Take a walk around the neighborhood and meet the neighbors.

 

 

Buying Your First Home: Starter Home or Forever Home?

Hands protecting drawn house, hearts coming out of chimney

Buying your first home can be confusing. A lot of young couples have embarked on the starter home versus forever home debate. Should you buy your first home, knowing that you’ll eventually need a bigger space as the kids grow? Or should you stretch your budget to the limit and just buy your dream house?

To help you determine which option is the right one for you, we’ll discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of buying a starter home and a forever home.

The starter home

Generally, a starter home is a place where you’d be happy to stay for about 5 years even if you know that you’ll eventually outgrow it. This may simply be a small home or a condo – something you can afford now.

Buying a starter home can be less stressful financially, especially if you only have a limited amount saved for down payment. Of course, you’ll want to buy a property that will appreciate in the next few years so you’ll have enough money to purchase your forever home. However, if the value of your property drops, you’ll have to sell it at a loss or live in your starter home longer than expected. Another downside to buying a starter home is the cost and hassle associated with moving.

The forever home

A forever home is a place where you can imagine yourself living in for more than 15 years. This will be the kind of home that you envision doing some home improvements and renovations that you can enjoy for several years. This is a house that is big enough to accommodate a growing family.

If you have a stable job and are anticipating an increase in your earning power in the coming years, paying a little more to buy your dream house will be worthwhile. But the problem is, most people cannot afford their forever home at this time and age. Some choose to rent while saving up for a larger down payment, but the problem is, house prices are on the rise. Meaning, what you can’t afford today can be even less affordable in the future.

 

How to Arrange Furniture Like a Pro

Original_Furniture-Arrangement-Abbey-Koplovitz-Blue-Living-Room_s4x3_lg

One of the best things about moving to a new house is having the opportunity to start over and customize your living space according to your personal preference.

While there are no specific rules in decorating, there are some basics to consider when arranging furniture. It might be the hardest decisions to make, but it is important to do it right the first time so you’ll never have to rearrange your furniture again.

Here are some tips on how to arrange your furniture like a pro.

Start with a clean slate

If possible, get rid of all the existing furniture and empty the room completely. This might be difficult, especially in a cramped city apartment, but starting with a blank palette is beneficial as it will help you visualize a fresh new look.

Keep the tape measure handy

Furniture arrangement is all about space planning. That being said, the first thing that you should do is to get the tape measure out and familiarize yourself on the amount of space you’ll be working with. Once you have all the measurements, you’re ready to play around with the furniture.

Establish a focal point

Decide what the focal point of the room will be and arrange your furniture around it. A focal point can be something as simple as a huge artwork, television, fireplace, coffee table or a hanging lamp. This is the defining element in your room.

Bring in your largest furniture first

Get your largest, necessary pieces of furniture first and make sure they are in the correct place before bringing in the rest of your furnishings.

Consider the natural flow of traffic across the room. Also, arrange furniture in such a way that it’s easy for everyone to get to different parts of the room without dodging on the sofa, dining table etc. Do not block doorways or views to other rooms.

 

Things You Should Know Before Buying a Short Sale Property

Short-sale-photo_13949278

Buyers pursue short sale properties as it can be a perfect opportunity to purchase a home at a steal price. But before you get too excited over the prospect of buying that short sale property, you’ll want to take some time to research that listing first.

Short sale is a great possibility for people who have the knowledge and patience to get the deal done. Being prepared to tackle all the risks and pitfalls can help potential buyers avoid a lot of frustration.

Here’s what you need to know if you are interested in buying a short sale property.

Long closing time

Short sale does not refer to the time involved to close the sale. Instead, it’s the amount of time given to the seller to pay off their current loan.

Banks are notorious for taking several months before responding to short sale offers. In most cases, it takes about 4 to 9 months to close, sometimes longer. So, if you make an offer on a short sale property, be prepared to wait.

Short sale vs. foreclosure

Short sale and foreclosure are two different things. Unlike in a foreclosure, the bank does not own the property being sold. Additionally, most sellers who decide to short sell are trying to work out a deal with the bank to avoid foreclosure.

Precautions and pitfalls

Most buyers who get attracted by the low price tag often find themselves surrounded by a number of issues. But if you still wish to proceed in an attempt to snag a bargain, then you should proceed with cautions.

Due to the complexity of this type of transaction, it would be best to hire an agent who is experienced with short sales. Some agents don’t want to get involved with these types of transactions since it requires more work and less commission.

Additionally, since lenders are already taking a loss on the property, you’ll most likely be asked to take the property “as is”. If homeowners don’t have enough funds to pay for their mortgage, chances are,  they haven’t been able to maintain their home either.

Last-Minute Tips for a Smooth Closing

Smooth Closing

Closing on a home is usually an exciting and nerve-wracking day for both the seller and the buyer. You have already taken care of everything, and now, it’s time to wrap it all up. You can finally grab the keys to your dream home and get busy moving into your new home.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to run into any obstacles the day you officially become a homeowner. In order to make sure that you have covered all the bases, here are a few last-minute tips you should take note off for a smooth closing.

Review the closing document

There is tons of paperwork involved in buying a house. So make sure to get in touch with your lawyer, title agency, realtor and anyone else associated with your purchase at least a few days before closing.

Don’t wait until the last minute to review the document. Review every document sent to you as soon as you can and return it immediately.

Check on any repairs

If you have negotiated for repairs to be made by the seller, make sure your realtor keeps tabs on the seller and check to see that they are done. Most sellers wait until the last minute to work on these repairs, so it would be a good idea to check on it ahead of time. If not, you may have to delay closing just to give the seller more time to finish the job.

Have your funds ready

Plan ahead and make sure to have the money transferred to your checking account at closing. Banks may take a day or two, especially if you request a wire transfer of a large sum.

If you are pulling money out of a savings account, mutual fund or money market account, make sure that the money is in the escrow account before the closing day.

Never close on a Friday

No matter how prepared you are, last-minute items often get delayed. That being said, you should never schedule a closing on a Friday. Do it on a Wednesday instead. Just in case things get delayed, you still have an extra day or two.