Low interest rates have enticed thousands of Americans to seek funding for a new home or to refinance an existing mortgage. This surge has created a demand for mortgage brokers, whose job it is to help borrower’s complete applications and secure loan rates. It is estimated that brokers process hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgages every year. If you are thinking of buying a home or refinancing your existing one, here are some tips for finding a qualified broker to help;
- Get good references. If you want the help of a mortgage broker, ask friends or a trusted professional at your bank for a recommendation.
- Get an upfront estimate. This won’t be a problem, because federal law requires mortgage broker to provide you with a written estimate of the total cost of your mortgage transaction no later than three days after you apply.
- Be careful about fees. Brokers receive most of their compensation from lenders, who pay them a small commission on the mortgage deal. If you’re asked to pay more than you expected, ask your broker for a detailed explanation of all costs. You may find that you do not need all the services your broker offers.
Virtual tours and photo slide shows are great tools for any Realtor, and they can make or break a sale. But a home that looks neglected on camera won’t shine in a potential buyer’s eyes. If you’re thinking of listing your home, help your agent make your home stand out on video & photos by preparing it for its digital close-up.
Clean up. Walk through every room and pick up items that don’t belong – like the forgotten stack of magazines on your footstool or the shoes lounging by your bed. They’ll be obvious in video or photos, and can distract the viewer. Before the pros photograph your house, snap a few short and take a look — what sticks out at a glace will surely be the first things a potential buyer would notice, too.
Remove personal touches. Remember, this won’t be your home anymore, so it shouldn’t look like it. Prior to showing a house, take down family photos, heirlooms and even college diplomas.
Update with a few new details. Flip through a few home decorating publications and take a look at what’s trendy and adjust your décor to match. A colorful vase of flowers on a glass coffee table, for example, make the room look warm and inviting.
Store unnecessary furniture. A good rule of thumb is that the only furniture in the room should accurately display what the room is (a dining room table & chairs in that room, for example). Removing extra side tables or a chair in the corner that’s hardly used will make the rooms look larger and allow the viewer to imagine his or her furniture in the space.
The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is alerting California consumers who are considering hiring a painter, landscaper, or any other type of construction contractor that it is illegal to ask for or accept a down payment of more than 10% of the total home improvement contract price or $1,000. whichever is less. A person should never pay for work before it is completed, or pay for materials before they are delivered to the property. Make sure the written contract contains a progress payment schedule that outlines project phases, with all costs and estimated completion dates.
More helpful tips on hiring contractors can be found on the CSLB website: cslb.cal.gov
Seal of the United States Federal Housing Finance Agency. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced a simplified loan modification initiative that is intended to help troubled borrowers avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. Beginning July 1, 2013, lenders will offer eligible borrowers who are at least 90 days delinquent on their mortgage an easier way to lower their monthly payments and modify their loan without requiring documentation of their financial hardship.
Borrowers must demonstrate a willingness and ability to pay by making three on-time trial payments, after which the mortgage will be permanently modified. Borrowers are encourages to work with their lender to evaluate other foreclosure prevention options, however. The program is available to borrowers whose loans are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
info from CRS magazine, May/June 2013
Making exterior improvements to your home before putting it on the market will draw more potential buyers once it is listed. This is known as improving your home’s ‘curb appeal’, and because first impressions are important, it may help ensure a quick sale. But the first thing you need to do is decide how much time and money you are willing to invest in presale improvements.
You can go as far as resurfacing the driveway or applying a fresh coat of paint. The good news is that you should be able to recover the cost of these larger improvements in the sale.
If you’d rather not invest so much time and money, smaller improvements can also do a lot to improve the curb appeal. Try adding colorful flowers to your landscaping or simply adding potted flowers to your doorway. Painting the front door an inviting new color may attract potential buyers. Even polishing your doorknob and putting out a new doormat can help make a favorable first impression.
Credit Cards (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
If you’re wondering where all your money goes, you’re not alone. Financial services company along with credit card management advisors surveyed more than 1,300 working people on their spending habits during the summer of 2012. Here’s some of what they discovered:
Rent/mortgage payments were cited by 83% of men and women as one of their top three monthly expenses. (Homeownership is also the single largest source of wealth for most Americans.) Credit card debt was a major expenditure as well, named by 28% of men and women. Car payments, on the other hand, weren’t in the top three lists of either males or females.
Only 38% of participants in the survey said they follow a monthly budget. Less than half said they didn’t know how much money they have available each month for discretionary spending. Among those who could name a figure, men tended to have more discretionary cash than women: $1,180 per month for men and $631 for women.
Tile is a durable, versatile addition to any home. But even the toughest tile can get spots and stains from time to time. Here are some ways to clean your tile:
- Remove mildew and make tiles sparkle by sponging with a solution of ammonia and water.
- For stubborn stains, apply a paste of scouring powder and water, and let it sit for five minutes. Scrub with a nylon scrubbing pad, rinse and wipe dry. Avoid using a brush with stiff bristles, which could scratch the surface of the tiles.
- to keep the grout joints on tile clean longer, wash with a solution of 1 to 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach in one quart of water. Dry thoroughly, and then apply an acrylic sealer or three coats of lemon oil. Let dry one hour between coats.
- If tiles have a dull film, wash them with a solution of vinegar and water. Polish with a towel.
You may not have time before your home goes on the market for all the home projects you’ve been putting off, but you should definitely make time for your floors.
Buyers looking at a home with hardwood floors want them to be in great shape, not warped, scratched or cracked. Home buyers will also notice cracked floor tiles in the bathroom, peeling vinyl flooring in the laundry room or stained wall-to-wall carpet in the bedroom. So it comes down to this: Start at the bottom and make sure your floors are in great condition. When it comes to tiles, go to your local hardware store for tubes of ointment that can lighten your grout. Your carpet might look much better with a professional steam cleaning, but if you have to replace it, choose a neutral color that will go with almost any type of decor.
For most homeowners, cleaning the gutters is near the bottom of the to-do list. But keeping your gutters clean can really save you a lot of headaches; overflowing gutters can damage roofs and wreak havoc on your foundation.
Keeping the water flowing properly isn’t as big a deal as you might think. And if you clean your gutters every six months, you’ll save yourself time and money.
According to www.hgtv.com, you can tell if a gutter needs cleaning by looking up at the gutter’s top, outside rim. If it is discolored, there’s a buildup and water is not flowing as it should.
* To clean the gutters, use a ladder. Make sure to be safe and cautious around power lines. If you fell unsafe or uncomfortable, hire a professional.
* There are several ways to clean gutter. One is to simply put on a pair of gloves and dig the debris out by hand and rinse it with your hose. Or you can use barbeque tongs or make a scoop by cutting a plastice, two-liter soda bottle.
* To dispose of the debris, hang a bucket on the ladder with a bungee cord or lay a tarp on the ground to catch the falling debris. When you’re done, just roll up the tarp and empty it into the trash.
Home insurance premiums rose 19% in 2011. In an analysis of 15,000 policies sold in the US in 2011, homeowners paid an average of $810 for their monthly home insurance premium in December 2011, up from an average of $682 in January 2011. On average, homeowners nationwide paid $128 more per year for new homeowners’ insurance than they did at the begining of 2011. However, some individual states fared worse. In Mississippi, Montana and New Mexico, new insurance policies in December 2011 had premiums that were 29% to 39% higher than those sold in January 2011. Consumers may be able to reduce premiums by shopping around and asking their insurance agent if they are eligible for discounts, such as a home-auto insurance package, which can provide substantial savings.