4 Steps To Get Your Home Ready Now For The Spring Real Estate Market

Spring is almost here, and soon it will be home selling season. You will only get one chance to make a good first impression in real estate and if you want to stand out from the competition, maximize your sale price and sell quickly, your house needs to go on the market in tip top condition.

As soon as the listing of your home goes live, the days on the market start ticking. In the current Internet age, with easy access to a lot of up to date information, home buyers will definitely punish any seller whose house has been on sale for many months. If you cannot make the effort to ensure that your home is in its best condition, you should hold-off on listing it.

Prepping the house rarely occurs within one weekend. It takes thoughtful planning and time. If you are planning to sell your house this spring, below are a few steps you should take now.

 

  1. Inspect

It might seem counter intuitive to spend your cash on a property inspection, but you should know about the condition of your home. If there`re issues – big or small – you should address, it’s better to know about them early enough so that you can either account for them with a lower-listing price or remedy them before going to market.

The last thing you want is for the home buyer to discover flaws once they`re under contract. For example, the inspection enable’s you to know about your home’s nearly-dead furnace or bad roof now instead of being surprised later. You’ll get stuck paying more under these conditions than it would cost you to resolve the issues now.

 

  1. Stash

As you are preparing to sell your home, you should think of it as an investment and begin to look at it through the eyes of the market and the potential buyers. When you are trying to sell your house, the less is more approach applies.

Put away personal items and big furniture. Put away or store all the things you will not be using until you move into your new house. In the kitchen, you should make space in the cabinets for the items you’ll want to use every day, but will want to put them away for the showings.

 

  1. Improve

It is quite common for home sellers to make cosmetic-improvements before they list their homes. Bathrooms and kitchens sell your house. You should plan to have the grout in your bathroom cleaned and have some of the walls of the home painted so that you can give it a fresh look. By doing this, you also enable the potential buyers to more easily imagine how they can adapt the rooms to their requirements.

You should also take color down a notch. You may like your lime green bedroom, but it might sour the buyers. Paint the walls a neutral color which will appeal to a wide range of home buyers.

Consider painting kitchen cabinets, cleaning rugs or refinishing hardwood floors. If you are planning to list your house in the spring, you probably already have a good local estate agent helping you by now. Get their advice and ask for referrals to do the work. There are lots of inexpensive contractors who can help spruce up your home quickly.

 

  1. Research

Today’s home buyers have research in their DNA and most of them will investigate all they can. You should check with your local building department and make sure that there are no unresolved issues with your house.

Verify that the property records reflect your house accurately, and prepare to remedy any inconsistency. Ensure that your title-report is clean, and talk about the potential disclosure items with your real estate agent. Banks will not lend if there`re unresolved issues, and you do not want to have to jump through hoops at the last minute. By conducting your researching now, you will be able to be a step ahead of the home buyers.

The sale of your house is probably one of your largest financial transactions. You should get a real-estate agent on your side early, and also make a list of the tasks you have to complete before listing your home this spring. Now is the right time to have these discussions. A good strategy and some smart planning will ensure a profitable, quick and painless home sale.

Five Steps to Ease Home Buying Stress and Anxiety

Buying a home is an emotional experience – it can be exhilarating, thrilling and even stressful. When the time comes to sign the paperwork, don’t be surprised if you feel butterflies in your stomach, or even nauseous. You are likely making the biggest financial decision of your lifetime; hence it is perfectly normal to feel anxious about buying a home.

Nevertheless, do not let uncertainty about the mortgage process keep you on the sidelines. The tips that have been clearly explained below will help you feel more prepared for home ownership.

According to a recent survey, most consumers have the wrong ideas about what it takes for someone to qualify for a mortgage. Most consumers believe that the requirements are more strict than they actually are, When they were asked about the crucial mortgage qualification criteria (like debt to income ratio, down payment percentage and credit score), approximately 50 percent of the consumers provided an invalid answer or selected “do not know”.

This means that there are many eligible home buyers sitting on the sidelines because of misconceptions about the mortgage process or anxiety about being turned down for a loan. To be certain you are ready to purchase a house, and ease any anxiety you might have about the whole process. Below are five suggestions that will help you to ease your home buying anxiety.

 

  1. Learn all you can about mortgages

In the recent years mortgages have changed a lot as investors and lenders make changes reflective of the American households. For instance, several adults in the household might be working and making their contributions to the household budget.

Some of the mortgages allow lenders to consider the income that is generated from the other household members when qualifying a borrower. In addition to that, some home buyers might qualify for zero down options, including VA loans (guaranteed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs) for service members, veterans and the surviving spouses, and the United States Department of Agriculture loans for low to middle income borrowers in qualifying rural areas.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey, use of both types of loans is on the increase, particularly among first time buyers.

 

  1. Talk to an expert

Don’t know your credit score or how you can save? No problem. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors various counseling agencies all around the country that offer free or low cost pre purchase counseling that will help you to understand the terminology you will hear from the lenders and be able to assess your financial situation.

The work of home credit counselors is to demystify this important transaction by educating the individuals who go to them, so that when they decide to purchase a home, they know what issues they should look out for and what questions they should ask.

 

  1. Explore down payment assistance

According to NeighborWorks America, a national-nonprofit community development organization that is based in Washington DC, 70% of adults in United States are not aware about the down payment programs that are available for middle income home buyers in their community,.

The percentage might even be higher since, in most areas in the United States there`re dozens of homeowner education options and down payment assistance programs.

 

  1. Compare mortgage quotes

According to research conducted by Economic & Strategic Research (ESR), only one third of home buyers shop around for a mortgage. That is usually at a later stage of the process, meaning that they might be missing out on saving money.

As infrequent and large as the mortgage transaction is in the financial lives of most people, borrowers might end up not getting the best deal by opting to not shopping around. Getting a great deal can enable borrowers to sustain their mortgage even in the case of unexpected decreases in income or increases in expenses.

 

  1. Consider long term costs

As any home buyer knows, there are costs you can anticipate, for example; your home owners association fees or monthly mortgage.

There could also be unexpected costs down the road, such as paying for a new roof for your home. Home owners should set aside 3 % to 5 % of the value of their home each year to use for improvements and repairs. You will want to tuck the money away so that you do not become stressed when something goes wrong because things can, and will, go wrong.

Pros and Cons of Combining Finances With Your Significant Other

Managing money can be challenging enough on your own. You should take into consideration the following points before merging finances with your significant other.

Whether you have recently moved in with your significant other or you are a newlywed, you there’s a lot to decide about the best way you should handle your household finances. Figuring out how you will divide grocery shopping, laundry duties and other everyday responsibilities is a no-brainer compared to the momentous question of your finances.

Most people find that dealing with the financial issues that arise as a result of living with their partner can be quite bewildering. Your incomes becomes one and the debts pile together to form what could possibly be a colossal undertaking. In reality, discussing the finances can be one of the most difficult aspects of marriage.

If you are thinking about merging your finances, below you’ll find some of the pros and cons you’ll need to consider.

 

Pros

Teamwork

If you are on the same page, with your short and long term financial goals synced-up, and financial priorities fully-aligned, there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing that you are in this together through a complete financial union.

By merging all your liabilities and assets, you are both looking beyond your personal needs and wants, and ultimately making the commitment to prosper or fail – together, as a unit.

 

Simplicity

When you are living together or married, you and your significant other share many expenses together, like mortgage, household items, food, utilities, etc. (especially if you have established a budget). It makes a lot of sense to keep the cash that pays those bills in one account that you both fund. Additionally, merging your loan accounts, like credit cards, can help you secure other loans in the future.

And if you are both making timely, consistent payments, both of your credit scores will improve. If you had kept the credit account separate, only one of you would have the benefit of a higher score that could hurt you later when you apply for additional credit.

 

Taxes

Without a doubt, filing separate returns might be advantageous in some circumstances. (For instance, if one spouse has high medical bills and is able to meet the deduction threshold by considering only his/her income.)

However, for some couples, merging finances and joint filing will help save time, and can result in substantial savings. This is particularly true in cases where one spouse earns a higher income than the other. Since the joint tax filing brackets are double the married-filing-separately brackets, more of the income of the higher earning spouse will be taxed at a lower-rate. Normally, filing a joint-tax return is advantageous for couples that do not have excessive personal casualty losses, medical expenses or other itemized deductions. Talk to your accountant for more information about how you can minimize the tax bite.

 

Cons

Attitudes

Some couples might not agree on certain issues, such as creating a saving/spending plan, setting their retirement goals, or even the amount debt they should carry. After all, opposites really do attract, and in most relationships, there’s, in fact, a saver and a spender.

If your financial philosophies do not align, and you are merging your financial life with somebody who has very different habits, systems, expectations, goals and ideals, this can bring challenges and unwanted relationship conflict.

 

Dependence

If you have been managing your cash on your own for many years and have been to some extent successful in doing so (from selecting your 401K funds to planning a vacation to setting a budget) you might not want to give up your financial autonomy.

Certainly, there might be more book-keeping for you to do if you decide to keep your finances separate, and choose more of a mine/yours/ours account type arrangement (this is commonly referred to as the “three-pot system”), but it might ultimately give you the comfort and independence you desire.

 

Disentangling

Nobody plans to have an unsuccessful marriage, but life is full of surprises. You may be in la-la land now, but what will happen if the relationship fails in the long run? Bank accounts, joint mortgages and credit cards, can be quite hard to separate, even with a formal court ordered divorce decree.

Can The Mortgage Process Go Completely Digital?

Technology is making the process of getting a home loan more efficient than ever before, but can it remove the paper trail completely?

Advances in technology have essentially re-invented TV, music, mobile phones and most other industries in the past 10 years. Currently advances in technology are finally starting to modernize the mortgage process.

As the tech savvy millennial generation prepares to purchase their first homes, some experts say  they will gravitate toward digital tools. Furthermore, recent home buyers tend to have higher income and a more-educated background than in the past, this means that they are more likely to shop on the internet (and probably apply) for mortgages online.

Is it truly possible however, to have a 100% digital mortgage?

 

Elucidating the digital mortgage process

The 2 biggest misunderstandings of digital mortgages are, you can easily get a mortgage with just the click of a button, and that you will not have to give as much documentation.

When you stream a movie or song or make a video call, you are really pushing a button-or-two. However, a mortgage is still an important financial transaction that requires a comprehensive analysis of your whole financial life, as a result you will have to put-in some effort – even when the process is sped up.

One of the factors that played an important role in setting-off the 2008 financial crisis is reduced documentation on mortgages, this is due to the fact that lenders needed less and less employment, income and asset verification for approval.

Then the opposite occurred for many years after the financial crisis: lenders would give seemingly never ending checklists of the needed documentation to authorize and close the mortgage.

Nowadays, you still have to provide the same amount of documentation, but technology makes the whole process a lot easier.

For instance, today you can answer questions about employment history, credit and residency in an online form. Just 2 years ago you would have had to write, sign and then send the letters to answer in an acceptable manner.

And currently you can give permission to your lender so that he/she can obtain tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements from the sources instead of assembling and then sending all the documentation yourself.

 

What you can do digitally versus what you cannot

The federal laws that were created after the financial crisis require the lenders to ascertain (with all your documentation) that they have verified that you are able to repay the mortgage before you take it out.

To do this, the lenders have to follow 8 loan approval factors that are federally required. Consequently if a digital process does not satisfy all the parameters for any reason whatsoever, you can be certain that your lender will send you follow up checklists requesting you to provide more documentation.

If you originally applied online, documentation and follow up checklists mighty be requested and given online, or through email. The process used by every lender is different, and your lender will give you specific instructions.

 

The process is different depending on loan type and size.

For instance, if you are applying for a conforming mortgage up to $ 417,000; you have been a straight-salary employee (that’s, receiving no commission or bonus) at a big company for over 2 years; you use an online service to file your taxes; and you have online accounts with various financial institutions, then the digital-mortgage process will most likely be quite easy. You apply online; permit your lender to get your tax returns directly, pay stubs and bank statements on your behalf; and then run a credit report. Your documentation will then be analyzed, and an automated-loan approval will be run. If have a setup such as this, you can be approved within 10 – 30 minutes.

On the contrary, if you are applying for a mortgage that is more than $ 417,000; you are self-employed with several income sources; you’ve had a tax adviser prepare your taxes manually; and you do not have internet accounts with all the financial institutions necessary, then the digital process will need more human intervention by your lender and yourself. You will apply online and give the same authorizations as explained above, but you will have to assemble and submit most of the documentation yourself, and you will likely see follow up checklists as the lender reviews the file manually and approves your file – because loans that are more than $ 417,000 are normally not qualified for automated approval. The whole process can take several hours or even days.

 

How many lenders offer digital mortgages?

Currently, the digital revolution is still making its way through the mortgage industry. You may get outstanding advice and service and amazing technology, but not all lenders have adopted both so far.

As more lenders embrace the digital processes that have been described above, the decision you’ll make as a mortgage shopper will depend on whether you would like to run the entire process yourself, on the internet, or if you would like an adviser to assist you in-person along the way.

Because purchasing a home is a large – and normally intimidating – financial decision, great advice is likely to still remain at the fore-front of the mortgage industry. Consequently, if you want the efficiency that’s offered by the digital process plus great advice, it is best to begin by finding a good local lender and then interview them about the digital mortgage options that they offer.

How to Purchase a Vacation Home With Friends or Family

You want a cottage by the sea, a chalet by a ski run or a lodge in the woods. But vacation homes are quite expensive, and most of us don’t have the time to care for a second home in addition to our primary residence? So, here is an idea: Split the financial obligations with a family member or friend!

Buddying up sounds great on paper, but purchasing a vacation home with family and friends can be risky. After all, if things do not go well, it can spell the end of your friendship. Not to mention you may end up in a legal battle over the home. After all, you might already be commonly renting a vacation place with said friends or family. Or you could take turns using the house, so you don’t actually overlap.

Still, this approach can also turn into an express lane to disaster if you don’t navigate the relationship with care.

Do not panic! Before you sign on the dotted line, here are some important questions to protect your finances and also leave your ties of friendship or family intact.

 

TIC or LLC?

Ownership of property by 2 or more parties who are not married- friends, relatives (it makes no difference) can be setup as a limited liability corporation (LLC) or as a tenancy in common (TIC). And while setting up an LLC will entail hundred dollars in additional fees and a tad more paperwork. A limited liability corporation can make it easier to give away or sell an interest in the vacation home and you are treated like an individual for tax purposes, but with the extra protection of a corporate liability shield. An operating agreement will be drafted to establish the obligations and rights of the members in the LLC.

Why this is important: Under a tenancy in common, somebody who’s injured while in your shared vacation home can sue you and the other co-owners for all you are worth. Additionally, due to the fact that you own a house with somebody else, you’ve less control over who can be allowed to enter the house. So if your nephew wants to celebrate his high school graduation with a blowout party on your vacation home, and somebody steps on a broken glass, it can come back to bite you. This is much less of a risk if you choose an LLC.

 

Who is responsible for what?

Another reason why you should set up a limited liability corporation instead of a tenancy in common: Limited liability corporations are normally required by law to have an operating agreement. You should have an attorney draft an agreement which clearly explains everybody’s ownership interest.

That ratio, be it 80:20 or 50:50, will determine how costs like real estate taxes and insurance are divided. The agreement should also clearly explain who the manager of the vacation home is, capital improvements and how the maintenance of the home is going to be paid for and performed. The agreement gives the owners a guideline so that everyone knows- before they own the place -what the parameters are.

You can think of it as real-estate prenuptial agreement, it’s there to ensure that things run smoothly and head off resentment at the pass. Otherwise any under discussed issues- like who is supposed to close up for the season or even clean out the gutters – can quickly and easily turn emotional.

 

Who gets which holidays and weekends?

People purchasing a house together should ask themselves if the other owners plan on being at the house at the same time, or alternate in using it, since vacation homes normally have a prime-time of just a few months.

Normally, everyone wants to go to the vacation home at the same time of the year, during school breaks for example. If the owners do not talk about this in advance it can lead to everybody showing up at the home on the same day- which isn’t exactly the tranquil vacation home you have always dreamed about.

If you decide to split, you should work out an annual schedule in advance and also consider rotating who gets the major holiday weekends. You should also agree that swaps and changes can be made but only with the permission of all the parties involved.

 

To rent or not to rent?

From time to time your vacation home is going to be unoccupied no matter how many co-owners you have. If you are a neat freak and do not like strangers sleeping in your bed, you’ll not want to rent your vacation home. However, your brother might want to make some cash by renting out your shared vacation home.

You should hammer out whether you are going to rent out the vacation home so that you can generate income when you are not there. If all the parties agree to rent the vacation home just ensure where you are purchasing will allow that. Some communities do not allow short term rentals.

 

What happens if somebody wants out?

You should have at least one discussion about how long everybody wants to be on-board and what happens if one of the co-owners wants to sell. Giving the other owners right of first refusal if you want to sell your share is a way to reduce conflict. You should think about if you can afford to buy out a co-owner or if you’ll be able to cover the extra maintenance costs and mortgage in the event somebody wants out.

 

What You Should Do if You Receive an Offer But Your House Isn’t For Sale?

In tough real estate markets, buyers might take a gamble on a home that’s not listed. Here is how you should handle an out of the blue offer. It is the unexpected envelope in the mail or knock on the door. A complete stranger says he/she wants to buy your home, and for a wonderful price.

It’s even quite common for an old friend of an acquaintance to approach you about their desire to buy your home. Getting an unsolicited offer for your house can feel a little odd.

What are you supposed to do when you get an enticing offer from a home buyer when your house is not even on the market? It occurs more often than you would think, and it is helpful to carefully consider all your options, whether you have thought about selling your home or not.

 

Why does this happen?

While you go about your day to-day business and enjoy the comfort of your home, able and ready buyers are eager to be home owners. In most areas of the country, the inventory for houses is still at record lows.

Quite frankly, there simply are not sufficient options for home buyers, so they are forced to think outside the box. Some of the zealous home buyers decide to take matters into their own hands, and mail letters to houses in the neighborhoods they desire and hope for a winner.

 

What should you do?

If you do not have any desire to sell your home, do nothing. However, some homeowners will want to hear what the home buyers want to say, and others may seriously take into consideration an off-market offer.

Your first step is just to listen. You will want to first vet the prospective homebuyer over the phone so that you can ensure that they are serious. Often, real estate agents will search for expired listings and reach out to the owners in an effort to drum-up some business for themselves. It is a way they accumulate real estate properties to sell.

You should ask the prospective home buyer how long they have been searching, if they have already made other offers, and what are the areas they desire.

You should then ask the homebuyer why they decided to select your house. A homebuyer who mails an offer directly to you and only you most likely really wants your house, as opposed to the home buyers who send postcards to fifty people.

Hear them out and try to better understand their experience in the market, possible price or terms and motivations.

You will most likely have to show them the house. If they seem serious, you can take that step. You should however be cautious when letting a total stranger into your home.

 

Enlisting a real-estate agent

If you used the assistance of an exceptional local real estate agent when you bought your house, you may want to engage them again at some point.

Although sellers and buyers dream of completing a deal and saving cash on real-estate commissions, it is normally a better strategy to first consult with an experienced and honest agent. A good real estate-agent looks out for the long-term relationship, and being the adviser to an off market sale is also in their best interest.

Most real estate agents will help in an off-market deal for a reduced commission, because they do not have to prepare and show the house for several weeks or months.

 

Off-market deals might not pan out

These deals do not at all times come to fruition for a wide variety of reasons- frequently, it is because the seller isn’t motivated enough to let the house go.

And in almost all off-market deals, there is a struggle over the last few 1000 dollars – and that conflict frequently keeps the house sale from happening.

The home buyer wants to be given a discount, due to the fact that they know the seller is not paying a real-estate commission. The seller wants the market-value because the house is worth what it’s worth. Both the buyer and seller want to benefit from the real-estate commission savings.

In many cases, if the home buyer wants to purchase, they have to pay the price quoted by the home owner. The homeowner has what he/she wants, and buying off the market is, in some ways, a good opportunity that they have to pay for.

5 Walk-Through Tips for Home Buyers

One of the most important steps in the process of buying a home is the final walk-through. This is where the buyer can confirm the house is in the same condition he/she has agreed to buy it in. It’s also an opportunity to ensure that the agreed upon repairs, if any, were made as specified and nothing has gone wrong with the house since he/she last looked at it.

Sometimes, home buyers do not pay enough attention to the final walk-through because they’re too excited about finally closing on a home particularly if it has taken a while to find the right home for them. This may lead to small problems once the buyer takes ownership. On the contrary, the final walk through can raise both negative and positive emotions during this last part of the home selling process.

It is smart to take the walk-through seriously and think things through. Do not see it as just checking a box. During the walk through you should open all the faucets and inspect them for leaks. Ensure that the appliances work, turn heat or/and air conditioning on and off, flush the toilet and open every window to its fullest, then close it tight and check for air leaks.

Below are some tips for buyers to help them complete an effective and smooth walk-through.

  1. Avoid a walk-through on the closing day 

A walk-through can lead to the discovery of repairs that have to be made, but that you did not know about before. If you do the walk through on the same day as the closing, you might not have enough time to have the problems resolved.

It isn’t uncommon for two walk-throughs to occur. The first walk-through identifies some problems for the buyer, and the second ensures those problems were addressed.

You can also push back the closing so that you can address the issues. However, the problem is that your lender might not have approved a delayed closing. It is better to thrash out any issues well in advance.

 

  1. Use your cell phone to check the outlets

Plug a phone in and out of the electrical outlets so that you can ensure that the electricity works. You want to avoid moving in your belongings, only to realize that some of the outlets do not work.

Bring your charger and phone to the walk through and test all the electrical outlets. It’s easy and quick.

 

  1. Have an eye for junk left behind by sellers

Sometimes, sellers may be too caught up in moving to their new home that they may forget to remove their old household junk. You should take the time to check the attic, under the deck and garage. The sellers might just assume that you want to use their old paint cans or an old propane tank..

In fact, the seller should leave the house completely empty. Some of the left behind items, like the paint, can be toxic or may require special provisions for their disposal.

 

  1. Ask for keys, alarm codes, garage openers and manuals 

Before completing the final walk-through, be sure to ask for working keys to all the doors, garage openers, alarm codes, and any system or appliance manuals. It is also a good idea to ask the seller for copies of receipts for any promised repairs.

 

  1. Be emotionally prepared for a surprise

Buyers normally fall in love with a house that is full of belongings, furniture and art. They see it as a welcoming home, and remember a warm feeling.

Fast forward to the close of escrow and you are faced with an empty house, which can feel rather hollow and cold.

Buyers are usually surprised by how they feel when they enter an empty home. Besides the emptiness that is created by the absence of furniture, some imperfections may show up – carpet stains, mildly bleached doors, holes on walls which previously covered by paintings or a television screen etc. An empty house tends to show poorly; hence you should prepare yourself mentally before the walk-through.

The journey towards owning a home is usually a long one, filled with ups and downs and lots of excitement. The final walk through is one of the last steps of what may end up being a multiple year process.

Consider the walk through well in advance and prepare for it physically, mentally and emotionally. Know what you are looking for, make a list of all the things that you need to check, and keep your feelings and emotions in mind.

Eight Things You Should Never Say When Buying a House

Seeing something that you love (or hate) can cause you to blurt out all kinds of things, some of which you may regret. Because while you can (and should) at all times be upfront with your real estate agent, you might not want to be quite so forthright around the sellers (or the listing agents working for them).

So before you decide to step into a house and stick your foot in your mouth, heed these top things never to say to sellers or their real estate agents when you are shopping for a new home.

 

  1. “This is my dream house!”

Have you ever played poker? Well then you should know that if you would like to maintain a strong negotiating position, you should never tip your hand… Interested parties who express their unchecked passion for a house are shooting themselves.

These are the types of things which can help sellers obtain more cash from the buyers. This is due to the fact that they really know how much this home really means to them. Any negotiating strategies and all discussions about the home are best left in private. Saying a few nice things about the home is not bad—just do not gush. Gushing=bad.

  1. “That couch is hideous”

Do not tell the sellers—or any real estate agent present—that they’ve poor taste in furniture or décor. Their style may not suit yours, but that is no reason to insult them. If they hear you bad-mouthing their curtains or rug, then they may just select another buyer.

  1. “I can afford to spend X”

In spite of the fact that it is definitely a good idea for the prospective buyers to discover just how much they can afford, buyers should keep the information strictly between them and the Realtor.

Prospective home buyers should not address with the seller or the seller’s agent anything concerning their ability to pay a full price offer or financing. This hinders the ability to negotiate the best price for the house. If you are asked, you should say that finding a home that is fairly priced is what matters to you more than the amount you can afford.

  1. “I cannot wait to get rid of that”

Even if you are thinking that the home will be perfect once you get your hands on it, do not let on. If the new buyers are planning to remodel a house in which somebody raised their family and has many memories, the buyer should not say that wall color is terrible—cannot wait to repaint this place or I cannot wait to tear that swing set down. The seller can simply reject their offer or come back asking for more cash upon hearing that somebody wants to completely remake the home where they made lifetime memories.

  1. “Why are you selling?”

Yes, you might want to find out why the sellers have decided to sell their house. Keep it to yourself! It is considered poor taste to ask, and it might just open a can of worms. You should never ask the sellers why they’re selling the property, there might be personal reasons such as job relocation or divorce or something worse- none of it is your business. Creating a possibly uncomfortable state of affairs will not help you down the road, in case a bidding war emerges.

  1. “What’s it really like to live here?”

Sure, you may want to get the inside scoop, however that does not mean that you should interrogate anyone. Do not ask the neighbors personal questions. You can talk to the neighbors and give them a chance to open up, but do not push if they are not talkative. If you end up moving into the neighborhood, do you want the first impression they have of to be that of a spy or a pest?

  1. “You will never get that price!”

Although you may be thinking that you would not give them an X amount for the home, as a buyer it is best for you to keep your opinions and thoughts to yourself. Even if the buyer thinks that the house is highly priced, it might be within range of similar houses in the neighborhood. This leads us to our next point….

  1. “I will give you [a very lowball offer] for this home, whaddaya say?”

Do not ask your real estate agent to submit several lowball offers. You should take your real estate agent’s advice when it comes to the pricing- because it is never wise to insult the person whose house you are trying to purchase and you do not want to appear as a not so serious buyer.

Clean up Your Credit Score to Buy a New House

Buying a house is a dream come true for most of us. It is a practical and a financially wise decision as well. No wonder the real estate market is ever buzzing with activity this year. However, as much as we love the idea of buying a house, the high amount of money involved can make some of us weary about the process. The most basic step in buying a house is planning your budget. Based on income and savings, one can get an estimate of the price of house they can afford. A majority of home buyers look for financial assistance from banks or other lending institutions to purchase their house. In such cases, along with Income and savings, credit scores also play a huge role in deciding whether a loan can be extended to an individual, as well as the amount of loan. Real estate agents can also help you decide the budget and find a property that fits within it.

Check your Scores

Credit scores are a way to measure the “credit-worthiness” of any individual i.e. whether the person will be able to pay back the loan on time. Your scores is based on your credit history, the number of credit lines and loans held by the individual, weather payments for those have been made on time, the amount of outstanding balance one is carrying on other loans and credit cards etc. So the first thing to know before you decide on a home is whether or not you have a good credit score. If you have been paying all your outstanding bills and installments on time then you most likely should. It’s still always good idea to check, never assume.

Identify your weak spots

There are three main credit Bureaus in the US – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. While they have some differences in the parameters on which they base their scores, the scores from all three bureaus are typically pretty close. You can get your credit report from one or all of the bureaus by paying a small fee. Review your report well, especially the section that talks about adverse accounts. This section lists down the accounts where you may have missed payments, defaulted etc. If there is a specific credit card where you have missed a payment more often than others, make a note of it. Similarly, check your average outstanding balance against your credit limit. If the ratio is too high, make a note. Also, check if any of the entries don’t add up since sometimes, even the Bureau can get their information wrong.

Correct some mistakes, undo others

For the accounts identified where you have been missing timely payments, it is time to buckle up and make sure you begin paying your bills on time. As you get regular with your payments, your score will start improving over a period of few months. In case you have had one or two late payments, you can also call the company that has registered the late payment and request them to remove it from your credit record. Most companies willingly do this for those who missed the payment deadline once or at max, twice.Similarly, if you have too many open credit lines with small outstanding balances and can spare some money, then take the extra effort to pay all dues and close these credit lines.

Request a credit limit increase

If on some credit lines you have been regular with your payments but your ratio of outstanding balance to the credit limit is high, then a simple way to make this ratio look better is to request that your bank or financial institution increase your credit limit. However, remember that a credit limit increase only be accepted if you have displayed good payment behavior. Also, make sure to not exhaust the increased limit because remember, this limit extension is to reduce your ratio and increasing expenses will defeat the purpose.

Raise Disputes, if any

Lastly, if you have identified any entries that appear incorrect in your report, send a dispute letter to the bureau and provide them all information and documents to prove your case. This could take some time, but correcting records can help boost your score.

Improving scores can take some time and hence it is advisable to begin early. Even if you are not planning to buy a house right away, it is good to begin patiently working on your scores so that by the time you are ready, your scores are ready too.

 

Top 8 Open House Mistakes a Seller Can Make

open space with fire place

When you’re ready to sell your house, you will need to get it in its best possible condition, especially in today’s competitive environment. An open house presents an opportunity to showcase the best features of your home and allows the potential buyers to get a feel for the property. If you ‘re a fist time home seller, you may think of the open house as the point at which your Realtor waits until you leave, turns into a magician and with a flick of his/her wrist, completely transforms your home into something out of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing.

But here is the truth of it

Your real estate agent is not practicing wizardry on the side. And you aren’t completely free of responsibility when it comes to the open house. In fact, although you aren’t present for the open house (and you never, ever should be, if you want to sell the home), there are still quite a few ways that you can mess it up and drive away potential buyers.

These eight things could very negatively impact your chances of having a successful open house—and, potentially, the house sale.

  1. Leaving your pets at home

Pets bring a lot of joy into our lives. Nevertheless, they can be a real problem when you’re showing your home. This is true for several reasons. Logistically pets make things difficult because you will have to keep them separate from the potential buyers, who might not like pets and certainly cannot picture themselves living in a house that once housed cats or dogs. This means that you will have to block off areas of your home, a real no-no in an open house. Pets also behave unpredictably. The last thing you want is your pet leaving his/her “mark” on the floor right in front of the viewers or even scaring the potential buyers. Which could also prevent them from viewing rooms and prove to be a distraction overall.

Take your pets to a friend’s for the day when you’re showing your house. You should also do your best to eliminate any signs of pet habitation, including bedding, toys, smells and stains. Selling a house with pets takes extra consideration and care. There are some home buyers who will see any signs of pets as a complete turnoff. This is definitely one of the top open house mistakes you should avoid.

  1. Ignoring your kitchen needs 

You may be surprised by how many home owners ignore their kitchens when selling their house. Putting the dirty dishes in the sink doesn’t make them invisible. Even if the rest of your house is staged to perfection, a repugnant kitchen will turn off the potential buyers—and that goes for the dishwasher too. The potential buyers will most likely want to investigate the fridge and open the dishwasher during the open house, hence it’s vital that you prepare your home accordingly: Clean and store the dishes, and remove any smelly food from your fridge. You should consider removing any kitchen appliance that can be neatly stored instead of being left on counter tops. The less clutter, the more spacious and inviting your kitchen will feel. If it’s an appliance that is used daily, such as a toaster or coffeepot, be sure to wipe it clean after each use.

You should also ensure that you check out and clean the other rooms in your home, even those that you think the potential buyers will not bother checking out, such as the closets garage or laundry room. Because guess what? They totally will.

You aren’t selling part of your home; you are selling your entire home, hence you should ensure that everything the potential buyers will see during the open house is in showcase condition.

  1. Not hiding your dirty bath towels

Keeping the bath towels you have used (and intend to use again) tucked out of the way in a closet benefits you two-fold: Not only does it make the bathroom look well staged, but it also keeps them free of germs and dirt from the day’s parade of viewers. Instead, swap in a clean set of decorative hand and bath towels for each open house. You do not want (people) wiping their dirty hands on the bath towels you wipe your body with.

  1. Cleaning solo

When you think about how much money a house actually costs, it’s easy to understand why people expect cleanliness in an open house. Surprisingly, not everybody meets the mark when it comes to a clean house. If you have to hire a cleaning service to get the job done, do so.

Professional cleaners will scrub all the “out of the way” spots you may miss (think switch plates and baseboards), they can also help eliminate messes and odors that go back years. Preparing for showings is particularly important when there are potentially a large number of visitors dropping by for a look. Showing dirty, messy homes to potential buyers is by far the greatest mistake most sellers make when holding an open house.

  1. Not getting a second opinion

After you have cleaned and staged your house, a blunt tongued neighbor can be a blessing. Over time, you can easily get used to odors and smells that may linger in your home, even after a thorough cleaning. You need a neutral third party who’ll tell you like it’s, not what you would like to hear. So do not be offended if the third party tells you that your place stinks— literally or figuratively. You aren’t in a position to be all ego, you are trying to sell your home — and that is what you should focus on.

  1. Not maintaining the yard

The front yard is the first thing the guests see, so ensure it is spotless. You want the potential buyers to focus on the curb appeal of your home — not your collection of yard tools. Additionally, objects strewed every which way can also be dangerous. You should also make sure that the grass is trimmed nicely and any bushes or flowers are in good shape. And unless it’s trash day, keep your bins out of sight. Nothing turns potential buyer off faster than a pile of trash and the thought of potential yard work.

  1. Dirty exterior

Depending on where you live, the exterior of your house may gather a significant amount of grime as the seasons turn. You might not have noticed it if it occurred gradually, but visitors to the open house are sure to see the mildew and mold on the siding, the dingy windows and the clogged gutters. Like the home’s interior, the exterior should be fresh and clean looking if you want to impress the potential buyers.

  1. Photos, religious art, drugs and politics need to go

When the potential buyers walk into your home, they should picture their family living in the house, not yours. They do not need to see your family photos or be able to tell your religious or political views as they walk through the house.

There is a reason stagers depersonalize your house. Certainly, they want the buyers to visualize themselves living within its walls—but they also want to remove any ammunition that may be used against you during the negotiating process. One of the places to look is the medicine cabinet, which should be emptied during the open house.

The same goes for family photos and things such as canes and walkers: For instance, if you are elderly, they may consider underbid your price under the assumption that you can no longer be able to take care of your house. Keeping the potential buyers from learning your personal details is not just good staging