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Closing on your first home

27613902 - happy couple looking blueprint about new houseHave an appointment with a title company to close on the purchase of your home? Here’s what you’ll need to bring with you on that big day:

Money: At closing, you’ll be paying for your share of the closing costs and any down payment. Since cash and a personal check won’t do, you’ll need to bring a certified check or cashier’s check. You’ll get the amount you need to bring with you a few days before closing.

A pen: You’ll be doing a lot of signing and initialing. None of the numbers you should see at closing should be a surprise. Shortly before closing, your loan officer should provide you with documentation of what your final numbers should be. These documents spell out all the financial details of your home purchase, including your closing costs and who – the buyer, seller and lender – pays what.

Your ID: You will be required to show proof of identification, such as your driver license or passport.

Proof of insurance: You’ll need documentation proving you have obtained homeowner’s insurance, and perhaps flood insurance, if it’s required as a condition of your loan.

Once you’ve completed the process of closing, your home purchase will be recorded with the county or other government entity. Then, you get the keys and you’re officially ready to move in!

What to expect when an appraisal comes up short

32498400 - mortgage concept. isolated on white background 3dThe appraisal is an important part of the home buying process. But what happens if the appraisal comes up short of the agreed-upon selling price?

Here’s an example: A home is listed for sale for $350,000. It’s a multiple bidding situation, so you offer a higher price of $370,000 to gain an edge over other buyers. Your offer is accepted by the seller. However, your lender’s appraisal comes back and it shows the value of the home is only $350,000. That means the lender is only going to provide you with a loan based on that amount.

When an appraisal comes in lower than expected, home buyers have a few choices. If you really want the home and have the cash on hand, you could make up the difference with a larger downpayment. You also could try to negotiate a lower selling price. The seller doesn’t have to lower the selling price, of course, and will understandably be reluctant to do so. In some cases, the buyer and seller each give a little, with the seller lowering the price and the buyer making a larger downpayment.

Another option is to see if it’s possible to order a second independent appraisal or to appeal the existing appraisal. Your lender can let you know if there’s any type of appraisal review process. You and your real estate agent will have to analyze the appraisal to make sure the appraiser included all relevant comparable sales on the report

Lastly, if you have an appraisal contingency in your offer, you have the option of walking away. It’s a last-ditch option if all other efforts fail.

Moving in? It’s time to create a home inventory

3486735 - family moving into new home smilingHomeowner and renter insurance plans are designed to protect you in the event of a disaster such as a fire. But with all the items in an average household, it’s imperative that you document your belongings so that you can file an accurate and timely claim should you need to. When moving, many families buy new appliances or furniture and in some cases get rid of other items. That’s why once you’re settled into your new home, it’s an ideal time to create or update your home inventory. Here are the three components of an effective home inventory:

Photos or video. You can take photos or video, but you’ll want shots of entire rooms and close-ups of items such as electronics, jewelry, collectibles, guns and any individual items of significant value. It’s a good idea if you’re using video to provide a narration as you walk through each room, explaining what you are recording.

A written inventory. You’ll also want to prepare a written inventory of your belongings. You can create a Word document on your computer or use a blank sheet of paper or a worksheet like this one from the National Association of Realtors. Keep your written inventory with receipts for items you’ve purchased.

Safe storage. If you have a fireproof safe, keep both your visual and written inventories there or in another safe place. You also may want to keep a copy off-site as well, in a safe-deposit box or with a trusted friend or family member. If your written and visual inventory is saved electronically, make sure it’s backed up.

Having a home inventory makes surviving and dealing with a home disaster a lot less stressful. Could you imagine trying to recount every single item in your home that was damaged, destroyed or stolen? With a home inventory, you’re more ready for the unexpected.

What types of things should you fix before you list your home?

21234963 - portrait of male plumber fixing a sink in bathroomWhen it comes time to sell your home, you’ll need to decide which types of repairs and improvements you’ll want to make before it’s listed for sale. Should you update your kitchen? Apply fresh paint to the living room? Plant flowers? Clean or replace your worn carpet? Your real estate agent can help you determine which repairs may be the most important in appealing to the most prospective home buyers.

In general, many buyers don’t like buying a home that has a number of small maintenance problems, such as leaky faucets or a hole in a wall that needs to be patched with drywall. A number of repair issues may make prospective buyers wonder what else is wrong with your home. That’s why in many cases, you may want to consider addressing these types of issues when you’re getting your property ready to sell. Many buyers make offers contingent upon an inspection, so you may be asked to fix some maintenance issues anyway.

Larger issues, such as a furnace or roof that needs replacement, can make for a tougher decision. You may get only a portion of the investment in a large repair or renovation back when you actually sell your property. For information on the typical return on investment for renovation projects, check out Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report.

And don’t forget: If you’re thinking of work that involves flooring or paint, don’t pick the colors and materials that you like; you’re moving! Make sure your upgrades are neutral and appealing to the greatest number of buyers. Your agent can give you a good idea of what type of flooring, cabinetry, paint and other upgrades are the most popular with home buyers right now.

The benefits of shopping for a home in late summer

10418220 - home for sale real estate sign in front of new house.Year in and year out, spring and summer are the busiest home buying seasons. And each year, home buying activity starts to slow down in August and September. Many people time household moves during summer vacations and want to be settled into their new homes when school starts again for their children. That’s exactly why late summer/early fall can be a great time to shop for a home.

Research shows that historically, due to the seasonal slowdown in demand, the supply of available properties tends to start to increase in late summer. Real estate website Zillow.com has found that in housing markets nationwide, listings tend to climb in August and the highest share of listings with at least one price reduction most often occur in August and September.

In addition, the inventory of homes available for sale typically peaks in August, declining into fall and through winter and not increasing again until the spring home buying season begins again.

It’s also important to keep in mind that although mortgage rates are up from record lows, they remain low by historical standards. Low mortgage rates stretch your home buying dollars. Thinking about buying a home? Start your home buying journey with us.

Which remodeling projects are the best investments?

50788865_MWhich renovation projects provide the biggest return on your investment when it comes time to sell your home? You can get a pretty good idea of which upgrades offer a better ROI than others by taking a look at Remodeling Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value Report.

The report shows, on average, how much of the cost of 21 popular remodeling projects you may be able to recoup when a property is sold. Data is available on a national and regional basis, as well as for cities. The report can help you home in on individual projects that provide the biggest bang for your buck.

According to the report, homeowners on average stand to recoup 98.3% of the cost of replacing a garage door, while the installation of a steel entry door returns on average 91.3%. The addition of a wood deck has an average return on investment of nearly 82.8%, followed by minor kitchen remodel (81.1%); siding replacement (76.7%); new vinyl windows (74.3%) and bathroom remodel (70.1%). Some of the most costly projects offer the lowest return on investment, such as the installation of a backyard patio (47.6%) and major kitchen remodel (59%).

The report doesn’t take into account, of course, the enjoyment you and members of your family get from the remodeling project while you still live in the home. If you’re planning to stay put in your home for a long time, remodeling might be less about return on investment and more about how much pleasure it brings to your daily life. For more information on the Cost Vs. Value report, go to this link.

Buying a home? Put a fire extinguisher on your shopping list

40261398 - fire extinguisherDo you have a fire extinguisher? If you don’t, it’s time to add it to your shopping list. Every homeowner should have one on each floor or area of their home and know how to use it.

Fire extinguishers are life savers. Make sure to purchase one from a reputable manufacturer. Class A fire extinguishers are designed to put out fires involving paper, wood and plastics. rubbish, wood, and paper fires; Class B are for flammable liquids such as oil and grease. oil and grease fires; and Class C are for electrical fires. Class ABC models work on all the fires above.

The higher the rating number on an A or B fire extinguisher, the more fire it can extinguish. But higher-rated units are often heavier — too heavy for some people to hold and operate. If you’re buying a fire extinguisher, make sure you, a member of your family or co-worker, can easily pick it up and use it.

Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher? In an emergency, fire fighters say many people can’t get one to work on the first try. Read the informational material that comes with your device. Consider having local fire department personnel show you how or attend a training class. The acronym PASS can help you remember the basics of operation: Pull the pin to release the handle, aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, squeeze the trigger, and sweep the discharge stream at the base of the fire.

Fire extinguishers are not designed to fight a large or spreading fire. Even against small fires, they are useful only under the right conditions, such as when a fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket; when everyone has exited the building; after the fire department has been called or is being called; and if the room is not filled with smoke.

New homes need inspections, too

51767711_M“New car smell” is divine, but nothing quite like the smell — and look — of a newly-built home. Pristine carpets, unblemished walls, the smell of freshly-cut lumber lingering in the air — it’s hard to beat the excitement of taking ownership of a brand-new property.

Everything looks great, and you have been involved in the construction process every step of the way. Why would you need a home inspection?

Home inspectors are trained to spot problem areas, and identify issues that could cost you time and money down the line. Building a home is a massive undertaking, much like fitting together a big jigsaw puzzle. It involves many different trades, from plumbers and roofers to HVAC technicians and concrete masons. When should the inspection take place? Your home inspector may want to take a look at specific times during construction and when the home is completed.

A comprehensive home inspection is always a good idea, whether your house is the new kid on the block or a centuries-old pillar of the neighborhood.

Tips for hiring a reputable moving company

real estate 4The right moving company can help make your move to a new home a success. But the wrong one? It could lead to a moving day disaster. Here are some ways to tell if you are hiring a reputable moving company:

—They come to your home, inventory your belongings and provide an estimate of the cost to move your household. Avoid companies that give estimates over the phone or by email.

—They allow you to pay upon delivery. Avoid moving companies that require cash or a large deposit before moving day.

—They check out. What is the moving company’s Better Business Bureau rating? Is it a member of the American Moving and Storage Association? Members of AMSA have passed background screening with government authorities at the state or federal level as well as with their Better Business Bureau chapter. They have pledged to adhere to the AMSA Code of Ethics. Ask for references.

If you’re thinking of hiring an interstate mover, check their record here. For more tips on hiring a reputable mover and having a successful move, go to this link.

What are you looking for in your new home?

35289396_MWhat are the features you want to see in your next home?

The National Association of Realtors recently surveyed home buyers nationwide on the home features that are most important to them. They found that the typical home buyer currently is looking for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a garage and updated kitchen.

The study also found that home buying needs and preferences vary by age. According to the survey, family needs were the biggest factor in prioritizing home amenities for home buyers under the age of 55. For many families with small children, for example, features such as the number of bedrooms, school quality and yard size can be important considerations. For those 55 years and older, privacy — having a space solely of their own — was the main goal. In that age group, the number of bedrooms and lot size are not as important for many home buyers.

Contemporary and colonial homes were the preference of Millennials, while ranch homes, which typically have a single level and no stairs, are the most popular home style for buyers 55 and older. Lastly, while many home buyers age 55+ are moving from other homes, many Millennials are moving from rentals and purchasing their first homes. In fact, the survey shows that rent increases are driving many Millennials to become homeowners this year.