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Before buying a home, collect these important documents!

5831173_MReady to buy your first home? Your first step is to visit a mortgage lender to see how much house you can afford. But be prepared for the paperwork that comes with it. Here are the documents you’ll be asked to provide as part of the loan application process:

Rental payment history. If you’re a first-time home buyer, you’ll need to provide proof that you paid your rent on time. Your lender can tell you how to document this payment history.

Tax returns. You will likely be asked for two or three years of tax returns with all the attached schedules and documents.

Paychecks, W-2s and other income documentation. Start with at least a month’s worth of paychecks, plus W-2 forms for you and your spouse. Do you have income from other sources? Include documentation for any freelance work, self-employment income and child support payments as well.

Account information. Your lender will want to see checking and savings account statements for at least one month. You may be asked for any other account statements as well to document your down payment funds and money you have set aside in savings.

Remember, the more quickly you respond to requests for documentation, the more quickly your loan application can be processed!

When buying a home, avoid these credit score faux pas

Poor credit score report with pen and keyboardEver wonder which things can affect your credit score the most when you’re applying for a mortgage loan? Here are some of the top factors that can dramatically lower anyone’s score:

  • You’re 30 days late (or more) paying a bill. You could see a 60- to 110-point drop in your score by being a month late on a financial obligation. Expect more of a drop if you’re 60, 90 or 120 days late.
  • You have gone through foreclosure, a short sale or bankruptcy. A typical drop after a foreclosure is 85 to 160 points. A short sale will result in a substantial drop in credit score, too. A bankruptcy could push down your score by 130 to 240 points.
  • You’re maxed out. Being close to (or over) the credit limit on all your credit cards can definitely hurt your score.

Everyone’s situation is different, and how long these credit-score drops remain in effect vary. The key to rebuilding your credit is to pay your bills on time and avoid using all of the credit that’s available to you.

Although a “perfect” credit score can be over 800, remember that to get the best deal on your next mortgage, you’ll need a score of around 720 to 780. Want to learn more about your credit score? Read this article.

Selling tip: Prepare your home for a new buyer

46796187_MEight seconds.

Not much time, right? But that’s how long you have to catch a buyer’s attention when selling a home. So, you’ve got to make those seconds count from the moment a prospective buyer arrives on your property.

It’s not just about selling your home quickly. It’s also about fetching the highest price possible.

Properties that look nice and smell nice inevitably sell for more money than comparable homes with cluttered closets, dishes in the sink and dandelions speckling the front lawn. So, how do you get your home ready for a potential buyer? Here are some tips that will help you make a good first impression.

Let’s start with the outside:

  • Curbside appeal: Believe it or not, the cleanliness of your street and sidewalk matter when it comes to selling a house. Keep the pavement in front of your house free of litter – even if it takes a sweep – and remove any weeds that may be growing up through the cracks of your sidewalk.
  • Fresh paint: Even if you don’t want to spend the money to paint the entire house, there are a couple places that will pay off in dividends if you can afford a few gallons of paint. When it comes to making a good first impression, there’s no better place to start than with the fence. Give it a fresh coat. You should also think about the front door, shutters and even lamp posts to send a message that you care about details.
  • Landscaping: No buyer will be impressed by an overgrown, or weed-infested, lawn. Keep the yard looking nice by mowing the grass, weeding flower beds and clipping any hedges.

Now for the inside:

  • Lighten up: Make sure your house looks as bright as possible. Light is a proven seller. So keep the windows clean, replace any burned-out light bulbs and even use mirrors to help magnify the feeling of light and space.
  • Color scheme: Although you may enjoy decorating in orange or lime green, avoid those colors when selling. Look for neutral colors that allow buyers to better picture themselves in the home.
  • Clean, clean and de-clutter: Make sure your potential buyer isn’t distracted by a gallon of milk on the counter, dust bunnies beneath the couch or knickknacks piled high on your shelves. Focus on making your home look big, clean and desirable.

Does that help? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call.

Real Estate 101: Distressed Properties

12668018_SEver hear the terms REO, bank-owned, short sale or HUD home? And have you even wondered what the heck all those terms mean? Here are some definitions used to describe common types of distressed properties:

Foreclosure: This refers to the process of a lender taking possession of a property from an owner who isn’t paying their mortgage as promised. After the process of foreclosure is completed and the homeowner has left, the property is offered for sale at auction.

REO or bank owned: The terms REO – short for the term “real-estate owned” – and “bank-owned” both refer to properties that are owned by banks. Properties gain that distinction after they go through foreclosure and fail to sell at auction. Adding to the confusion is that REOs and bank-owned properties are often called foreclosures. REOs, or bank-owned properties typically are offered for sale by real-estate agents and sold in “as-is” condition, meaning any repairs will be up to the buyer.

Short sale: This term refers to a property being offered for sale by a homeowner who owes more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Because the seller is asking a bank to accept less than they are owed, the bank is involved in the sale process and ultimately must give final approval to the selling price. That makes short sales some of the most complex and time-consuming real estate transactions.

HUD home: Still with me? This term refers to a home that was originally purchased with a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. The FHA guarantees loans made by private lenders, so if a borrower defaults on an FHA loan, the agency will pay off the lender and take responsibility for the property. At that point, the property becomes a “HUD” home and is offered for sale in much the same way as a bank sells an REO.

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.