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Buying Myths, Down Payments, First Time Home Buyers, For Buyers, Move-Up Buyers

2 Major Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

Urban Institute recently released a report entitled, “Barriers to Accessing Homeownership,” which revealed that “eighty percent of consumers either are unaware of how much lenders require for a down payment or believe all lenders require a down payment above 5 percent.”

 

Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

Buyers often overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the same report:

 

“Consumers are often unaware of the option to take out low-down-payment mortgages. Only 19% of consumers believe lenders would make loans with a down payment of 5% or less… While 15% believe lenders require a 20% down payment, and 30% believe lenders expect a 20% down payment.”

 

These numbers do not differ much between non-owners and homeowners; 39% of non-owners believe they need more than 20% for a down payment and 30% of homeowners believe they need more than 20% for a down payment.

 

While many believe that they need at least 20% down to buy their dream home, they do not realize that programs are available that allow them to put down as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.

 

Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher to Buy”

Similar to the down payment, many either don’t know or are misinformed about what FICO® score is necessary to qualify.

 

Many Americans believe a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

 

To help debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.

 

As you can see in the chart above, 53.5% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.

 

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier. Your dream home may already be within your reach.


 

Why Acting NOW and Listing Could BENEFIT You… NOW!

1. Inventory of Competition is Lower. Law of Supply and Demand works! Your home stands out with serious buyers who have less to choose from now. Your odds of selling go UP during this time of year. The % of total inventory sold is great during these months.

2. Only SERIOUS Buyers are out in the fall/winter. Fewer people are in the house, yet are more likely to make an offer.

3. Taking Exterior Photos with Holiday Decorations. This can be a big asset before being left with full-on-winter, dead landscaping… and nothing to dress it up!

4. Homes Show Better While Decorated. Fireplaces, evergreens, and scented candles, all add to the beauty inside… when it’s not so pretty outside. This Contrast can cause YOUR home to show BEST NOW.

5. Little Know Fact: It’s perfectly OK to have specific “no showings-times” during the Holidays. In fact, it’s expected. Just because you’re planning a few days of no showings is no reason to not be for sale the REST of the time. “None this weekend” is perfectly OK.

6. Houses Feel More Like “Homes”. Coming in from the cold… some cozy-home-feelings causes emotion you can’t get other time of the year. People are generally just grateful and happier during this time of year. That can equal a Sale since a lot of Buyers buy on emotion.

7. Online Searches Go Way Up. People stay indoors and tend to do more home research online during times they were outdoors over the spring/summer. If you aren’t listed, they can’t find you online. If you don’t play, you can’t win!

8. End of Year Buyers May Even Pay More. End of year buyers may have mental or actual deadlines they want to meet. With less time to negotiate AND fewer homes competing that could = the BEST price for YOU. Often the % of asking price received is statically higher Nov-March.

9. More Day-time Showings mid-November through January. With holiday time-off, daytime showings increase during this time of year leaving your home free for you during evenings and weekends.

10. End of Year Buyers often has an “urgency factor” they must meet. Many employers hire to start January. There are also tax benefits and other urgency factors that may affect Buyers in Nov/Dec. If you don’t list now, you miss those buyers. They’ve already bought before you ever go on the market if you wait until the new year.

11. Late occupancies are common during this time. Many that need to buy by end of year don’t have to occupy right away, allowing a real win-win. They win buying now, and you may be able to negotiate your move for later while taking your profit out now. This happens over the holidays more than any other time of year.

12. Decreased Demand on Vendors means easier quicker closings. Lenders, appraisers, home inspectors, movers and other vendors are less busy during this time of year, resulting more time for YOUR transaction to be smoother & easier. A huge reason to do this NOW rather than with the “crowds”.

Think of the Peace of Mind you’ll have to be “all done” while others are just starting! — Not listing now could cause you to miss YOUR perfect buyer who needs to buy NOW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homes for Sale by Owner: 5 Reasons Why FSBO Sales Fail

 | Aug 8, 2017

Homes for sale by owner, or FSBO, transactions are commonly seen in seller’s markets or whenever homeowners want to maximize their profits by not having to pay commission. A home sale by owner option sounds like it could be a pretty sweet deal for the seller. After all, if you’re doing the work, you’ll walk away with the most money, right?

Well, maybe not …

Statistics show that selling your home with the assistance of a professional real estate agent will garner you a higher profit, enough to cover the commission as well as put more money in your pocket. According to the National Association of Realtor®’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the average FSBO sales price was $185,000, while the average price for a home represented by an agent was $245,000. That’s a difference of $60,000!

Houses for sale by owner leave a seller to do the negotiating. You’ll be relying on your own skill to finalize a contract, leaving yourself open to potential legal problems and a smaller profit when all is said and done.

Here are some of the top reasons why for sale by owner homes can cause major headaches.

1. Marketing your home online isn’t as easy as you think

Buyers always start online, and “for sale by owner” sellers are unlikely to get the exposure they need on a number of listings websites to reach their audience, says Realtor® Wendy Hooper with Coast Realty Services in Newport Beach, CA. Sticking a sign in your yard or trying to pull off some DIY social media marketing hardly has the same effect.

How an agent can help: Using an agent automatically offers widespread exposure for your listing through the multiple listing service. Your real estate agent will also have the means to promote your house to fellow agents to share with their clients. FSBO sellers would have to shell out big bucks for advertising and still might not reach the most important audience.

2. Homes for sale by owner could be priced wrong

Those who put their homes on the market as FSBO tend to set a price based on an online assessment tool or the lofty sum that the neighbor down the street claims they were offered—two methods that are liable to put the listing price way off.

“Using a free online valuation tool is like bringing your doctor a printout of your Google search about symptoms and possible cures,” says Jon Sterling, a real estate consultant with Keller Williams Realty in San Francisco. “There’s no substitute for actual market knowledge.”

The danger in overpricing a home is that it will languish on the market, and buyers will wonder why, even if you lower the price later, says Mark Ferguson, a real estate agent with Pro Realty in Greeley, CO.

“The home becomes stigmatized, and buyers are likely to pay a lower price when the home has been on the market an extended period of time,” Ferguson says.

How an agent can help: A real estate agent will provide an accurate home value based on a comprehensive market analysis to help you arrive at the right listing price. The goal is to make sure you’re pricing your home in the sweet spot—not too high so that you are turning off potential buyers, and not too low so you are leaving money on the table.

3. You could underestimate (or overestimate) how much money to spend on curb appeal

“A novice home seller is unlikely to view their home objectively or know how to stage it to appeal to the broadest audience,” says Hooper. That means you might be turning off potential buyers with an amateur paint job, an overgrown yard, or even a broken doorbell.

On the flip side, if you’re trying to make the home sale by owner option work, you might end up investing far more money than is needed. Hooper had sellers who were convinced they had to totally overhaul their 35-year-old kitchen and floors to the tune of about $50,000. Instead, she advised a $10,000 investment for paint, staging, and minor repairs, which still netted $45,000 above their target price.

How an agent can help: Even if you’re not up for a full home makeover, your agent has an eye for detail and can recommend simple, budget-conscious swaps that can translate into real dollars when it comes negotiation time.

“We know how to spend the least amount of money to get the best outcome and home presentation possible,” Hooper says.

4. Showings are a drag

FSBO sellers don’t realize how draining it can be to set up showings. And on top of scheduling actual potential buyers, you also have to deal with both looky-loos (gawkers with no intention of buying the house) and “sharks,” (investors looking to flip your house for a profit).

“Sellers who advertise their FSBO will quickly be inundated with calls from real estate investors who are looking to save the same commission the seller hopes to save,” Sterling says. Unfortunately, typically these offers are very low and could likely lead to no sale.

How an agent can help: Your agent will handle all the scheduling and staff the tours for you, so all you have to do is quickly tidy up and vacate.

In fact, that is another key reason to have an agent: Buyers can get uncomfortable with a seller hanging around during the showing, says Ferguson. Agents also will weed out unsuitable offers and collect feedback that potential buyers might be unwilling to share directly with the seller, which can make subsequent showings even stronger.

5. Preparing your own paperwork can be tricky

Unless you have a background in contracts or law, you might want to leave the paperwork to the pros. The closing process can entail more than 20 pages of complicated paperwork, including the contract and addendums designed to cover all of the situations that could go wrong, says Ferguson.

For example, houses built before 1978 require an addendum regarding lead-based paint and some states need a release confirming the presence of carbon monoxide detectors.

How an agent can help: Your agent will take care of all property disclosures and corresponding documentation to avoid future liability.

“If the seller does not use an agent and doesn’t know every law and required paperwork specific to their community, they open themselves up to lawsuits,” warns Ferguson.

 

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Why Fall Is the Best Time of Year to Buy a Home

Home

Fall is arguably the best time of year for many reasons. The weather becomes cooler, the leaves begin to change, football season begins, and pumpkin-flavored everything is in abundant supply. But there’s another great reason to love fall that might be less obvious…it’s the best time of year to purchase a home.

 

Prices Are Typically Lower
The concept that buyers can get a better bang for their buck in the fall has been a popular notion for some time, but two recent reports validated that line of thought with data from actual home sales. According to a 2015 report by RealtyTrac, sales prices are typically 2.6% below fair market value during October — a steeper discount than any other month of the year. Another report by NerdWallet found that sales prices drop about 2.96% from summer to fall, which is roughly an $8,300 discount for the median home. It’s also worth noting that while listing prices don’t decrease much, sales prices do, and that’s the price that counts for potential buyers.
There’s Less Competition
The majority of people buy a home in spring or summer, when inventory is traditionally high. This gives families time to make their move before the school year starts, but the tradeoff is that buyers are faced with strong competition and often pay higher than asking price during that time. People who buy in fall, however, have less competition, and sellers are more motivated. This means more negotiating power for the buyer, which often results in a better deal.
There’s Still Inventory
It’s true that the inventory of homes for sale is at its peak during spring and summer, but when you buy in the fall, there’s still a decent supply of homes left to choose from. Buying a home in the fall gives you the best of both worlds — lower prices and less competition but still enough inventory to find the home you want.

 

 

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5 Important Things to Know When Buying Inside an HOA

A homeowners association is an agreement among the homeowners in a community or development that pools their money to take care of common grounds, which can range from pools and spas to just the grass. Homeowners associations can vary in size and involvement depending on the agreed-upon terms.

Here are a few things that are important to understand about HOAs before buying into one.

1. What Is the Cost?

With a typical HOA, there is a cost. The amount can vary greatly depending on the services and amenities provided to the community the HOA represents. It is important to understand what this cost is because it is typically monthly and ongoing for as long as you live in that home, and needs to be considered in your budget along with your monthly mortgage payment. There can also be a one-time buy-in fee that you pay when you close on the house. It is basically equivalent to a gym membership joining fee.

2. What Is Covered?

If you are going to pay a monthly fee, it is important to understand what is covered by that fee so you can evaluate the value of the HOA. At the bare minimum, upkeep of the common areas is covered, and services can also include snow removal, landscaping and grass-cutting for your property. This is one of the attractive things about HOAs — you typically do not have too much outside maintenance on your property. There should be a handbook or guide explaining what is covered by the HOA.

3. What Are the Rules?

As mentioned previously, there is typically a handbook developed by the HOA that covers all rules and regulations for the community. This can dictate facilities hours or who can use the facilities. It also can tell you the rules regarding having guests, or specific times to place trash out. The important part of understanding the rules is making sure that they do not interfere with gatherings you are looking to have or hobbies you may do.

4. Are You Happy With the Way the House Looks?

There is a reason why the majority of houses in the community look the same and utilize the same color schemes — the HOA dictates those things. Make sure you like the color of the house’s trim, or be sure to understand what other colors are allowed. All this information should be included in the handbook.

5. Can You Get Involved?

Many times, the HOA has some type of board that facilitates communication among homeowners and makes decisions based on requests or complaints from residents. If you are interested in getting on the board, it is something to ask about. You may want to get involved just by voting on any changes.

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8 Signs It’s Time to Walk (and Maybe Run) Away From a Home

By Cathie Ericson | May 17, 2017

It happens: You’re buying a home, but something just doesn’t feel right. Are you just getting cold feet—after all, this is likely the biggest purchase of your life—or is that lingering worry telling you those yellow (or, dare we say, red) flags should be a deal breaker?

Here are eight signs that you would probably be smart to walk away from a house. (You can thank us later.)

Sign No. 1: The inspection turns up something majorly wrong

Sure, you might cringe at some of the current owner’s wallpaper choices. But cosmetic issues are relatively easy to fix compared with, say, a vintage electrical system that’s one spark away from a fire.

Don’t ever, ever (ever!) ignore something major on the inspection report, such as sagging floors, cracks in the wall, or roof or drainage issues, says Christopher Bourland, senior appraiser at Mid-Atlantic Valuation Group in Wayne, PA. Any type of structural issue can quickly turn your dream home into a financial house of horrors.

Sign No. 2: You sense that the builder cut corners

We all want a house that has “good bones”—as in, one that will last. That’s why savvy home buyers should pay special attention to little hints that the builder or remodeler might have gone the low-quality route, says Jesse Fowler, president of Tellus Design + Build in Costa Mesa, CA.

If you haven’t already, use the final walk-through to scrutinize every nook and cranny. One of the signs Fowler looks for is fresh paint overspray on the inside or outside of window trim and light fixtures.

“This overspray might be covering up inconsistencies in the finish—wood that doesn’t look like wood, for example,” he says. “But more importantly, it quite often indicates that the contractor went with the lowest-quality painter, so it’s likely they cut corners elsewhere in places that are not so obvious.”

Sign No. 3: Your title company uncovers an issue

Title disputes can take years and thousands of dollars in legal expenses to resolve, Bourland says. Common title issues range from missing heirs who turn up and claim the house, to an illegal deed somewhere along the chain.

Fortunately, title insurance is required in most transactions to protect you from this kind of thing. But Bourland warns it’s a huge red flag if a title company will not provide title insurance for your property.

Sign No. 4: The house is too unusual

You love an open floor plan. But maybe the previous owner went a bit too far when he knocked out most of the walls upstairs to turn four bedrooms into a massive one-bedroom space. Weird—and yet it does seem like it could be cool and lofty. You know, if you never have kids. Or guests.

“Only buy a heavily customized or unique home if you plan to live there for a long time, and the customization is something you actively like,” cautions Brian Davis, a landlord and real estate investor.

But what if you do love it? Perhaps that castle that looks like it’s straight out of “Game of Thrones” is your thing. Or maybe you love that the living room has been converted into a “Saturday Night Fever”-era disco. But just remember that weird (OK, we’ll call them “eclectic”) properties can be difficult to sell, Davis says.

“Proceed with caution, because finding the next perfect buyer may not be quick and easy,” he says.

Sign No. 5: You suspect your home might be environmentally contaminated

Just like we know that a steady diet of cigarettes, Chicken McNuggets, and Red Bull is unhealthy, we also know a lot more these days about what building materials can cause health issues.

Homes constructed from the early 1940s to the 1970s might contain asbestos or lead-based paint, both of which are responsible for all kinds of serious health problems. Other environmental issues could include a faulty septic system which can contaminate drinking water, or mold issues stemming from building materials such as stucco or siding, Bourland says.

Some of these problems will be hard—and costly—to deal with. It’s better to walk away, and save your sanity and your money.

Sign No. 6: The Neighbors. Are. The. Worst.

So maybe you’re not moving in next to an actual fraternity house, but that doesn’t mean your neighbors don’t party like rock stars. Or have outdoor dogs that are always barking. Or indulge in strange hobbies.

Those terrible neighbors could not only make your life miserable, they could also affect resale value if and when you decide to move, says Evan Harris, co-founder and CEO of SD Equity Partners in San Diego.

Suss out potential problems with neighbors by visiting the house at different days and times, Harris suggests. That way you’ll know if you’ll need earplugs to deal with a next-door band practice on Tuesday nights.

Sign No. 7: You’re not in love with the neighborhood

It’s easy to fall in love with a home and dismiss the concerns you have with its location. Maybe the house is near a sewage plant or waste dump. Maybe it’s too close to a freeway or airport. Or maybe the neighborhood feels just a little too gritty.

 

Or maybe the location is great now, but is in the path of future freeways, neighborhood expansions, or a new shopping mall.

“What looks like a piece of paradise might be slated to become a concrete jungle,” says environmental designer Pablo Solomon.

Make sure to research the zoning plans for your neighborhood, and always trust your gut if something feels off. You can fix up a home, but you can’t (usually) change the location.

Sign No. 8: You can’t afford it

There’s been that nagging thought that the house feels like a financial stretch, but you’ve convinced yourself you can make the mortgage payments. Even if it means skipping Tuesday night takeout or that weekend getaway in Vegas.

But then you realize that you’re one transmission issue or dishwasher breakdown away from being flat broke.

Of course the best time to do this financial soul researching is while you’re house hunting, but even then you might not have a clear picture of exactly what the financial picture entails. Maybe you’re assuming a best-case scenario that there will be no financial hiccups, or your lender didn’t adequately communicate the exact closing costs or the monthly payment.

It can be hard to walk away—especially if you’ve sold your old house, you’ve already begun packing, and you know you have to kiss your earnest money goodbye, says Todd Huettner, founder of Huettner Capital in Denver.

“But the cost of buying a house you shouldn’t is far higher than the cost of leaving it behind if you’re worried about the payment,” he says, citing worst-case scenarios such as foreclosure, bankruptcy, and decimated credit.

And never buy a property on the assumption that you can sell it if it isn’t working for you, Huettner adds.

“There might not be eager buyers or a conducive market,” he says. “If something’s not right, either figure out how you can make it right or walk away.”

Cathie Ericson is a journalist who writes about real estate, finance, and health. She lives in Portland, OR. Follow @CathieEricson

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Taxes Error-Free. Here’s How

Experts list the tax deduction mistakes that homeowners often make.

Getting a bit queasy as tax time nears? Worried about making mistakes or missing out on a deduction — especially if this is your first time itemizing?

Unless you’re a CPA, it can be easy to miss deductions, or worse: raise a red flag with the IRS because you got deduction happy. Here are the top six homeowner tax blunders accountants see the most.

#1 Missing the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Itemized deductions can be a great way to lower your tax bill. But homeowners, particularly newbies, may be used to claiming the standard deduction because they haven’t had enough of the expenditures that qualify them for itemized filing.

You can deduct the interest portion of your mortgage payments. That might mean your itemized deductions will now exceed the standard, saving you tax dollars.

The savings are at their maximum early on, when most of your mortgage payments go to interest, not principal. Over the years, the balance shifts, and for some it might seem that they lose the itemized advantage. But there’s a way to keep the savings maximized.

The trick is to use an alternating approach to filing, according to Chris Hardy, a certified financial planner with Paramount Investor Advisors in Suwanee, Ga. One year you maximize every deduction you can, including MID, and prepay whatever you can for the next year, such as property taxes and charitable contributions. The next year, you take the standard deduction. Overall, says Hardy, you may end up saving more money.

#2 Assuming Everything House Related Is Deductible

Deductions are great, but you can’t write everything off on your taxes. And to stay in the good graces of the IRS, you don’t want to over-deduct.

Talk to your accountant or tax preparer to be straight on allowable deductions, which, for a homeowner, generally means mortgage interest and real estate taxes. You may also deduct points charged on the mortgage in the year you purchased the home.

Related: How — and When — to Deduct Mortgage Points

“A lot of people will try to take homeowners association fees or condo association fees as deductions even though it’s not an allowable deduction,” Hardy says. “I see them try to deduct keeping up the yard as an expense.”

Although claiming unallowable deductions might not immediately flag you for an audit, according to Hardy, if you do get audited for something else, the IRS will look to see what else it can find. The result could then be back taxes, interest, and penalties. And the IRS will likely check as many back years as it legally can.

#3 Neglecting Your Home Office

Many people fail to take the home office deduction for fear of being audited, or because it’s just plain hard to calculate if you don’t use the newer, simplified method. (More on that math-saving gem later.) However you compute this deduction, it’s a great way to save some cash.

To qualify for the deduction, your office space must be used regularly and only for business. If you work for someone else, says Hardy, there has to be documentation — it could be an email from a supervisor — that your work at home is required as part of the job and is for the employer’s convenience. In addition, employees can’t take the deduction if they rent any part of their home to their employers and use the rented portion to perform work for the employer.

If your use is legitimate, you can deduct a proportionate amount of a number of expenses, including insurance, repairs, utilities, services, and depreciation, which can really add up. Or you can use the uber-simple method of multiplying the square footage of the office by $5 for your total deduction. Check IRS Publication 587 for details.

And, better yet, if the home office is your base of business, you may get additional deductions from your business income, such as mileage for driving to and from your clients’ locations because now it’s considered a business expense rather than commuting.

Related: 12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office Deductions

#4 Not Understanding Rental Income

Renting out a room or wing of your house on Airbnb can be a fun way to meet new people and make extra income. It can also have several important tax implications.

When renting out a room in your personal residence, says Greg Freyman, managing partner with Freyman CPA in New York City and Westwood, N.J., the amount of mortgage interest and real estate taxes you can claim as itemized deductions changes. You can only deduct MID and real estate taxes for the portion of the house that isn’t rented. So, if you have a 2,000-square-foot house and rent out a room of 100 square feet, you can deduct 95% of the mortgage interest and taxes on Schedule A.

However, because the rented space is now converted to investment property, you can also take deductions on your rental expenses. Some examples are the rental area’s portion of overall maintenance and utilities, again calculated by the percentage of overall square footage.

But (there’s always a but when it comes to taxes) you can only claim those rental expenses for the time period you rented the space, says Honolulu-based Crystal Stranger, president of 1st Tax Inc. and an enrolled agent who can represent taxpayers before the IRS. If you rented that 100-square-foot room mentioned above, which is 5% of the total space, for a total of six months, you’d take 5% of the maintenance and utilities, divide them by half, and then deduct that amount on Schedule E.

#5 Paying a Relative’s Mortgage

Good on you for helping someone in need by covering their mortgage payment, but be a smart philanthropist. No one will get any deductions for those payments if you directly pay the lender, Freyman says, unless you’re listed on the deed.

To increase the chances that someone snags the deduction, make a gift of the money to your parent or other beneficiary and let her be the one to pay the bills — although you won’t get any tax benefit unless you can claim her as a dependent. Treating a relative who doesn’t live with you as a dependent means meeting certain requirements. For instance, you need to have a certain type of relationship with the person and the relative must pass a gross income test.

Also, remember that there’s a limit on the amount of money you can give someone in a year — $14,000 — without incurring a gift tax. If you exceed the annual total, you may have to pay the tax.

#6 Never Challenging Property Tax Bills

For many, local property tax is a big chunk of their paycheck, and sometimes that chunk is bigger than it needs to be. “Values go up and down over time,” says REALTOR® and Atlanta attorney Bruce Ailion. “The assessor reassesses areas of town in bulk from time to time. Often these bulk reassessments result in a valuation 10%, 20%, even 50% more than a home’s value.”

Reassessments happen at different times, depending on location, and local and state laws will govern what you must do. Typically, you have fewer than 30 days to challenge the assessment, and, in a large metropolitan area, the process could take as long as a year.

You’ll want to start by checking the assessment data — size of the lot, number of rooms, bathrooms, etc. — to be sure that the facts are correct. If not, the appeals process may be easy.

You can also check to see if the assessment seems reasonable. Work with your real estate pro to get market data, such as info on comparable properties — known as “comps.” Then look at local tax records to see if the value of your property seems overly high in comparison to like properties. You could even hire an independent appraiser, although that can run $350 to $600, undercutting the savings you might ultimately receive.

You then appeal the property tax bill first to the assessor’s office. If the result is unsatisfactory, you may be able to appeal to a local board or possibly to a court. The odds are good enough that appealing usually makes sense. “I’ve done about 150 appeals and never had an increase,” Ailion says. “The worst case is the value stays the same.”

Related: Tax Records: What to Keep, What to Toss

 

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5 Tricks to Keep Your Pipes from Exploding this Winter

 

How to prevent your pipes from freezing, even if you think they’ve already started to freeze.

 

New homeowners may have heard that winterization is important, but in

the hubbub of your first year living in a home you own (finally!), it can be

easy to overlook the need to prepare for the cold weather ahead. After

all, it’s just not something renters deal with; prepping pipes for winter is

often the landlord’s job.

Ideally, you should winterize your pipes in the fall, before winter seriously

sets in. But if you’ve forgotten and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of

a deep freeze, there’s still time to prevent disaster.

Here are some easy techniques to save your pipes from bursting:

 

  1. Turn On Your Faucets

If the temperatures have dropped into freezing and intend to stay there,

turning on your faucets — both indoors and out — can keep water

moving through your system and slow down the freezing process.

There’s no need to waste gallons of water: Aim for about five drips per

minute.

  1. Open Cabinet Doors

During cold weather, open any cabinet doors covering plumbing in the

kitchen and bathroom. This allows the home’s warm air to better

circulate, which can help prevent the exposed piping from freezing. While

this won’t help much with pipes hidden in walls, ceilings, or under the

home, it can keep water moving and limit the dangerous effects of

freezing weather.

 

  1. Wrap Your Pipes

If your pipes are already on their merry way towards freezing, wrapping

them with warm towels might do the trick. You can cover them with the

towels first and then pour boiling water on top, or use already‑wet towels

— if your hands can stand the heat (use gloves for this). This should help

loosen the ice inside and get your system running again.

 

  1. Pull Out Your Hairdryer

A hairdryer (or heat gun) can be a godsend when your pipes are freezing.

If hot rags aren’t doing the trick, try blowing hot air directly on the pipes.

Important note: You don’t want to use a blow torch or anything that

produces direct flames, which can damage your pipes and turn a frozen

pipe into an even worse disaster. You’re trying to melt the ice — not your

pipes.

 

  1. Frozen Pipes? Shut Off The Water

Have your pipes already frozen? Turn off the water immediately.

(Hopefully you know where the master shut‑off is, but if not, now’s the

time to find it!)

Make sure to close off any external water sources, like garden hose

hookups. This will prevent more water from filling the system, adding

more ice to the pile, and eventually bursting your pipes — the worst‑case

scenario. This also will help when the water thaws; the last thing you

want after finally fixing your frozen pipes is for water to flood the system

— and thus, your home.

 

JAMIE WIEBE

is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she

worked as a web editor for “House Beautiful,” “ELLE Decor,” and “Veranda.”

Looking to buy or sell

a home? Realtor.com

© Copyright 2016

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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5 Tricks to Keep Your Pipes from Exploding this Winter

 

How to prevent your pipes from freezing, even if you think they’ve already started to freeze.

 

New homeowners may have heard that winterization is important, but in

the hubbub of your first year living in a home you own (finally!), it can be

easy to overlook the need to prepare for the cold weather ahead. After

all, it’s just not something renters deal with; prepping pipes for winter is

often the landlord’s job.

Ideally, you should winterize your pipes in the fall, before winter seriously

sets in. But if you’ve forgotten and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of

a deep freeze, there’s still time to prevent disaster.

Here are some easy techniques to save your pipes from bursting:

     1.Turn On Your Faucets

If the temperatures have dropped into freezing and intend to stay there,

turning on your faucets — both indoors and out — can keep water

moving through your system and slow down the freezing process.

There’s no need to waste gallons of water: Aim for about five drips per

minute

     2.Open Cabinet Doors

During cold weather, open any cabinet doors covering plumbing in the

kitchen and bathroom. This allows the home’s warm air to better

circulate, which can help prevent the exposed piping from freezing. While

this won’t help much with pipes hidden in walls, ceilings, or under the

home, it can keep water moving and limit the dangerous effects of

freezing weather.

     3. Wrap Your Pipes

If your pipes are already on their merry way towards freezing, wrapping

them with warm towels might do the trick. You can cover them with the

towels first and then pour boiling water on top, or use already‑wet towels

— if your hands can stand the heat (use gloves for this). This should help

loosen the ice inside and get your system running again.

     4. Pull Out Your Hairdryer

A hairdryer (or heat gun) can be a godsend when your pipes are freezing.

If hot rags aren’t doing the trick, try blowing hot air directly on the pipes.

Important note: You don’t want to use a blow torch or anything that

produces direct flames, which can damage your pipes and turn a frozen

pipe into an even worse disaster. You’re trying to melt the ice — not your

pipes.

     5. Frozen Pipes? Shut Off The Water

Have your pipes already frozen? Turn off the water immediately.

(Hopefully you know where the master shut‑off is, but if not, now’s the

time to find it!)

Make sure to close off any external water sources, like garden hose

hookups. This will prevent more water from filling the system, adding

more ice to the pile, and eventually bursting your pipes — the worst‑case

scenario. This also will help when the water thaws; the last thing you

want after finally fixing your frozen pipes is for water to flood the system

— and thus, your home.

 

JAMIE WIEBE

is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she

worked as a web editor for “House Beautiful,” “ELLE Decor,” and “Veranda.”

Looking to buy or sell

a home? Realtor.com

© Copyright 2016

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Terrified to Buy a Home? Your Top Fears Debunked

| Oct 25, 2016

You wake up in a cold sweat. There’s something lurking in the dark, visible by flickering computer light. Something’s haunting you. It’s… the real estate listings! Deep down, you’d love to own a home, but whenever you take steps beyond idle window-shopping, a chill runs up your spine, and paralyzes you from moving ahead. We get it—you’re about to make a life-changing purchase, and you’re spooked. The main thing that home buying has in common with horror flicks: The fears are (mostly) mere figments of your imagination.

So in case you’re harboring some heebie-jeebies, here are some of home buyers’ top concerns—tackled head on so you know what you’re really dealing with.

Fear No. 1: ‘I’m afraid I can’t afford a home’

Some house hunters are possessed by worries that their entire savings account will get sucked into a black hole if they buy. Then they’ll never be able to afford vacations, or new clothes, or food beyond beans and rice or mac ‘n cheese ever again.

The reality: Depending on what and where you’re buying, you’re not likely to drain your savings account, according to Bill Golden of RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside. “There are many loan programs out there that can help first-time home buyers with down payment assistance,” says Golden, “or that don’t require a severed arm and leg in order to get a mortgage.”

The best way to determine how financially ready you are to buy a home is to talk to a loan officer. Alternatively, you can also enter your income, debts, and other info in realtor.com®’s home affordability calculator, to see exactly how much you can afford to spend on a home without going broke.

Fear No. 2: ‘I’m worried I won’t be able to buy a home I actually like’

The current economic climate may lead some buyers to believe that buying means they’ll end up living in a version of a “Saw” movie set—a windowless pit with exposed plumbing. (Without the severed limbs, however.) Fact is, interest rates are low, allowing homeowners to snag a great deal and pay less over the course of their loan. “Also, with the economy being in a downturn, many fantastic properties are being sold for under value,” says Tyler Ferguson, owner of Stone Reinvented.

Fear No. 3: ‘What if I buy a money pit?’

We’ve all seen that movie of the same name where Tom Hanks‘s life and bank account are shredded, thanks to a rapidly disintegrating old house. But hey, that’s just a movie—most houses aren’t money pits, and even if there are potential issues lurking in the shadows, like a leaking pipe, you can do plenty to protect yourself. Before the sale, “hire a good home inspector,” says Green. He or she should be able to see signs of water damage, or any electrical and plumbing red flags. A home inspector will also advise you on potential repair costs, which can provide leverage for you to go back to the sellers and lower the price you pay.

Fear No. 4: ‘I’m worried I’ll overspend’

The asking price for a house may seem like an unholy amount of money. But keep in mind, that’s just what the sellers are asking for—what they get could be a totally different picture. Your Realtor can help guide you to a realistic offer. “A good agent will know the price points of the areas you’re targeting and can back them up with historical data and comps,” says Crystal Green, a Manhattan real estate agent for Level Group. Since you can search the prices of homes that recently sold in any area, it’s easier to find out what the neighbors paid and gain better insight before you place an offer.

Fear No. 5: ‘I’m leery of buying during an election year’

A presidential election year makes many buyers want to hide under the covers until Nov. 8 when the political curse lifts—especially this year. “Everyone talks about uncertainty during campaign season,” says Green. But think about it: Unless you’re one of those people who really will move to Canada if so-and-so becomes president, will the election actually affect where you choose to live? “If you’re fairly confident that you’ll remain in a home for three to five years, you should net a profit at resale,” says Green.

Fear No. 6: ‘It’s just safer to rent’

Sure, renting means you aren’t trapped in one place, as you are with homeownership. Yet for Scott Forman, divisional vice president of Cross Country Mortgage,” rent money disappears without allowing you to build any equity over time. That’s truly scary.” He estimates that by paying about $100 a month more, many renters could own their own home—and receive tax deductions. If in doubt, use a rent vs. buy calculator to crunch the numbers and see whether it’s renting or buying that wins out in your area.

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6 Home Projects That Cost Less Than a TV

Giving your home a little extra “umph” doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. In fact, you can dramatically improve the looks of your home for less than the cost of a new TV. Ready to find out how? Keep reading to discover the six projects that are sure to make your home pop — without busting your budget.

Project Perfection

1. Revamp your entryway. A stylish entrance is an important part of any home’s decor. Begin your upgrade with a new welcome mat and house numbers. These simple upgrades are cost-friendly and have an immediate impact on your home’s entrance. You can also arrange potted plants — like easy-to-maintain succulents — around your entrance for an eye-popping aesthetic. Flowering plants, while slightly more difficult to maintain, can complement the color scheme of your entrance or act as a standalone focal point. You can also spruce up your home’s entrance with a quick color update to your front door. A new shade will complement your entryway décor and spruce up the overall look of your home’s exterior. Chic doorknockers, updated doorknobs and alluring porch lighting are the perfect finishing touches for your home’s entrance.

Expected costs:

Welcome mat: $20
House numbers: $6 per number
Succulents: $37 for pre-potted kits
Flowering Plants: $30
Door Knockers: $35
Doorknobs: $125
Porch lighting: $50
Front door color updated: $100-$300

2. Modernize your bathroom. Major remodels aren’t the only way to revive your tired bathroom. Start by updating your paint. A new color will open up small spaces, rejuvenate your aesthetics and inspire chic décor. Next, upgrade your linens. New towels, shower mats and shower curtains can hide dated features and improve the overall panache of your bathroom. As a finishing touch, add candle sconces and alluring storage solutions like towel-hanging ladders and toiletry-stowing reclaimed crates.

Expected costs:

Painting: $200
Linens: $45
Candle sconces: $7
Reclaimed ladder: Less than $50
Reclaimed crates:0-20 per crate

3. Repaint your interior walls. Repainting an entire room or just sprucing up a dated space with an accent wall will boost your home’s appeal. Lighter colors are perfect for opening up small areas and enhancing your home’s serenity. You can also paint your walls and trim — or other architectural features like mantles and built-in bookcases — subtly contrasting colors to give your room a dynamic pop. Accent walls are perfect for reviving dull spaces without the cost and work of a large painting job. Darker shades are perfect for studies, home offices and other areas of contemplation.

Expected costs:

Interior paint: $200-$300

4. Update your cabinet hardware. Installing stylish cabinet hardware is a quick and cost-friendly way to jumpstart your kitchen. Before you begin your update, it’s important to pinpoint your kitchen’s style — you don’t want to mismatch modern pulls and knobs with traditional cabinets. If your kitchen has a contemporary design, go with sleek, understated hardware. Ornate, classically inspired aesthetics work best for traditional cabinets.

Expected costs:

Cabinet pulls: $3-$15 per pull
Cabinet knobs: $3-$15 per knob

5. Rejuvenate your light fixtures. Dated light fixtures not only look bad, but they can also make day-to-day activities difficult — ultra-low lighting is great for a romantic night in, but not so much for chopping vegetables. Before you install new fixtures, it’s important to consider your décor. If you have a flair for the modern, go for the subtle-but-stunning aesthetics of pendant lighting. If your home has more of a traditional design, consider the lavish ornamentation of baroque-inspired chandeliers or candle wall sconces. Do-it-yourself electrical jobs can be dangerous. Hire a pro if you’re unsure about tackling this project yourself.

Expected costs:

Light fixture: $88-$230

6. Clean your carpets. Unblemished carpets make a huge difference in the appearance of your home — especially if you experience a lot of foot traffic. Spot cleaning small stains is a simple do-it-yourself job, but it’s best to leave larger jobs to the pros.

Expected costs:

Professional clean: $174

Provided by Home Advisor

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5 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Save for a Down Payment

One of the biggest misconceptions of home buying? The 20% down payment. Here’s how to buy with a lot less down
Here are five creative ways to build your down payment nest egg fast

2. Ask the Seller to Help (Really!)

When sellers want to a get a deal done quickly, they might be willing to assist buyers with the closing costs. Fewer closing costs = more money you can apply toward your deposit.
“They’re called seller concessions,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager for the New York metro area at TD Bank. Talk with your real estate agent. She might help you negotiate for something like 2% of the overall sales price in concessions to help with the closing costs.
There are limits on concessions depending on the type of mortgage you get. For FHA mortgages, the cap is 6% of the sale price. For Fannie Mae-guaranteed loans, the caps vary between 3% and 9%, depending on the ratio between how much you put down and the amount you finance. Individual banks have varying caps on concessions.
No matter where they net out, concessions must be part of the purchase contract.

3. Look into Government Options
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a number of homeownership programs, including assistance with down payment and closing costs. These are typically available for people who meet particular income or location requirements. HUD has a list of links by state that direct you to the appropriate page for information about your state.
HUD offers help based on profession as well. If you’re a law enforcement officer, firefighter, teacher, or EMT, you may be eligible under its Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program for a 50% discount on a house’s HUD-appraised value in “revitalization areas.” Those areas are designated by Congress for homeownership opportunities. And if you qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage under this program, the down payment is only $100; you can even finance the closing costs.
For veterans, the VA will guarantee part of a home loan through commercial lenders. Often, there’s no down payment or private mortgage insurance required, and the program helps borrowers secure a competitive interest rate.
Some cities also offer homeownership help. “The city of Hartford has the HouseHartford Program that gives down payment assistance and closing cost assistance,” says Matthew Carbray, a certified financial planner with Ridgeline Financial Partners and Carbray Staunton Financial Planners in Avon, Conn. The program partners with lenders, real estate attorneys, and homebuyer counseling agencies and has helped 1,200 low-income families.

4. Check with Your Employer

Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs help connect low- to moderate-income workers with down payment assistance through their employer. In Pennsylvania, if you work for a participating EAH employer, you can apply for a loan of up to $8,000 for down payment and closing cost assistance. The loan is interest-free and borrowers have 10 years to pay it back.
Washington University in St. Louis offers forgivable loans to qualified employees who want to purchase housing in specific city neighborhoods. University employees receive the lesser of 5% of the purchase price or $6,000 toward down payment or closing costs.
Ask the human resources or benefits personnel at your employer if the company is part of an EAH program.

5. Take Advantage of Special Lender Programs

Finally, many lenders offer programs to help people buy a home with a small down payment. “I would say that the biggest misconception [of homebuying] is that you need 20% for the down payment of a house,” says Rodriguez. “There are a lot of programs out there that need a total of 3% or 3.5% down.”
FHA mortgages, for example, can require as little as 3.5%. But bear in mind that there are both upfront and monthly mortgage insurance payments. “The mortgage insurance could add another $300 to your monthly mortgage payment,” Rodriguez says.
Some lender programs go even further. TD Bank, for example, offers a 3% down payment with no mortgage insurance program, and other banks may have similar offerings. “Check with your regional bank,” Rodriguez says. “Maybe they have their own first-time buyer program.”
Not so daunting after all, is it? There’s actually a lot of help available to many first-time buyers who want to achieve their homeownership dreams. All you need to do is a little research — and start peeking at those home listings!

TOPIC Buy & Sell, Buy, First-Time Home Buyer
Erik Sherman
covers business, technology, finance, personal finance, and economics for such outlets as CBS MoneyWatch, Inc.com, Fortune.com, and Forbes.com. He’s the author or co-author of 10 books on a variety of subjects.