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Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Why You Can't Afford to Overlook the Attic When Preparing Your Home for Sale

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

Recent data shows that attics are not generally top of mind among prospective buyers. In fact, many real estate professionals go on to say that the attic isn’t even looked at during a showing unless they themselves point it out as a feature.

Still, if you’re in the process of selling your home, you need to get your attic in tip-top shape. This means cleaning out the clutter, making sure the light works and checking to see that floorboards are safe for walking. Also, if a footstool or small ladder are required to enter the attic, have one available when prospective buyers come to view your home.

When it comes to seeing the attic during a showing, potential buyers are interested in seeing the space for two reasons—to see how much storage space is available and to look for signs of leaks. The more clutter you remove from the space, the bigger the attic will look, a huge benefit in any buyer’s eye.

It’s also a good idea to check out the attic before potential buyers come to visit because the attic is often the place where problems tend to occur. Not only can water trickle into the space via a leak in the roof, small animals and birds sometimes find their way inside through the attic and older houses can have problems with mold within the space. While most of these problems are easy to fix, you need to know about them first.

If you haven’t stepped foot in your attic for quite some time, bring in an inspector prior to putting your home on the market so you can rest assured that there are no problems that will interfere with the sale.

Attics that have been converted into an office or extra bedroom can be an attractive selling point today. If your attic has been converted into some other type of space, be sure to add color (maybe a throw rug or curtains if there’s a window) and help the space stand out by incorporating interesting furniture.

While people don’t generally buy a home just because of the attic, if the space looks sharp, it may be just what your home needs to beat out the competition.

For more tips to help your attic stand out, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Rural Housing Loans Provide Buyers Affordable Homeownership Opportunity

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

If you’re planning on moving to a rural area, the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan program can make the buying process a lot easier. Also referred to as Section 502 loans, rural housing loans are insured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, providing affordable homeownership opportunities goes a long way toward promoting prosperity, which, in turn, creates thriving communities and improves the quality of life in rural areas.

In order to qualify for the program, a property must be located in an eligible rural area. Today, many small towns meet the USDA requirements, as do suburbs and exurbs of most major U.S. cities.

While not every lender offers rural housing loans, USDA loans allow for 100 percent financing, in addition to some very friendly terms. Rural housing loans also allow buyers to roll their closing costs into the loan.

To be eligible to apply for a USDA loan, applicants must have very low, low or moderate income. According to the USDA, very low income is defined as below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI); low income is between 50 and 80 percent of the AMI and moderate income is below 115 percent of the AMI. Applicants must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere, yet have an acceptable credit history. They must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

In addition, families must be without adequate housing but able to afford housing payments, including principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI). Qualifying repayment ratios are 29 percent for PITI to 41 percent for total debt.

Direct and guaranteed loans may be used to buy, build, or improve the applicant's permanent residence. Newly manufactured homes may be financed when they’re on a permanent site or purchased from an approved dealer or contractor, in addition to meeting certain other requirements. Under very limited circumstances may homes be refinanced with direct loans.

It’s also important to note that rural housing loans can only be used for homes that are 1,800 square feet or less. In addition, homes can’t have market value in excess of the applicable area loan limit, they can’t have an inground pool and they must not be designed for income-producing activities.

Last but not least, mortgage rates are often as low as comparable 30-year fixed mortgage rates. And because mortgage insurance rates are lower, with a small down payment, USDA loans can often be a better deal.

To learn more about USDA loans, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Crunched for Time? What You Need to Know to Get Your Home Sold Quickly

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

Whether it’s a new job, a marriage/divorce or even family obligations, many people find themselves up against the clock as they make their way through the home-selling process.

While pricing your home competitively is one of the quickest ways to get your home sold, you want to be careful when it comes to putting a price on your home. In the end, it’s important to make sure you choose a price that you won’t regret later on down the road.

A good rule of thumb for those wanting to sell fast is to look at the comps and price the home around 10 percent lower. This will bring a lot of attention to the property and is ultimately the quickest way to an offer.

The last thing you want to do is appear desperate, so try to stay away from pricing the home low and then dropping the price even further a few weeks later if the house is still on the market. Not only will savvy buyers pick up on what you’re doing, they’ll also end up offering even less. Plus, the more times a price is cut, the staler the listing appears. This can cause prospective buyers to think there’s a bigger reason as to why the home isn’t selling, keeping them from coming to view the home altogether.

Getting your home in tip top shape and removing the clutter are two other elements you can’t afford to ignore. Since you’re leaving quickly anyway, there’s no reason not to pack up as much stuff as you can in order to make the house as spacious as possible. Be sure to keep any boxes that are already packed out of the way as well.

No matter what sort of timeline you’re up against, make sure you listen to your agent when they offer advice regarding a quick renovation you may want to consider or something else you should be doing to help your home stand out. There’s a reason that you chose your agent to represent you, so take their thoughts and ideas into consideration and let them do their job.

If a bid comes in and it’s lower than you’d like, take a step back and consider how much wiggle room you have when it comes to timing before turning it down. If you’re really pressed for time, it might be worth accepting less than you were asking.

Selling your home quickly doesn’t have to be a negative experience. If you find yourself crunched for time, make smart choices, listen to your agent and follow the advice above.

Need to sell your home quickly? Contact our office today for more tips.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips for Upping the Ante and Improving Your Home's Curb Appeal

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

In today’s competitive market, first impressions are more important than ever, making it critical that sellers don’t overlook curb appeal when preparing to list their home on the market.

If you’re looking to up the ante and help your home truly stand out, the following tips will go a long way toward grabbing a house hunter’s eye from the get-go.

1. Power wash the exterior. The beauty of power washing is that it can change the look of a house and make it appear fresh and clean without having to paint or do any other work. If you’re going to go this route, make sure you don’t neglect the driveway, deck and sidewalks outside the home in addition to the house itself. A simple power washing can make quite the difference and really impress prospective buyers who come to view your home.

2. Think green. Replace any overgrown bushes with more leafy plants and colorful annuals, which are easier to maintain. Plant some geraniums around the side of the yard as well. It’s also a good idea to surround any trees with dark bark mulch to provide the yard with a rich feel. And last but not least, pull any and all weeds and mow the lawn regularly.

3. Paint the front door. The front door is often one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to curb appeal, but adding a fresh coat of paint to the front door can do wonders for giving your home a facelift. One of the first things a potential buyer sees, a nice looking front door can set the stage for a positive home showing experience. In addition to a fresh coat of paint, be sure to replace the house numbers if necessary. And if the doorbell has seen better days, replace it as well.

4. Define the driveway. Edging your driveway is a great way to up the ante and increase the overall appearance of the space outside your home. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, link the home’s architecture to the driveway with brick pavers, stone or concrete. Adding a strip of beach pebbles or marble chips will help soften the transition from hard surface to nearby plant beds.

5. Replace your mailbox. Unless it flies off in a storm, most homeowners don’t think about replacing their mailbox, which means there’s a good chance that it’s old, dingy and weathered. Not only are there many designs and colors to choose from, replacing the mailbox is a simple way to provide your property with an updated look.

Remember, first impressions go a long way in today’s market and upping your property’s curb appeal could be the thing that gets someone to make a bid.

To learn more about increasing your home’s curb appeal, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Things to Avoid When Selling Your Home in Today's Competitive Market

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

While it’s widely known that being present during a home showing can do more harm than good when it comes to getting your home sold quickly and for top dollar, many sellers are often unaware that there may be other ways they’re hurting their chances of unloading their home.

Here are five things sellers should avoid if they want to attract prospective buyers, rather than scare them away.

1. Letting your pet roam free. You may have the most gentle pet in the world, but that doesn’t mean prospective buyers want your pet jumping on them or following them around when they come to view your home. Some people simply don’t like animals and just seeing a dog, cat or rabbit may drive them away before they’ve had the chance to give your home a proper once over. If you have a showing scheduled, do yourself a favor and take your pet to a friend’s house and be sure to remove any of its toys and food before visitors arrive.

2. Hanging wallpaper. You might want to jazz up a room with a cool design or color by incorporating wallpaper, but industry analysis shows that an increasing amount of people see wallpaper as a turnoff. If you already have wallpaper in your home, you may want to consider taking it down and replacing it with paint.

3. Transforming your garage. In today’s day and age, it’s important to let your garage function as an actual garage. While turning your garage into an office or yoga studio may have been great for you, many prospective buyers are looking for a garage where they can park their car(s) and maybe even set up a workspace with their tools and lawn equipment. In addition, the garage is typically seen as a great space to store extraneous items, and if your home doesn’t offer the luxury of additional storage space, it could be seen as a negative.

4. Bold paint colors. While your friends may love your deep gold accent wall in the dining room or your aqua blue bedroom, color is one of those things that everyone has an opinion about. And having something too bright or too different may turn a prospective buyer off. Paint the home in neutral colors—especially the bedroom and living room—and let the rooms speak for themselves.

5. Personal items and wall-to-wall pictures. When prospective buyers come to see your home, you want them to be able to imagine themselves living in the space, and more often than not, an overabundance of personal items will keep them from being able to do this. If your home is on the market, pack these items away and try to make the home as depersonalized as possible.

Contact our office today to learn more about preparing your home to appeal to the masses.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Rural Housing Loans

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines five things sellers should avoid so that they don’t scare prospective buyers away. Other topics covered this month include simple tips for increasing your home’s curb appeal and important factors to keep in mind if you’re looking to sell your home quickly. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Growing Credit Card Debt Encouraging for Economy

August 7, 2015 3:48 am

Americans are showing signs of recovery from the Great Recession by steadily increasing their credit card debt, according to data from a recent National Consumer Credit Trends report released by Equifax. The rate of growth for credit card debt more than doubled year-over-year in many of the metro areas hit hardest by the housing market crash, and more than tripled in other less affected cities. Total credit card debt jumped five percent to $634 billion.

“Every major market has seen increases in credit card debt, even those cities where the housing market issues are not completely resolved,” says Assad Lazarus, interim unit leader of Equifax Personal Information Solutions. “This shows that American consumers are more confident about their financial futures, and that means the U.S. economy has entered an expansion mode.”

Source: Equifax

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Trickle Down

August 7, 2015 3:48 am

As uncertainty about the economy pushes Treasury yields lower, average fixed mortgage rates have moved down for the third week in a row, according to the recent Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). Dipping just below four percent, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.91 percent with an average 0.6 point. The 15-year FRM averaged 3.13 percent, also with an average 0.6 point.

In addition, the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.95 percent with an average 0.4 point. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.54 percent with an average 0.3 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Damaged by Flood? Test for Airborne Pollutants

August 7, 2015 3:48 am

Homes damaged by floodwaters can present issues long after storms end. Depending on the extent of flooding, homes can be left with damp floors, walls or even ceilings containing potentially harmful pollutants and microorganisms, say the experts at indoor environmental quality firm Pure Air Control Services.

“Receding floodwaters are typically tainted with sewage and other toxins, which can contain a number of harmful microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, molds and other detrimental pollutants,” says Pure Air Control Services’ Francisco Aguirre. “Mold and bacteria can begin growing within 24 to 48 hours following flood and rainwater damage.”

Even structures that appear unaffected by floodwaters could contain microorganisms that have propagated in small spaces invisible to the naked eye. Microbial remediation may be required if the flood has caused discoloration in the walls or behind flooring or carpets, says Aguirre. Environmental concerns associated with this damage include E. coli, salmonella, listeria, fungi and bacteria – all of which can be carried through the air in the home.

To determine the presence of harmful pollutants following a flood, residents and property owners should have a professional perform a health check. The specialist will conduct an assessment to detect elevated moisture levels, humidity, temperatures and microbial count.

Another option is purchasing an at-home do-it-yourself indoor environmental air quality test kit, like those available through IndoorAirTest.com.

"At-home test kits that are evaluated in a laboratory can help individuals assess flood damage to their home or business, as well as the potential health risks that may be lurking in their walls, flooring, cabinetry or carpets," says Aguirre. "This is a small price to pay for peace of mind, and a safe and healthy environment."

Source: Pure Air Control Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Back-to-School Shopping

August 6, 2015 3:48 am

(Family Features) For busy families, back-to-school season is not without its share of stressors. Ease the back-to-school burden on your household with these shopping tips designed to simplify the year ahead.

1. Take stock of your inventory. School lists often carry over each school year, so make sure you aren't buying multiples of things you already own. Some supplies are more exciting when refreshed every year, but buying the same ruler year after year is simply a waste of money.

2. Make a list with your children.
Put everything you need on that list, and be clear that once the list is done, it's done. Having everyone on the same page with a complete list helps ensure nothing vital is forgotten, and the list can serve as a handy tool to keep your budget in check.

3. Begin shopping as early as possible.
Hunt bargains before the traditional back-to-school season to get the best deals. Not only will you save some cash, you will have a wider selection to choose from. Spreading the shopping over several weeks also allows you to distribute the expense across several pay periods, lessening the chance of blowing your monthly budget.

4. Shop online.
Sign up for email alerts from your go-to retailers so you'll be in the know when the best deals hit. Many stores now offer online-only specials, so watch ads closely to know when you're better served making purchases in-store or online. Keep an eye out for free or reduced shipping for extra savings. You might also rely on social media to follow back-to-school offers and hashtags.

5. Put quality ahead of price.
While it's tempting to go for cheap when your list is long, remember that sometimes quality buys actually save more in the long run. You can buy a ton of cheap pens that skip, or simply stop working, for example, when you’ll be better served buying ones of higher quality.

6. Make your children shopping buddies.
Involve your kids in the back-to-school shopping process by giving them a budget. Help them allocate money for all the expenses, including clothing, school supplies, shoes and more. Use the opportunity to talk about how shopping smart for the necessities can leave room for some fun buys, too.

7. Reduce and reuse.
Save plastic and money by encouraging kids to embrace reusable items, such as lunch bags in place of paper sacks and plastic containers instead of sandwich bags. If water bottles are allowed at school, look for a durable, refillable option that can be used again and again.

8. Make the old new again.
Turn barely used items into something new. Keep leftover supplies on hand to revive your child’s enthusiasm with fresh designs at the end of the quarter or semester.

9. Swap with other parents.
Make back-to-school time more fun by hosting a swap event with other parents for clothing, backpacks, shoes, etc.

10. Create a back-up bin at home.
You may find your kids consistently run out of certain items midyear. Devote a special area of your home to keep extras in stock, and take advantage of sales during back-to-school season or buy in bulk to get a better price.

Source: ZebraPen.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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