Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ramp Up Your Curb Appeal and Sell, Sell, Sell

Ramp Up Your Curb Appeal and Sell, Sell, Sell

When you’re preparing your house for sale, remember the importance of first impressions. There’s an old saw in any business that says “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”, and in real estate it’s an absolute given.  Buyers can be turned-on and turned-off by the strangest things … more than half the houses I’ve sold are sold when the buyers get out of their cars. So stand across the street from your house and imagine yourself pulling-up and seeing the house for the very first time. What do you see?

Here are some easy things you can do to ramp-up your curb appeal.

Outside

* Sweep front walkway

* Remove newspapers, bikes and toys

* Park extra cars away from the property

* Trim back the shrubs

* Apply fresh, clean paint throughout

* Clean windows and window coverings throughout

* Keep pet areas clean

* Keep plumbing and all appliances in working order

* Maintain all sealant (window, tub, shower, sink, etc.) in good condition

* Make sure roof and gutters are in good condition

* Mow the lawn more frequently and plant flowers

Inside

* Clean until the Kitchen and bathrooms shine

* GIve a quick once-over with the vacuum, carpets look cleaner

* Place fresh flowers in the main room

* Put everyday dishes away and set a formal dining room display for decoration

* Make beds and put all clothes away

* Enhance the spaciousness of each room

* Open drapes and turn on lights for a brighter feel

* Straighten closets

* Minimize live house plants … keep only the most beautiful/favorites

* Put away all silk flowers and fake plants

 * Put toys away

* Turn off television

* Play soft music on the radio/stereo

* Keep pets out of the way and pet areas clean and odor-free – place cat litter boxes in out-of-the-way places and refresh the litter often

* Secure jewelry, cash, prescription medication and other valuables

Important Reminders:

1. Potential buyers always feel more comfortable if the owners are not present.

2. If people knock on your door to see your property, refer them to your real estate professional for an appointment. Never let them in.

3. Leave a number where you can be reached with your agent if you are leaving town, even for a weekend. Keep your cell phone on and forward your house phone to it.

In closing, The Appearance of Overall Excellent Condition = Buyer Offers

Thinking About Buying Your First Home?

Thinking About Buying Your First Home?

Several factors should be considered when purchasing a home

Your Financial Health … your credit & home affordability

Is now the right time financially for you to buy a home? Would you rate your financial picture as healthy? Is your credit good? While you can always find a lender to lend you money, solid lenders are more skeptical if your credit history is not good.

Generally, a couple of blemishes on a credit report will make you a good credit risk and could qualify you for the lowest interest rates. If you have more than a couple of blemishes on your report, lenders like e-Loans may still provide you with a loan, but you may just have to pay a higher interest rate and fees. Some say that you should refrain from borrowing as much as you qualify for because it is wiser not to stretch your financial boundaries. The other school of thought says you should stretch to buy as much home as you can afford, because with regular pay raises and increased earning potential, the big payment today will seem like less of a payment tomorrow.

This is a decision only you can make. Are you in a position where you expect to make more money soon? Would you rather be conservative and fairly certain that you can make your payment without stretching financially? Make sure that whatever you do, it’s within your comfort zone. To determine how much home you can afford, talk to a lender or go online and use a “home affordability” calculator. Good calculators will give you a range of what you may qualify for. Then call a lender. While some may say that the “28/36” rule applies, in today’s home mortgage market, lenders are making loans customized to a particular person’s situation. The “28/36” rule means that your monthly housing costs can’t exceed 28 percent of your income and your total debt load can’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly income. Depending on your assets, credit history, job potential and other factors, lenders can push the ratios up to 40-60% or higher. While I’m not advocating you purchase a home utilizing the higher ratios, its important for you to know your options.

How long you plan to live in the home

If you purchase a home and get a job transfer or decide to move after only a short time, you may end up paying money in order to sell it. The value of your home may not have appreciated enough to cover the costs that you paid to buy the home and the costs that it would take you to sell your home. The length of time that it will take to cover those costs depends on various economic factors in the area of the home. Most parts of the country have an average of 5% appreciation per year. In this case, you should plan to stay in your home at least 3-4 years to cover buying and selling costs. If the area you buy your home in experiences an economic up turn, the length of the time to cover these costs could be shortened, and the opposite is also true.

How long the home will meet your needs

What features do you require in a home to satisfy your lifestyle now? Five years from now? Depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, you’ll need to ensure that the home has the amenities that you’ll need. For example, a two-bedroom dwelling may be perfect for a young couple with no children. However, if they start a family, they could quickly outgrow the space. Therefore, they should consider a home with room to grow. Could the basement be turned into a den and extra bedrooms? Could the attic be turned into a master suite? Having an idea of what you’ll need will help you find a home that will satisfy you for years to come.

Where the money for the transaction will come from

Typically homebuyers will need some money for a down payment and closing costs. However, with today’s broad range of loan options, having a lot of money saved for a down payment is not always necessary – if you can prove that you are a good financial risk to a lender. If your credit isn’t stellar but you have managed to save 10-20% for a down payment, you will still appear to be a very good financial risk to a lender.

The ongoing costs of home ownership

Maintenance, improvements, taxes and insurance are all costs that are added to a monthly house payment. If you buy a condominium, townhouse or in certain communities, a monthly homeowner’s association fee might be required. If these additional costs are a concern, you can make choices to lower or avoid these fees. Be sure to make your realtor and your lender aware of your desire to limit these costs. If you are still unsure if you should buy a home after making these considerations, you may want to consult with an accountant or financial planner to help you assess how a home purchase fits into your overall financial goals.

Home Buying is a Process … How it Works

Home Buying is a Process … How it Works

The complete process is simple once you understand the steps

Preapproval or Pre-commitment Letter

Provided by a lending institution to indicate the mortgage amount you qualify for. This process is best accomplished prior to beginning the search for a home, and a copy of the letter should be in your possession for use during the offer to purchase phase.

The Offer

A preliminary but legally binding contract that covers the basic terms of your agreement with the Seller: price, occupancy, financing, and inspection contingencies, and the date for signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement. Each contingency has a cut-off date that must be met. The customary deposit with the agreement is $1000.00 in Middlesex County, other counties may vary.

Inspections

Include a structural, pest, radon, well water, lead paint, and radon gas. These must be done within seven days of signing of the Offer and are conducted at the Buyer’s expense. The Buyer should be present for these inspections.

Purchase and Sale Agreement

Should be entered into ten working days after an accepted Offer, since it is more specific, and therefore protects both parties more fully. The customary deposit with this agreement is 5% of the purchase price although a lesser amount may be acceptable under certain circumstances.

All Deposits

Maintained in a separate Escrow account usually by the listing Broker or one of the Attorneys. Any interest accrued (if any) is split 50/50 between the Buyer and the Seller unless agreed otherwise. Both parties must sign a release for any funds to leave the Escrow account.

Financing

It is usually the only contingency to survive the Offer form (remain on the Purchase and Sale Agreement). Your application must be filed within 3-5 business days of the accepted offer and the loan commitment must be received within a stated time period … currently can be gotten easily within 21 business days of filing the application.

Appraisal

The lending institution hires a licensed appraiser to determine the value of the property and to give a professional opinion of the collateral for their investment. This must be conducted prior to the loan commitment being made, and is coordinated with the listing agent.

Title Search

Ownership of the property in Massachusetts is customarily transferred by a quitclaim deed – the Seller transfers all his/her rights in the property to the Buyer. It is the responsibility of the Buyer and his/her lending institution to determine the validity of the seller’s  title to the property, and is reviewed by the Attorney for the lender and paid for by the Buyer. The responsibility for clearing any clouds on the title rest with the Seller. Title insurance is required for the lender but you can purchase your own title insurance, and I generally recommend that you get it as the cost to clear any title items can get expensive in he future.

Closing

Also referred to as paper passing or simply “passing”. It is conducted by the Attorney for the lending institution, who searches the title to the property and guarantees to the bank and to you that it is clear. The location of the closing is usually at the office of the lending institution’s Attorney, but can also be at the lending institution or the appropriate Registry of Deeds. The closing should take place 45-60 days after signing the Offer.

Possession

Customarily immediately after the closing. Technically it can’t take place until the change of ownership is filed at the County Registry of Deeds.

Attorneys

It is strongly advised that you retain the services of an Attorney to represent your interest prior to signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement and throughout the entire process.

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