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Blog Archive for September, 2016

Rent or own? Weigh the cost benefit.

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 29, 2016

costofrenting

There continues to be an ongoing debate over the value of renting a home versus owning it. Renters know that they are spending money that they won’t recoup—it’s not easy writing that rent check every month and watching the funds fly away forever. Still, those who are financially capable of owning a home bide their time.

Many of these hesitant homebuyer-hopefuls are just afraid of the commitment and the housing market. They saw homeowners go underwater on their mortgages when the housing bubble burst in 2008. But that fear is costing them now. Housing prices are on the rise while mortgage rates remain low (but not forever). The issues that contributed to the fragile housing loans in 2006 and 2007 (no-doc and low-doc) have been rectified, with stricter underwriting processes than ever, to ensure safe lending.

Analysis paralysis on making the decision to purchase a home is costing renters too much right now.

Just weigh the cost benefit to buy a home right now, with today’s rates, mortgages, and tax laws.

  1. Investment. Real estate is a powerful investment because you can leverage the money you borrow to gain equity in your home. Home values are on the rise. How are your stocks doing??
  2. The cost vs. value of your monthly payment. Rent is an expense, which means it delivers no return. You pay a fee. A mortgage payment is a contribution toward your investment because your home will gain in value.
  3. Tax benefit. A homeowner can deduct mortgage interest, points on closing costs, and property tax. Energy-saving improvements are usually deductible. If you work from home, you can take a variety of home office deductions, which include a percentage of your utilities, mortgage, insurance, depreciation, and home repair for your dedicated home office space. Renters might be able to claim a small credit, depending on the state they live and work in.
  4. Cost control. With a fixed rate mortgage, your payment stays the same through the life of the loan. Conversely, a landlord will likely increase your rent every year, based on inflation, the cost of repairs, etc. Buying a home is your best protection against inflation!

Housing construction is on the rise, because the demand is growing. Home sales are moving faster than they have in almost ten years, which means the inventory is getting smaller. Mortgage rates are certain to increase. The longer you wait to make the move to buy a new home, the more you will pay. Talk to a mortgage specialist to get pre-approved so you know what you can purchase. You might be pleasantly surprised at your buying power!

Checklist to winterize your home

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: September 22, 2016

winterizehome

Summer is over. The weather is going to get colder—much colder—before we see those pleasant temperatures again. Once you’ve stored your patio furniture and raked the fallen leaves, you will need to winterize your home, to protect it from all the hazards that a long, hard winter can bring.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a checklist to winterize your home.

Check your heating system.

Crank up the thermostat to 80 degrees, and listen for the furnace to turn on. Then, you should feel warm air. If that works, turn the temperature back down to the normal setting.

This is only a test. You should hire a professional to do a full inspection and cleaning of your heating system.

Put your air conditioner to bed.

You need to do more than turn off the A/C when the weather gets too cold to use it. Hose off the entire central air conditioner’s condensing unit to remove leaves and other debris. Be sure you use a heavy spray. Then, cover the condenser to prevent leaves, twigs, and other items from invading the unit. With freezing temperatures, those seemingly innocent things could lead to interior damage.

Inspect the chimney.

Creosote builds up in the chimney, leading to dangerous chimney fires. Hire a professional chimney sweep to ensure that the chimney and flue are ready for those crackling winter fires. While you’re at it, have a complete chimney inspection to find leaks that let in the cold air and ignite your heating costs.

Insulate yourself.

A burst pipe can be a disaster. Wrap insulation around any exposed piping to blanket them from the cold. If you have exterior faucets, turn off the water supply that feeds them.

Wrap an insulating blanket around your hot water tank to prevent heat from escaping.

Apply foam sealing gaskets around exterior outlets and switch plates.

Plug the leaks.

Windows and doors are notorious for housing leaks. Check your windows and doors—including the trim and the bottom of the doors—for drafts. Apply (or replace) weatherstripping. Recaulk areas where edges come together, at the corners of the house or where the roof meets the siding.

Proof the roof.

It’s no fun getting on the roof to make repairs in the dead of winter. Be proactive by checking your roof now, before the weather gets cold. Replace cracked, missing, or damaged roof shingles. Make sure the flashing is intact. And, if you didn’t already include the task in your autumn checklist, clean the gutters. All those leaves, sticks, and other unwanted stuff will add weight to your gutters when they freeze, and block the safe flow of water when the snow melts.

Shut down the sprinklers.

Water might still be inside your sprinkler lines. If it freezes, those lines could burst. After turning off the water supply, use an air compressor to blow air through the lines and push the resting water out.

Tune up your snowblower.

Imagine the first heavy snowfall. You suit up in your arctic gear to battle the white stuff. You get to the garage and discover that your snowblower won’t work. Avoid this scenario by starting it up before the winter. Fill the snowblower with gas, so it’s ready to rev up when you are. Stock up on sand or salt, and buy a really good shovel as a back-up plan.

Spend a little time winterizing your home now so you can enjoy a season without unnecessary home repairs.

How long does it take to close on a home?

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 15, 2016

closingonahome

After touring through one home after another in search of the “just right” Goldilocks moment, you found it.

Then, your offer was accepted!

Now what? How long before you have the keys in your hand and a mortgage to go with it?

There are no hard and fast timelines, but there are some actions that need to happen along the route from accepted offer to homeownership.

How long does it take to close on a new home? Let’s take a look.

Mortgage Pre-approval

Let me start out by asking if you were pre-approved. I hope so. The worst feeling is to fall in love with a home, only to find out you can’t get the mortgage to buy it. Before you even browse listings, talk to a mortgage specialist and get pre-approved. Having the pre-approval letter when you shop will show that you’re a serious buyer with the purchasing power.

Home Inspection

Your purchase and sale contract iis probably contingent on having a home inspection completed. Your Realtor can help you find someone to handle the job. Once the inspection is done, you should receive a detailed report within 24 to 48 hours. That inspection report will identify any problems that need to be addressed by the seller, prior to proceeding with the closing. Depending on the repairs, the seller might either have them done or simply reduce the price of the home to credit you for the cost.

If the inspection brings up a major problem, you have the right to walk away from the deal.

Appraisal

The lender will require a property appraisal, and will assign an appraiser to handle this task, at your expense. The intent is to protect you from paying too much for a home. If the appraisal comes back lower than the purchase price, the lender is not going to approve financing. You will need to re-negotiate with the seller, based on the appraisal. Allow up to two weeks for the appraisal to be completed.

Underwriting

Even though you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage, you still need the lender to process the paperwork, which is known as underwriting the mortgage. In general, underwriting takes about one to two weeks.

During this step, you might receive any number of inquiries, such as recent bank statements, and letters of explanation for anything out of the ordinary the pops up on your credit report, like debt that went to collection. If you’ve been married or divorced, you might need to provide that documentation in order to verify a name change on your credit report.

Be advised: The lender will pull an up-to-date credit report on you when the mortgage underwriting begins, so if you’ve opened up a new credit card since your original pre-approval, you might not be eligible for the full mortgage amount. Do not tamper with your credit in any way once you’ve been pre-approved!

Homeowner’s Insurance

You will need to submit proof that you have secure homeowner’s insurance prior to closing. Do this as soon possible to avoid unnecessary delays. A simple call to your insurance agent can usually take care of it.

 

From start to finish, the timing for closing on your new home could require from four to seven weeks. An FHA or VA loan will tend toward the longer end of this range, because the government-insured loans require a bit more work on the lender’s part.

In the end, you will walk away with the pride and joy of being a homeowner!

 

Popular choices for outdoor kitchen countertops

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 8, 2016

kitchencountertopblog

Granite countertops are here to stay.

Well, that’s partially true. There’s no denying that granite is naturally beautiful and durable. While granite is still the most popular material for kitchen countertops, today’s homeowners are open to other choices for their outdoor living spaces.

Here are some other popular choices when it comes to taking cooking outdoors:

Quartz

A quartz countertop is actually engineered from a combination of ground quartz stone and about 10% resin. The surface looks very much like granite, but doesn’t require re-sealing. Engineered quartz resists heat, stains, scratches, bacteria, and mold, too, making it maintenance-free.

Marble

This natural stone is as lovely as granite, and the color palette is just as broad. Because marble is porous, it is sensitive to stains and scratching, so be prepared to provide some extra TLC for your stunning marble countertops.

Soapstone

Soapstone has a unique look, much softer than the sleekness of granite and marble. It is non-porous, making it a wonderful countertop material that is resistant to stains. Bear in mind though, that soapstone offers a limited number of color choices and contains a high concentration of talcum (yes, the powder), so it can scratch and chip.

Wood

If you love the natural beauty of wood, why not use it on your kitchen counters? It’s a great match for the kitchen workspace. Wood countertops are ideal in a country or cottage style home. You can even mix a wood countertop—like a butcher block center island—with other kitchen counter materials.

Recycled

We love this eco-friendly choice! You have so many options with this blended surface. Recycled glass, composite, concrete, and even paper pulp are being used to create stunning kitchen countertops.

Stainless Steel

There’s a reason that commercial kitchens are outfitted with stainless steel counters. You can put any sizzling skillet or hot pot directly on the surface without worrying about damage. Yes, it will scratch, dent, and show fingerprints. But it also doesn’t stain, is easy to clean, and will outlive you.

Concrete

No, it doesn’t look like your garage floor. Concrete countertops can be artfully customized with colored stains and even textures, giving your kitchen a contemporary look, with the durability and energy-efficiency of concrete, which absorbs heat and releases it later when the interior temperature needs it.

Home maintenance checklist for September

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 5, 2016

homeChecklist

Labor Day has come and gone—along with the summer. Now, it’s time to enjoy the autumn and prepare for the cold months to follow. Not sure what chores to tackle around the house? Here’s a home maintenance checklist for September.

Have every heating system inspected. This includes your furnace, water heater, and chimney. Don’t wait until you’re desperate for heat to make sure everything is in working order.

Plug up leaks and cracks. Check the weather stripping around your doors and windows. Replace as needed. Be sure the bottom seal on your door is tight enough to prevent drafts. Apply caulking to cracks on the exterior and along the foundation.

Clean the gutters. Get rid of any twigs, leaves, and debris that have built up in your gutters. Make sure all gutters are clear so that melting snow can drain freely from your roof, and away from your home.

Clean your dryer vent. Even though you empty the lint trap on your dryer after each load (or you should!), the dryer vent behind the machine also collects flammable lint. Unplug the machine, turn off the gas supply, and remove the tube that connects the dryer to the vent. Vacuum out as much lint as you can.

Inspect your roof. Hire a pro or do the roof inspection yourself. Look at the condition of the shingles. Can you see damaged or missing shingles? Is the flashing intact? Are the fascia boards in good condition (i.e., without rot)? Use a flashlight to peer down the chimney, looking for anything nesting there. Invest the time now to inspect your roof so that you don’t have unwelcome surprises during the cold winter months.

Fertilize the lawn. Yes, your lawn will soon be taking its winter rest, but before you turn your thoughts to snow-blowing instead of lawn mowing, apply fertilizer to the lawn to promote healthier growth in the spring.

Trim low-hanging branches. Ice and show can weigh down tree branches. If you have any that are close to your home, cut them back to avoid damage to your roof, chimney, siding, or windows.

Pressure wash the exterior. Clean your home’s exterior—siding, windows, porch, patio, walkways, and driveway—to get rid of all the excess dust, dirt, and miscellaneous objects that have lodged there.

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