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5 Ways to Stay Organized While Building a Home

2/11/2019

This is really great advice if you are planning to build a home.  I did most of these things when building our home on LBI and it made the process so much easier and less stressful! - Paula

5 Ways to Stay Organized While Building a Home

By Jae Curtis  

Let’s face it: building a home comes with a lot of paper. Whether it’s rough plans drawn on a napkin, pictures torn from magazines or a receipt for that perfect neutral gray, it’s easy to find yourself buried in important documents. Then, when it’s time to find the info you need, you’re left paging through a mountain of paper – sometimes to no avail.

Staying organized during your build doesn’t just help you keep your desk clean – it’ll save your sanity. From communication with your contractor to finding your dream cabinets, the construction process means you’re constantly checking and rechecking information. By putting a system in place, you’ll easily be able to locate what you need when you need it. Organization doesn’t have to be complicated. Try these five tips to help yourself stay organized so you can easily access everything you’ll need for a smooth build.

1. Delineate between wants and needs

The first step for an organized build is making sure you know the difference between wants and needs. With all of the inspiration, trends, materials and ideas available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The fastest way to gain control of your build is to know where you stand on wants and needs. Take the time to write a list of five to ten must-haves. These should be items that your home needs for you to be happy with the end result. Then, do the same with a few nice-to-haves: things that you’d like, but won’t make or break the experience. By knowing the difference and creating a strict line between the two, you won’t get sidetracked by tasks that don’t really matter in the long run.

2. Create a build binder (or board)

Building a home is an exercise in collaboration. You’ll be working with a myriad of professionals, from interior designers to concrete workers. A build binder helps you stay organized and on track no matter who or where you’re meeting. A build binder is simple: just use tabs to organize your home into different categories. One way is to split your home into different rooms. Or, if you find it easier, go by categories, such as cabinetry, flooring, countertops, paint and so on.

If you’re more comfortable going digital, use a tool like Pinterest to create inspiration boards and invite your contractors to collaborate. Your interior designer can show you some of the hottest trends while you keep all of your favorite layouts, colors and materials in one place.

3. Organize receipts and documents

There’s no shortage of receipts and docs during the build process. You’ll have land contracts and build contracts, material receipts and floorplan print-outs. If you don’t stay organized, you won’t be able to easily refer to them as needed. While you should always keep important home document hard copies in one place, you’ll need mobile versions, too. If you don’t want to find yourself lugging a file cabinet to every build meeting, use your phone as an organizational tool. Create a folder in your phone’s photo album for home documents and snap a picture anytime you receive something important. You’ll have easy access to all of your contracts, receipts and other important docs on the fly.

4. Create email folders

While the building of your home happens on your lot, the logistics will happen in your email inbox. Don’t lose important communication among your work and junk emails. Create a space for home-specific mail.

You can easily create custom folders within your inbox. If you use Gmail, for instance, you’ll click “Settings,” then “Labels” and “Create New.” You can then name your new label anything you want and use that new label to file important messages. If you really want to stay organized, you could create an entirely new email address for your build and create folders for the different categories of your build. Whatever you decide, it’s about having organized and easy access to all of your communications throughout the process.

5. Carry a home kit

If there’s anything you should know about building a home, it’s that a meeting can spring up anytime, any place. Whether you’re visiting your home site, dropping by the cabinetry showroom or running into your contractor in the grocery store, you might find yourself making decisions on the fly. That’s why you should stash a home kit in your car at all times. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but should include:

  • A tape measure
  • A notebook
  • A pencil
  • Your build binder
  • A pair of shoes you don’t mind getting dirty

Wondering if a light fixture will work in your home? Grab your tape measure! Think you might have found the perfect shade of blue for your front door? Scribble it down. Schedule an impromptu walkthrough? Throw on your shoes and take a look. With a home kit, you’re never caught without the tools you need to keep the build moving.

It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed by the logistics of building a home. There are a lot of moving parts and contractors to manage. By getting yourself organized, you can feel more in control of the process and easily identify areas that need a little more work. Stay organized and you’ll keep your build on schedule (and the end in sight).

6 Surefire Ways to Get Your House Sold

2/6/2019

This article was published a few months back, but it contains good information if you are thinking of listing your LBI home in the approaching Spring real estate market....-Paula

6 Surefire Ways To Get Your House Sold

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI POSTED ON WEDNESDAY, 15 AUGUST 2018 12:36

We're coming to the end of summer, and that means that families seeking to buy a new home before school starts have likely already done their thing. But that doesn't mean you're out of luck if you're looking to sell. Whether you're just getting ready to list your home or haven't had any bites on your existing home for sale, these tips will get it - and you - moving.

Price it right

This is the most obvious, but also the most contentious, tip when it comes to selling a home. Everyone wants top dollar. But rule No. 1 about a house that isn't selling is to lower the price. (Likewise, listing a house now at an unreasonable price likely won't get you the sale you're looking for, especially when kids go back to school and sales naturally slow down.) ABC News has a good piece on how to tell if your home is overpriced, but…if it's not selling, and your showings are limited, and your real estate agent has already talked to you about this (maybe more than once, including when you first discussed the list price), you probably already know why it's not selling.

Here's how to get past the disappointment of having to list your home at a lower price than you want or lower it when it's sitting on the market: Your ultimate goal is to get the home sold and get on with your life, right? Maybe that means buying a larger home. Perhaps you're looking to downsize or even move out of state. Whatever your plans, you're delaying them by letting your home stay on the market.

Every month it doesn't sell is another month you're in a holding pattern. And, it means you're spending more money on carrying costs if you've already moved to a new home before your old one has sold. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what your happiness or peace of mind is worth. Chances are it's more than the money you'll miss out on if you sell for less. Once you've come to that realization, it should be easier to make a price adjustment.

Choose the right REALTOR®

Another "Duh" statement here. But the reality is that the right agent can make or break your sale. You may be inclined to list your home with a friend who's just getting into the business or a cousin twice removed due to family pressure, but consider this move carefully. When you're dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars, you want to make sure you have someone in your corner who has the knowledge and experience to navigate professionally and successfully through every step of what can be a very complicated process. While your pal or relative may be eager, they might not have the depth of understanding of sales trends to strategize the best listing price, or the negotiation skills to get the deal done. The relationships a seasoned agent has with other industry professionals is also key to a quick and profitable sale.

Paint your front door

We all know the value of curb appeal, so getting your front yard in order is a must-do when listing your home. (If it's not selling, perhaps a little more sprucing up out front is in order.) But don't skip your front door while you're trimming bushes and laying down new mulch. A refreshed (or new, if needed) front door regularly tops the list of improvements providing a good return on investment on the annual Cost vs. Value Report. It's an easy DIY update, too.

But, before you run off to buy paint, carefully consider the color. Choose wrong and you could turn off buyers. Choose right and you could actually get more for your home.

"When it comes to paint color, homeowners may have reason to go back to black. Houses with front doors in shades of black - from charcoal to jet - fetched $6,271 more than expected when sold, said MarketWatch. "Pops of color are especially important for front doors. It often forms the first impression in a prospective home buyer's mind and can determine how they will view the rest of the property when touring a home. A door paint in a popular color can help make buyers feel that the property is well cared for."

Take half the stuff out of your closets

Yes, your overstuffed closet can kill a sale. If a potential buyer feels like they won't have enough space for their stuff, they won't be a potential buyer for long.

Put your personal stuff - and your personal taste - away

"Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. You'll have to do it eventually anyway when you move, and buyers tend to have a hard time seeing past personal effects. You don't want your potential buyers to be distracted. You want them to be able to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they can't do that if yours are there," said The Balance. "This goes for furniture items, too, painful as that might be. Not everyone will share your taste, so if you have your bright red sofa screams, "I'm unique!" you might want to remove it for the time being. Try to stick with your more understated pieces." 

Keep your emotions out of it

Selling your home can be an emotional experience, especially if it was your first home or it's otherwise filled with memories. But emotions can get in the way of a home sale, and waylay your objective, which is to move up or move on.

"Once you decide to sell your home, it can be helpful to start thinking of yourself as a businessperson and a home seller, rather than as the home's owner," said Investopedia. "By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you'll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling the property that you've undoubtedly created many memories in. Also, try to remember how you felt when you were shopping for that home. Most buyers will also be in an emotional state. If you can remember that you are selling not just a piece of property but also an image, a dream and a lifestyle, you'll be more likely to put in the extra effort of staging and perhaps some minor remodeling to get top dollar for your home. These changes in appearance will not only help the sales price, but they'll also help you create that emotional distance because the home will look less familiar."

Small Repairs that Make a Big Difference When Showing Your Home for Sale....

2/5/2019

Getting Ready To Sell? These 5 Small Repairs Make A Big Difference When Showing Your Home

When it comes time to prepare your home for sale, you want to ensure it’s in the best possible shape by the time you show it. This way, when a potential buyer asks about the property’s condition, they know it is ready to be sold without much work left to be done.

After all, most buyers would prefer not to have to deal with any functional issues before they move in. Before showing your home, consider making these small repairs, as they can make a big difference both in terms of interest levels and offer prices.

Applying New Paint

Nearly any reputable realtor will suggest that you give your home a fresh coat of paint before showing it, provided you have not already done so very recently. At the very least, you should paint the interior in a neutral color that will make the space seem larger. If you have the time and it has been a while, you should also consider new paint for the exterior. A simple coat of paint makes everything look newer and as if it is in better shape.

Making flooring fixes

Depending on the flooring currently in your home and its condition, you should also make any small repairs to this part of the house. Flooring replacements and repairs can be inexpensive when you choose the right material. Even a slightly more expensive flooring replacement can be worth it if you have shag carpeting or something else no buyer will want.

At the moment, most buyers prefer hardwood floors, so if you have this type of floor under your carpeting, a relatively low-cost removal of the carpet can dramatically boost your home’s appeal. If you have ceramic flooring, replace or clean the grout and replace any cracked or chipped tiles. As a general rule, don’t bother installing ceramic flooring in a home before showing it, since it is expensive. The only exception would be a bathroom or entryway that previously had carpeting.

Resurfacing kitchen cabinets and sinks

The average kitchen remodel will give you almost a complete return on your investment in terms of asking price, but this holds true more for mid-range and minor remodels than it does for high-end kitchens. One thing that will almost always be worth it, however, is resurfacing your cabinets. This is something you may be able to do yourself. You can liven up old cabinets, which will make them look less dated. While you are at it, consider replacing the handles on your cabinets, as well.

This is also the time to make small repairs to the sink and countertop, such as caulking your sink. Just giving your sink a deep clean may be enough to improve your home’s appearance. Your real estate agent may suggest some other minor repairs to the countertops, backsplash or sink.

Cleaning or replacing bathroom fixtures

Your home needs to be sparkling clean when you show it, so do your best to get your shower doors and any glass fixtures in the bathroom completely clean. If this is not possible, go ahead and replace them. There may, for example, be lime deposits that have etched the glass past the point of repair. You may also need to refinish your tub if there are stains.

There are also some other minor repairs to make in your bathroom before showing your home. If you have carpeting in your bathroom, you definitely want to replace it with tile, as you will be hard-pressed to find a buyer who thinks this is a nice feature. You will also generally get your money back for small repairs such as new fixtures, lights and floors, all of which help make your bathroom shine during the showings. Also, don’t forget to repaint the bathroom walls, preferably in a light color as this makes the space seem larger.

Boosting curb appeal

Before showing your home, take the time to boost the property’s curb appeal with minor repairs, as this will bring in more interested buyers. If there are any cracks in your sidewalk or driveway, patch them up. If you have an asphalt driveway, take the time to resurface it. In the case of fences, make any necessary repairs on them and give them a fresh coat of paint. You will also want to do some minor landscaping, such as trimming back dead branches and planting flowers.

Remember that a boost to your curb appeal will make it more likely that someone will take a look at your home. Buyers will also be attracted to the ability to get a perfect picture in front of their new home without having to do extensive landscaping themselves.




8 Pros You Need on Your Team for a Well-Maintained Home

1/30/2019

Do you have a handyperson, painter and plumber you can trust? Find out the essential home service pros to know

 January 28, 2019
Houzz Contributor. I cover decorating ideas, Houzz tours & the monthly home maintenance...More
 

What Your Feelings Could Cost You: How to Keep your Emotions Out of Selling Your Home

11/16/2018

 

by Carson Buck
October 31, 2018

7 Ways to Control Your Emotions When It’s Time to Sell

It’s not always easy to sell the home in which you have spent many years, or raised your children in. There are so many memories and emotions tied up in the home that it can be difficult to make that final decision to put it on the market. Worse yet, if you can’t keep your feelings in check through the selling process, they might even cost you more than you might think.

If you’re considering selling your home and your emotions keep boiling up, then there are several things you should do to try and separate your emotions from the act of selling your home. Here are seven tips to help you keep your feelings from getting in the way of making a deal.

 

  1. Prepare Yourself

Don’t rush to judgment when deciding whether to sell your family home. Take the time to identify why you’re selling and then prepare yourself for the process. You may have a goal in mind, be it downsizing, up-sizing, retirement, moving to be closer to an adult child or elderly family member, or moving to a new city. Don’t lost sight of why you’re selling your home and focus on that instead of concentrating on feelings of loss.

  1. Sell Only When You’re Ready

Once you accept the fact that you are going to be selling your home, that is when you should finally put it on the market, and not a moment sooner. If you try to sell it before you’re ready, you’ll always look for reasons why not to accept an offer.

 

  1. Price Your Home Accordingly

One of the ways emotions can cost you is in the pricing of your home. Homeowners who feel emotionally tied to their homes will want to price their homes according to their feelings and not to what the market is saying. This results in such homes being priced well above their market values, which can cause the homes to be on the market for a very long time. Instead, look at your home from a buyer’s perspective and ask your agent for advice. Price the home accordingly and it will sell quicker.

  1. Don’t Personalize the Staging of the Home

You’re proud of your family and your home so you might think it makes sense to populate your home’s decor with personal items and photos. But, this won’t help you sell your home any faster. Buyers need to be able to imagine themselves living in the home, and it’s harder to do that when all they see is your family in the home. Stage the home using neutral decor and decorations and you’ll have better success selling it.

 

  1. Don’t Attend the Open House

You might think it would be nice if you were on hand during your home’s open house, but this isn’t generally a good idea. When the seller is in the home during the open house, it makes the buyers less at ease, to the point that they usually won’t be honest in their assessment of things. The feedback your agent gets from the open house visitors can provide you with the information you need to make the changes necessary to make your home more sellable.

  1. Don’t Take Visitor Comments Personally

Not every comment your agent receives about your home from visitors will be positive. It is important not to take these negative comments personally. You will become distracted and fixated on who said what and this could make it more difficult to sell your home. It can even cause you to refuse a decent offer.

It is better to take an objective look at the comments and to make the changes necessary to turn them around. Should a visitor who previously said something negative return to the home later and find their concern addressed, they could wind up putting in an offer. Remember, the comments made by potential buyers are about the home and not about you.

  1. There’s No Place for Emotions in Negotiations

Another common place where emotions can turn up is during the negotiation process. This is when a potential buyer will be pointing out problems with the home to get the price reduced. Because it’s your home they’re talking about, it can be easy to take offense to their points.


Rather than argue their points, concede the concerns but mention certain features and attributes of the home that help validate its selling price. Keep a calm head, and chances are strong that you’ll eventually get to a place where both you and the buyer are satisfied.

 

What's the Difference Between a Home Equity Loan and a Home Equity Line of Credit?

11/14/2018

They both do the same thing, but in very different ways.

by: Kailey Fralick

Nov 6, 2018 at 11:07AM

Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are both viable ways for homeowners with substantial equity to get quick cash when they need it. But it's important to understand how these loans work before you agree to anything. If you end up borrowing more than you pay back, you risk losing the roof over your head.

Here's a closer look at the differences between home equity loans and HELOCs, and how to decide whether one of these is a good fit for your situation.

Home equity loans

A home equity loan is essentially a second mortgage. You're borrowing against the equity you've already built up in your home in exchange for a lump-sum payment. Most lenders will enable you to borrow up to 85% of the total value of the home, but the catch is, you can only borrow from what you already own. So if the home in question costs $100,000 and it's completely paid off, you could borrow up to $85,000. But if you've only paid off half of it, the most you could borrow would be 85% of your equity or $42,500. Other factors come into play as well, like your credit score. Lenders may be hesitant to give you that much money if they're afraid you won't pay it back.

These types of loans come with a fixed interest rate and a term that usually varies from 5 to 20 years. You pay a set amount each month in addition to your regular mortgage payment until the total loan is paid off. If you fail to pay back the money, the bank is within its rights to foreclose upon the home.

A home equity loan makes sense if you have a large, one-time expense like a home remodeling project. It's also a good choice if you prefer to have a predictable monthly payment that you can budget for, rather than one that will fluctuate, like a HELOC. The downside of going with a home equity loan is that if the home values in your area drop suddenly, you could end up owing more than your home is worth, and even selling it may not be enough to pay back the remaining balance.

If home costs have been declining in your area, you may want to avoid a home equity loan or only borrow a small amount that you know you can pay back quickly.

HELOCs

A HELOC is similar to a home equity loan, except you're given a line of credit that you can borrow up to, rather than a lump sum. You don't have to borrow up to the full amount, and you will only be charged interest on the amount that you spend. However, your lender may impose a minimum amount that you need to borrow in order to make it worth it for the company.

When you're approved for the HELOC, you're given a draw period, usually ranging from 5 to 10 years, followed by a repayment period ranging from 10 to 20 years. You can borrow up to your limit as needed during the draw period without having to go back to your lender and ask for permission. And as you pay off what you owe, you free yourself up to borrow more. If your HELOC has a $100,000 limit and you spend $10,000, you would have $90,000 left to spend during the draw period. If you repay the $10,000 during that time, you would then have another $100,000 to spend.

Some HELOCs allow you to pay just the interest during the draw period, while others require you to make payments toward both interest and principal. Paying the principal during the draw period will help you to repay the loan faster, and you'll end up paying less in interest overall. Interest rates on HELOCs generally start higher than home equity loan interest rates, and they're variable, so they can increase over time. This means you won't have a predictable monthly payment that you can plan for. Some HELOCs will allow you to convert the balance to a fixed interest rate at any time during the draw period. You can't do this once you've entered the repayment period, but you could refinance to a fixed-rate loan.

A HELOC could work for you if you know you need money, but you're not exactly sure how much you will need. You can just borrow as necessary without having to apply to the bank every time. But it's not a good choice if you're not good at keeping track of your expenses. You could end up spending more than you anticipated and you may have trouble repaying it.

 

Alternatives to home equity loans and HELOCs

A home equity loan or a HELOC can be a good choice if you're looking to add value to your current home, but they are rarely a good idea otherwise. If you fall on hard times and can't pay back what you borrow, you'll lose the roof over your head.

Those who don't want to risk that should look into alternatives, like borrowing from friends or family or taking out a personal loan. Depending on the cost and your credit limit, you may also be able to charge some of the expenses to a credit card. This is rarely a good idea, however, unless you know you can repay your balance in full at the end of the month or you're in a 0% introductory APR promotion.

Home equity loans and lines of credit are a viable option for homeowners in need of some cash, but it's important to evaluate all of your options before putting your home on the line, especially if you're still paying off your first mortgage.

 

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Seven Things You Should Do When Buying a Home Near the Water

11/14/2018
by Ben Sanford  November 8, 2018


Living near water is a dream for many people. Being able to open your back door to a view of the beach, river, or lake is something typically reserved for summer vacations, but some people are fortunate enough to live waterfront homes every day of the year.

If this is a lifestyle that you envision for yourself, then before you start looking at home markets in waterfront cities, there are some things you will want to know. Here are seven tips to help you navigate waterfront markets.

 

Find a Real Estate Agent Who Specializes in Waterfront Properties

Many real estate agents are specialists in certain types of properties. For instance, an agent may specialize in historic properties, fixer-uppers, or foreclosures. When you’re dealing with a particular type of home, you want to use an agent who is experienced in that arena. So, you should find an agent who specializes in waterfront properties in the area where you want to live. They will know more about the homes, help you find the best deals, and provide you with reliable information about living in a waterfront home.


Focus on the Area First, and the Home Second

Buying a waterfront home requires a different train of thought than buying an inland home. With a home on the water, the property should be your primary concern, not the home. The reason for this is because if the area surrounding your home doesn’t turn out to be as nice as you thought it would be, then you’re not going to be satisfied in your home.

For instance, you may purchase your ideal beach-side home, only to learn later that the beach is poorly maintained, attracts loud or rowdy people, or doesn’t allow swimming.

 

Make Sure the Home Can Withstand Coastline Weather

Living along the coast can place you in some risky situations due to the severity of storms that can sometimes come in off the coast. Therefore, you need to make sure the property you want to buy can stand up to high winds and pounding rains. After all, you don’t want to have to be making major repairs every time a storm hits.


Understand Your Insurance Requirements

Insurance can be a complex undertaking when buying property in waterfront cities. Most insurance policies don’t cover water damage caused by flooding, so if you live by the water, this is something you are going to need.

In fact, in some waterfront cities, you’re required to carry three supplemental policies in addition to your general home coverage. These may include wind coverage, flood coverage, and general hazard coverage. As you might expect, your policy premiums will likely be higher than homes situated further inland.

Learn About Your Waterfront Property’s Limitations

If you buy a waterfront property with the hopes of installing a dock, then you’ll want to find out early on if this is even possible in your area. Many townships have limitations on what homeowners can do with their properties, so if you have plans to add on to or to alter your property in any way, do your research to make sure you’re actually allowed to do it.

 

Learn About the Availability of Utilities in the Area

You might think that a waterfront home must have utilities in order for it to be sold, but this always isn’t the case. Depending on where you’re looking to buy, utilities like electricity, water, cable, and Internet may or may not be available. And, if you’re buying in an area where the utilities aren’t supplied, then you can expect to pay a costly amount to have them run to your property. Better to find out that your home doesn’t have electricity or any other utilities before you buy and move in.

Know the Responsibilities of Being a Waterfront Homeowner

Living on the waterfront requires a homeowner to have a certain amount of respect for their surroundings and neighbors, especially if you live in a community with a homeowner’s association. Every HOA has its own set of requirements and rules that residents must adhere to, such as property upkeep and maintenance, so it’s best to find out what your responsibilities will be if you plan on living in one of these areas.

Living on the water can be relaxing, soothing, exciting, and fun, but it’ll only be that way if you do your research and find the right agent for your needs. At Homes.com, you can search for waterfront properties in every city, and we can even help you find an agent in the area where you’re looking to buy. Start your search for the perfect waterfront property today!

 

Loan Shopping? Here's How Multiple Inquiries Impact Your Credit Score

11/12/2018

Shopping around to make sure you find the best deal on a loan is financially smart. Getting the best interest rate and terms possible, especially on a mortgage, could save you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a large loan. And we can thank the internet for allowing us access to hundreds of lenders where we can kick their tires and explore what kinds of deals we can get.

That being said, it’s best to keep your interest rate shopping limited to a short window of time if your credit reports are being pulled as part of the process. There’s a chance that rate shopping could have a negative impact on your credit scores if you’re haphazard about it.

What Is a Credit Inquiry?

An inquiry is a record of access into your credit report. So, when you apply for credit, the credit bureaus are going to make a record of who accessed your credit report and when, and place that record on your report.

Some inquiries, such as checking your own personal credit, are benign. These are referred to as “soft” inquiries. Other inquiries, such as applying for new credit, have the potential to impact your scores negatively. These are referred to as “hard” inquiries.

Applying for Multiple Accounts vs. Rate Shopping

The sole reason the credit score exists is to help lenders predict risk. And research shows that applying for multiple new accounts in a short period of time is predictive of elevated risk.

Due to this fact, credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore are designed to pay attention to the number of hard inquiries on your credit reports when calculating your scores. And a larger number of hard inquiries could translate into lower credit scores in some scenarios.

The exception to this rule is when you’re rate shopping. Your credit reports could easily get polluted with multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time when you’re trying to find the best financing offer available. But credit inquiries that occur as a result of rate shopping are not indicative of the same elevated risk mentioned above.

As a result, credit scoring models often treat them differently — provided that those inquiries all occur within a certain window of time and are from certain types of lenders. Both FICO and VantageScore scoring models include logic that protects your scores from the impact of rate shopping inquiries.

FICO’s Rate-Shopping Window: 45 Days

In FICO’s scoring models, multiple inquiries that occur within a 45-day window are treated as one single shopping event, provided those inquiries are from mortgage, auto loan, or student loan lenders.

Inquiries outside of these three categories, such as credit card inquiries, are not protected, because consumers don’t typically shop around for the best rate on a credit card.

So, if you applied for a mortgage on Oct. 1 and applied at a second lender on Nov. 1, the two mortgage inquiries would count as one for the sake of credit score consideration, because they were within 45 days of each other.

VantageScore’s Rate Shopping Window: 14 Days

VantageScore’s logic is both more and less restrictive than FICO’s logic.

The window for VantageScore is 14 days, versus 45 days for FICO. On the other hand, VantageScore models don’t include category restrictions when considering the impact of multiple inquiries. Instead, all inquiries that occur in a 14-day window only impact your credit scores as a single credit application event.

So, if you apply for a credit card on Oct. 1 and two more credit cards on Oct. 8, all three credit card inquiries would count as one for credit score consideration, because they were within 14 days of each other. However, applying for two mortgages a month apart, as in the previous example, would count as two separate inquiries on your VantageScore credit score. So if you want to cover both bases, try to limit your loan shopping to a two-week window if possible.

A Final Note

Credit inquiries — of any type — that are older than 12 months do not count in either FICO or VantageScore’s credit scoring systems. And, please keep in mind that inquiries are the least influential factor in your credit scores.

So even if you have three or four inquiries that are counted against your scores, we’re talking about a minimal number of points deducted, and even that impact will disappear within a year. Always keep inquiries in this perspective: They’re just not that important.

 

7 Things to Look for When Buying a New House

11/12/2018

7 Things to Look for When Buying a New House

By Thomas Noel October 31, 2018 in Homes / Moving / Real Estate

Shopping for a new house means looking past that fresh coat of paint and doing a little digging to see if any big repairs or deal breakers are lurking beneath the surface. 

Sure, it’s likely a few issues will surface during your inspection, but it’s smart to check things out before you put in an offer. Finding a problem doesn’t mean you can’t buy the house. It just helps you get a better idea of what to offer, and what you can live with. A new house is a big investment, and you want to make sure that your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

 

  1. Damaged roof

The first thing you need to know about your potential new home is the age and condition of the roof. The realtor should be able to tell you. Do a visual check of the roof by walking around the house. Look for damaged or missing shingles, rusted flashing, moss or dirt and any other spots that worry you. A damaged roof could seriously impact the interior and exterior of your home. If you have concerns, let your realtor know so they can discuss them with the homeowner when they negotiate your offer.

 

  1. Heating and cooling performance

Few things are worse than needing A/C or heat, and not having it. So make sure you check the heating and cooling system to see if it’s in good working order. Ask the age of the system, turn it on and off, take a look at the ductwork if possible and see if the filters fit snugly. Don’t forget to look outside, too. Listen to how your air conditioning and heating units sound when they’re running. Look for rust and dirt on the equipment. If you’re satisfied with your initial look, pay close attention to the inspection report. Your inspector will test the system and can give you more thorough details.

If you think the system might need replacing, your local HVAC dealer can give you a quote for installation, labor and equipment. If you need to replace any equipment, you may be able to get the homeowner to reduce the selling price by amount of the replacement cost.

 

  1. Water damage

Inside the house, look for water stains on the ceiling. Check under sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms and test all of the faucets and showers. You’ll also want to check out the basement, garage or crawl space to see if there’s a sump pump. These could all indicate past or future problems with poor water drainage which could lead to flooding. Outside, look for sloping areas in the yard, standing water, french drains, water marks on the foundation. Even if the water issues aren’t active anymore, it’s good to know past problems and what could pop up in the future.

 

  1. Foundation faults

If you’re serious about buying a house, be sure to check out the foundation. Walk around the exterior, go into the crawlspace or basement and look for cracks and other red flags. Your inspector will also give you a thorough report on these issues. 

 

  1. Working appliances and electrical outlets

Don’t let cosmetic repairs distract you from potential problems, especially in a freshly painted kitchen. Look at all appliances to make sure they’re in good shape. Turn on the stove, run the dishwasher and peek into the refrigerator. Look for grounded GFCI outlets in your kitchen and baths — the ones with the red and black reset buttons. Also, give the circuit breaker a look and flip a few of the breakers. If this is going to be your new home, you want to make sure everything works as it should.

  1. Working windows

It’s a simple thing, but check all the windows in the new house to make sure they open properly. This is important for fire safety, as well as for comfort on a warm day. Asking the homeowner to get a handyman to fix the windows is easy.

  1. Bugs and pests

You may not see any critters during the day, but look in corners and cabinets for mouse and roach droppings. Again, this is another easy fix. You can ask the homeowner for a pest control treatment as part of your contract.

Understanding potential problems will make you more confident during the home buying experience – and allow you to enjoy your new house rather than worrying about what’s wrong. It’s up to you to decide if any faults you find are deal breakers or an opportunity to get a better deal on your new home.

7 Steps to Building Equity in Your Home

11/1/2018

 

 

1. Make a Big Down Payment

Your home equity represents how much of your home you actually own. If your goal is to build as much equity as you can in a short span of time, you can opt to make a large down payment. Industry standards generally say that homebuyers with conventional loans should put down at least 20%, particularly if they want to avoid paying private mortgage insurance. That means putting down even 21% can increase your home equity more quickly. (Of course, this will give you more equity in your home but may not be where you want to put your money. It’s important to assess all of your financial goals before doing this.)

2. Focus on Paying Off Your Mortgage

Your home equity is equal to your down payment plus the amount of money you’ve put toward paying off your mortgage. So you can build equity simply by making your monthly mortgage payments.

If you bought a $300,000 home and made a 20% down payment, you have a 20% stake ($60,000) in your house. As you pay off your mortgage little by little over time, your equity rises. To find out by how much, it’s a good idea to find out how much of your mortgage payments are going to interest and how much are going to the principal (the latter will help you build up equity.)

3. Pay More Than You Need To 

Another way to build equity is to go above and beyond what your lender expects of you. For example, instead of making a $1,000 monthly payment towards your mortgage, you could take it up a notch and pay $1,500 every month. If that’s not possible, you could try to make just one additional payment per year. It’s important to ensure with your lender that the extra money will go toward paying down the principal.

With your extra payments, you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage more quickly, build equity much faster and potentially save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest. That excess cash could then go towards paying off other loans or saving for retirement.

4. Refinance to a Shorter Loan Term

A refinance can offer another opportunity to build equity. By refinancing your 30-year mortgage to a 15-year loan, you can finish paying your mortgage off in half the time and enjoy the benefits of having access to plenty of home equity. But since you’ll be speeding up the payoff process, you’ll be paying more money every month.

And keep in mind that a refinance isn’t guaranteed. To qualify, you’ll likely need to have good credit, a certain amount of equity already and a low debt-to-income ratio. Checking your score ahead of time will let you know whether you need to beef up your credit before applying.

If you can qualify for a refinance loan, it might be a good idea to steer clear of a cash-out refinance. You’ll end up with a bigger mortgage than you started with. Plus, it’s counterproductive if you’re on a mission to build home equity (since you’ll get cash in exchange for the equity you already have).

5. Renovate the Inside of Your Home

Making improvements to your home’s interior can help you raise its overall property value. And the good news is that these alterations don’t necessarily have to be expensive. You can remodel portions of your home on the cheap by repainting the walls in your kitchen or updating your light fixtures, for example.

6. Wait for Your Home’s Value to Rise

Patience is a virtue and if you’re not in a rush to use the home equity you’re building, you could wait until your home’s value goes up on its own. History shows it will likely happen naturally and as the market adjusts and home prices increase, the appreciation will boost your equity too. Of course, anything can happen and your home’s worth (and your home equity) could decline unexpectedly as well.

7. Add Curb Appeal

The outside of your home could probably use some TLC as well. Giving your grass a fresh cut, adding in some flowers or installing shutters can certainly make a difference when it comes to improving your home’s value once it’s time to sell.

The Takeaway

Fortunately, there’s more than one way to build home equity. So if paying off your mortgage early isn’t possible, you can make budget-friendly adjustments or try to refinance. As your equity interest rises, you’ll be able to tap into it and potentially use that cash for other financial goals.

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