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10 Questions to Ask Home Inspectors

Before you make your final buying or selling decision, you should have the home inspected by a professional. An inspection can alert you to potential problems with a property and allow you to make an informed decision. Ask these questions to prospective home inspectors:

1. Will your inspection meet recognized standards Ask whether the inspection and the inspection report will meet all state requirements and comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics, such as the one adopted by the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors. Customers can view each group s standards of practice and code of ethics online at www.ashi.org or www.nahi.org. ASHI s Web site also provides a database of state regulations.

2. Do you belong to a professional home inspector association There are many state and national associations for home inspectors, including the two groups mentioned in No. 1. Unfortunately, some groups confer questionable credentials or certifications in return for nothing more than a fee. Insist on members of reputable, nonprofit trade organizations; request to see a membership ID.

3. How experienced are you Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they ve completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors also may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced partner.

4. How do you keep your expertise up to date Inspectors commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important in cases in which a home is older or includes unique elements requiring additional or updated training.

5. Do you focus on residential inspection Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. If your customers are buying a unique property, such as a historic home, they may want to ask whether the inspector has experience with that type of property in particular.

6. Will you offer to do repairs or improvements Some state laws and trade associations allow the inspector to provide repair work on problems uncovered during the inspection. However, other states and associations forbid it as a conflict of interest. Contact your local ASHI chapter to learn about the rules in your state.

7. How long will the inspection take On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough. If your customers are purchasing an especially large property, they may want to ask whether additional inspectors will be brought in.

8. What s the cost Costs can vary dramatically, depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. The national average for single-family homes is about $320, but customers with large homes can expect to pay more. Customers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

9. What type of inspection report do you provide Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector’s reporting style. Also, most inspectors provide their full report within 24 hours of the inspection.

10. Will I be able to attend the inspection The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector’s refusal to let the buyer attend should raise a red flag.

Source: Rob Paterkiewicz, executive director, American Society of Home Inspectors, Des Plaines, Ill., www.ashi.org.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home

1. Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.

2. Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.

3. Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can t participate.

4. Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.

5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.

6. Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Tips for Lowering Homeowner s Insurance Costs

1. Review the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report on the property you re interested in buying. CLUE reports detail the property s claims history for the most recent five years, which insurers may use to deny coverage. Make the sale contingent on a home inspection to ensure that problems identified in the CLUE report have been repaired.
2. Seek insurance coverage as soon as your offer is approved. You must obtain insurance to buy. And you don t want to be told at closing that the insurer has denied your coverage.
3. Maintain good credit. Insurers often use credit-based insurance scores to determine premiums.
4. Buy your home owners and auto policies from the same company and you ll usually qualify for savings. But make sure the discount really yields the lowest price.
5. Raise your deductible. If you can afford to pay more toward a loss that occurs, your premiums will be lower. Avoid making claims under $1,000.
6. Ask about other discounts. For example, retirees who tend to be home more than full-time workers may qualify for a discount on theft insurance. You also may be able to obtain discounts for having smoke detectors, a burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks.
7. Seek group discounts. If you belong to any groups, such as associations or alumni organizations, they may have deals on insurance coverage.
8. Review your policy limits and the value of your home and possessions annually. Some items depreciate and may not need as much coverage.
9. Investigate a government-backed insurance plan. In some high-risk areas, federal or state government may back plans to lower rates. Ask your agent.
10. Be sure you insure your house for the correct amount. Remember, you re covering replacement cost, not market value.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Understand Real Estate Representation

By: G. M. Filisko

Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s important to choose representation that meets your needs in the transaction.

You have choices when selecting representation in a real estate transaction. Here are five tips for understanding which type of legal relationship with a real estate professional, called an agency relationship, will best protect you when you buy or sell a home.

1. Buyer’s agency
When you’re buying a home, you can hire an agent who represents only you, called an exclusive buyer’s representative or agent. A buyer’s agent works in your best interest and owes you a fiduciary duty. You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller, or the seller’s agent, to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.

If you’re selling your home and hiring an agent to list it exclusively, you’ve hired a selling representative–an agent who owes fiduciary duties to you.

Typically, you pay a selling agent a commission at closing. Selling agents usually offer or agree to pay a portion of their sales commission to the buyer’s agent. If your seller’s agent brings in a buyer, your agent keeps the entire commission.

2. Subagency
When you purchase a home, the agent you can opt to work with may not be your agent at all, but instead may be a subagent of the seller. In general, a subagent represents and acts in the best interest of the sellers and sellers’ agent.

If your agent is acting as a subagent, you can expect to be treated honestly, but the subagent owes loyalty to the sellers and their agent and can’t put your interests above those of the sellers. In a few states, agents aren’t permitted to act as subagents.

Never tell a subagent anything you don’t want the sellers to know. Maybe you offered $150,000 for a home but are willing to go up to $160,000. That’s the type of information subagents would be required to pass on to their clients, the sellers.

3. Disclosed dual agency
In many states, agents and companies can represent both parties in a home sale as long as that relationship is fully disclosed. It’s called disclosed dual agency.

Because dual agents represent both parties, they can’t be protective of and loyal to only you. Dual agents don’t owe all the traditional fiduciary duties to clients. Instead, they owe limited fiduciary duties to each party.

Why would you agree to dual agency Suppose you want to buy a house that’s listed for sale by the same real estate brokerage where your buyer’s agent works. In that case, the real estate brokerage would be representing both you and the seller and you’d both have to agree to that.

Because there’s a potential for conflicts of interest with dual agency, all parties must give their informed consent. In many states, that consent must be in writing.

4. Designated agency
A form of disclosed dual agency, “designated agency” allows two different agents within a single firm to represent the buyer and seller in the same transaction.

To avoid conflicts that can arise with dual agency, some managing brokers designate or appoint agents in their company to represent only sellers, or only buyers. But that isn’t required for designated agency. A designated, or appointed, agent will give you full representation and represent your best interests.

5. Nonagency relationship
In some states, you can choose not to be represented by an agent. That’s referred to as nonagency or working with a transaction broker or facilitator. In general, in nonagency representation, the real estate professional you work with owes you fewer duties than a traditional agency relationship. And those duties vary from state to state. Ask the person you’re working with to explain what he or she will and won’t do for you.

Other web resources
More on real estate agents’ roles (http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mrec/mrecrep.shtml)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who zealously protected her clients’ interests as a lawyer. A frequent contributor to many national publications, including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Forms You ll Need to Sell Your Home

1. Property disclosure form. This form requires you to reveal all known defects to your property. Check with your state government to see if there is a special form required in your state.

2. Purchasers access to premises agreement. This agreement sets conditions for permitting the buyer to enter your home for activities such as measuring for draperies before you move.

3. Sales contract. The agreement between you and the seller on terms and conditions of sale. Again, check with your state real estate department to see if there is a required form.

4. Sales contract contingency clauses. In addition to the contract, you may need to add one or more attachments to the contract to address special contingencies  such as the buyer s need to sell a home before purchasing yours.

5. Pre- and post-occupancy agreements. Unless you re planning on moving out and the buyer moving in on the day of closing, you ll need an agreement on the terms and costs of occupancy once the sale closes.

6. Lead-based paint disclosure pamphlet. If your home was built before 1978, you must provide the pamphlet to all sellers. You must also have buyers sign a statement indicating they received the pamphlet.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Mortgage Credit Certificates and Mortgage Revenue Bonds

State and local governmental agencies and joint powers authorities can issue tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds (MRBs) or mortgage credit certificates (MCCs) to assist first-time homebuyers purchase homes.

MCCs are designed to reduce homebuyers federal tax liability by applying the credit to their net tax due and can be used with conventional, fixed-rate, FHA, VA and privately insured loans for single family and condominiums homes. Program participants must meet program income limits, depending on the issuing locality, and live in the home for at least three years. MCCs that are issued in Federal Target areas usually have less restrictive limits than other areas. Target areas are locations where 50% of the households earn less than that area s median income.

Example:

MRBs are tax-exempt bonds that state and local governments issue through housing finance agencies (HFAs) to help fund below-market-interest-rate mortgages for first-time qualifying homebuyers. Eligible borrowers are first-time homebuyers with low to moderate incomes below 115 percent of median family income. MRB loans are offered at a 30-year below-market interest rate. Price limits and interest rates may vary within each area. Only qualified lenders can offer MRBs.

To access a current allocation award list of Counties and Cities using MCCs and MRBs, visit the California State Treasury s Office website at http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/cdlac/. Make sure to consult all the Rounds in order to obtain the complete Single Family Programs allocation information. Once you have confirmation of which program the City or County is offering, contact the local Housing authority or the Planning Department or the Economic Development Agency, depending on your locality s organizational structure. Government staff should be able to provide you with the program administrator contact information and additional details. Some MCC and MRB administrators have web sites where they post their information.

Remember, if the financial resources allocated for a particular program are not used, then they are lost. In the next funding cycle, the local government should make new requests for money and a new allocation is designated. In some cases, local funds for down payment are not being used to its full capacity leaving thousands of dollars unused in city coffers.

If a buyer has a 30-year mortgage of $130,000 with a 6.25% fixed interest rate; the interest rate amount would be approximately $ 8,081.85 during the first year. With a 20% credit, $1,616.37 of the payment would be given back to the buyer, allowing him more purchasing capabilities by allowing a lower annual household income to qualify for the mortgage.

HOUSING PRIMER

Several Reasons For A California Probate Attorney

Unfortunately, the law isn’t waiting for anyone, and the deceased person’s estate needs to be settled timely. The Last Will and Testament of the deceased defines the person or people that will be responsible for the estate settlement.

The person named in the Last Will to conclude the process is called the estate’s executor. Los Angeles probate court appoints the executor as the personal estate’s delegate through the process. And when you abide in California, hiring a properly qualified California probate lawyer has to be a primary priority.

The deceased is entitled as intestate incase of death without leaving a valid will. State laws define the estate property’s separation by this process. Restrictions of a family member estate are a part of the intestate regulations under the jurisdiction of the state the deceased has lived in.

This is exactly why it is important to deal with a professional estate planning attorney in Los Angeles. Funds mentioned in a beneficiary trust’s name usually avoid the probate proceeding, thus providing better solitude and less administrative costs. This also lets the probate attorney to divide assets quicker.

As you could assume, all estates differ from one another and have uncrossed funds to be valued, vended or divided to beneficiary trusts. Anyway, in order to avert a situation difficult to solve, they should discuss it with the probate attorney prior to executor’s action.

The estate settlement might take anywhere from 9 months to several years before it’s completely paid out and closed.

The deceased also might have left an affidavit on his estate, let’s suppose it’s small. If you live in Los Angeles, then you would need to hire a highly professional probate lawyer that would understand how California small estate affidavit works and would be able to carry you through the probate court, while not violating any norms in California probate code. It is necessary and critical. Nowadays’ financial crisis is not the best time for you to lose your small estate affidavit, or let it stretch to years. Your interest is to settle things as fast as possible. And this is another important reason why you might need to hire a probate lawyer.

If you are an inhabitant of Los Angeles, and you have something similar going on in your life, don’t hesitate about hiring a probate lawyer, especially in case of California small estate affidavit. It’s all in your hands, but you would surely need a professional that would understand your needs and worries, a professional that would diligently carry the case through the probate court and lead you out of it in the rays of victory.


Article Source: http://www.articlesnatch.com

About the Author:
Gregory Lederman represents clients of trust, estate, and probate matters throughout California. estate planning attorney los Angeles, Estate planning lawyer los Angeles, California probate attorney, probate court.

Choosing The Right Loan

Help For First Time Home Buyers
There are many first time home buyer programs available to assist you in your purchase. These programs range from informational courses  like this one  to federal, state and local government agencies and non-profit groups that can assist you with down payments, lower-than-market rate financing and troubled credit.

Depending on your income and other personal factors, some of these programs can assist you in getting into a home for less than $1,000.

For information about first time home buyer programs and a variety of other home loan assistance programs in California, check out the California Housing Finance Agency’s web site at www.calhfa.ca.gov and the California Department of Housing and Community Development at www.hcd.ca.gov.

Police, teachers, firefighters and other public employees often have access to home loan programs that have favorable down payment options and special income qualifications. If applicable, check with your employee association or retirement system.

When choosing a loan, you’ll be confronted with a variety of choices of how interest rates are applied. There are fixed rate mortgages and adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). Look at each type of loan carefully and decide, based on your financial situation and ability to stomach roller coaster interest rates, which is best for you!

Fixed rate mortgages are set at a constant interest rate over the period of the loan ‘ usually 15 or 30 years. This provides maximum stability as far as your monthly loan payment is concerned.

ARMs often provide a much lower initial interest rate at the inception of the loan. ARMs are set by an index plus a margin that equals an interest rate for a loan. An index is a gauge of interest rates which fluctuates with current market conditions. The margin is a fixed amount which gets added to the index. There are two different types of ARMs, the standard version that starts to adjust almost immediately after funding and the intermediate ARM, that doesn’t start to adjust for several months to several years.

There is a lot more to know about loans. You can learn more by visiting www.freddiemac.com/homebuyers, www.hud.gov or www.fanniemae.com (click on Homepath) or by simply asking questions of your real estate agent, lender and/or mortgage broker.

If you’re getting an ARM, look for ones with lower margins. Interest rates tend to be similar for most lending institutions, so the real gauge of saving money over time is a lower margin!

Look out for prepayment penalties on your loan! Having one can save you some money every month, but if you refinance or sell your home, you could get hit with thousands of dollars in penalties!

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