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Making an Offer on a Short Sale What You Need to Know

Are you looking to buy a new home Are you thinking that now’s a great time to find bargains Before you make an offer, it pays to know a little about the seller’s situation.

If a home is being sold for below what the current seller owes on the property and the seller does not have other funds to make up the difference at closing the sale is considered a short sale. Many more home owners are finding themselves in this situation due to a number of factors, including job losses, aggressive borrowing against their home in the days of easy credit, and declining home values in a slower real estate market.

A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when the seller’s lender has taken title of the home and is selling it directly. Homeowners often try to accomplish a short sale in order to avoid foreclosure. But a short sale holds many potential pitfalls for buyers. Know the risks before you pursue a short-sale purchase.

You’re a good candidate for a short-sale purchase if:

* You’re very patient. Even after you come to agreement with the seller to buy a short-sale property, the seller s lender (or lenders, if there is more than one mortgage) has to approve the sale before you can close. When there is only one mortgage, short-sale experts say lender approval typically takes about two months. If there is more than one mortgage with different lenders, it can take four months or longer for the lenders to approve the sale.

* Your financing is in order. Lenders like cash offers. But even if you can t pay all cash for a short-sale property, it s important to show you are well qualified and your financing is set. If you’re preapproved, have a large down payment, and can close at any time, your offer will be viewed more favorably than that of a buyer whose financing is less secure.

* You don t have any contingencies. If you have a home to sell before you can close on the purchase of the short-sale property or you need to be in your new home by a certain time a short sale may not be for you. Lenders like no-contingency offers and flexible closing terms.

If you’re serious about purchasing a short-sale property, it’s important for you to have expert assistance. Here are some people you want to work with:

* Experienced real estate attorney. Only about two out of five short sales are approved by lenders. But a good real estate attorney who’s knowledgeable about the short-sale process will increase your chances getting an approved contract. Also, if you want any provisions or very specialized language written into the purchase contract, a real estate attorney is essential throughout the negotiation.

* A qualified real estate professional. You may have a close friend or relative in real estate, but if that person doesn t know anything about short sales, working with him or her may hurt your chances of a successful closing. Interview a few practitioners and ask them how many buyers they’ve represented in a short sale and, of those, how many have successfully closed. A qualified real estate professional will be able to show you short-sale homes, help negotiate the purchase when you find the property you want to buy, and smooth communications with the lender. (All MLSs permit, and some now require, special notations to indicate that a listing is a short sale. There also are certain phrases you can watch for, such as  lender approval required. )

* Title officer. It s a good idea to have a title officer do an initial title search on a short-sale property to see all the liens attached to the property. If there are multiple lien holders (e.g., second or third mortgage or lines of credit, real estate tax lien, mechanic s lien, homeowners association lien, etc.), it’s much tougher to get that short sale contract to the closing table. Any of the lien holders could put a kink in the process even after you ve waited for months for lender approval. If you don t know a title officer, your real estate attorney or real estate professional should be able to recommend a few.

Some of the other risks faced by buyers of short-sale properties include:

* Potential for rejection. Lenders want to minimize their losses as much as possible. If you make an offer tremendously lower than the fair market value of the home, chances are that your offer will be rejected and you ll have wasted months. Or the lender could make a counteroffer, which will lengthen the process.

* Bad terms. Even when a lender approves a short sale, it could require that the sellers sign a promissory note to repay the deficient amount of the loan, which may not be acceptable to some financially desperate sellers. In that case, the sellers may refuse to go through with the short sale. Lenders also can change any of the terms of the contract that you ve already negotiated, which may not be agreeable to you.

* No repairs or repair credits. You will most likely be asked to take the property  as is. Lenders are already taking a loss on the property and may not agree to requests for repair credits.

The risks of a short sale are considerable. But if you have the time, patience, and iron will to see it through, a short sale can be a win-win for you and the sellers.

* Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS . A REALTOR is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS and is bound by NAR s strict code of ethics.

Note: This article provides general information only. Information is not provided as advice for a specific matter. Laws vary from state to state. For advice on a specific matter, consult your attorney or CPA.

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

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

By: G. M. Filisko

Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you’ll pay less when purchasing a home.

Buying a home can be emotional, but negotiating the price shouldn’t be. The key to saving money when purchasing a home is sticking to a plan during the turbulence of high-stakes negotiations. A real estate agent who represents you can guide you and offer you advice, but you are the one who must make the final decision during each round of offers and counter offers.

Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.
1. Get prequalified for a mortgage
Getting prequalified for a mortgage proves to sellers that you’re serious about buying and capable of affording their home. That will push you to the head of the pack when sellers choose among offers; they’ll go with buyers who are a sure financial bet, not those whose financing could flop.

2. Ask questions
Ask your agent for information to help you understand the sellers’ financial position and motivation. Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed Have there been other offers If so, why did they fall through The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.

3. Work back from a final price to determine your initial offer
Know in advance the most you’re willing to pay, and with your agent work back from that number to determine your initial offer, which can set the tone for the entire negotiation. A too-low bid may offend sellers emotionally invested in the sales price; a too-high bid may lead you to spend more than necessary to close the sale.
Work with your agent to evaluate the sellers’ motivation and comparable home sales to arrive at an initial offer that engages the sellers yet keeps money in your wallet.

4. Avoid contingencies
Sellers favor offers that leave little to chance. Keep your bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Do keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.

5. Remain unemotional
Buying a home is a business transaction, and treating it that way helps you save money. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating.
Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won’t budge, make it clear you’re willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.

6. Don’t let competition change your plan
Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don’t let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions-such as waiving an inspection-that aren’t in your best interest.

More from HouseLogic
Determine how much mortgage you can afford (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/4-tips-determine-how-much-mortgage-you-can-afford/)

Keep your home purchase on track (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/keep-your-home-purchase-track/)

Plan for a stress-free home closing (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/7-steps-stress-free-home-closing/)

Other web resources
More negotiating tips (http://www.freddiemac.com/corporate/buyown/english/purchasing/offer/negotiate.html)

Develop a homebuying strategy (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/article-29746.html)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has to remind herself to remain unemotional during negotiations. 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.

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

By: G. M. Filisko

While you’d like to get the best price for your home, consider our six reasons to reduce your home price.

Home not selling That could happen for a number of reasons you can’t control, like a unique home layout or having one of the few homes in the neighborhood without a garage. There is one factor you can control: your home price.

These six signs may be telling you it’s time to lower your price.

1. You’re drawing few lookers
You get the most interest in your home right after you put it on the market because buyers want to catch a great new home before anybody else takes it. If your real estate agent reports there have been fewer buyers calling about and asking to tour your home than there have been for other homes in your area, that may be a sign buyers think it’s overpriced and are waiting for the price to fall before viewing it.

2. You’re drawing lots of lookers but have no offers
If you’ve had 30 sets of potential buyers come through your home and not a single one has made an offer, something is off. What are other agents telling your agent about your home An overly high price may be discouraging buyers from making an offer.

3. Your home’s been on the market longer than similar homes
Ask your real estate agent about the average number of days it takes to sell a home in your market. If the answer is 30 and you’re pushing 45, your price may be affecting buyer interest. When a home sits on the market, buyers can begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with it, which can delay a sale even further. At least consider lowering your asking price.

4. You have a deadline
If you’ve got to sell soon because of a job transfer or you’ve already purchased another home, it may be necessary to generate buyer interest by dropping your price so your home is a little lower priced than comparable homes in your area. Remember: It’s not how much money you need that determines the sale price of your home, it’s how much money a buyer is willing to spend.

5. You can’t make upgrades
Maybe you’re plum out of cash and don’t have the funds to put fresh paint on the walls, clean the carpets, and add curb appeal. But the feedback your agent is reporting from buyers is that your home isn’t as well-appointed as similarly priced homes. When your home has been on the market longer than comparable homes in better condition, it’s time to accept that buyers expect to pay less for a home that doesn’t show as well as others.

6. The competition has changed
If weeks go by with no offers, continue to check out the competition. What have comparable homes sold for and what’s still on the market What new listings have been added since you listed your home for sale If comparable home sales or new listings show your price is too steep, consider a price reduction.

More from HouseLogic
How to ready your home for sale at little cost (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/5-tips-prepare-your-home-sale/)

How to review offers on your home (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/6-tips-choosing-best-offer-your-home/)

Other web resources
Setting the right price

More on setting the right price (http://public.findlaw.com/abaflg/flg-4-4a-1.html)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who made strategic price reductions that led to the sale of a Wisconsin property. 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.

Deciphering Your Home Loans Good Faith Estimate

By: G. M. Filisko

Knowing how to read your good-faith estimate can help you save money on your home loan.

When you’re shopping for a mortgage loan, it’s sometimes hard to understand the jargon lenders use in the good-faith estimate explaining the costs and fees you’ll pay when taking out a mortgage.

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender has three days to give you a good-faith estimate of the fees and interest rate you’ll pay, as well as other loan terms.

Here are five tips for using the new three-page form to your advantage.
When you apply for a mortgage, the lender has three days to give you a good-faith estimate of the fees and interest rate you’ll pay, as well as other loan terms. Here are five tips for using the new three-page form to your advantage.

1. Know which fees can increase and by how much
In the past, lenders provided an estimate of the costs involved in getting your home loan, and if those costs rose by the time you closed on your home, tough luck. The good-faith estimate shows some fees the lender can’t change, like the loan origination fee that you pay to get a certain interest rate (commonly called points) and transfer costs.

The form also lists the charges that can increase by up to 10%, like some title company fees and local government recording fees. The lender must cover any increase over that amount.

Finally, the good-faith estimate lists the fees that can change without any limit, such as daily interest charges.

2. Look for answers to basic loan questions
In the summary section, lenders explain your loan’s terms in simple language. Can your interest rate rise If so, a lender must spell out how much the rate can jump and what your new payment would be if it does. Can the amount you owe the lender increase, even if you make your payments on time If it can, a lender must show you the potential increase.

3. Evaluate the “tradeoffs” on a loan
In the new “tradeoff table,” you can ask lenders to provide details on the tradeoffs you can make in choosing among home loans. If you’d like the same loan with lower settlement charges, how will the interest rate change If you’d like a lower interest rate, how much will your settlement charges increase

4. Compare apples to apples with the shopping chart
Included on the good-faith estimate is space for you to list all the terms and fees for four different loans, so you can make side-by-side comparisons.

5. Know what’s missing from the good-faith estimate
The new form lacks some key information, such as how much you’ll reimburse the sellers for property taxes they’ve already paid on the home. It also doesn’t tell you the amount of money you’ll have to bring to the closing table. Some lenders have created supplemental forms providing that information. If yours hasn’t, ask for it.

More from HouseLogic
More on the new good-faith estimate form (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/homebuyer-tax-credit-what-you-need-know/)

Other web resources
The new U.S. Housing and Urban Development good-faith estimate (http://www.hud.gov/content/releases/goodfaithestimate.pdf)

More on shopping for a loan (http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/ramh/res/Settlement-Booklet-January-6-REVISED.pdf)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has encountered many settlement statements that bore no resemblance to the lender’s good-faith estimate. 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.

Dissimilarities Between A Short-sale And Foreclosure

If you find yourself in a short sale vs. foreclosure situation, you may feel like a lost soul and not be aware of opportunities you have that may help you out. The mortgage company has the advantage here because they have vast knowledge about the whole process the absence of which can make things really hard for you.

If you are actually way too far behind your monthly payments, it may be time to consider it. One thing you can do is get in touch with a preforeclosure expert who may assist you in this situation. The expert in question may know of options that could help you out. Listen to what the expert has to say, though in the end what you assume is really up to you.

So do learn this business because knowing the difference can let you make the correct decision for you. With a short sale in the process, you put your house out for sale and get everything ready for implementing the sale as quickly as possible. This means pricing your home in a way to make it attractive to buyers. In this situation it is important to have a realtor in your court.

And don’t wait for a long time, because if you do your choice of short sale vs. foreclosure may just disappear. So you can’t fritter away any time, because if you do, a foreclosure may simply descend on your unawares.

Time may not be on your side when it comes to a choice as regards short sale vs. foreclosure. So it is very essential to take action immediately because if a foreclosure becomes unavoidable there is nothing you can do about it. So keep in mind that the time to act is when you begin to have difficulties paying your mortgage. This is positively not the time to run and hide, because you don’t want to lose all control and be just put out of house and home.

It is not a simple matter, but there are people who can give you good guidance as to how to proceed. It is of paramount importance not to fritter away time, but to act swiftly. If you do, you will have more options available to you and this can be a good thing for you and for your family.


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

About the Author:
There is a whole collection of articles and resources on Short Sale Homes, and they can be found at http://www.foreclosureshortsale.co/featured/things-you-should-know-about-preforeclosure. If you want to learn more about foreclosure and short sale visit short sale vs. foreclosure.

Open House Safety Tips

An open house can be a great sales tool, but it also exposes you to numerous unfamiliar people for the first time.

Stay safe by practicing these guidelines.

Call the local police department and ask them to have a squad care drive by during your open-house hours.
Check your cell phone s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial. Carry an extra, fully charged cell phone battery.
Determine several  escape routes that you can use in case of an emergency. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
Turn on the lights and open the curtains. These are not only sound safety procedures, but also great marketing tactics.
Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.
When prospective buyers begin to arrive, jot down their car descriptions, license numbers and physical descriptions.
When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don t lead them. Say, for example,  The kitchen is on your left, and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
Notify a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don t call, they are to notify the police immediately.
Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.

Source: National Association of REALTORS Safety Week kit

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

What You Must Know About Home Appraisals

By: G. M. Filisko

Understanding how appraisals work will help you achieve a quick and profitable refinance or sale.

When you refinance or sell your home, the lender will insist that you get an appraisal–an opinion of the value of your home based on what similar homes in your area have sold for in recent months.

Here are five tips about the appraised value of your home.

1. An appraisal isn’t an exact science
When appraisers evaluate a home’s value, they’re giving their best opinion based on how the home’s features stack up against those of similar homes recently sold nearby. One appraiser may factor in a recent sale, but another may consider that sale too long ago, or the home too different, or too far away to be a fair comparison. The result can be differences in the values two separate appraisers set for your home.

2. Appraisals have different purposes
If the appraisal is being used by a lender giving a loan on the home, the appraised value will be the lower of market value (what it would sell for on the open market today) and the price you paid for the house if you recently bought it.

An appraisal being used to figure out how much to insure your home for or to determine your property taxes may rely on other factors and arrive at different values. For example, though an appraisal for a home loan evaluates today’s market value, an appraisal for insurance purposes calculates what it would cost to rebuild your home at today’s building material and labor rates, which can result in two different numbers.

Appraisals are also different from CMAs, or competitive market analyses. In a CMA, a real estate agent relies on market expertise to estimate how much your home will sell for in a specific time period. The price your home will sell for in 30 days may be different than the price your home will sell for in 120 days. Because real estate agents don’t follow the rules appraisers do, there can be variations between CMAs and appraisals on the same home.

3. An appraisal is a snapshot
Home prices shift, and appraised values will shift with those market changes. Your home may be appraised at $150,000 today, but in two months when you refinance or list it for sale, the appraised value could be lower or higher depending on how your market has performed.

4. Appraisals don’t factor in your personal issues
You may have a reason you must sell immediately, such as a job loss or transfer, which can affect the amount of money you’ll accept to complete the transaction in your time frame. An appraisal doesn’t consider those personal factors.

5. You can ask for a second opinion
If your home appraisal comes back at a value you believe is too low, you can request that a second appraisal be performed by a different appraiser. You, or potential buyers, if they’ve requested the appraisal, will have to pay for the second appraisal. But it may be worth it to keep the sale from collapsing from a faulty appraisal. On the other hand, the appraisal may be accurate, and it may be a sign that you need to adjust your pricing or the size of the loan you’re refinancing.

More from HouseLogic
How to use an appraisal to eliminate private mortgage insurance (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/cancel-your-private-mortgage-insurance/)

Understanding the assessed value of your home for tax purposes (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/why-real-estate-assessments-matter/)

Understanding the amount at which to insure your home (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/homeowners-insurance-are-you-over-or-underinsured/)

Other web resources
More information on appraisals (http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/profession/appraiser.aspx)

How to improve the appraised value of your home (http://www.appraisers.org/Consumer/ConsumerLibrary/SoftHousingMarketMakesforaHardSell.aspx)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s had more than 10 appraisals performed on her properties in the past 20 years. 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.

Q-A Series – YOU’VE FOUND IT

Q. WHAT DOES A HOME INSPECTOR DO, AND HOW DOES AN INSPECTION FIGURE IN THE PURCHASE OF A HOME

An inspector checks the safety of your potential new home. Home Inspectors focus especially on the structure, construction, and mechanical systems of the house and will make you aware of only repairs,that are needed.

The Inspector does not evaluate whether or not you’re getting good value for your money. Generally, an inspector checks (and gives prices for repairs on): the electrical system, plumbing and waste disposal, the water heater, insulation and Ventilation, the HVAC system, water source and quality, the potential presence of pests, the foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors, and roof. Be sure to hire a home inspector that is qualified and experienced.

It’s a good idea to have an inspection before you sign a written offer since, once the deal is closed, you’ve bought the house as is.” Or, you may want to include an inspection clause in the offer when negotiating for a home. An inspection t clause gives you an ‘out” on buying the house if serious problems are found,or gives you the ability to renegotiate the purchase price if repairs are needed. An inspection clause can also specify that the seller must fix the problem(s) before you purchase the house.

Q. DO I NEED TO BE THERE FOR THE INSPECTION

It’s not required, but it’s a good idea. Following the inspection, the home inspector will be able to answer questions about the report and any problem areas. This is also an opportunity to hear an objective opinion on the home you’d I like to purchase and it is a good time to ask general, maintenance questions.

Q. ARE OTHER TYPES OF INSPECTIONS REQUIRED

If your home inspector discovers a serious problem a more specific Inspection may be recommended. It’s a good idea to consider having your home inspected for the presence of a variety of health-related risks like radon gas asbestos, or possible problems with the water or waste disposal system.

Q. HOW CAN I PROTECT MY FAMILY FROM LEAD IN THE HOME

If the house you’re considering was built before 1978 and you have children under the age of seven, you will want to have an inspection for lead-based point. It’s important to know that lead flakes from paint can be present in both the home and in the soil surrounding the house. The problem can be fixed temporarily by repairing damaged paint surfaces or planting grass over effected soil. Hiring a lead abatement contractor to remove paint chips and seal damaged areas will fix the problem permanently.

Q. ARE POWER LINES A HEALTH HAZARD

There are no definitive research findings that indicate exposure to power lines results in greater instances of disease or illness.

Q. DO I NEED A LAWYER TO BUY A HOME

Laws vary by state. Some states require a lawyer to assist in several aspects of the home buying process while other states do not, as long as a qualified real estate professional is involved. Even if your state doesn’t require one, you may want to hire a lawyer to help with the complex paperwork and legal contracts. A lawyer can review contracts, make you aware of special considerations, and assist you with the closing process. Your real estate agent may be able to recommend a lawyer. If not, shop around. Find out what services are provided for what fee, and whether the attorney is experienced at representing homebuyers.

Q. DO I REALLY NEED HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE

Yes. A paid homeowner’s insurance policy (or a paid receipt for one) is required at closing, so arrangements will have to be made prior to that day. Plus, involving the insurance agent early in the home buying process can save you money. Insurance agents are a great resource for information on home safety and they can give tips on how to keep insurance premiums low.

Q. WHAT STEPS COULD I TAKE TO LOWER MY HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE COSTS

Be sure to shop around among several insurance companies. Also, consider the cost of insurance when you look at homes. Newer homes and homes constructed with materials like brick tend to have lower premiums. Think about avoiding areas prone to natural disasters, like flooding. Choose a home with a fire hydrant or a fire department nearby.

Q. IS THE HOME LOCATED IN A FLOOD PLAIN

Your real estate agent or lender can help you answer this question. If you live in a flood plain, the lender will require that you have flood insurance before lending any money to you. But if you live near a flood plain, you may choose whether or not to get flood insurance coverage for your home. Work with an insurance agent to construct a policy that fits your needs.

Q. WHAT OTHER ISSUES SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE I BUY MY HOME

Always check to see if the house is in a low-lying area, in a high-risk area for natural disasters (like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.), or in a hazardous materials area. Be sure the house meets building codes. Also consider local zoning laws, which could affect remodeling or making an addition in the future. Your real estate agent should be able to help you with these questions.

Q. HOW DO I MAKE AN OFFER

Your real estate agent will assist you in making an offer, which will include the following information:
– Complete legal description of the property
– Amount of earnest money
– Down payment and financing details
– Proposed move-in date
– Price you are offering
– Proposed closing date
– Length of time the offer is valid
– Details of the deal

Remember that a sale commitment depends on negotiating a satisfactory contract with the seller, not just Making an offer.

Other ways to lower ins-insurance costs include insuring your home and car(s) with the same company, increasing home security, and seeking group coverage through alumni or business associations. Insurance costs are always lowered by raising your deductibles, but this exposes you to a higher out-of-pocket cost if you have to file a claim.

Q. HOW DO I DETERMINE THE INITIAL OFFER

Unless you have a buyer’s agent, remember that the agent works for the seller. Make a point of asking him or her to keep your discussions and information confidential. Listen to your real estate agent’s advice, but follow your own instincts on deciding a fair price. Calculating your offer should involve several factors: what homes sell for in the area, the home’s condition, how long it’s been on the market, financing terms, and the seller’s situation. By the time you’re ready to make an offer, you should have a good idea of what the home is worth and what you can afford. And, be prepared for give-and-take negotiation, which is very common when buying a home. The buyer and seller may often go back and forth until they can agree on a price.

Q. WHAT IS EARNEST MONEY HOW MUCH SHOULD I SET ASIDE

Earnest money is money put down to demonstrate your seriousness about buying a home. It must be substantial enough to demonstrate good faith and is usually between 1-5% of the purchase price (though the amount can vary with local customs and conditions). If your offer is accepted, the earnest money becomes part of your down payment or closing costs. If the offer is rejected, your money is returned to you. If you back out of a deal, you may forfeit the entire amount.

Q. WHAT ARE “HOME WARRANTIES”, AND SHOULD I CONSIDER THEM

Home warranties offer you protection for a specific period of time (e.g., one year) against potentially costly problems, like unexpected repairs on appliances or home systems, which are not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Warranties are becoming more popular because they offer protection during the time immediately following the purchase of a home, a time when many people find themselves cash-strapped.

Lender or Broker?

Make an Informed Decision

When it comes time to look for financing for your upcoming purchase, there are a couple of options. You can go directly to a lender or use a mortgage broker. Your real estate agent may have a list of good lenders and mortgage brokers in your area. In addition, most major daily newspapers have home buying sections in their weekend editions. This is another good place to find information about lenders and mortgage brokers in your area. And finally, a simple search on the internet will turn up many suggestions for home loans.

A lender typically is a bank, mortgage company, credit union or savings and loan. A mortgage broker is a middleman who is usually independent of a lender. Mortgage brokers arrange loans from various sources and earn a commission for their services.

Some lenders will charge for the pre-approval process given the extra effort involved. However, do not choose a lender solely because they don’t charge for this process. Look at all of the costs involved!

To choose a good lender, do research on those in your area. Check interest rates, fees and loan terms against other lenders. Just be sure to take the time to research and compare different lenders so you get the best deal. Often, lenders will look for borrowers without any special circumstances. That is, they’ll want a good or better credit score, documented income, and a standard piece of property to lend on.

Comparing mortgage brokers is a good idea too. If one happens to offer rates and terms that are drastically better than anyone else out there, this could be a warning sign! Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. A good mortgage broker will be able to do your mortgage shopping for you. They’ll compare rates and fees, while looking for a lender that suits your individual needs. They should also be able to explain the details of the loan to your satisfaction. In addition, if any of the special circumstances discussed above low credit scores, undocumented income or a unique piece of property apply to you, a good mortgage broker can help make a difference.

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

By: G. M. Filisko

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you’ll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1. Know thyself
Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home A ranch or a multistory home If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors

2. Research before you look
List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto REALTOR.com (http://REALTOR.com) to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3. Get your finances in order
Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4. Set a moving timeline
Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up If you already own, have you sold your current home If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5. Think long term
Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6. Work with a REALTOR®
Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7. Be realistic
It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues-like noise levels-that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8. Limit the opinions you solicit
It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.

More from HouseLogic
HOAs: What You Need to Know About Rules (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/hoas-what-you-need-to-know-about-rules/)

A Financial Plan for Your Home (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/a-financial-plan-for-your-home/)

When It Pays to Do It Yourself (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/when-it-pays-to-do-it-yourself/)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a brownstone in a historic Chicago neighborhood. 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.

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