What to Unpack First in Your New Home

Where are the towels? Who packed the cat food? When you’re surrounded by boxes, what you need is a strategy.

So you’re finally in your new home, surrounded by piles of boxes, tired and glad that your relocation is about to end.

To fully complete your moving adventure, however, you need to unpack your belongings and make your new place feel like home. But where do you even begin?

First things first

No matter how much you want to get it over with, there are three important things to do before you can actually start unpacking.

  1. Clean and prepare your new home. It’s easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows and mop floors before your belongings are in place. Make sure your home-to-be is spotless when your items arrive. If you can’t get to your new place early enough to do a thorough cleaning, consider hiring professional cleaners to do the job for you.
  2. Inspect and organize your belongings. Check all the delivered boxes and household items against your inventory sheet to make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Then have each of your possessions taken to the room where it belongs. If everything was properly marked and labeled, sorting your items will be a piece of cake.
  3. Set major furniture and appliances. Position your large furniture pieces and bulky household appliances first. Then you can put any smaller items you unpack later directly in their rightful places. Plan your interior design well in advance so you don’t end up moving heavy pieces around several times.

Tackle the necessities

What matters most when unpacking your items after a move is ensuring that your essentials are immediately accessible. So prioritize your belongings, and unpack only the necessities first.

Bedding

You may not be able to unpack the entire bedroom right away, but you’ll definitely need at least the bed the day you move in. Reassemble the bed frame (if necessary), lay down the sheets, unpack the pillows and spread the blankets so you can get a good night’s rest — you’re going to need it!

Provided that you have a change of clothes and some comfortable indoor shoes (as well as curtains on the windows to ensure your privacy), the rest of your bedroom items can wait until you find the time and the energy to deal with them.

Bathroom items

Without a doubt, your personal care items, toiletries and medicines should top the list of the most important items to unpack after your move. Put out toilet paper and soap, find your toothbrush and toothpaste, hang the towels and the shower curtains, and unpack any other bathroom essentials you’ll need to wash away the weariness and stress of moving.

Kitchen necessities

Kitchens tend to take a very long time to unpack and organize properly due to the large number of items that need to be sorted and carefully arranged.

As soon as you’ve hooked up the large appliances, such as the fridge and the stove, move on to your smaller kitchenware. Plates, silverware and glasses should be the first to find their places in cupboards and kitchen cabinets, closely followed by cooking utensils, pots and pans, and pantry items.

Kids’ and pets’ items

If you have young children, unpack some of their favorite toys, books, games and blankets during the first few hours in your new home. Keeping your young ones happy and occupied will let you concentrate on your work and finish it faster.

Of course, you should also take care of your pets’ needs immediately upon arrival. It’s a good idea to pack adequate pet food and some of your animal friends’ favorite toys in your open-first box.

Finishing up

When you’ve unpacked the three most essential rooms in your home (bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), everything else can wait a bit. There are no deadlines to meet, so you can set your own pace when unpacking and decorating your new place — just unpack in order of priority without procrastinating.

If you stay organized, set reasonable goals, clean after every unpacking phase, and dispose of the packing materials in a safe and eco-friendly manner, your new surroundings will soon stop looking like a warehouse full of boxes and start feeling like home.

Related:

Originally published February 5, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

Ask The Expert: More Thoughts On Refocusing on Purchases

In my last column, Cheryl from Florida asked about refocusing on purchases in 2021. Here are some additional insights.

Dave Hershman

As a reminder, here is Cheryl’s question: “I read the forecast by the MBA which says there will be less refinances [in 2021]. I have been doing mostly refinances and I have no idea how to get back to focusing on purchases. What do you recommend?”

In my last column, I wrote about the importance of diversification in any market. There will be refinances in 2021 and every year, though the balance will change from year-to-year.

Going back to focusing on the purchase market, the next question is: are you rekindling agent relationships you have neglected or expanding by developing new relationships? Again, in this regard I am going to recommend diversification. That means that you need to work in both directions.

If you have ignored your agents during the refinance boom, I will quote Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The time is always right to do what is right.”

You may feel uncomfortable calling someone you have not called in 18 months, but you must do so anyway. However, doing what is right is not calling and asking for their business–“Hey, I know we have not talked in 18 months, but do you have any deals for me?”

But, it is always the right time to call and get caught up. Reestablish the relationship first. Find out how they are doing and what their challenges are. That conversation may lead to business or it may build a foundation for the future.

Regarding meeting new agents, this is where you leverage your sphere. Everyone you know also knows a real estate agent or two. Your neighbors, your family, the professionals you use and more. You should not be cold calling agents if your next-door neighbor knows an agent and can introduce you. You have a sphere. Leverage that sphere. This is networking at its highest level.

Moving to the last point, establishing agent relationships is not enough, you must have a value proposition. And to get to that we must first define the term value. In order to be labeled valuable, your offering must be different.

If you are offering the same things your competition is offering, then there is no inherent value. Think of a rare coin. The value is in the rarity. If a million of the same coins were discovered tomorrow, the value of that coin will fall. If your offer is great rates, service or products, the offering will not be different. How many loan officers approach an agent and say “use me, but keep in mind I deliver lousy service?”

Secondly, value must be in line with the interests or goals of your target. It can’t be what you are interested in. For example, your clients are not interested in mortgages. They are interested in real estate. No one gets up in the morning on Saturday and says to their spouse “let’s go look at mortgages today.”

And your agents are not interested in loans either. They are interested in bringing in more business. Just like you. It is all about increasing their income.

How might you help your agents increase their income? There are a multitude of ways and, in a future article, I will give an example that illustrates a common loan officer offering and making it unique, as well as being more on target with regard what your agents are really interested in.

Dave Hershman is Senior VP of Sales of Weichert Financial and the top author in the mortgage industry. Dave has published seven books, as well as hundreds of articles and is the founder of the OriginationPro Marketing System and Mortgage School – the online choice for expert mortgage learning and marketing content. His site is www.OriginationPro.com and he can be reached at dave@hershmangroup.com.

Source: themortgageleader.com

What Is Title Insurance, and How Much Does Title Insurance Cost?

Buying a home often entails also buying various types of insurance to protect your property, and one type you might need to get is called title insurance.

When you buy a home, you “take title” to it and establish legal ownership. A title insurance policy protects you against the possibility that someone else might have a claim on your home. In essence, it ensures that a homeowner and their lender will be okay in the event that the seller or previous owners didn’t have absolute ownership of the house. (It sounds crazy, but sometimes it turns out that the homeowner is not the only one with rights to a home!)

If you need a mortgage to buy real estate, your lender will likely require you to buy a title policy from a title insurance company. Although it’s a cost home buyers incur, getting a title policy from a title insurance company is critical to establishing peace of mind.

Let’s examine the ins and outs of title insurance, why home buyers need it, how much you can expect to pay, and how you can save on a title insurance policy.

What is title insurance?

Holding a title insurance policy means you and your mortgage lender are protected against any financial loss or title issues due to liens, disputes between prior owners over wills, clerical problems in courthouse documents, or fraudulent claims against the property or forged signatures.

A title search will be performed by your title or settlement company to uncover any issues with your title that could give you legal troubles down the line.

The title company then insures your claim to the property’s title. If anything is missed during the search or there are lawsuits questioning your legal ownership of the property after closing, your title insurance policy will cover the costs of resolving the problem.

Why a title search is required with a mortgage

When getting a mortgage to buy real estate, you’ll find that most lenders will typically require that you get a title search before you close the deal with your escrow company. Basically this would mean you’ll have to hire a title company to search local records on your property. Some of the issues they’re looking for include the following:

  • Disputes between prior owners over wills: If your property was inherited and then sold by the heirs, there could be other heirs contesting the will and claiming ownership of your property.
  • Liens for unpaid property taxes.
  • Liens for contractors who worked on the home but were never paid.
  • Clerical problems in courthouse documents: Believe it or not, a simple typo can lead to title claim problems.
  • Fraudulent claims against the property or forged signatures: For example, if a group of heirs can’t get a holdout to agree to sell the home, it’s possible that someone will forge a signature on a quit claim deed.

While most homeowners will never need to use their title insurance, its existence offers protection against a potentially aggravating—and very expensive—financial loss.

Lender’s title insurance vs. owner’s title insurance

There are two types of title insurance: lender’s and owner’s. Almost every lender will require you to pay for a lender’s title insurance policy. This protects the lender—not you—from incurring any costs if a title dispute pops up after closing.

Owner’s title insurance is usually optional, but it’s highly recommended. Without it, you’ll be left footing the bill for all the costs of resolving a title claim, which could be thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even though it can feel like you’re hemorrhaging cash when you’re closing on a house, a title insurance policy is one of those things that can save you money in the long run.

“When you consider the benefits of title insurance and some of the unique aspects of title insurance relative to other kinds of insurance, it is clear why it’s risky and ill-advised to purchase real estate without a title insurance policy,” says Brian Tormey of TitleVest in New York City.

You can purchase basic or enhanced owner’s title insurance, with the enhanced insurance policy offering more coverage for things like mechanic’s liens or boundary disputes.

While your title insurance covers you for things such as mistakes in the legal description of your property or human error, be aware that it will have some exclusions—particularly in cases where violations of building codes occur after you bought your home.

How much does title insurance cost?

The average cost of title insurance is around $1,000 per policy, but that amount varies widely from state to state and depends on the price of your home.

Title insurance premiums can vary from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. Some factors that can affect the cost of your premium include the title search, examination, and expected cost of any title defects.

“In general, each policy price is based on the purchase amount of the home or the total amount of the loan,” explains Tormey. “Title insurance is a highly regulated industry, so title insurance policy types and costs will vary from state to state. Each state’s Department of Insurance can provide information on the pricing regulations in their state.”

In some states such as Texas and Florida, title insurance premiums are fixed by the government, so you will pay exactly the same amount no matter what. Other states such as California and New Mexico have unfixed premiums, which means that buyers can shop around. Iowa actually underwrites the insurance itself, resulting in the lowest premiums in the country: $110 for properties costing up to $500,000.

Unlike other types of insurance, a title insurance policy is paid with a single premium during escrow while closing for your mortgage. If you’re buying a real estate resale or refinancing, you may be eligible for a “reissue” rate, which could offer a substantial discount off the regular premium—because the title policy is already in effect, and the title research has already been completed.

Here’s a calculator that can help you figure out the cost for your area and purchase price.

How to save on title insurance

In some states, title insurance premiums are the same no matter who you work with, but in the majority of states, you can save money by shopping around. Even in states with highly regulated title insurance industries, there are ways to save. Here are some ways to lower your title insurance costs.

  • Shop around. If premiums are unregulated in your state, find the company that offers the best deals. Just make sure you’re not sacrificing customer service to save a few dollars: Resolving a title issue can be stressful, and you want a company that will help you through the process. Read reviews and talk to your real estate agent for recommendations.
  • Bundle. Some companies will offer a discount if you bundle your lender’s and owner’s policies.
  • Negotiate add-ons. Even if the premium itself is fixed, there are almost always other fees built into your total premium price. See if there is any wiggle room with those items. They may be optional, or the insurance company might be open to discounting them.
  • Negotiate with the seller. Closing costs are always open to negotiation, and picking up the tab for the title insurance might be worth it to a seller who’s highly motivated to close the deal. But be wary of using this tactic in a competitive market.

Michele Lerner contributed to this article.

Source: realtor.com

5 Speedy Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment

The best way for first-time home buyers to come up with a down payment for a home: save for one, of course! But sometimes you’re in a hurry. Maybe your dream house just popped up on the market, or you’ve simply had it with being a renter. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to buy a house, now. But while your credit is good and your career is stable, you still need to come up with that big chunk of change for a down payment.

Watch: 4 Things You Can Give Up to Make a Down Payment

Never fear: There are plenty of ways to amass a sizable down payment fast. Check out these tactics, along with their pros and cons.

1. Dip into your 401(k)

If you’ve been socking away money in your 401(k), it is possible to borrow from that for a home loan—and get that cash in hand fast.

“Most 401(k) plans allow you to borrow up to 50% of the vested balance, or up to $50,000, and it takes about a week,” says Todd Huettner, owner of Huettner Capital, a residential and commercial real estate lender in Denver.

But it will cost you: If you take funds out of your 401(k) early—that is, before you’re 59½ years old—you’re going to take a 10% penalty on that withdrawn money. And it counts as gross income, which can bump you into a higher tax bracket.

Check out this Wells Fargo calculator to see what your penalties would be. In addition to penalties, most companies require you to repay that vested money over five years—or sooner if you quit or get axed. So be sure your career is stable.

2. Crack your IRA

Digging into your IRA usually carries the same 10% penalty of breaking open your 401(k) piggy bank, with one major difference: The penalty doesn’t apply to first-time home buyers. And unlike a 401(k), you don’t have to repay what you take out of an IRA. However, the withdrawal is still taxable. Plus there’s the matter of not repaying yourself, which can hurt your long-term retirement. So if you take out a sizable chunk, restoring this nest egg to its former level will take you many years.

3. Hit up your boss

Let’s get real: You don’t want to stroll into your boss’ office and demand help buying your house. But you can ask if your company has an employer-assisted housing program. Think about it: Companies hate employee turnover, so what better way to keep you around than pitching in to help you buy a home? It’s a win-win: Home loans are often low- or zero-interest and are usually structured to be forgivable over a period of time, often five years, which further encourages employees to stay put. The downside? Not all employers offer it. Hospitals and universities most often do, so be sure to ask to avoid overlooking this ready source of financial assistance.

4. Explore state and city programs

Local assistance programs abound to help you scratch up cash for a down payment. Offered by either your state, your city, or nonprofits, these programs often partner with banks, who hope to gain clientele they might pass over otherwise: Bank of America, for instance, recently launched a searchable database of local programs. Wells Fargo’s partnership with NeighborhoodLIFT offers down payment assistance up to $15,000.

The catch? You’ll need to qualify. For NeighborhoodLIFT, for instance, your household income has to be no more than 120% of the median in your area.

5. Get a gift from family or friends

Understandably, many home buyers turn to their family for help buying a home, and for good reason: There are no limits on how much a family member can “gift” another family member, although only a specific portion can be excluded from taxes ($14,000 per parent).

But it’s not just as easy as that. Gifters, even family, will need to provide paperwork in the form of a gift letter. And if the gifter is a friend, it gets even more complicated. For example, you’ll have to wait about 90 to 120 days before you can use any of those funds.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

Prepping Your Home for Sale? Why You Should Hire a Handyman – Redfin

December 1, 2020 December 7, 2020 by Emily Huddleston

Updated on December 7th, 2020

As you get ready to sell your home, you may discover the need to make a few (or even many) repairs and updates – from touching up paint on walls and replacing hardware to fixing your mailbox or repairing drywall. Sure, there will be home repair projects you can easily complete yourself, but what if you don’t have the time with everything else going on or a repair project is over your head? That’s where hiring a handyman comes in.

two story grey home

two story grey home

Why should I hire a handyman?

Buyers want a house that looks new – no nicks or scuffs on the walls, fresh paint, a fence in good condition, and doors and windows that are free of drafts and leaks. Over time, you may not realize that some of the small damages in your house can add up to an overall impression of neglect. Keeping up with general maintenance and care of your home, such as cleaning the gutters, freshening the paint, and fixing overall wear and tear can help you maintain, if not increase your home value each year. By contrast, not fixing things around the home can reduce your home’s sale value by about 10%.

Here’s where a handyman can help. A handyman is a jack of all trades, capable of many different kinds of home repairs. Some may have plumbing and electrical licenses and certifications, while others are specialists in home carpentry, tile replacement, or laying carpet. Many handyman services offer a wide variety of skills and can complete a multitude of different projects around the house.

A handyman can also find items in the home that you may not realize need repair – anything from faulty or leaking ductwork in your HVAC system to a crack in the foundation.

Also, many homebuyers will conduct their own home inspection before closing on the house, and often, if there are things that need to be fixed, the buyer may ask for concessions or reduce their offer to offset the costs of fixing these things themselves. When you hire a handyman to complete any home improvement project before you sell your home, you can reduce the chances of having concessions or missing out on a potential deal. 

bright bathroom with patterned tile

bright bathroom with patterned tile

Projects your handyman can complete

Your handyman service can complete many different types of projects. Some common ones include:

  • Fixing a broken garbage disposal
  • Repairing or calibrating an HVAC thermostat
  • Replacing a mailbox
  • Anchoring or installing shelves
  • Painting walls
  • Applying wallpaper
  • Removing wallpaper
  • Adding locks to the interior or exterior doors
  • Repairing drywall
  • Replacing tile or carpet
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Power washing brick or siding
  • Fixing cracks in stucco exteriors
  • Installing an exterior walkway
  • And so much more

Some handymen may also be capable of unclogging pipes and drains, installing lighting or ceiling fans, and replacing kitchen sinks or toilets. However, depending on where you live, the handyman may need to have a certification for plumbing services, be a licensed electrician, or have undergone formal masonry training, both for foundation work and other types of training. In order to ensure that the repairs are all compliant with local residential building codes, you’ll want to make sure to speak with an expert.

Another thing to consider when determining what kind of repairs your handyman service will complete is whether your home poses a safety risk. Things like broken window panes and loose handrails may jeopardize certain types of home loans, which can limit your buyer pool. For example, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has certain requirements for a home’s condition before they’ll approve an FHA or VA home loan. The last thing many home sellers wish to have is a deal that falls apart right before closing, so be sure to address any safety issues with your handyman before listing your home.

bright white kitchen with bar stools

bright white kitchen with bar stools

Should I hire a handyman or a contractor?

You may not always need a residential contractor to complete many of the projects on your home repair list. Oftentimes a handyman can get the job done and they tend to be less expensive than a contractor. They charge by the hour and have their own tools, so while you’ll be responsible for providing the materials for each job, you’ll only have to pay the handyman’s hourly rate.

However, if you need extensive repairs done, or if a home inspector wishes to see receipts or invoices from the job, it’s better to hire a contractor. General contractors often do home renovations and remodeling, while a subcontractor is a professional that specializes in a certain area, such as roofing, plumbing, or electrical work. A contractor will also have a warranty for their work, which you, as a seller, should provide to potential buyers. Contractors also are well-versed in local building codes and will ensure that your repairs are compliant.

Choosing the right handyman to hire

Not all handyman services are created equal, and some have a more comprehensive list of services that they can provide than others. Finding the right handyman can start with getting recommendations from friends or neighbors, or even asking your real estate agent about reliable, talented handyman services in your area. In fact, your real estate agent may be the best source for a reliable handyman, as realtors often have a greater understanding of what it takes for homes to receive top-dollar offers.

Don’t be afraid to interview potential handymen or ask for references and photos of their past projects. You should also ask what kinds of certifications they hold and about their experience. Remember, this is an individual you’ll likely be working closely with, so this must be someone you can work well with.

With all the stress that goes into preparing a house to sell, hiring a handyman can be extremely helpful and save you a ton of time, money, and worry. Better yet, you may even find the perfect handyman and want to hire them again for any future repairs with your new home. 

Source: redfin.com

How Long Does It Take to Close On A House?

In this article:

The closing process on a home purchase can take anywhere from a week to 60 days, depending on the property type, whether or not you’re buying with a mortgage and what type of loan you’re taking out. The closing process includes two distinct periods:

Escrow is the period of time between when you and the seller sign the contract and the day you close.

Closing day is the day you sign all the paperwork, get the keys and become the official owner of a home.

How long does it take to close on a house with cash?

Part of what makes closings take so long is the financing requirements, so buying with cash can expedite the process. If you’re buying with cash, you can close as few as seven days after contract execution, assuming you’re willing to waive contingencies. However, only 23% of buyers purchase their homes with all cash, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2018.

How long does it take to close on a house with a mortgage?

Buyers who use conventional financing to purchase a home can expect to close 30-45 days after the contract is signed. Special loans, such as first-time home buyer programs, VA and FHA loans can take longer to close because the requirements are stricter.

The escrow process timeline

After you’ve made an offer on a home and both you and the seller have agreed on terms (including price and closing date) and executed the contract, you’re officially in escrow. These are the steps that are usually part of the escrow process, and how long each step typically takes. Keep in mind that the escrow process and timeline can vary based on your market, lender, property type, financing type and the overall complexity of the transaction. You should also note that some of the steps below happen concurrently.

  1. Execute the contract and confirm closing date
  2. Open the escrow account (a few days)
  3. Complete inspection and repair requests (1-2 weeks)
  4. Mortgage application and underwriting (5-20 days)
  5. Appraisal (1-2 weeks)
  6. Acquire homeowner’s insurance and title insurance (1 day)
  7. Get loan approval, commonly called “Clear to close” (1 day)
  8. Do a final walk through (1 day)
  9. Attend your closing appointment and close on your new home (1 days)

According to Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, 57% of buyers who attained a mortgage said one of their concerns was being unclear on how the mortgage process works. To make sure you fully understand the steps, stay in close contact with your real estate agent, real estate attorney (if you have/need one) and lender. They’ll be able to answer any questions you have and provide documents you need to sign, so be available to turn those requests around as quickly as possible.

The process of buying a house with cash

If you’re buying a home with all cash and still including common contingencies (like a home inspection contingency), your process will be the same, except you won’t have to do a mortgage application or wait for loan underwriting and approval. Some cash buyers opt to waive contingencies, which can speed up the process.

How long after the appraisal can you close?

Assuming there are no issues with your appraisal, the lender will send the “clear to close” about a week before the agreed-upon closing date. If you’ve requested a longer escrow period and a later closing date, you may get your “clear to close” well in advance of your closing date.

What causes delays when closing on a house?

Your closing date will usually be agreed upon with the seller during offer negotiations. But, your closing date could get pushed back a few days (or even a few weeks) based on unexpected setbacks. Here are some of the common issues that can lead to a delayed closing.

Buyer financing

Most of the time, delayed closings are related to finalizing your mortgage. This can be anything from appraisal concerns to missing financial documentation to an inexperienced loan officer.

Changes to your creditworthiness

If you’ve made large purchases, taken out another loan that negatively impacted your debt-to-income ratio or had a significant change in your income between the time you were pre-approved and closing, your lender may need to re-evaluate your credit profile, which can take time.

Low appraisal

If your appraisal comes in at or above the contracted sale price, it should be smooth sailing. But, a low appraisal could leave you needing to renegotiate with the seller or come up with enough cash to cover the difference between the home’s appraised value and the sale price.

Title issues

If the seller has any unresolved liens or judgments on the home, or if any other ownership disputes are uncovered during the escrow process, the closing can be delayed while these issues are resolved.

Homeowner’s insurance

In order to close, you must have proof that you’ve secured a homeowner’s insurance policy on the property you’re buying. If you miss this step or don’t have the correct documentation, your closing could be delayed.

Home sale contingency

If your contract says you can’t close until your previous home sells, your closing could be delayed if it takes longer than expected.

Slow repair requests

If you’re going back and forth with the seller on repairs needed based on the home inspection report, both the negotiations and the repairs themselves can slow down your closing timeline.

Unsatisfactory walk-through

Right before closing, you’ll do a final walk-through of the property. If the home isn’t in the same condition (or a better condition, if you negotiated repairs) than when you made your offer, you may delay closing until issues can be resolved.

Tips for staying on your closing timeline

Even if you’re buying with a mortgage (and you’ll be among the 77% of all buyers who are), you can help expedite the closing process by being prepared, responsive, diligent and decisive both before and during the escrow period.

Get pre-approved

Before you even start searching for homes, take the time to get pre-approved so you’ll know ahead of time that you’re eligible for a loan in the amount you need. Not only will it help you prevent delays during the escrow period, but it will make any offers you submit look more legitimate in the eyes of sellers, since they know you can pay for the home.

For a pre-approval, you’ll need documents that verify your income, like paystubs, bank statements and tax returns. You’ll also want to make sure your credit report is error free, as your lender will run your credit as part of your pre-approval.

Schedule the inspection as soon as possible

As soon as your offer is accepted and the contract is executed, schedule your home inspection. In some states, you are required to schedule the inspection within 7-10 days. After you receive the inspection report, you will have a few days to review and request repairs or credits from the seller. Keep in mind, the seller will have a few days to respond as well.

Buyers of Zillow-owned homes can have peace of mind that the home has been recently updated by licensed contractors. Of course, you’re still able to do your own independent home inspection.

Have a backup plan in case of a low appraisal

Appraisal reports can vary, and very rarely do two professional appraisers value a home exactly the same. If the home you’re buying appraises for less than the sale price, your lender won’t let you finance the home using the full sale price. If your appraisal comes back low, you have two options: either make up the difference in cash, or renegotiate the sale price with the seller. If you’re in a hot market where sellers have their pick of multiple offers, you shouldn’t expect the seller to lower their price to accommodate a low appraisal.

Hire an experienced lender

Find an experienced lender that is familiar with the intricacies and requirements of your market for a seamless and transparent closing process. Opt for an online lender to further optimize your experience. In fact, 15% of buyers who used a mortgage to finance a home in 2019 obtained their mortgage through an online lender. Though, younger buyers are more likely to choose an online lender option.

Be quick to respond to documentation requests

It’s likely that your lender will need updated financial documents, signed disclosures and other information as they prepare your loan for closing. Your title or escrow company may need you to complete certain tasks, too. Respond to all requests as quickly as possible to keep the escrow process moving forward.

How long does closing day take?

Closing day — that is, the day you go to the closing agent and sign your final paperwork to buy the home — typically takes between 1.5-2 hours if everything goes smoothly, but you’ll want to leave ample time in your schedule in case it takes longer.

During your closing appointment you’ll sign documents (a list of typical documents is below) and pay your down payment. Your lender will also wire the balance of the sale price at this time. The title or escrow agent will facilitate the closing appointment, but you’ll want your agent and/or attorney to be present as well. In closing attorney states, the attorney may facilitate the closing appointment. Be sure to bring your ID, a cashier’s check, proof of insurance and your purchase and sale contract.

Buyers usually must attend this meeting in person, whereas sellers can sometimes sign their paperwork ahead of time.

What documents do buyers usually sign?

  • Promissory note
  • Mortgage/deed of trust
  • Escrow disclosure
  • Signature affidavit
  • Initial mortgage payment
  • Appraisal acknowledgement
  • HOA documents (if applicable)
  • Certificate of occupancy (new construction only)
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act disclosure
  • Truth-in-Lending disclosure
  • Mortgage fraud statements

Source: zillow.com

7 Qualities of a Good Neighbor

Win and woo your next-door friends with a little neighborly know-how.

If you want good neighbors, you’ll first have to become one yourself. Master these seven techniques, and even you (yes, you!) can win the approval of your entire neighborhood.

1. Good neighbors bring cookies

Whether you’re new in town or haven’t kept in touch, a delivery of freshly baked goods is a perfect way to break the ice and let neighbors know that you’re thinking of them.

If cookies can keep Santa returning year after year with a bag full of loot, then surely they can train your neighbors to do your bidding. Consider the following scenario.

“Honey, somebody’s robbing the neighbor’s house again.”
“Wait, Janet. The ones who brought cookies yesterday?”
“Exactly. This time I’ll call the cops.”

2. Good neighbors rarely gossip

If your neighbor seems to know the dirt on everyone within a two-block radius, you can count on them to keep tabs on your personal life as well.

The next time Nosy Nellie gleefully describes the contents of the Rickenbacker’s trash again, move the conversation along by refocusing the conversation on her. “So, what are you growing in your garden this year?”

You aren’t in high school anymore, so preserve relationships with your neighbors and avoid the gratuitous gab fests.

3. Good neighbors share phone numbers

For such a connected age, you should really question why you don’t have your neighbors’ phone numbers. After all, what if they receive your package by mistake? What if the house floods while you’re on vacation? Worse yet, what if you need a babysitter?

If you feel uncomfortable bringing it up, ask during one of your cookie deliveries (you are following rule number one, right?) or right before a trip. Jot down your name, number and email address on a piece of paper and ask if your neighbor is comfortable sharing theirs.

4. Good neighbors help before they’re asked

The neighbor who says, “Let me know if you need anything,” probably isn’t going to help whenever you actually need something. You, on the other hand, are a good neighbor and genuinely want to help out.

To get ahead of the meaningless small talk, anticipate their needs. If they have kids and you’re comfortable babysitting, tell them up front. If they’re clearly struggling to mow the lawn during a heat wave, ask for the best time to stop by with your lawnmower.

5. Good neighbors are tidy

Even if you lack self-respect, respect the sensitive tastes of others and clean up your act.

Keep the ironic lawn ornaments to a minimum. Keep trash receptacles hidden in the side yard, or better yet, the garage.

Whenever you’ve finished gardening or landscaping for the day, put away your tools and bags of unused mulch. Rake the leaves and clean up grass clippings and all the other stuff your dad used to bug you about.

And if it’s not too much trouble, pressure wash and paint your house periodically.

6. Good neighbors mow the lawn

An unkempt and weedy lawn is embarrassing for your neighbors, so it should be embarrassing for you as well. Keeping it mowed every week or two is a good start, but it will take more than that to win the approval of the locals.

Trim the edge of your lawn regularly, fertilize on schedule and keep weeds to a minimum. Keep your foundation plantings simple, neatly trimmed and topped off with mulch.

If your neighborhood allows it, go the no-lawn method by planting swaths of low-maintenance, drought-tolerant ground covers. Crucially, don’t overdo it on the sprinklers — especially when it’s raining.

7. Good neighbors communicate

That old “good fences make good neighbors” quote had to come up at some point, right? A good neighbor must respect boundaries. That said, they should also be crossed when the fences themselves start losing pickets and falling over in a storm.

Even if it’s technically their fence, you might not be happy with the shoddy workmanship and resentment that you’ll have to live with when they get around to fixing it themselves.

Address shared interests like fences, drainage ditches and troublesome trees ahead of time so that you can work out a plan that both parties can agree to.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring cookies.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

Ask The Expert: How Do I Get Back to Focusing on Purchases in 2021?

Cheryl from Florida asked: “I read the forecast by the MBA which says there will be less refinances next year. I have been doing mostly refinances and I have no idea how to get back to focusing on purchases. What do you recommend?”

Dave Hershman

Dave: I expect to get this question a lot during the next several months. I always do when refinances start to die down. And it usually takes me a few weeks to address the issue and this cycle will be no different. First, I would like to frame the issue:

  1. There are likely to be less refinances in 2021. But that does not mean that refinances are likely to disappear altogether. Your business should be diversified at all times. And my rules of maximum synergy will show you how one side of the business can support the other.
  2. You need to decide if you are rekindling agent relationships you have neglected or expanding by developing new relationships.
  3. You need to always lead with your value proposition.

In reality, I could add several more factors, but our time and space are limited. We start with this point: there are likely to be less refinances in 2021. But that does not mean that refinances are likely to disappear altogether. Your business should be diversified at all times.

And my rules of maximum synergy will show you how one side of the business can support the other. This is something I would say in any environment. However, today it applies even more strongly. The Federal Reserve has indicated that they are going keep rates low as long as it takes and thus it is expected that 2021 will have an ample supply of refinances.

But, even if rates rise, there will always be some refinances. Perhaps the purpose may change from lower rates to cash-out debt consolidations. No matter what the purpose, your marketing plan should be diversified, and each part of the plan should support the other. That means that refinances should lead to purchases and your purchase marketing should lead to refinance opportunities.

How does that work? You need to open your eyes wider. For example, perhaps you are working with a financial planner on a client’s debt consolidation. Do you think that financial planner may know a real estate agent? Have you asked? Of course, this works in both directions–your best agent may know a financial planner who could refer refinances.

In my next column, I will discuss the second two points.

Dave Hershman is Senior VP of Sales of Weichert Financial and the top author in the mortgage industry. Dave has published seven books, as well as hundreds of articles and is the founder of the OriginationPro Marketing System and Mortgage School – the online choice for expert mortgage learning and marketing content. His site is www.OriginationPro.com and he can be reached at dave@hershmangroup.com.

Source: themortgageleader.com

We Want a Diverse Area With Moderate Population, Warm, Beach and Culture—So Where Should We Retire?

Dear MarketWatch,

We are African-Americans and want to retire to a diverse area with moderate population, warm, beach, culture. We can afford a better-than-average lifestyle and want to feel accepted in our new community — hopefully somewhere with high walkability and homes with character. And maybe near a major airport…. for lots of traveling.

Let me know what you come up with. Thanks.

— Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

We all know there are plenty of beach towns in the U.S., but finding one with personality is a bigger challenge.

I’m going to leave out some obvious places, like Miami Beach and, though less diverse, Hilton Head. On the West Coast, no Southern California. Too obvious. Plus, while you can afford a better-than average lifestyle, home prices there are so high that they could hamper your travel budget. The same goes for Sag Harbor and the Hamptons more broadly (plus you’d still have winter on Long Island).

Instead, I’ll look for some off-the-beaten path possibilities. I’m sure readers will have their own suggestions.

As always, explore the area in all seasons, and be realistic about the retirement budget. When you find your dream place, ask which areas are susceptible to flooding during hurricanes and other storms.

A street in the historic district of Wilmington, NC
A street in the historic district of Wilmington, NC

Courtesy Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Atlantic: Wilmington, North Carolina

Check out the Cape Fear region, which includes Wilmington as well as beach towns like Carolina Beach and the more upscale Wrightsville Beach.

Wilmington is growing quickly and at 123,000 people has more than half of New Hanover County’s population. The share of those 65 and older are roughly in line with the U.S. average. Look for a place where you’ll catch a breeze off the Intracoastal Waterway or the ocean to counter the summer humidity — so not too far inland.

You’ll have no shortage of cultural offerings, starting with Thalian Hall, the Cameron Art Museum and the Wilson Center. The University of North Carolina Wilmington, which has 17,000 students, lets those 65 and older audit classes for free, while its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers shorter courses to those 50 and older.

Be sure to explore the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which stretches from Wilmington to Jacksonville, Fla., and is home to cultural groups descended from enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa. Poplar Grove Plantation is one local site.

Winter days get into the 50s, with average lows in the 40s. Average highs in July are in the 80s.

Here’s what’s on the housing market now in Wilmington and in New Hanover County using Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.).

As for travel, while Wilmington has an airport, you’ll have more choices flying from Raleigh two hours away.

———

Gulfport, FL, is next to St. Petersburg.
Gulfport, FL, is next to St. Petersburg.

Courtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

The Gulf of Mexico: Gulfport, Florida

Florida’s popularity with retirees is no secret, in part because it’s affordable and has no state income tax. But all too often, home means living in a high rise or a gated community.

Gulfport, though, is described as how Key West was before it became overrun with tourists.

This town of 12,000, just west of St. Petersburg, is your artsy, funky, walkable spot in the middle of the Tampa Bay metro area and its 3 million people. You’ll also find plenty of retirees; 30% of Gulfport’s residents are 65 or older.

Gulfport comes with sunset views from its own (man-made) strip of sand over Boca Ciega Bay so, yes, it’s on the Gulf side of Florida but technically not on the Gulf of Mexico. But opposite the bay is St. Pete Beach, which gets raves from TripAdvisor (a local says head to the Pass-A-Grille section at the southern tip). When you tire of that, there are more white-sand beaches to sink your toes in, including Siesta Beach in Sarasota an hour south (and Dr. Beach’s pick in 2017 for best beach in the U.S.) as well as Caladesi Island State Park (No. 6 on Dr. Beach’s list this year) an hour north.

And if you just want to walk, don’t overlook the 45-mile Pinellas Trail that stretches from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and goes through the northern edge of Gulfport.

For bigger getaways, there’s Tampa International Airport.

To get a sense of the local housing market, here’s what’s for sale now, again using Realtor.com.

As you explore the Tampa area, also check out Safety Harbor, a town of 18,000 on the western side of Tampa Bay with its own walkable downtown, and Dunedin (pronounced Duh-nee-din) north of Clearwater that’s also popular with retirees. You know there’s plenty of cultural offerings in a metro this size. One that might be easy to overlook: the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum in St. Petersburg.

———

Overlooking Waikiki Beach
Overlooking Waikiki Beach

Christopher Ball/iStock

The Pacific: Oahu, Hawaii

If year-round pleasant weather is the priority, Hawaii can’t be beat. Average highs are in the 80s year-round, and average lows bottom out in the mid-60s. Of course there’s no shortage of beautiful beaches.

When you tire of water, take advantage of wonderful hiking opportunities. And while the focus of your international travels might shift toward Asia, you may want to spend more time just staying, discovering Hawaiian culture and exploring some of the national parks.

You admittedly won’t find a big population of African-Americans here, but Hawaiians have a much more open and fluid view of race and diversity than many of us on the mainland.

Start your search for your retirement life on Oahu Island. About a third of the island’s million residents live in Honolulu itself, one of the country’s most diverse and affluent cities and the birthplace of President Barack Obama. Curious about sites associated with him in some way? Here are even more.

You’ll find plenty of cultural offerings in Honolulu (including some of Hawaii’s best festivals, as voted by readers of Hawai’i Magazine), plus the state university (those 60 and older can audit classes for free).

There’s even Costco, if that’s your thing. Oh, and that Elvis statue…

Yes, there’s the cost of getting everything to Hawaii — some things will be even more expensive than parts of California. Here’s what the local housing market looks like.

If Honolulu is too pricey, consider some of the smaller towns on the island. Or check out the less-populated (and cheaper) Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island. Start with the Kalaoa area.

Source: realtor.com

Self-Employed and Applying for a Mortgage? Here’s What’s Changed Since COVID-19

The gig economy has blown up in the past few years, with more and more people choosing to work as freelancers, either by starting their own businesses, or by picking up nonsalaried jobs from bigger companies.

According to the Freelancers Union, over 50 million Americans worked this year as freelancers, a number that represents roughly 35% of the country’s workforce.

While freelancing undoubtedly has its perks, helping you get a mortgage is not one of them.

Since COVID-19 started tearing through the country in March, we’ve heard reports of freelancers having an even harder time getting approved for mortgages. Here’s the latest on what to expect when applying for mortgage as a freelancer in the post-coronavirus era.

Getting a mortgage as a freelancer (pre-coronavirus)

Before diving into what’s changed for freelancers applying for mortgages in the COVID-19 era, let’s back up to what it was like before the pandemic.

According to Todd Huettner of Huettner Capital, the two most important things self-employed borrowers (which includes freelancers, independent contractors, business owners, and sole proprietors) historically needed for mortgage applications were: two years of tax returns, and proof their business was in operation.

“Depending on timing, if you were more than six months into the following year, you may have also needed an unaudited profit-and-loss statement for the business,” says Huettner.

That’s exactly what it sounds like: a financial statement that records all the losses and gains of a business over a period of time.

Besides tax returns and proof that your business was up and running, lenders also had basic requirements for any borrower (self-employed or otherwise), which included things like a minimum credit score and maximum debt-to-income ratio.

“Most people don’t realize this and think there are totally different rules,” says Huettner. “But the main difference is that as a freelancer, you just had to document the income.”

What’s changed

The main thing that’s changed for freelancers applying for a mortgage is that the need for documentation has increased—by a lot.

Because of the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, lenders are being extra careful when it comes to determining who actually qualifies for these mortgages, and whether they can realistically repay them.

“In the past, we could simply use the prior year’s tax returns,” says Todd Wells of Sinberg Capital Lending.

“There’s more documentation required post-COVID for self-employed borrowers. Now, we need a year-to-date profit and loss statement, as well as business bank statements to support the profit and loss statement.”

In other words, lenders need a lot more proof that you’re in a good position to take on that mortgage, and providing that proof could be a major pain, to say the least.

How to increase your chances of getting approved

Beyond doing all the usual things to increase your chances of getting approved (like boosting your credit score and improving your debt-to-income ratio), freelancers should also be prepared to jump through a few extra administrative hoops to that prove their income really is what they say it is.

This will include things like getting those profit and loss (also called P&L) statements ready, and possibly even pulling some bank statements to back them up. And while some lenders might allow you to get by with just an audited P&L statement, that may not be any easier.

“Most people don’t have a clue about the time and cost of obtaining an audited financial statement,” says Huettner.

“Most CPAs don’t provide this service—it’s a very specific process with a lot of requirements. The result is that it can cost thousands of dollars and take several weeks or months to finish.”

In today’s hot seller’s market, taking weeks or months to get approved would be simply out of the question.

That’s why many freelancers (when given the option by their lender) are choosing to prepare unaudited P&L statements as well as bank statements to prove their income.

Since this can take several hours (and plenty of fishing around in your various accounts) to complete, it’s a good idea to have these things ready before you need them.

“Have complete and accurate documentation going back as far as you can, 24 months if possible,” advises one former banker, Karen Condor of ExpertInsuranceReviews.com.

“This will prove that you can consistently afford loan payments. The higher your FICO credit score and the more robust your income documentation, the higher the chance of loan approval.”

The final word

Is it harder for freelancers to get approved for mortgages in the COVID-19 era? Yes and no. If your business has been consistently doing well and you have the documentation to prove it, you might be just fine.

But if you’ve recently hit a slowdown, or are having issues producing the extra proof of income, then getting that mortgage for your dream home might be harder than you thought.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com