If you are a first time home buyer, or even a repeat buyer, you quickly realize that
real estate has a language all its own. Understanding some of the lingo can help
you navigate the process a little easier. By learning a few critical terms, you will be
in a better position to ask the right questions and make the best decisions.
• Buyer’s Market – A real estate climate where the amount of listings
outnumber qualified buyers.
• Seller’s Market – A real estate climate when there are very few desirable
properties listed for sale.
• Contingencies – Specific conditions included in offer to protect the buyer
against unexpected situations, such as inspection, loan approval and
• Earnest Money – Money deposited when the offer is accepted. Subject to
any contingencies, this money protects the seller from a buyer who simply
changes her mind.
• Escrow Agent – A neutral 3rd party who manages the paperwork in a state
where attorneys are not used to conclude the contract.
• Closing Costs – Fees which must be paid by both buyers to conclude the
• Conforming Loan – A conforming loan is a loan limit by which the loan can
be sold on the secondary market; a jumbo loan is one which is higher than
• PMI – PMI, private mortgage insurance is a fee paid by the borrower of a
loan that they obtained with less than a 20% down payment.
These are just a few of the common terms used in real estate. If you are involved
in a real estate transaction, learning a bit of the common lingo will help you
understand the process better and make your home sale or purchase a smooth
Now that the warm summer months are behind us, it’s time to prepare for
winter. Regardless of whether you expect to see sub-zero temperatures this
season or you live in one of the warmer climates, preparing your home for colder
weather can save you money and hassle this winter. So before you dig out your
fall sweaters, take a weekend and prepare your home for the cold weather to
Fall is a great time to seal drafts in the home which can suck energy out. Check
around doors and windows and replace worn weather stripping and caulking. If
you use your fireplace for warmth during winter, this is the right time to have the
chimney cleaned and checked for safety. Arrange a furnace tune up complete
with replacing the filter and vacuuming the vents to make sure you are warming
your home efficiently.
Before the chill turns to freezing, head to the yard to winterize the exterior of
your home. Check gutters for clogged leaves and other debris and examine the
roof and siding for any repairs which could create leaks or drafts in the cold. If the
gardening season is at its end, drain water from outdoor faucets and garden
hoses. Make sure the sprinkler system is off and reinforce any exposed pipes
which could burst with the cold.
Fall is here. Along with the smell of baking and falling leaves, you can ensure your
home is ready for winter by taking a few steps now to prepare. Save energy and
the hassle of an unexpected repair by getting some routine maintenance done
before the cold months come.
Tips to Pay off Your Loan Faster
For generations, homeowners would buy a home for life. Working over the years
to make the payments and celebrating the end of the 30 year mortgage were
great milestones in the family. Today, few home buyers expect to be in their
home for longer than 7 years on average. Paying off a 30 year mortgage seems
like an impossible task. Fortunately, there are great ways to pay off your loan
which do not involve time. Here are a few tips for paying off your mortgage loan
Biweekly Payments – Work with your lender to determine how they handle
biweekly payments. If processed immediately, you can save 8 years of
payments on a 30 year loan.
Extra Payments – By making just one extra payment each year, you can pay
off your loan 11 years earlier.
Refinance to 15 years – There are great interest rates available for
mortgage loans. Consider a 15 year mortgage.
Principal Reduction – Watch for ways to add to your monthly payment a
little at a time. When possible, increase the principal payment you make.
Paying off your mortgage builds wealth. Consider your life goals, including
retirement. A 30 year loan taken out at 37 years old will not be complete until 67
– retirement age. The loan needs to be part of the overall financial plan from the
beginning and making payoff a priority with a few simple steps can add up to
huge savings in interest which can then be used for better investments.
Traditional lore says that the best time to list your home for sale is spring and if it
hasn’t sold by the end of summer, you’re out of luck. Along the same lines,
homeowners across the country are often advised not to list in the fall and wait
until after the holidays to list. The truth is that a great home will sell at any time
of year and in fact there are some very good reasons to list in the fall, while
everyone else is busy doing other activities.
4 Reasons to Sell this Fall
1. Less Competition – As mentioned above, most sellers list in spring so as a
seller, fall provides you less competition which increases the opportunity
for buyers to view your home.
2. Serious Buyers – Home buyers in fall often have a timeline to move before
the holidays. They tend to take the home search seriously and move to
write offers faster and avoid wasting time.
3. Curb Appeal – Fall is a beautiful time of year and homes always seem cozier
as the weather turns. Fall colors in the trees and the scent of baking entice
buyers to feel “at home” which encourages offers.
4. Closing is Easier – The pace of home sales slows during the fall; as such
lenders can move faster and the process tends to take less time.
The last and best reason to sell this fall is that it’s the right time for you and your
plans. Regardless of whether you are relocating, moving up or scaling down, if this
is the right time to sell, then this is the best time to sell.
Building a new home from scratch can be a dream come true. The idea of
designing the perfect property with morning sun in the kitchen and evening
breezes on the deck can be exhilarating; the first step to a successful project is
finding the right piece of land on which to build. This can present challenges if not
Top Tips When Buying Vacant Land
Hire Experience – More than most real estate transactions, it’s critical to
hire an agent who specializes in vacant land purchases and can guide you
through the steps.
Expect to Pay Cash – Finding a lender for vacant land can be very difficult.
Those who will finance land typically require a 30 to 40% or higher down
payment and above average interest rates and terms.
Get the Neighborhood Comps – Do not neglect to understand home values
in the community so you do not over, or under, build your home.
Do Your Due Diligence – It is critical to research the property thoroughly.
Just a few considerations much include.
o Site Surveys and Environmental Testing
o Easements and Zoning Restrictions
o Lot Survey and Boundaries
o Utilities and Water Rights
Once you’ve completed these preliminary reviews, it’s time to consult with an
architect and General Contractor who will then begin to develop concept
drawings to consider. Even at this stage, you might find that the home you want is
not appropriate for the land you’ve chosen. Staying flexible is a key component to
searching for land; remember that by following a few tips, you can ensure you
find the right lot for your dream home.
If you’ve been searching for a new home no doubt you’ve seen the term, “move-in ready.” This description sounds very appealing, but understanding what it
actually means is important so you have the right expectations when arranging
your home listing tour.
First it’s important to remember that the descriptions in real estate listings are
written by the listing agent or broker. There is no set industry standard for what
agents can say in their listings. While there are guidelines and rules which prevent
blatant lying, most home buyers have become aware of the fluffy language used
to market a home for sale.
The meaning of “move-in ready” is fairly straightforward; it means that the home
is in a condition which is acceptable for immediate occupancy. The home meets
the standards of living and assures the buyer that the essential elements needed
to occupy the home are present and in running condition. For example, the home
should have working plumbing, appliances, sound roof, electricity, gas and locking
doors and windows.
What “move-in ready” does not necessarily mean is that the home is in pristine
condition. A home that is “move-in ready” might still need significant updating
and while systems are assumed to be operational, they might still be old or
“Move-in ready” is a common phrase in real estate listings. Understanding that
the home might still need quite a bit of work to suit your taste and lifestyle, you
can approach the listing with realistic expectations and determine if the property
is the right fit for your needs.
If you are selling your home, one of the most common requests with the buyer’s offer is to pay
for a home warranty. As a seller, you might be wondering if it’s something that’s worth the
expense. Some agents suggest that the seller purchase a listing warranty as well as part of the
sales process. Understanding the benefits of a home warranty is the first step in deciding if it’s
worth the cost to you, the seller.
A home warranty is a policy which covers the cost of repairs to a number of critical systems in
the home. While coverage varies, most cover electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning
and appliances. Some optional coverage could include pool and spa, roofing and code
protection among others. In the event that a home buyer has a problem with any of the
covered systems, the warranty would send a service person out to make the repairs for only
the policy deductible – usually between $65-100 per problem.
The home warranty provides peace-of-mind to the buyer that if an undetected problem shows
up after the close; their out-of-pocket cost is limited to the small deductible. While this does
not negate the need for a professional home inspection, it can push a transaction to close with
buyers who are nervous about unexpected problems. As an additional bonus, most warranty
companies offer a free listing warranty which covers unexpected issues during the listing;
often saving the home owner hundreds of dollars in repairs arising from the inspection.
Offering a home warranty in the listing is one way to demonstrate to potential buyers that the
condition of the home is important to the seller as well. You take maintenance seriously and
they can rest assured that they are making a good investment.
Are you ready to list your home for sale? One of the first questions you might have is, “how
can I maximize my home value?” Every seller wants to get the best possible price for their
home; fortunately there are ways to make sure your potential buyers see the true value of
your property and allow you to receive top dollar when you sell.
Clean, declutter, depersonalize – The first thing every home seller needs to do is take a
critical look at the home and clear out the distractions. Cleaning the home/yard is a
must. Remove anything that can draw a buyer’s eye away from the beauty of the home.
Redecorate – Professional home stagers will often advise clients to remove and/or
replace furnishings. Even if you love oversized furniture, it can make the room look
small; consider renting more neutral pieces during the listing.
Perfect Condition – No home is perfect, but before you list take care of deferred
maintenance issues. Replace missing roof tiles, repaint any area that is worn or dirty,
and re-sod your lawn; remember; buyers want to know the home has “good bones.”
Update carefully – It’s not important for home sellers to have the latest countertops or
custom bathtub to get a good value for their home. Often the home
updates/improvements sellers undergo cost more than they would lose in sales price
without them. If your home is very dated, consider a seller credit instead to allow the
buyer to choose their own upgrades.
Homes retain value based on a few factors; the location, the condition and the features.
Before you list, speak with your agent, friends and family – then make any necessary repairs
and changes to ensure you get the best value for your home when you sell.
Before you start searching for your new home, the first step is to speak with a lender and
determine your budget. This is being pre-qualified for a loan. Once you find the right home,
then your lender will order an appraisal of the property and complete your financing. If this is
your first home purchase, or if it’s been awhile since you’ve purchased, understanding how to
prepare for the qualifying process is the first step to success.
What do I need to qualify for a home loan?
When preparing for your meeting with the lender gather all the pertinent documentation and
bring them with you. The lender will want to see 2 months of employment pay stubs and bank
records as well the past 2 years of tax returns. After reviewing your income and savings, the
lender will also order a credit report which shows all your recurring debt and payment history.
This will be used to determine your ability to pay the proposed mortgage.
How does credit, down payment and income affect my ability to get a loan?
There are a variety of loan programs available. From 0% down VA loans to traditional 20%
down loans, your lender will review all your options with you so you can determine the best
program. Some government guaranteed loan programs, such as the VA or FHA, are more
lenient with your credit score requirements as well as other qualifications, such as savings and
Qualifying for a home loan might feel overwhelming, but your lender can walk you through the
process and requirements. After learning your options, you can make the best financial
decision for your new home loan.
Congratulations, you have multiple offers on your home listing. It’s exciting to hear that you
have a choice in buyers. Yet how can you make sure that you choose the right offer? With
varying sales prices and terms, comparing offers might be harder than you expected. Still – it’s
a great problem to have.
If you find yourself in a multiple offer situation, the first step is to meet with your agent to
discuss each offer in detail. What are the actual differences? It’s easy to see what price they
offer, but what about the other items – the terms, the financing, the contingencies.
Sales Price – This is the easiest to compare. Start with the sales price and then check to
see if they are asking for extra concessions; these could include seller credits or paying
for closing costs.
Terms – Determine when the buyer intends to close and when they want occupancy.
Financing – Financing can vary dramatically and affect your decision in choosing a buyer.
For instance, a buyer who offers a slightly lower price but is going to put 50% down
might be a better offer than someone using a FHA, 3.5% down loan which could be
harder to close.
Contingencies – Most offers come with contingencies for items such as inspections,
appraisal, loan approval and more. An offer with less contingencies, or shorter time
frames to remove them, could be a better offer than others.
Working with your agent, consider all the elements which go into an offer; then you’ll be in the
best position to determine the best option for your financial goals, timeframes and needs