Don’t Waste Your Time!: Get A Mortgage Pre-Approval

You’ve made that very personal decision, to consider buying a house of your own! You may have put off this moment, for a variety of reasons, including; indecisiveness; geographic; job-related; financial, etc., but now, you think, you’re ready! So, what should you do first! The logical first-step is to discuss finance, and the all-important mortgage information, with a qualified mortgage broker or banker. If you have received a recommendation from someone you trust, and is knowledgeable, begin with a conversation with that professional. If not, interview, and hire, a real estate professional, who will take care of your needs, and provide you with recommendations of reliable mortgage professionals. Either way, be certain to get a Mortgage Pre-Approval, before you begin your quest for the house of your dreams.

1. A pre-qualification is not a pre-approval: Beware, there is huge difference between being pre-qualified, and pre-approved! The former means that based on the basic information you have provided, you would be able to qualify to get a certain size mortgage. On the other hand, the latter means the broker/bank, has done a thorough review of your income, liabilities, etc., as they would before they issued a mortgage, and, as long as the house comps out, you will get a mortgage.

2. Other debts/liabilities: Lending institutions use a formula to determine how much mortgage one might qualify for. It takes into consideration all debt owed, and that combined with your new mortgage debt, cannot exceed a certain percentage. That is, in addition to, the mortgage must fall within a certain percentage of one’s income.

3. What can you afford as a down-payment?: Traditionally, you are asked to put down 20% down-payment, and you can then use your mortgage for the balance. However, there are loans available, which require less down, but that means a higher monthly payment! You may also be in a position to put down more, and carry a smaller mortgage. This must be a combination of what you can actually afford, as well as your comfort level.

4. What can you afford monthly: The lending institution will come up with a maximum figure, they say you can carry monthly. They base this as a percentage of one’s income. However, you may not feel comfortable with that amount of debt, so you must take that into consideration. All this valuable information will help you decide the price ranges you should look at, when you search for a home.

5. Move to the front of the line: Let’s say you’ve taken into consideration the above information, and now are prepared and ready, to begin your search, in earnest. You have searched, and found the house you want, but others feel the same way. When there are competing offers, the buyer with a Pre-Approval, often is given more consideration, because it is considered a better bet, for the seller.

It is the responsibility of a qualified real estate professional to help you find the right house, at the best available price, with the least amount of hassle or wasted time! Make it easier on yourself, by beginning properly, by getting a Mortgage Pre-Approval.

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Do You Judge a Home by its Curb Appeal?

Do YOU Judge a Book by its Cover? Or

Do You Judge a House by its Curb Appeal?

Summer is finally here and people are on the move. It’s a great time to sell your home! So why isn’t it selling? There could be several reasons, but there is one I see way too often. And that is poor curb appeal. When sellers put their houses on the market, curb appeal is often not the priority. There is so much interior work to be done, that often the exterior is neglected. There’s the painting, cleaning, repairs, updates, and the seemingly endless job of decluttering. There is often little effort to make the exterior look absolutely amazing.

I happen to believe that curb appeal is just as important-or even more important- as anything you can do on the interior for this simple reason: The vast majority of buyers will do a drive-by of your house to help them decide if they want to see it inside. If the curb appeal is poor, they often will move on to another house. Their thinking is that the condition of the exterior is a good indication of the interior. Now, that is not always the case, but unfortunately that’s how most buyers’ minds work. I know… I’ve done it myself! Unfortunately, we often DO judge a book by its cover.

So the goal should be to get as many people in that door as possible by enticing them with your curb appeal. There are lots of houses available in this market, so give them a compelling reason to choose to see YOUR house. And then, after they get inside, give them a compelling reason to BUY your house!

The BASICS of curb appeal needed for every house that goes on the market include:

1. Clean all the windows and doors and power wash the siding.

2. Ensure all the door/entrance hardware is in good condition; if not, replace it. That would include the doorbell, the light fixtures, the door handles/locks, mailbox, etc.

3. Trim any trees and shrubs to allow lots of light inside and to make your house easily visible from the street. Remove any dead or dying trees or shrubs.

4. Keep the lawn free of weeds and freshly mowed.

5. Replace or repair steps and/or walkway if needed.

6. Move children’s toys, bikes and garbage/recycling bins, hoses to an inconspicuous area.

7. Touch up paint/caulking if needed.

8. Paint or stain the steps, veranda, deck and fence if needed.

How to make your house REALLY stand out (and get those buyers in your door)?

1. Paint your front door a bright color to make it pop.

2. Add shutters and paint them to complement the door color. If you already have shutters, paint them a complementary color.

3. Plant some annuals for lots of color.

4. Spread bark mulch to clean up messy areas.

5. Add a couple of urns with flowers on each side of the front door.

6. Hanging baskets are great, especially if you have a front veranda.

7. Add a small bistro table/chairs, or two comfortable chairs on the front veranda/step if there is room.

8. Don’t forget the back of your house! If you have a deck, arrange an eating area and a lounging area with some nice patio furniture. Flowers in large flower pots always add appeal.

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Buying a Home and Your Credit Report

Have you been looking at the housing market and thinking you want to buy a home?

Ads are everywhere listing properties, in fact, it would be hard to make it through a day without seeing eye-catching photos of your possible dream home.

But before you fall in love with that home – any home – do you know what your credit score is? When is the last time you checked your credit report?

Those two things should always be the first steps you take when you start thinking about buying a home.

Any lender will pull reports from all three bureaus and take the median score so it’s important to know the information on all three.

The free versions of the reports do not include your score; however, you can pay a small fee to have that included.

Some credit cards provide you with your free score so check if that is available to you. But don’t open a new account just to get your score!

A score of 740 or higher should qualify for the best mortgage rates. Anything below 640 is going to make it difficult to qualify.

Get your free copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus at


First review your report for accuracy. Check all names listed, including spelling, former addresses and account information. You can dispute any errors to all credit bureaus online.

If all items are accurate but perhaps not favorable, it is best to focus your attention on rebuilding your credit. It’s not always easy but there isn’t anything on your credit report that “time and/or money” can’t fix. There are great resources online or at your local library if you need guidance. For example, Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball Method” advises to make all your minimum payments and focus any available extra onto the account with the smallest balance. Once that account is paid off, add that payment to the next smallest account and so on until you are debt free. Mortgage lenders are also happy to talk with you about ways to repair your credit.

Most importantly, know that no “credit repair services” can do anything you can’t do for yourself – for free.

Negative account information will stay on your credit report for seven years from the date of the original delinquency. Once negative accounts have been paid off, all you can do is wait. It doesn’t take the entire seven years for your score to start increasing but patience is required.

Repairing your credit is simple. Not often easy but simple.


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Avoiding The Pitfalls Of First Time Home Buying

Viewing a house can be exciting. You can imagine yourself living the good life as you would be living on your own home. That said, purchasing your first home could also be daunting and in fact concerning if you ever heard of first time homebuyer’s problems. Aside from moldy insulating panels and infestations, buying a nice home without any problem can be slim and if you are considering a new home, it can be quite expensive and might not fit your budget.

If you are buying or considering purchasing a home, then you might benefit from the following tips below.

Two Eyes are better than one

While you may be impressed by the sweet talk of the real estate agent, having someone with you can help you a lot especially if the agent is not paying attention to that person. Your friend or your relative can help you spot some problems of the house and if they have their own homes chances are, they would be able to check places that can cause problems especially if they experience it first-hand. Second person would also help you make an informed decision as they can also ask questions that you have not thought about preventing you from making a quick decision that you may regret later. Your friend can also take a video or photo of the rooms, window fixtures, furnishings and other details that you may find useful.

The Early Bird catches the Worm

One trick that can really help you decide is to arrive a few minutes early to take a good look and feel of not only the property, but also its neighborhood. This would allow you to see if the place is in good location and safe. If you do not feel safe or feel threatened then it is best to politely decline after the tour.

What you should ask Your Agent

It can be hard to ask questions if you do not know what to ask and as such, it is important to have a checklist of things that you think is important to you. It is also essential that you talk with the agent about the previous owners if it is not a new home. If it is newly built, then ask the agent about the neighborhood, possible taxes, and what the developed land used to be. Some homes are built on reclamation lands that are used to be bodies of water, if it is, then it is important that you know which developer it is and what potential problems one might face.

These are just some of the things that you may want to avoid especially if you are considering buying your first home. If budget is of no issue then you might also hire an assessor to check the house for you. You have to pay some but it will be worth it in the end.

There are some cool apps that you can download to your phone that can help when you are looking for a new property. House Inspector App is a software application that is available for Android and iOS and is a convenient way to view the house.

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Real Estate Marketing as an Art Form

While there are a lot of practical skills involved in the processes required to complete a transaction related to any type of property, there is also a certain amount of creativity that needs to go into the marketing process if you are looking to ensure that your agency stands out from the crowd.

In many ways, real estate marketing can be considered something of an art form. Get it right and you will find you have no trouble attracting offers for the properties you’re working with. Get it wrong, however, and you may find yourself with a lot of angry customers who can’t understand why their properties aren’t attracting the attention they believe they deserve.

You will need a number of creative skills to successfully market a property, so we will look at the three most important ones here.


More than 90% of house hunters use the web to start their search, which means that the first impression they get of any property is going to be an online listing. If they don’t like what they see, it only takes a click of the mouse to move on to the next one.

That’s why it is important to get the photography right when marketing a property. Nobody wants to buy a house that looks dark and dingy, so understand the importance of proper lighting and framing in all of the shots you take. Every photo should show the house in the best possible light, so anything less than that should be discarded.

Written Copy

So let’s assume that your photos are brilliant and the potential buyer has been enticed into finding out a little bit more about the property. This is where you will need to exhibit a number of written skills to make sure you keep their attention and convince them to communicate with you with a view to actually looking at the property.

Aside from the basics, such as proper spelling and grammar, your listing needs to make the house sound remarkable without being too salesy. Always stay honest, but be sure to accentuate the positives and downplay the negatives. If the house has a feature that is going to prove attractive, make sure it is front and centre in the written copy so that it attracts attention.


Now that the advert itself is working its magic, your final step is ensuring that the property itself looks the part before anybody comes to view it. Proper staging of the rooms and exterior can make all of the difference between attracting a serious buyer and having somebody want to walk out as soon as they set foot in the door.

Make sure that the house looks presentable on a practical level, meaning fresh licks of paint and tidying up where needed, before focusing on staging the rooms. Make sure that each room is displayed to highlight all of its positives. This means proper use of lighting and furniture arrangements that display how much space is available and the potential that the room offers to a potential buyer.

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The FHA 203k Rehabilitation Loan

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 203K mortgage loan allows home buyers to finance additional monies into their mortgage for household repairs, upgrades, or improvements. The majority of homebuyers embark on a home improvement project within 90 days of purchasing their new home. In addition to starting new home improvement projects, many new homebuyers purchase appliances shortly after buying their new home. Home improvements and new appliances can be costly and add significant financial burden to most household budgets, especially after acquiring a new mortgage. To lessen the burden of these costs, FHA created the 203k rehabilitation mortgage. This loan product is a favorable alternative for many homebuyers who intend to undertake home improvement projects or purchase appliances for their new home. Because the FHA 203K mortgage offers permanent financing, a borrower will only need to obtain one loan to finance both the purchase and rehabilitation of the property. An appraisal is completed based on the current and the projected value of the property.

The FHA rehabilitation mortgage comes in 2 basic types. The first is the regular 203K loan, which can be used for properties that have significant repairs exceeding $35,000, or if the property is in need of structural repairs (including room additions). The second type of rehabilitation mortgage is the 203K streamlined loan; this version is available for the purchase of a house in need of minor repairs, such as: painting, new air conditioner or furnace, or painting.

The maximum mortgage that is available on a 203K loan is calculated as follows: the as is value of the property plus the repair costs, or 110% of the estimated value of the property once all the repairs have been completed. An FHA appraisal would be needed for these calculations. As with all FHA loans, the down payment requirement is 3 ½%. For FHA 203K loans, the down payment is determined by the total acquisition cost (which is the sales price plus the cost of repairs).

For either the regular FHA 203K or streamlined loan product, an itemized contractors estimate is required thoroughly listing all the repairs to be completed. The contractor will need to be licensed, registered in the city where the work is to be performed, and insured. If a full 203K loan is needed, a licensed FHA consultant will be required in addition to the licensed contractor. All 203K loans will have a contingency reserve added to the mortgage to cover any unforeseen expenses during the repair or improvement phase. The contingency reserve typically adds a 10 to 20% cushion to the contractor’s estimate. This is added so there will be enough funds to complete the repairs in the event that the repairs end up costing more than the original estimate suggested. The contractor’s repair work should be completed on a 203K loan within six months after the house transfers into the borrower’s name. If the house is uninhabitable, there is also a provision which allows a borrower to roll up to six months of mortgage payments into the loan. This is to offset living expenses, if the borrower has to live elsewhere during the remodeling.

Eligible improvements for the FHA 203K mortgage programs include:

• Remodeling Kitchen and Baths

• Modernizing Plumbing, Heating, Air-Conditioning, and Electrical Systems

• Roofing, Gutters, and Downspouts

• Windows, Flooring, Tiling, and Carpeting

• Energy Conservation Improvements

• Improvements for Accessibility

• New Freestanding Appliances

• Lead-Based Paint Stabilization or Abatement of Lead-Based Paint Hazards

• Structural Alterations in Reconstruction (Full 203k only)

All health, safety, and energy conservation items must be addressed prior to completing any general improvements. Luxury improvements are not eligible under this program. Construction or additions can only be financed under the full 203K program (refer to for details).

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What Stays with a Home Upon the Sale?

Let’s admit that sometimes it never crosses a buyer’s mind as to what is staying with the house after the transaction closes. In the MLS listing details, it shows what is included in the sale of the home. But that can often be overlooked. Normal items that are included are a dishwasher, oven/range, microwave and the refrigerator. But there are other potential items that can also be commonly transferred in a sale. These include a washer/dryer, a pool table or a children’s play structure.

What’s Included in the Sale and What’s Not?

It’s a great question to ask and also to think about. Anything that is attached to the property is generally considered as a “fixture”. These types of items include built-in shelving units, window shades and shutters, ceiling fans and lighting. But, in many home sales, it can be more complicated as a seller may have a stained glass light fixture that is sentimental to them and, therefore, exclude the item from the sale of the property. Excluding personal property from a sale can be done contractually and is not an unusual request that we see from sellers. Other items that commonly are sold with the house may include a flat screen TV, wine cooler or bar refrigerator.

For the Seller

If you have an item (such as a chandelier that is a family heirloom), the easiest thing to do is to remove the fixture before listing the house and replace it with a new fixture. By doing so, you can ensure less confusion and provide for a smoother transaction.

For the Buyer

If a buyer is unsure of what stays versus what goes, then the best thing to do is ask. Should the buyer want something specifically to stay with the home, then the best thing to do is put it in the contract. The pre-closing walkthrough can also be a great time for the buyer to make sure that the seller didn’t remove items that were supposed to stay with the property. While traditional sales usually don’t have any complications with regards to fixtures, many short sales have been notorious for the sellers illegally removing the fixtures. Some agents have even seen sellers take all of the light bulbs out of light fixtures as well as any batteries out of smoke detectors. When a seller does violate a contract and takes fixtures, a buyer doesn’t have much recourse.

These items are typically included in the sale of a home:

Hardware: This can include specialized light switch plates, drawer knobs or cabinet pulls.

Landscaping: Basically anything that is planted in the ground should stay. Moveable planters/ pots are usually taken by the seller. Whereas planting beds stay with the property.

Custom items specific to the home: Plantation shutters, custom-made blinds and curtains.

Built-ins: Window seats, bookshelves and benches.

Smoke detectors, sprinkler systems and carbon monoxide detectors.

Alarm systems: Unless they are wireless or have certain restrictions through the alarm company for transfer of ownership.

Wall mounts: Many homes have mounted flat screen TV’s. If the removal of the wall mount may damage the wall then it may be best to leave them in place for the new owner to utilize.

Appliances: Most commonly included in the sale are the oven/range, dishwasher and microwave. Refrigerators are also sold with the property as well. Note that some lenders will not approve a loan if an oven is not installed. Leaving appliances can be an enticing incentive to purchase a home as many buyers like to move in without the hassle of buying appliances.

Air conditioning units: Obviously, the larger ones are a fixture of the property and an attraction for buyers. However, a portable air conditioner in a bedroom window can either sell with the property or be taken by the seller.

The general rule of thumb when selling is that if it is nailed down, then it stays with the property. The topic of what stays with a home versus what goes with one is something that is brought up in every listing contract and further spelled out in the MLS listing details. As a home buyer or seller, it is important to understand what stays with the home.

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