Part 1 of 4: Spring Gardening – Pre-Work Makes for Post-Work Success

As the cold weather has mostly faded and the nature around us begins budding, it beckons those of us with a hands-on desire to consider spring gardening.  Once again thoughts of a successful planting season have arrived.  Even in the south, it is not too late to start the process of producing a beautiful and productive garden.  Another reason to tackle your outdoor surroundings is to add to the beauty and visual appeal of your home.  Over the next few weeks BidSelect will examine different types of gardening and outline tips to help you succeed.  This week, we will look at the preparation of the garden itself and how pre-work makes for post-work success.

SpringGardening.b 300x200 Part 1 of 4: Spring Gardening – Pre Work Makes for Post Work SuccessTo start, always have a clean slate.  Never start the fun chores of planting and designing your garden until the hard chores of preparing the area have been completed.  The preparation of the garden is just as important as what you choose to plant.  First you will need to clear out all that has accumulated over the past season.  Trim back any overgrowth, including trees, large bushes, crawling vines, and prune plants like rose bushes, shrubs, and smaller trees until you see the outline of your garden area.  It may sound odd but also clear out your rain gutters and spouts, as well as check your lawn sprinkler system, your irrigation will be important throughout the season.  Remove any ground debris such as rocks, branches, and the lost ball from the neighbor’s yard.   Now that you have cleared the area, take time to mow and treat the lawn with a good weed-n-feed for your area.  Your local nursery horticulturist will be happy to help with this as well as identify the correct bug and pest control treatment.  They will also be able to assist you in any needed treatment for your planned garden beds as it relates to the soil and its nutrients.  For the most part you now have a clean slate to work from.

This is where the fun chores begin.  Now you can step back and design your creation to be.  Begin to plan out where you will plant as well as what you will plant.  Are you going to focus on larger items such as bushes and towering flowers to increase your curb appeal or will you focus on the backyard and plant vegetables, blooming fragrant arrangements, or just spruce up areas for the visual enjoyment of guests you may be entertaining.  Spring gardening involves a host of ideas but also includes decision making and keeping focused on achieving your goal so that you do not become frustrated and give up.

In part 2 of our series we will examine vegetable gardening.

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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What to Look For in a Green Home

GreenHome 300x300 What to Look For in a Green HomeSearching for your next real estate purchase can have you asking what to look for in a green home.  Being environmentally conscious is a global responsibility that we are all increasingly aware of.  Moving beyond the basics of simple recycling and watering restrictions, home builders have begun to target the earth friendly segment of homebuyers by also, going green.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has an informative website on many aspects of building green.  They define this as, ‘… the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle…’.  Builders are starting to incorporate and look for ways to efficiently use water, energy, and building materials in new construction.  Some builders are even advertising green builds and energy efficiency as their specialty.

During your search for the right piece of real estate, consider what to look for in a green home.  Starting with small things such as recycled material for less waste consider everything from flooring, carpet, wood and organics, to countertops, glass tiles, and accent pieces.  Did you know that there is even recycled drywall material, plastic lumber, and fabric made from plastic bottles?  There have been remarkable improvements throughout the industry.  It no longer is just about low-flow toilets and solar panels.

Larger things also play a role in making a home green.  Remarkably a two story home is actually more energy efficient then a one story home by about 15 percent.  The facing direction of windows and how they correlate to the presence of the sun, as well as the airflow within a home makes a difference.  With any new home purchase, generally there is a home inspection, when doing this; consider including a certified home energy audit.  Take the time to walk the grounds around the home, making sure that native plants are being utilized.  A system to make use of rain water and permanent foundation drips are also green and incentives for the conscious minded buyer.

Being energy efficient also ties into having a green home.  A home certified as Energy Star Compliant provides energy efficient savings of up to 30 percent in comparison to a typical standard home.  You can find information on this and many other benefits of Energy Star at  All appliances and windows should be Energy Star compliant and will be labeled as such.  Another certification that you can look for is that a home is LEED certified.  Directly from their website, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is internationally recognized as a green building certification program verifying ‘…that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance, increasing energy savings, water efficiency, and carbon emissions reduction, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts, and improving indoor environmental quality.

Take your time and investigate the use of not only green minded builders but real estate agents as well.  The demand for going green has increased and with the improvements being made in production of green material and sustainable items as well as more availability in the market, the affordability of going green is now more of an option for homebuyers then before.  You might also consider purchasing a HUD home using FHA’s Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) to not only finance the purchase of a home, but also include the cost of energy-saving, cost-efficient improvements through a single mortgage.

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current HUD homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Move Smoothly


MakeYourMoveSmooth How to Move SmoothlyTo ensure the excitement of your new address remains, you must know how to move smoothly.  Happiness can quickly turn to frustration and disappointment when things go wrong.  The greatest asset to possibly enjoying your move is to plan ahead.  Planning should start at least two months ahead of the actual move date if not sooner.

Planning should start at least two months ahead of your actual move date if not sooner.  Allowing extra time in securing resources is a good idea, as well as starting conversations with those that have already been through this process, to researching options on the internet.  In addition, we’ve outlined a general timeline and a list of action items to consider. know how to move smoothly.  Happiness can quickly turn to frustration and disappointment when things go wrong.  The greatest asset to possibly enjoying your move is to plan ahead.

Once you know you will move

  • Create a binder to organize the event and store any contracts, receipts, ideas, checklists, follow-up reminders and confirmations.  Carry the binder with you so that you have it for reference when needed.

6-8 weeks before your move

  • Tasks and Involvement – Decide what and who
    • Major considerations include packing and transportation of your belongings
    • What will you do on your own and what will you hire a professional for
  • Budget – Create one and stick to it
    • Consider all costs both large and small, such as
    • Professional services, e.g. packing, transportation and cleaning
    • Supplies, e.g. boxes, bubble wrap, tape, rope and a dolly for appliances
    • Utility connections, e.g. charges for transfers, deposits, etc.
    • Allow for possible overages by including a contingency fund
  • Belongings – Decide what to keep and what to eliminate.
    • Now is a good time to eliminate the extras, unwanted, and unused items
    • Closets, basements, attics, and forgotten corners are great places to start
    • A garage sale would boost your move budget and also lighten the packing needs
  • Records – Arrange for transfers and updates
    • Medical records, school records, legal records, even your gym memberships
  • Perishable Items – Begin to thin out
    • Visit your pantry instead of the grocery store or local market
    • Find ways to create new menus with your produce and frozen products to reduce stock

- 4-5 weeks before your move

  • Boxes – Start collecting (strong and sturdy to withstand the travel)
  • Inventory – Document all valuables and determine the best way for them to arrive safely
  • Frequently Used Items – Create a package box, everything from scissors, tape, color coded labels, markers, box cutters, bubble wrap, even snack and sandwich bags for little items, as well as handy man tools such as a screw driver and hammer.  With extra people helping you pack, you may want two or more of some items.

- 2-3 weeks before your move

  • Packing – Start the process beginning with items rarely utilized and bulk belongings
  • Address Notifications – Consider not only the U. S. Postal Service but also your subscription suppliers, friends, work, creditors, banks, DMV, and any other establishment with whom you will maintain contact with or continue correspondence
  • Utility Services – Work with your utility, as well as phone/cable/internet providers to schedule the transfer of or discontinue and start service at your new address. It is usually good to overlap service in each location by one day of your expected occupancy.
  • Locksmith – If you purchased an existing home, plan to have all locks changed before you arrive

-  1 week before your move

  • Survival Box - Pack just enough personal items, prescriptions, clothing and household goods for the first few days of your stay
  • Departure/Arrival Checklist – Have a list ready of what all needs to be done upon leaving the old and arriving at your new location.  Consider backing up your computer.
  • Cash In Hand – Withdraw some pocket money for any last minute needs

-  Day of your move

  • Keep Eyes Open – Watch everything closely, walk through with the movers and reiterate any previously given directions and or expectations
  • Friends/Family - If possible have someone at the new location as well as at the current home to provide essential directions
  • Directions/Phone Numbers - Create a list for everyone involved

-  Last box unloaded

  • Relax, you made it! The hard part is over and now you’re able to begin the personalization of your new home.  Congratulations!

While the above is a general review of those things that need to take place, every situation will be different.  A starter home to a retirement dream home can come with unique challenges and specific needs prior to moving in.  Take the time to review your own situation and plan accordingly.  There are many sites available with recommendations, here are a few found to be very useful: / / as well as

Whether you are moving up, moving down, moving in, or moving out, plan ahead and remember the tips on how to move smoothly!

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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What is Escrow?

What is Escrow?

When a seller and buyer have agreed to and sSale.Escrow.Sold  e1394565204611 What is Escrow?igned a real estate purchase agreement or contract, it is time to begin the escrow process, but what is escrow?  Unless you are a professional in the real estate or financial arena there is seldom talk of escrow except for when you decide to purchase or sell a home.  Escrow, as defined by the dictionary is ‘a bond, deed, or other document kept in the custody of a third party, taking effect when a specified condition has been fulfilled’.  Simplified for the business of real estate, escrow is when a third party becomes responsible for ensuring that all agreed upon terms and instructions of a signed real estate purchase contract are completed and or followed before the lender releases the home purchase money and the deed is transferred to the new owner.  The area of the United States that you are in will play a large part on who handles the escrow.  Sometimes it is the closing attorney and other times it is an escrow agent or even the title company.  Escrow is essentially a process and the protection of the fair transfer of property from the seller to the buyer.  Everyone’s goal is the get from ‘For Sale’ to ‘Sold’ as smoothly as possible and with little to no issues.  When a property is listed as ‘Pending’ it is going through and clearing the escrow process.

The third party guiding and ensuring the escrow process for the sale and purchase of a home works for both the lender/buyer and the seller.  The process to complete all the stipulations of the real estate purchase agreement can be arduous.   Both the buyer and seller will have their tasks to complete in order to process the escrow through to close.  It is the responsibility of the third party to hold and guard all funds or documents in their possession until close and to distribute monies and convey the title to the new owner once all provisions have been met by both parties.  Not only do they oversee but they also pay authorized bills and follow the principals (the buyer & the seller) instructions as well.

On average, typical closing costs are between 2 percent and 5 percent of the purchase price of the home.  However, only a portion of this is part of your escrow.   Based on the negotiations and the written contract many escrow payments are split between the buyer and seller based on what is deemed ‘their costs’ of the escrow fees.  This amount generally totals to between 1 percent and 2 percent of the cost of the home.  At or shortly after closing the escrow will close and a new deed in the name of the buyer is recorded in the escrow office and the seller will obtain their payment for the home.  It is not unusual for some money to be held in escrow in order to pay contractors for work that has not yet been completed or invoiced.

Knowledge is always your best source for gaining the best outcome.  Having a reputable agent on your side is highly recommended.  If you are looking to purchase or sell a home and you are not currently working with a real estate agent, is a great source for trained professionals in your area.

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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FHA vs. Conventional Loans

fha.conventional 200x300 FHA vs. Conventional LoansNow that you are in the hunt for that perfect home, the most common financial question is around the differences between FHA vs. Conventional loans.  Tighter restrictions, closer evaluations, and lower limits have been the talk of many banks and brokers as well as concerns for most borrowers.

There are some big differences in the top two loan options, FHA and Conventional.  FHA loans require little down payment and are backed by the federal government.  On the other hand, conventional loans are backed by private entities and require a larger down payment.  Both types of loans provide for fixed as well as adjustable interest rates over the life of the loan.  Typically the buyer’s credit score, available down payment and financial risk to the lender weigh heavily on which option is selected.

Since the FHA is not the one to provide the loan but rather insure its payment to the lender it is much easier for buyers, especially first-time buyers, to obtain funding.  Even with lower credit scores and a bankruptcy, buyers still have the opportunity of purchasing a home with an FHA loan.  With a higher credit score and an increased available amount for your down payment, you may qualify for a conventional loan which usually processes faster and has the ability to build equity faster.  The amount of borrowers seeking a FHA vs. Conventional loan is less simply due to the fact that over the long run while your monthly payments may be lower with FHA your overall costs to own the home will be less on average with a Conventional loan.

Rules and guidelines are always changing and it is a good idea to speak with several people regarding your purchase funding. Research is the key to finding the best option when comparing FHA vs. Conventional loans. Don’t be fooled by biased information and work to stay focused on facts.  Keep in mind that not all banks and or brokers are licensed to provide all types of loans so do not be afraid to ask questions and look around.  Below is a quick comparison of the basic differences in the two types of loans.

FHAvsConventional FHA vs. Conventional Loans

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.


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Should You Buy a Condo or a Townhome?

CondoOrTownhome 202x300 Should You Buy a Condo or a Townhome?When expanding your search for a new home, should you buy a condo or a townhome could be a question you ask.  These are the most common options outside of a standalone residence.  With each of these having unique community characteristics it is often better to review the major differences and how one or the other fits into your lifestyle and basic residential needs. 

Deciding should you buy a condo or a townhome can be a bit confusing.  While there can be exceptions to the norm, a condo is generally found in a multi-storied building and can have an apartment feel.   A townhome is usually found as connected rows in single to two story communities.  There is a wide range of styles to both ranging from the multi-million dollar skyline views in the middle of Manhattan to a small suburban retreat.  You will also find amenities in both such as community pools, gyms, playgrounds and other beneficial common areas.  There are many options available in both a condo and to some extent a townhome, but not all will have the same features or the same associated fees. 

One main difference between a condo and a townhome is the amount of ownership.  If you purchase a condo you will own from the sheetrock inward while if you were to purchase a townhome you would own the land on which it was built and the outside brick as well as the sheetrock inward.  

The required exterior maintenance of a condo and community common area, those areas that are available for use by all owners, is maintained by the Home Owners Association which can also be known as the Condominium Owners Association.  On the other hand, a townhome owner will maintain their own exterior while if there are any common areas they would be maintained by a governing association.   Not all townhomes will have common areas.  With the different levels of maintenance for both condos and townhomes are a popular choice for not only for retirees but also for traveling trend setters.  There is an appeal for all walks of life in these options.

The governing associations also differ not only in the amount of overall exterior maintenance, and rules and regulations enforced, but also in the association leadership itself.  Condo associations are usually part of a corporate unit that specializes in community management with resident elected board members to represent you.  Townhome associations typically are community elected members who oversee the community and enforce regulations with little to no corporate oversight. You will find that in most condos you will have a monthly fee payable to the association, while a townhome association fee is generally paid quarterly.  Also in a townhome, if there is a large repair needed to a common area, it is possible for a vote to mandate a shared payment to cover the cost.  However, both condo and townhome associations allow you to be involved in community decisions to some extent.  Your level of involvement in the community, as well as the level of return involvement from the association, may also make a difference in your decision. With either choice you will have rules to follow but in return you will have the benefits of shared areas, less maintenance and the feeling of like neighbors.  Meaning, there will be a greater equality in the areas appearance and curb appeal.

While there are no set guidelines making all condos or townhome communities the same across the nation, the great thing about them both is the overall affordability, generally better neighborhoods and a greater quality of living without the level of upkeep required in a single family detached home. 

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Selling Your Home In Winter

Selling Your Home in Winter 300x199 Selling Your Home In WinterSelling your home in winter is not considered as the optimal time, but it’s not impossible.  While movement slows in the winter months there are still buyers who are looking for and evaluating real estate.

Having a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent to guide you is highly encouraged during any season but especially in an off season.  You are truly the best resource to sell your home and most real estate professionals will sit down with you to learn more about the ‘little things’ that can peak buyer interest.  Your home exudes a certain style and personality, and your real estate agent will need your help to identify and highlight the subtle differences.

Buyers have a vast array of media sources reaching out to them, from the internet to social to radio and TV.  When talking with your agent, consider how you can address the five senses in your marketing campaign.

  • SightSometimes curb appeal is emphasized more than the first open door impression.  While it is important to keep your drive and walk ways clear of ice and clean of clutter, it is also important to impact your buyer visually upon entrance.  Make it warm and inviting that begs those who enter to relax and stay awhile.  Put up all personal items, removed excessive decor and organize your closets.  Conscious buyers look everywhere.  The little things such as fluffing pillows, opening the blinds to reveal natural light through clean and clear windows, and vacuuming the floor make a difference.
  • Sound Stand at your front door or main entrance.  What do you hear?  While street noise or the neighbor’s animal may be unavoidable, you can ease the irritation once buyers enter your home.  Play classical or jazz music softly in the background.  You will have a better chance of holding the attention of a buyer that is relaxed and feeling comfortable.
  • SmellThis can be tricky.  Start by addressing what buyers do not want to smell.  Have an honest friend or your real estate agent evaluate each room.  You will want to address odors from pets, and focus on rooms that can have odors from general use, like the kitchen and bathroom.  Strong scents are not preferred.  Instead, focus on achieving a soft and clean scent.  For the kitchen, baking cookies or simmering winter stew is acceptable; just don’t combine your scents.  A confused nose is a leaving nose.
  • TouchIt is human nature.  Buyers will examine, touch and feel what they are looking at.  Clean all counter tops and hard surfaces; no one wants greasy fingers after rubbing their hand over the granite in your kitchen.  If it can be turned on, lifted up or pushed, it will be touched.  The temperature of your home is very important.  Make sure it is warm and cozy to the skin.  If you have a fireplace, consider lighting it.  Glowing candles hit on three of the senses by providing a pleasant scent, warm visual glow and can also give buyers a feeling of warmth. 
  • Taste Viewing multiple homes in one day can leave buyers a little hungry and thirsty.  Use this to your advantage.  A plate of fresh cookies, packaged snacks and bottled water turn your home into a welcomed oasis.  The kitchen is vastly considered the heart of the home and what better place to make buyers to feel at ease.  Use the opportunity to display your marketing flyer or ‘to go’ card highlighting your home’s features and display a small thank you sign.  As buyers reflect back on the homes they toured, yours will stand out. 

Selling your home in winter should not be thought of as an impossible task, but it does beg for a different marketing approach.  Remember that as the homeowner, you are a valuable asset and have a role to play in the selling of your home.

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Things Every New Home Buyer Needs To Know

20140102 NewHomeOwners 200x300 Things Every New Home Buyer Needs To KnowBuying a home is much more involved and detailed than picking the next car you sport around in.  There are things that every new home buyer needs to know.  From finding your perfect location to signing on that dotted line at closing, make sure that you take the time to understand what happens in-between as well as around the home for years to come.

There are many steps to buying a home.  Making a list to start your home buying process is a great beginning.  Have you considered your needs?  Take a look at current arrangements.  If you see no changes in your near future your search criteria will be far different from that of someone who expects life changes within the next few years.  Will your family be expanding, is being close to work important or do you plan to retire soon, is it possible that other family members may need to move in with you, or will the children be heading off on their own?  There are varieties of considerations from those about the home itself to the appreciation of what is in the local community which will affect the quality of life and your home buying experience.  Concentrate on an area that will meet your needs for several years or more down the road.

Now that you have the general idea of what you are looking for and the area in which you would like to live, let’s look at some basic things every new home buyer needs to know:

  • Overall Cost of Ownership – Does the neighborhood have a Home Owners Association and does that require monthly, quarterly or annual payments?  Most homes have a yard to maintain and there is also the cost of monthly upkeep from cleaning, to repairs, to basic maintenance.
  • Range of Affordability – Get qualified for financing and understand that you do not have to spend all that you qualify for.  Securing the funding is also a good idea.  Knowing what you can spend narrows down your options.  If you are a first time buyer you will have more options afforded to you, such as local assistance programs.  Look at area offerings and qualifications.
  • Your Perspective Community – Research everything from local schools to area attractions.  Even the proximity of major roads makes a difference in home values.  The local city and county office should be a resource in reviewing future community plans such as commercial or residential building.
  • Ready Set Maintenance – Are you handy with tools?  Just because a home states that it has ‘updates galore’ and is ‘move-in ready’ does not mean that all or any work was done by a licensed professional.  If you are able to find a home that needs repair, there is benefit to placing some of your own sweat equity into the preparations and repair of a home considered to be a ‘fixer-upper’.  Make a list of what you can do on your own or with minimal assistance.
  • Down Payment – Being able to place 5-20% or more down is always a good idea and creates immediate equity in your home.  Base your down payment on the affordability of your monthly payments, as well as holding a reserve for home improvements once you move in.  The more you can use towards a down payment, the better off you will be.
  • Prepare For Negotiation – Your agent will do all the negotiating with the seller’s agent but don’t be afraid to become creative in your offer.  Additionally, if something comes up during your home inspection, use this in your negotiations.  Make a list of items that you can leverage and make sure that you ask questions.  This may be your home for years to come and asking questions will not offend your agent.
  • Understand the Process – It is not an activity that can be completed in a day or even a week.  Know the importance of each phase of the process and don’t be manipulated into rushing to sign or skip steps.  And never sign anything that you haven’t read and thoroughly understand.
  • Be Prepared to Walk Away – Most important, you do not have to buy a house to have your American dream.  The dream is different for all of us and you are allowed to just walk away before committing to binding legal documents if you don’t feel comfortable.

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit  Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Now that you have decided to buy a home, there is a method of purchase that could work well for you.  Taking advantage of a lease option to buy could be the best way for your current situation if you have a credit rating or history that is no longer acceptable to the mortgage banks, or you have been transferred due to employment requirements and are not familiar with the new location. There are varieties of reasons that a buyer may consider the lease option to buy a home.  In turn, there are also a few reasons that a seller may consider this route and it has the potential to benefit both the buyer and seller.

LeaseOptionToBuy 300x225 LEASE OPTION TO BUY A HOMEThe term lease option or rent-to-own is where the occupant becomes a renter making monthly payments to live in the home with a certain negotiated percentage of each payment going towards a down payment, or towards equity in the home.  When the length of the lease is completed, usually after one to three years, the renter has the option to purchase the property or walk away.  Do not confuse this with lease to purchase as this requires the renter to purchase the home at the end of the lease. 

Advantages to participating in a lease option with a seller can bring relief to a struggling buyer.  If you are in a position where you do not qualify for a mortgage loan, or you do not have enough savings to put towards a down payment there may be a seller willing to work with you.  Or perhaps a new area has your interest but you desire a closer review of the local school system and or neighborhood to ensure that it is a good fit for your growing family.  Additionally you have the advantage of being able to lock in the purchase price at the time your lease contract is signed.  The ability to rebuild a less than perfect credit report or save some money is desirable to many prospective homeowners.  Remember that percentage of the rent that is being set aside each month towards a down payment?  If you do decide to purchase this will be yours to use but if you decide that you do not want to purchase the home you will lose most if not all of that money.

The seller also has an advantage in that they are able to generate income by having occupants live in the home.  It is not uncommon for a home to sit on the market after the seller has purchased another home.  Being responsible for two mortgages can be very stressful.  Given the current nature of the housing market, there may be fewer sellers in your area who are offering a lease option to buy deal. Knowing the trends in the desired area will help you with your negotiations in working with a seller.  Additionally an advantage would be if the occupant decides not to buy you will have most if not all of the dollars submitted for down payment accumulations as well as your option fee.

Since there are varying protocols from state to state, and even county to county, as well as negotiations and written contracts involved you are better off having a real estate agent on your side.  A knowledgeable agent in a ‘lease option to buy’ transaction will work closely with you to ensure that the written contract is not putting you at a disadvantage.  From negotiating your option fee, monthly payments, and final price, an agent will be on your side.  When entering into a lease option to buy you must read all the fine print.  If one area of the contract is not followed it could cause you to negate or be in breach of the contract.  A real estate attorney would bring peace of mind if you have them review the contract prior to signing.  In all there are some major ‘must do’ items if you are looking for a lease option to buy: know the market area, use the service of a licensed real estate agent, have the property inspected, negotiate terms, and follow the contract.  Finally as with any major transaction, consistently maintain current and accurate records.  Everything from your payments to repairs and even maintenance costs should be recorded. This protects you and provides stronger qualifications when applying for a loan, as well as documented proof that you followed the lease contract.

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Steps to Buying a Home

Steps to Buying a Home 300x199 Steps to Buying a HomeAre you thinking about buying a home?  Knowing the steps to buying a home will assist in making the process a smooth transaction rather than a surprise filled struggle with possible regret.  There are many reasons that an individual or family will decide it is time to buy a home.  You may have expanded the family, become an empty nester, need to relocate for work, or just want a change of scenery. Whatever the reason for your new found desire, make sure you are knowledgeable and prepared for the process. 

Buyers cannot know enough or ask enough questions for what could be the largest investment of your life.  Below is a general guide for buyers to follow.  Each property, community, and even property seller will have unique circumstances to consider.  Along with this there are also special attributes to specific programs geared towards assisting buyers with home ownership. 

  • Should you buy or rent

–  Consider the costs associated with ownership.  If you currently rent, your expenses are very likely to be straight forward and contained for the most part.  However with homeownership there are expenses such as yard work, exterior and interior upkeep or repair, as well as taxes and insurance premiums once covered by someone else that you are now responsible for as the homeowner.  Take time to analyze the pros and cons of renting vs. buying to be sure you are financially ready.

  • Understand your finances

–  Have you checked your credit score? If there are any errors, have you corrected them?  The better your score the more finance options you will have and the better your loan qualification will be.  Look at everything from your debt to income ratio, your available funds for a down payment, inspections, closing costs, and even fees.  Large purchases prior to buying should be avoided.  Also, even though the touted rule of thumb is that your home’s cost should be around three to four times your household income, is this really feasible?  Can you afford that monthly payment as well as the everyday bills and maintain the lifestyle you would like to have?   You are best judge of what you can afford if you review everything honestly.  Remember you cannot know enough or ask enough questions.  Several mortgage calculators can be found on the web that can assist you in determining your spending limit.

  • Find a Mortgage Lender and obtain pre-approval

–  Once you have your finances in order, shop around and take the time to speak with multiple lenders and discuss the best finance options available to you. The main types are Interest only, Adjustable and Fixed rate mortgage loans.  There are pros and cons with each.   A pre-qualification letter, which is not a guarantee, shows how large a loan you may qualify for.  A pre-approval letter is a guarantee, as long as there are no drastic changes in your financial commitments or employment.  It doesn’t mean you have to spend to the pre-approved limit, but if you do find a home and you are ready to extend an offer it will be more enticing to the seller since your financing has been secured.  Some sellers require buyers to be pre-approved before they will consider your offer.

  • Find a Real Estate Agent

–  A good real estate agent is your best advocate and will be with you each step of the way.  Not only can they help you find a home, but their expertise is essential to a smooth process.  There are many rules, regulations, and paperwork that can make the smartest of homebuyers frustrated and slow the purchase down or worse cost you the home of your dreams.

–  Before you commit to an agent, understand their role and their loyalties.  A good agent will patiently work with you and help you understand the process from beginning to end.

  • Determine where you want to buy

–  Do you have a general idea of the area where you would like to focus your search for a home?  Your real estate agent should provide you with an evaluation of homes for sale and recently sold in your desired area, as well as information on schools, shopping, crime, services and transportation.  It’s important to understand the resale values, the turnover rate, and if there are any new developments in the area that could change the dynamics. 

  • Find your possible home match

–  Have you made a list of your ‘nice to have’ desires?  Always look deeper to not only consider what you would like to have, but what you must have in a home.  Look at the street, are the surrounding properties maintained, is there an HOA, does the sun rise to face your bedroom windows, will your current appliances fit, and so on. 

–  When you walk through a home do not be afraid to reach out and touch things.  Turn on some water, flush a toilet, open and close some windows, etc.  Function and daily comfort are items that are often overlooked.  Imagine your items in place, waking, sleeping, cooking, and having guests, and so on.  A homes flow and how you relate is essential.

  • Make your offer

–  Your agent plays a key role for you here.  They will gather research on neighborhood properties and help you draft and submit a fair and negotiable offer for your property of interest.  They will also guide you through the process of negotiation, which is very common and explain any items from the contract that are not clearly understood by you.

  • Once your offer is accepted get an inspection

–  Know before you close!  Make sure that you have a certified inspector look at and inspect your home.  The American Society of Home Inspectors is a useful site to review.  It is also recommended that you are present, although you do not have to be, when the inspection is done.  Your Real Estate Agent will also work with you to determine if additional inspections should be done for the property you are interested in.

  • Successfully close

–  Check and double check, call and follow-up your earlier calls, follow each day the progress of your closing as the date nears.  Address any questions immediately and do not be afraid to ask about charges you do not understand or disagree with.  Once you have completed the closing, signed all the papers, and the settlement is concluded, take a minute to enjoy the latest accomplishment and celebrate your new home!

It may seem as though there are many steps involved in purchasing your home, but do not let what may seem overwhelming keep you from the American dream. 

For more interesting information and household tips, stay tuned to this blog. For more information about buying or selling your home, or to see current homes in your area, visit Don’t forget to join our online community by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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