How to Buy Foreclosures

Notice of ForeclosureConsider buying foreclosed properties if you are looking for real estate bargains. Foreclosure is a legal process in which the insurer or lender repossesses the property from the borrower who defaulted on their loan. Foreclosures are easy to find with just a little work.

Here are nine tips to help you find the best foreclosures:

  1. Find a real estate agent: The first step is to get a reliable and trusted real estate agent. Never try to purchase a foreclosed property by yourself.
  2. Get pre-approved for a loan: If you’re not paying cash, pre-approval is a must. It means you have met with a loan officer and he or she has “pre-approved” you for a certain amount you can afford.
  3. Locate foreclosed properties: You can locate properties scheduled for foreclosure sales by checking classified newspaper ads for listings under Foreclosure Notices, Auction Sales or Sheriff’s Sales. But your real estate agent is your best source!
  4. Check with local lending institutions and government agencies: The FHA (Federal Housing Administration), HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) and local banks are also good places to find information about foreclosed properties.
  5. Inspect: Have the foreclosed property inspected to determine its condition and market value. There may be problems that you and your agent can’t see.
  6. Determine ownership: Identify potential ownership problems and find existing liens by having a title search conducted on the foreclosed property.
  7. Contact the trustee: Contact the trustee of the foreclosure sale to inquire about the minimum bid the lender will accept.
  8. Make an offer: Follow the submission guidelines carefully. Many offers are rejected due to incomplete paperwork or missing signatures.
  9. Obtain Title Insurance: Once you have purchased your foreclosure property, you must purchase title insurance, have the deed signed into your name and transfer the utilities.

Foreclosures can be complicated, so make yourself aware of your state’s legal procedures for acquiring foreclosed properties. Call or email me with any questions.

Definition and Obligations of a Dual Real Estate Agent

Another important step in their life togetherWhether you’ve decided to purchase a new home or list yours for sale, you’ll need to hire an experienced real estate agent. Selling and buying homes can be stressful, so you need to be able to trust and rely on your real estate agent to do what’s in your best interest, even if they’re acting as a dual agent.

While ‘dual agent’ might be a confusing term, it’s quite simple — the real estate agent is working for both the buyer and the seller of the home. As both parties will have a lot at stake, this could be perceived as a conflict of interest. Below are some of a dual agent’s obligations which are put in place to prevent a conflict of interest.

  • An agent should disclose dual agency – As soon as a real estate agent realizes that a buyer is seriously interested in a property on which they have a signed contract, they should immediately be honest with both parties about the possibility of dual agency.
  • Dual agents should represent both parties fairlyreal estate agents are ethically obligated to treat both the buyer and the seller equally should a dual agency occur.
  • Duel agents cannot disclose personal information – A dual agent cannot tell the other party about any personal issues associated with the selling or buying of the house, such as a divorce or financial distress. This is important because one party should not have the upper hand during negotiations.

If two agents within the same agency represent the buyer and seller, the transaction is still considered a dual agency.

It’s completely normal to be wary of a dual agency when it comes to selling or purchasing a home with a real estate agent. However, it is fairly common, and as long as all parties are treated equally, it usually works out quite well.

If you’re not comfortable with a dual agency arrangement, tell your real estate agent that you prefer to have him or her work exclusively for you. If he or she is unwilling to do that, find a new agent.

If you’d like to work with a professional real estate agent who always puts your best interests first, please give me a call or email me today.

Fix Those Squeaky Floors in Your Home

Wood Floor RepairGot a squeaky floor in your home? It can be an aggravation and leave a bad impression on prospective buyers walking through your home. You can fix squeaky floors fairly easily. Here are some options:

  • Sprinkle talc or powdered graphite over gaps in wood flooring. If your squeaks are caused by loosened boards rubbing against each other, graphite can act as a lubricant and take care of the squeak.
  • Face-nail boards back into place. If your squeak is caused by wood rubbing against loose nails, carefully nail them back down.
  • Shim it. If your problem is a gap between your flooring and joist, get someone to bounce on the squeak while you’re in the basement. When you can see where the gap is causing the squeak, insert a shim in the gap. The shim can either be made of tapered wood or recycled plastic. Don’t make it any thicker than it needs to be; you could cause another squeak.
  • Nail up through joists. If your squeaks are caused by sagging floor joists making your floor boards flex, you may be able to screw up through the joists and snug down the floor boards. Make sure your screws are a quarter-inch shorter than the depth of your flooring so they don’t penetrate your floor boards. This technique works whether you have wood floors or carpeting in your home.
  • Try a product like Squeeek No More. This is a solution for carpeted floors, allowing you to secure subflooring to joists through the carpet, and then break off the screws below the carpet pad.
  • Next time, install ceramic tile. It’s quiet and solid.

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Maximize Your Real Estate Investment Potential

dreams in the sky car home money and family - Stock Image_iStock_000027492559_LargeYour home is usually the most important and sizable investment you will ever make. Whether you’re buying a starter home or the home of your dreams, you can’t afford to invest in real estate that won’t steadily increase in value over time.

In order to assess a home’s potential and maximize your profit when it comes time to sell, we’ve compiled a list of five helpful questions to ask when choosing a property.

  1. Are businesses investing locally? Ask your potential neighbors about new businesses in the area and check the local papers. If businesses are investing, it’s a good sign that the neighborhood will continue to enjoy financial stability.
  2. What amenities are in the area? Buyers will pay a premium to be near amenities such as parks, civic centers and swimming pools. If current amenities are lacking, ask if there are any plans for future development. If not, it might be better to consider a neighborhood with more to offer.
  3. Does the neighborhood look like it’s being maintained? It’ll be tough to ask top dollar for your home, no matter how well you maintain it, if the neighborhood looks like it’s in decline.
  4. Are there a lot of foreclosures and rental properties? Be wary of neighborhoods seemingly devoid of homeowners. If other buyers aren’t actively investing in the community, home values are likely to decrease.
  5. Is there an active homeowner association or neighborhood organization? Communities with active residents tend to have the most growth potential and therefore the most stable home values.

Whether you plan to stay in the home for just a few years or for the rest of your life, don’t jeopardize your financial future by investing in real estate that has little prospect of improving in value.

Prepare Your Home For Inspection

Vent Pipe InspectionIf your home is on the market, you know there’s an inspection in your future. With that in mind, plan to spend a week or so getting ready for the inspection.

  1. Make sure the inspector has access to all areas of your home. Here are some of the most important places:
    1. Attic. If your attic is accessed through a closet, take time to clear away clutter so the inspector can get up there quickly and easily. Have a ladder at the ready if needed.
    2. Basement. Clear everything away from the exterior walls of the basement so they can be seen.
    3. Utilities. Clear around the furnace, air conditioner, water heater and circuit breaker boxes.
    4. Foundation. Clear brush away from the foundation.
  2. Keep electricity on. If your home is vacant, be sure to have the electricity turned on when the inspector comes. Otherwise many aspects of the inspection can’t be done, causing delay.
  3. Keep pilot lights lit. Again, if the home is vacant, make sure to have any gas appliances on to avoid delays in the inspection process.
  4. Print and copy documents of any mechanical upgrades and maintenance.
  5. Replace furnace filters.
  6. Replace burned out light bulbs.
  7. Check all receptacles. If any aren’t working, it could be a simple fix for a few dollars.

You don’t want any question marks on your home inspection report. This could be a perceived as a black mark against your home. Most sellers get nervous about the home inspection, but with these tips in mind, you can pave the way to a smooth, one-time process that is just another step in moving on.

Renting versus Buying a Home

HomeJust because you can buy a home does not always mean that you should. It’s important for you to consider if it is better for you to own or rent a home.

Here are five reasons you might want to rent:

  1. You may be moving within five years. It usually takes five years to break even on your home purchase or investment.
  2. You don’t want the responsibilities associated with being a homeowner. It can be expensive and time consuming to maintain a home.
  3. You have a bad credit report. If your score is below 620, you will not get a good interest rate.
  4. You have a high debt ratio. A high debt ratio means you may not qualify for a loan.
  5. You have job instability. If your job is not secure, it’s not a good idea to buy.

Here are four reasons you might want to buy:

  1. You want to build equity. The longer you own your home the more equity it will build. When you pay rent, that money goes down the drain.
  2. You get a tax break when you deduct mortgage interest.
  3. You want the emotional satisfaction of owning your own home.
  4. It’s an investment. With low interest rates and home prices, buying investment property is a wise decision.

Seek Professional Advice When Buying a Foreclosed Home

Foreclosure Warning Sign - Stock Image_iStock_000054397588_LargeWhen driving through local neighborhoods, you might notice many “For Sale” signs that have foreclosure banners attached to the top. While this distressed financial situation is unfortunate for the owner, a home in foreclosure could be a great investment for you.

Purchasing a foreclosed property might seem extremely complex. If you’re interested in a great real estate deal, but feel a little overwhelmed, it’s important to cut the confusion and contract with professionals who are experts in distressed properties. They can walk you through the process, eliminate foreclosure frustration and get you the best deal.

Here are a few tips to help you successfully buy a home in foreclosure:

  • Find a good real estate agent. When interviewing real estate agents, you want to make sure you find one who specializes in foreclosures. Then ask for referrals from clients who have been through this process with them — you can gain a lot of insight from people they’ve worked with.
  • Have the house thoroughly inspected. Most banks are selling foreclosed properties “as is.” This means the house could be in bad condition if it’s been stripped and abandoned. Make sure you have a good home inspector go over every inch to ensure there are no major issues.
  • Get quotes on renovations. After the inspector has given you a list of problems and needed updates, find a good contractor or two to take a look and give you an estimate on what they would charge to renovate. You’ll want to determine if the renovations are worth the investment.

Buying a foreclosure can be an amazing deal. And with the right professionals on your side, you’ll minimize your risk and come away with a great investment.

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Spring Clean for a Quick Real Estate Sale

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the first day of spring rapidly approaching, get in the spirit and do a little spring cleaning — especially if you’re putting your home on the market. It’s important for real estate to be clean and clutter-free in order to show better and sell quicker.

Whether you’re still living in the home or have completely moved out, there are many things you can do before the first open house to ensure everything is showing at its best. Below is a list that every real estate agent would love to see when they first evaluate real estate. 

  • Paint walls neutral colors. If your house has a ‘clinically white’ feeling or is on a psychedelic color spree, you’ll need to paint the rooms a neutral beige, tan or gray. Even if your rooms are already neutral, you might consider a new coat of paint to hide marks and give it a fresh feel.
  • Remove clutter and stage your home. You hear this over and over when it comes to preparing a house for sale. Sometimes it goes in one ear and right out the other. Leave just a few of your children’s favorite toys and make sure even the closet floors are bare. Take this one seriously — rent a storage unit if you need to — it’s usually worth the cost.
  • Straighten everything. Take the time to align your bookshelves, organize your closet and clean out your pantry. You can clean and dust nooks and crannies as you go.
  • Wipe down EVERY surface. Sellers often get to the counters and windows, but usually miss the baseboards and window frames. Any amount of dirt reminds buyers of the people who currently live there instead of envisioning themselves in the space. Plus, everything will smell clean, which is very inviting!

While it may be hard to maintain some of these tips if you’re still living in the home, try your best and you won’t be living there long! If you’d like more spring cleaning tips or are getting ready to sell your real estate, please or email me for more information.

The Five-Year Rule for Home Ownership

Property investmentWhen considering whether you should purchase a new home, you want to take into consideration the five-year rule. That’s the minimum number of years many experts believe you need to own a home in order to break even on it when you sell it. Some experts are now suggesting seven years, but in this article I’ll be talking about the five-year rule.

What happens if you own your home for less than five years? Often, you’ll lose money because:

  1. You pay thousands of dollars in closing costs each time you buy property. That money does not build equity or increase the value of your home in any way.
  2. In the first five years of your home loan, a much higher percentage of your monthly mortgage payment goes toward interest than toward paying down the principal of the loan balance.

How do you beat the five-year rule?

  1. Purchase a property you intend to fix up and rent it out at a rate equal to or higher than the mortgage payment.
  2. Buy towards the lower end of what you can afford, and make extra payments to pay down the principal.

Why own for five years minimum?

  1. After five years, due to the structure of amortized mortgages, the cost of owning a home equates to the cost of renting.
  2. The five-year mark is where you typically start to build equity in your home.
  3. Rental prices continue to rise; eventually your mortgage payment could be less than a rent payment.

April Lawn and Garden Do’s and Don’ts for Your Home

Gardening tools and objects on old wooden backgroundApril begins gardening season, the time we get antsy to start working the soil, thinking about fertilizing the lawn and planting flowers in our home.

Whether you’re preparing your home to put it up for sale or just doing general maintenance and upkeep, here is your to-do list:

Annuals and Containers:

  • Deadhead flowers to promote more blooms.
  • Clean and sanitize summer containers, and plan your design for the summer.
  • Plant summer annuals after the last frost. Bring them indoors or cover with a cloth during a late cold snap.
  • Start seeds indoors for annual herbs.
  • Plant annual herbs such as basil and cilantro after the last frost.

Lawn:

  • Raking should be your first task of spring lawn care. This removes dead grass, leaves and thatch.
  • Lightly fertilize cool season lawn grasses such as fescue and bluegrass.
  • Top-dress lawns and patch bare spots. Use compost or an organic mix.
  • Aerate and de-thatch only if necessary, otherwise do this in the fall.
  • Fertilize and plant warm season grasses such as St. Augustine and Bermuda.
  • Re-seed grassy areas that winter may have killed off.

Cleanup and Maintenance

  • Clean water features and lawn ornaments.
  • Clean out, inspect, and repair bird houses for spring nesting season.
  • Put out plenty of fresh food for migrating birds.
  • Take care of any drainage problems.
  • Inspect irrigation systems once freezing weather has passed.
  • Test soil to determine what nutrients are needed.
  • Remove debris from drainage ditches, gutters, and planting beds. Use a rake and lawn bags.
  • Get all your lawn tools ready to use. Oil, sharpen and tune-up your lawn tools. Don’t forget to tune-up your lawnmower and sharpen the blades for mowing season.
  • Repot houseplants if needed.

Perennials and Bulbs

  • Cut back dead foliage on perennials and ornamental grasses.
  • Plant perennials. Color always brightens up the grounds of your home.
  • Gradually remove winter mulch when plants begin to grow.
  • Fertilize spring-blooming bulbs after blooming.
  • Plant perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lavender.