Sunday, February 28, 2010

Handy Staging Tips for Sellers

Selling a home can be challenging and time consuming for a seller. In today’s market, you must use “every trick in the book” in order to make your home appealing to the greatest number of buyers.

Here are some handy staging tips that will help you prepare your home for selling...

Get ready to move... Start packing!
Before you show your home to any potential buyer be sure to go through your whole house with your agent to finish the Staging process. Meanwhile, here are some quick tips to help you start. Follow these general tips and your home will look better than the competition. Staged Homes sell faster and/or for more money!

INSIDE
• Clear all unnecessary objects from furniture throughout the house. Keep decorative objects on the furniture restricted to groups of 1, 3, or 5 items. In general, a sparsely decorated home helps the buyer mentally „move in‟ with their own things.
• Rearrange or remove some of the furniture in your home, if necessary. Many times home owners have too much furniture in a room. When it comes to selling your home, thin out overcrowded rooms to make the rooms appear larger.
• Clear all unnecessary objects from the kitchen countertops. If it hasn't been used for three months… put it away! Clear refrigerator fronts of messages, magnets, pictures, etc.
• In the bathroom, remove any unnecessary items from the countertops, tub, shower stall and commode top. Keep only the most necessary cosmetics, brushes, perfumes, etc., in one small group on the counter. Coordinate towels in one or two colors only.
• Take down, reduce, or rearrange pictures and objects on walls. Patch and paint all walls, if necessary.
• Review the house interior, room by room, and:
1. Paint any room needing paint.
2. Clean carpet and draperies that need it.
3. Clean windows.
• If you need room to store extra possessions use the garage or rent a storage unit.
• Leave on certain lights during the day (your agent will show you which ones). During showings turn on ALL lights and lamps.
• Play light FM music every day in the house, for all viewings.

OUTSIDE
• Go around the perimeter of the house and move all garbage cans, discarded wood scraps, extra building materials, etc., to the garage or, if applicable, take them to the dump.
• Check gutters and roof for dry rot and moss. Make sure they are swept & cleaned.
• Look at all plants. Plants are like children ~ they grow so fast. Prune bushes and trees. Keep
plants from blocking windows: "You can‟t sell a house if you can‟t see it!"
• Remove any dead plants, weed all planting areas and put down fresh mulching material.
• Keep your lawn freshly cut, edged and fertilized during the growing season.
• Clear patios or decks of all small items, such as little planters, flower pots, charcoal, barbeques, toys, etc.
• Check the condition of the paint on your home, especially the trim and the front door. The first impression, or "curb appeal,‟ is very important.

IN GENERAL
Try to look at your house "through a buyer‟s eyes," as though you‟ve never seen it before. This exercise will help you see what needs to be done. Any time and money invested on these items will usually bring you the return of more money and a quicker sale.

Visit my website for more helpful Home Seller Tips.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Buying Distressed Properties - Part 3

Purchasing Tips

It's critical to have the home professionally inspected before you make an offer or put down earnest money. The inspector will assess the structure's soundness and may uncover problems that would be very costly to repair. Banks usually sell foreclosed homes as-is, meaning they won't make any allowances for repair. And even in a short sale, they likely won't make any such allowances, because they're already losing money on the transaction.

You should have your financing in order before pursuing a foreclosure purchase. Pre-approved buyers have the best chance of getting the property in case of multiple offers. Also, banks generally aren't interested in contingencies (for instance, needing to sell your current home before purchasing another).

You might also consider hiring an appraiser who'll tell you what the house is worth. A qualified real estate agent can also perform a Comparative Market Analysis.

To guide you through the process - from obtaining a loan to identifying a home, to negotiating with the sellers (whether homeowners or banks), to closing - contact me today.

Mortgage and foreclosure terms defined

Distressed Properties and FHA Loans
If you're a first-time homebuyer, a federally insured FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan might be a good option. The FHA has a program to help you repair a fixer-upper. You can get one loan that combines the mortgage with the repair costs. The amount of the loan is based on the projected value of the property once repairs are made.

FHA loans only require a 3.5 percent down payment – compared to 20 percent with conventional loans – and the down payment can come from an employer, family member or charitable organization. FHA loans also have lower closing costs than conventional mortgages.

Since the federal government insures these loans, you'll get a competitive interest rate and lenders may be willing to give you terms that make it easier to qualify for a loan. If you have less-than-perfect credit, it's easier to obtain an FHA loan than a conventional mortgage.

Find out more about FHA loans.

About HUD Homes

FHA-insured homes that go into foreclosure are acquired by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD homes are offered for sale through Internet sites managed by management companies under contract to HUD.

Real estate agents who register with HUD can submit offers on behalf of their clients. HUD pays the agent's commission.

HUD homes are sold as-is, without any warranty. HUD doesn't make repairs nor pay to correct any problems. Again, that makes it critical to have homes inspected before making an offer.

In designated revitalization areas, law enforcement officers, K-12 teachers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians can purchase a home at 50 percent off the listing price. (They must commit to live in the property for three years.) Additionally, evacuees from hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma can purchase a HUD home at a discount.

Visit my website for more helpful Home Buyer Tips.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Buying Distressed Properties - Part 2

Is a distressed property for you? Here are pros and cons of buying one:

Advantages of Buying a Distressed Property
First, you'll be dealing with a highly motivated seller – either a bank in the case of a foreclosure, or in a short sale, sellers who are in financial trouble and very interested in getting out of a mortgage they can no longer afford.

These types of sales take much of the emotion out of the process. You won't be insulting anybody, for instance, if you make an offer that's lower than the asking price. (That's not to say that the low offer will necessarily be accepted, of course.)

Lenders are extremely interested in getting these homes sold and off the liability side of their balance sheets. Many foreclosed properties can be purchased for only a percentage of what they would have commanded five years ago. (This situation is beginning to change, though; bidding wars are breaking out on some foreclosed properties these days, especially those that are moderately priced. It is important to work with an agent that knows what is going on in this area and will be able to help you arrive at a reasonable strategy for making an offer.)

If you're looking at a short sale, you're not likely to get quite as good a deal as on a foreclosure. But there are definite advantages to purchasing one of these homes. For one thing, the homeowners typically still live in the home. Since they want to get the home sold quickly, they are likely to keep it well-maintained and in good move-in condition.

Disadvantages of Purchasing a Distressed Property
If you're looking for a "steal," you may not find it. The market is heating up, with more and more buyers jumping into the market. If you're purchasing a home to live in, you'll often be competing not only against buyers similar to yourself, but against investors. More competition inevitably leads to higher prices.

The transaction process for short sales or foreclosures often takes longer than for traditional transactions. It's sometimes not clear which lending institution actually owns a mortgage loan, and it can take time to get it all sorted out – especially if there's a second mortgage involved, which is often the case.

Some foreclosed properties are also in rough condition. Many have sat idle for a long time with minimal or no maintenance. The departing owners may have sold off fixtures, or damaged the property.

Most importantly, it is critical to work with a qualified real estate agent. Short sales more difficult to execute; but not impossible. Home buyers should be prepared to learn about a new process and should be sure that they work with an agent that is familiar with the process. Try to find an agent with the Certified Distressed Property Expert® (CDPE) Designation to ensure you are working with someone that has undergone extensive training in processing short sales.

Visit my website for Distressed Property Purchasing Tips.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Buying Distressed Properties - Part 1

Many of the homes for sale today - as many as half in some markets - fall under the category of "distressed properties."

These are homes that have either gone through foreclosure or are being marketed as "short sales." In a short sale, the homeowner can't afford to maintain the mortgage, but the lender - rather than foreclosing - agrees to the sale of the property for less than the balance of the loan.

These types of sales have different dynamics than traditional sales - with more paperwork, often a longer transaction process and, in some cases, more frustration. For these reasons, many buyers shy away from foreclosures or short sales.However, if you understand the potential pitfalls of purchasing a distressed property - and work with an agent who has a thorough knowledge of this market - you can get a great home at a great price.

Many agents have been specially trained in working with foreclosures or short sales through the Certified Distressed Property Expert class or a similar course. It is important to work with a CDPE that can guide you through the process and help you locate and purchase just the right home for you.

This is an outstanding time to buy a home - distressed property or not. With historically low interest rates, and a glut of homes on the market in most areas, there are bargains to be found. And the U.S. tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers - good for a home purchased before Dec. 1, 2009 - makes purchasing a home even more attractive.

Click here to read more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

A number of factors affect your credit score; improving the score requires you to take care of those factors such that you can manage your credit better.

Follow these simple steps to improve your score:

Improve your payment history:
  • Avoid making late payments on your bills.
  • Clear up all your past-due bills as soon as possible.
  • Request your creditor for an alternative plan with low monthly payments.
  • Negotiate with your creditors to remove charge-offs from your report and re-open those accounts.
  • Request your creditors to erase late payment entries after you re-start paying in time.
Reduce your outstanding debts:
  • Pay off high interest debts first.
  • Keep your balances low and try to keep your revolving debt to 50% of your available credit.
  • Don't close old and unused accounts rapidly in order to lower your available credit. It will raise your debt-to-credit limit which has a negative impact on your score.
  • Try to close accounts gradually over several months. Verify if the accounts closed are reported as "closed by consumer".

Improve Your Credit History:

You should not open several new accounts within a short period of time when your credit history is less than at least three years. Adding too many accounts in a short interval implies that you are not able to manage your credit properly.

Manage new credit efficiently:

  • Restrict yourself to a medium credit limit and not a higher one as your creditor suggests.
  • Do not try to open too many new accounts if you have gone through credit problems in the past.
  • Plan your budget taking into account your finances and credit.
  • Avoid several credit inquiries within a short period; otherwise it would mean that you are about to open multiple new accounts and this will affect your score.

Use a proper mix of credit:

  • It is better not to have too many installment loans as they can reduce your score. This is because the payments remain unchanged until you pay off the balances.
  • You can have a combination of credit cards and installment loans or loans with fixed payments as they help in improving your score. But you need to handle your credit cards efficiently.

Visit my website's Mortgage Center for more helpful credit information.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Common Myths About Short Sales

Short sales have become very common and can be an excellent solution for homeowners who must sell and owe more on their homes than they are worth. A number of myths have developed about short sales and it is important to understand the reality of this process if you are going to be dealing with a short sale in any way.

Myth #1 – The Bank Would Rather Foreclose than Bother with a Short Sale
This is one of the most common misconceptions. The reality is that banks do not want to foreclose on your property because the foreclosure process is incredibly costly. Banks, investors, and even the federal government have all publicly stated that if a person is qualified for a short sale, the deal needs to be considered. In more cases than not, banks receive more on their investment through a short sale than a foreclosure.

Myth #2 – You Must Be Behind on Your Mortgage to Negotiate a Short Sale
While this may have previously been the case, today lenders are looking for verifiable hardship, monthly cash flow shortfall, or pending shortfall and insolvency. If you meet these three requirements and believe that you soon may be unable to afford your mortgage, you should act immediately. Any delay could limit your options. Do not wait until the foreclosure process has started and you have even less time left.

Myth #3 – There is Not Enough Time to Negotiate a Short Sale Before My Foreclosure
This is a myth that probably hurts homeowners the most. Many homeowners do not realize that foreclosure is a lengthy process and that there is time to make decisions that may result in better outcomes.

The foreclosing party (in most cases a lender) can stall a foreclosure up to the final day of the process. For real estate professionals who understand foreclosures and short sales, there is time available until the foreclosure process is complete.

Myth #4 – Listing My Home as a Short Sale is an Embarrassment
It is understandable to have reservations about letting the world know that you owe more on your home than it is worth. However, according to recent estimates, more than one out of eight homeowners in the U.S. is in the same situation. You are to be congratulated for taking action and finding a professional who can work with you toward a solution.

With recent estimates showing 40-60% of U.S. sales will be short sales or foreclosures, you are not alone.

Myth #5 – Short Sales are Impossible and Never Get Approved
Short sales more difficult to execute; but not impossible. Homeowners faced with a short sale should be prepared to learn about a new process and should be sure that they work with an agent that is familiar with the process.

For example, agents with the Certified Distressed Property Expert® (CDPE) Designation have undergone extensive training in methods to help homeowners in distress and process short sales. These professionals receive thousands of short sale approvals on a monthly basis.

While there are no guarantees in any transaction, more and more short sales are being approved regularly. This is far from an impossible process.

Myth #6 – Buyers are Not Interested in Short Sale Properties
This is a myth that potential sellers hear all the time. Thankfully, this is not true. In fact, many agents are getting calls from buyers who say they only want to look at foreclosure and short sales.

For buyers, short sales and foreclosures have become synonymous with “good deals.” Many nternational buyers are targeting these properties. Listing with an experienced agent who is educated in the short sale process will provide you with a great chance of quickly seeing a contract on your property.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Time is Running Out!

Back in the fall when the federal tax credit for homebuyers was extended and expanded, the April 30th deadline seemed so far away.

If you look at your calendar today, you willl notice that April 30th, the last date for a signed purchase and sales agreement to be in place, is only 82 days away!

I will admit that Spring has started early this year with buyers taking advantage of the homebuyer tax credits. But, there a lot of buyers that are still procrastinating. In the real estate world 82 days is not a long time.

Don't miss out on this excetional opportunity to buy a home! With low prices, low rates and up to $8,000.00 in tax credits (for first time homebuyers and the up to $6,500.00 for previous homeowners), this is an ideal time to buy a home!

Help spread the word! Tell everyone you know about this excetional opportunity!