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Five Tips for Staging Your Home

If you’re in a tough seller’s market or just looking to get top dollar for your home, you want to do any little thing you can to make your house stand out in a potential buyer’s mind. Staging is one of those things that can make the difference between a sold sign and a house that lingers on the market.

The National Association of Realtors suggests that staging has a real impact on home sales. In fact, a majority of realtors report that staging increases the sales price of a home anywhere between 1 and 10 percent. However, the real impact of staging seems to be how quickly a home is sold, with 39 percent of Realtors stating that it greatly decreases the time spent on the market. Buyers’ agents confirm the positive impact of staging, stating that 77 percent of buyers were better able to picture a home as their own when it was staged.

Of course, there is an art to staging a home, and a poorly staged home can have a negative impact on a potential sale. Here are five tips for staging your house that will have you putting up that “SOLD” sign in no time.

1. Declutter and Clean

Before thinking about decorations or furniture placement, the No. 1 suggestion of realtors is to declutter and deep clean. Clear countertops and other surfaces, and pack away anything that is not essential. Your goal is to remove anything that will distract buyers from seeing the positive aspects of your house, which is why realtors often suggest removing family photos and overly personalized decorations (like your giant bobble head collection). Remember, decluttering includes removing excess furniture, which help make your rooms feel bigger.

2. Group Furniture

Once you’ve removed furniture that is unnecessary or too large for the space, group furniture into conversational groups away from the wall, instead of pushing sofas and chairs to the corners. You want there to be a flow to each room, and keeping the walls clear of big furniture will actually make the room feel bigger, says HGTV.

3. Accessories in Odd Numbers

Although you’ll need to declutter, you still want your space to feel like a lived-in home. Do this by decorating with groups of accessories like vases, books or plants. Staging professionals often recommend grouping similarly hued objects in odd number pairings of varying heights and shapes.

4. Add 1 or 2 Bold Accents

While you want to keep your staging décor fairly neutral, adding one or two bold accent pieces will help highlight a particularly great feature of your home. Adding a dramatic chandelier that matches the style of your home to a dining room, entryway or even a fabulous bathroom will not only add light to a room, but bring architectural interest to the space as well.

5. Use Mirrors

Mirrors can help brighten a dark hallway, bring light into a room and make a room seem larger, says Forbes. For a big impact, get a cheap mirror and add a decorative frame, or group a lot of small mirrors in differing shapes and sizes. In a room with a window, place mirrors across from the window to reflect the sunlight.

Staging is all about helping potential buyers create an emotional connection with your home. Help buyers picture themselves living in the house by decluttering, grouping furniture and accessories, adding one or two bold accents and using mirrors. Now get ready for the offers to roll in.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

When Is The Best Time to Sell Your House?

It’s summertime and you’ve been thinking about selling the house. The weather is great which makes it easy to show your home, and the kids are out of school to help you pack everything up (or just eat ice cream and watch you do it).

If you’re wondering the best time to sell your house and want to take advantage of the current sellers market, then we’ve got the answers for you below.

When to List to Get the Best Price and Sell the Fastest
Every day real estate surges forward with a new abundance of real estate tech tools. These tools are the building blocks of the future of real estate and help to predict the temperature of the market.

We’ve used one of these tools to give you the best time to sell your house based on cold, hard numbers.

If you need to put your home on the market now, you’re in luck. Nationwide housing market data shows August as the best time to list a house in order to get the highest sale price. August was the best time to list overall from 2014 – 2017. Real estate transactions often take a few months to close, which means that homes listed in August will most likely close in November. Homes that closed in November over 2014 – 2017 sold for 4.04% higher than the national average.

If you want your home to sell quickly, aim for a close date this month or a close date in August. Overall from 2014 – 2017, homes that closed in July and August closed 7 days faster than the National average.

You can also predict the best time to sell your house in your local market by searching your city and state in this tool and state in this tool. For example, the best time to sell a house in Las Vegas is the Summer, aiming for a Fall close date.

Current State of the Market: Sellers Hold the Cards
If getting out while it is good is your goal, then it may be in your best interest to sell your house now. Currently the nation is in a sellers market, which means that the demand for homes exceeds the number of homes on the market. Basically, there are more buyers in need of homes than there are people selling.

The problem is that some people are predicting a cooling of the real estate market in 2018. According to USA Today, home buying may be less accessible in 2018 because of higher interest rates and rising home prices. The National Association of Realtors predicts interest rates around 4.5-4.6% for this year.

If you need to sell, it might be best to list the home now for fear of the market leveling off and a big loss of buyers in 2018.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

9 Silly Little Things That Could Be Sabotaging Your Home Sale

If your home is in pretty good shape (i.e. it’s decently updated and not in need of a total overhaul), you might think it’s ready to go on the market as is. But little things you wouldn’t expect can end up being deal breakers. And, when you’ve got competition, you need your home to stand out for all the right reasons. Give your home a good look and address the little things now before they become big problems when buyers are balking.

Cords hanging from your mounted TV

This is one of those things that tends to fade into the background in a home we live in every day. But don’t be surprised if new eyes go right to those dangling cords and wonder why you didn’t take the next step and hide them in the wall. Anything that makes a potential buyer question whether you cut corners or were lazy elsewhere could spell bad news for your home sale.

An unkempt yard

So, you had your landscapers out to clean out your flower beds, trim the bushes, plant colorful new blooms and mulch everything. And then, the night before a showing, a storm blew a whole mess of leaves into your yard. Grab that rake and make it a family affair out on the lawn at dawn. You know what they say about first impressions. Buyers likely won’t be forgiving of a messy lawn, and your house may stand out if they can see the effort made to clean it up when the neighbors’ yards are still 15-deep in leaves.

A dingy front door

Again with the first impressions. Your home may look great inside, but if the front door is chipped or faded, or the hardware is worn, your potential buyers may never get past it. This is an easy fix, and one that consistently rates high on the ROI scale.

Animals

While homebuyers in general may not mind if animals live in the home they are considering purchasing (unless there are severe allergy issues), they don’t want to see – and, especially, smell – evidence of them. You have probably gathered up and stowed away the overflowing box of toys and balls. But have you considered the smell? You might not notice it, but first-time visitors likely will.

You don’t have to rehome your pets; Use these tips from petMD to make your home smell pet-free.

Cobwebs

Even if you keep a pretty clean home, there may be areas that need attention, like ceiling fans or windowsills that are out of reach. You may not have a housekeeper on a regular basis, but doing a one-time, super deep clean before your home hits the market is a good way to make sure potential buyers don’t nitpick and find a reason to question the home’s condition.

Poor furniture arrangement

If you’re rolling your eyes at the idea that the way you have your living room laid out could make a difference in whether or not your home sells, remember back to when you saw the home for the first time. Were you picturing your own furniture in the space? That’s what real buyers do, and if they can’t picture how it will work because you have too much stuff in the space or it’s oddly configured – blocking a fireplace or doorway, for instance – you’re keeping them from doing the thing that could make them buy the home.

“Square footage is important to homebuyers, so when you’re selling a house it’s important to maximize the space to appear bigger and highlight each room’s dual functionality to enhance buyer appeal,” said U.S. News & World Report. “A home seller can do this by decluttering, lighting up the room and especially by having your furniture strategically placed to show off the square footage. The layout will determine the visual size and flow of the room.” You can learn more staging tips for arranging your furniture here.

Junk drawers and crammed cabinets

Buyers who are genuinely interested in your home are likely going to open everything and look everywhere. It’s not snooping (at least, we hope it’s not snooping!) – it’s an interest in how much storage there is in the home. You may be forgiven for one “junk drawer,” but the neater and cleaner you can make everything else, the better. You want people to see the space, not your stuff.

Overfilled closets

The need to showcase the space, not the stuff, goes double for closets. “Whether it’s a hallway coat closet or a master suite walk-in, your home’s closets will have a major big impact on prospective buyers,” said Apartment Therapy. “Box up off-season apparel – or better yet, donate it – and remove extra hangers so yours looks spacious and streamlined.”

Cluttered countertops

Eliminating, or at least cutting down on, clutter in your home is key to getting it sale-ready, and this is especially important in kitchens and bathrooms. While people may be impressed by your professional mixer and juicer, they’re much more interested in knowing they have ample countertop space for their own stuff.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

6 Don’ts When Buying Your First Home

These are exciting times. You’ve finally outgrown apartment life or living with your parents or sharing a place with waaaaayyyyy too many roommates, and you’re ready to take the leap to homeownership. Now it’s time to prepare. As you embark on this journey, beware of six important don’ts that could potentially derail your purchase.

Don’t think it’s too early to get prequalified

So, you’re just going to go out “looking” at houses, you say? The time when you just expect to drive around a little and maybe visit an open house or two is obviously the time when you’re going to fall in love with a house and want to make a move on it right away. If you’re not already prequalified with a lender, you may not have a chance at it. Competition is fierce across the country thanks to low inventory, and well-maintained, move-in ready homes do not sit if they’re priced right. Talk to a lender now to make sure you can qualify – and learn your max budget – even if you just think you’re casually looking (because that can change in a hurry!).

Don’t wait to the last minute to check credit

As a continuation of the casually looking conversation…you want to check your credit the second you start thinking about buying a home. You never know what’s going to be on there. Even if you’ve never missed a payment and have always done a good job of managing your outstanding debt, there could be errors on your report that you’re unaware of or even something from many years ago that you didn’t realize had been reported to a credit agency. Those little boo-boos, accurate or not, could be hurting your score, and a low score could keep you from getting a mortgage at all. Give yourself time to correct errors or fix blemishes; every tick upward can help you get a better rate and make your home more affordable.

Don’t forget about PMI when calculating your monthly expenses

The idea of putting as little down as possible on your new home is attractive, especially if you’re not a natural saver. Today, that can mean just three percent of your purchase price, depending on the loan. For FHA loans, it’s three and one-half percent. The problem with making the minimum down payment is that you then have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

“PMI is a fee you pay on your mortgage until you owe 80 percent or less of what your home is worth. It’s one reason why so many experts advise homebuyers make a 20 percent down payment; if you do, you avoid the evils of paying PMI,” said Student Loan Hero. “PMI can cost between 0.3 percent and 1.15 percent of your loan annually. Depending on how much you borrow, that can mean thousands of dollars in extra costs until you can cancel your PMI.”

Don’t ignore the closing costs

Many of us micro-focus on the down payment when getting ready to buy our first home, but there is another important expense related to the purchase: The closing costs. Closing costs encompass a wide variety of fees, some or all of which may apply to you depending on where and what you’re buying. They can include everything from the application fee and appraisal to the escrow fee to the home and pest inspection to the recording fees. You’re looking at between two and five percent of your purchase price for closing fees, which can definitely add up. Many first-time buyers fail to factor this in when getting ready to purchase, and you don’t want something that could amount to a few thousand dollars or more to come as an 11th-hour surprise.

Don’t forget to factor in all the monthly expenses

New-home communities often quote a monthly payment that looks quite affordable and that can entice buyers who don’t look more closely. That’s because the payment is based on principal and interest only (Typically, you’ll see a star next to the payment that tells you there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the page.). If you take a look at the small print, you’ll see that there are also taxes and insurance to factor in. In some cases, there is also a homeowner’s association fee. That monthly payment may not be looking so good anymore.

If you’re buying your first home and coming from an apartment or other rental property, you may not have worked things like a gardener into your monthly budget. You’ll also want to consider that if you’re going up in square footage, there could an increase in your utilities, and you may be taking on payments for things like water and trash that were covered by your rental. It’s best to have a true idea of what your monthly expenses are going to look like when buying your first home so you don’t end up in over your head.

Don’t think you can go it alone

Can you buy a home without an agent? Sure. Is it a good idea? Not usually. It could be that you are looking to buy a home that is for sale by owner. “In the industry, we call these types of sellers unrepresented,” said The Balance. “Beware if you are trying to buy a home directly from an unrepresented seller. Odds are the seller won’t know what she is doing or she might be taking advantage of you; either way, it could be problematic.”

Unless you are a real estate attorney or are otherwise connected to the industry and aware of the laws, contract issues, etc., it’s best for you to have representation, regardless of what type of home you are buying.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Eight Signs It’s Time To Move Up

The starter home. It was so cute and quaint and sweet when you bought it, right? But, that was before kids and dogs and overnight quests and holiday dinners that require mathematician-level logistics to finding everyone a seat in a dining room that bursts at six people.

Let’s face it: It’s probably time to move up. Lack of space is the No. 1 reason people start looking for a larger home. Families expand, lifestyles change, and the sheer accumulation of stuff can make a small home feel even tighter. “More than a third of all homebuyers last year were families with kids,” said Dave Ramsey. “And 37% of sellers age 36 and under cited cramped quarters as their reason for moving.”

But running out of room not the only reason to consider moving up.

You’ve got the equity

You may have had to scrimp and save for the down payment on your first home, but, if your home has appreciated, you may be in a completely different financial position this time around. If you’re the type who envisions paying off your home and being free and clear, moving up may not be on your mind. But, for the rest of us, having equity in our current home means greater buying power to buy something bigger or get into a neighborhood we covet.

You’re at each other’s throats

Feeling cramped and living in clutter and hating that you don’t have a space of your own or even a minute to yourself? That can create stress and leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. And, it goes against the general principle of homeownership since your home is supposed to be your sanctuary! Having some extra room to spread out and yard for the kids and dogs to play in can make a real difference in the way your family functions.

Ask yourself if “your quality of life is suffering,” said Unpakt. “This category can include many things: your ever-growing pack of dogs or cats who are driving you crazy. Your cascading piles of fabrics that you use for quilting, but just can’t keep organized in your current space. The lack of a guest room means that when family visits, you’re stuck on the couch. Whatever it might be, if your quality of life has taken a nosedive because your house is too small, well, the answer is pretty clear.”

The neighborhood is changing…and not for the better

One of the reasons you may want to start looking at a new house is because your neighborhood is starting to evolve. Maybe there are new restaurants and bars that have attracted a different crowd or plans for a huge mixed-use project that, while great for the economic potential in the area, could mean more traffic than you want in your quiet little town. Even something like a change in the flight patterns from the local airport can get you thinking about that next home.

Remodeling is price prohibitive

A good real estate agent should be able to give you an idea of what necessary (or wanted) renovations would cost to your existing home. It could be that the amount of work you would need to do on your home to get it where you want it – or get it into tip-top shape for a sale – is beyond what you want to spend. In that case, it might make better financial sense to make small improvements, put it up for sale, and put your money into a new home that better suits your needs.

You don’t want to over-improve for the neighborhood

The other important factor to consider when deciding whether to move or improve your home is how the redone home would sit in your neighborhood. You don’t want to run the risk of doing a bunch of expensive renovations only to have the home sit on the market because it’s overdone and considered overpriced.

“Weighing against renovation is the risk you’ll ‘over-improve’ your home compared with others on the block,” said Bankrate. “When you are in a neighborhood that has starter homes and smaller homes, adding a large addition or doing an extensive renovation may not yield the return one would expect.”

Everyone else has moved on

So, your kids were young and bicycles and basketball nets lined the street when you first fell in love with your home. At the time, it was everything you were looking for. But now, so many of those families have moved on, and the lively street you loved has turned rather sleepy. If you’re still holding on to the memories of what your neighborhood once was, maybe it’s time to find one that better meets your lifestyle needs today.

You’ve crunched the numbers

Presumably, a move-up home is going to be more expensive. Beyond the equity you can use to make the purchase doable, you have to consider the monthly expenses, too. “It’s not just the sticker price on the house; it’s the long-term costs associated with it,” said Realtor.com. “When you go up (in square footage), you get higher property taxes, higher utilities, and more maintenance.” And acquiring more rooms means shelling out for more furniture, too.

You can make sure you can afford a move-up home without becoming “house poor” by “using online affordability calculators to figure out how far you can stretch your dollar.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Home Inspections Can Save You Money In The Long-Run

If you’re hiring someone to inspect the home you want to buy, or you’re a seller trying to find out if there are any hidden problems that need fixing before you put your home on the market, here are five things you need to know:

1. You can choose your home inspector.

Your real estate professional can recommend an inspector, or you can find one on your own. Members of the National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc. (NAHI), must complete an approved home inspector training program, demonstrate experience and competence as a home inspector, complete a written exam, and adhere to the NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

2. Home inspections are intended to point out adverse conditions, not cosmetic flaws.

You should attend the inspection and follow the inspector throughout the inspection so you can learn what’s important and what’s not. No house is perfect and an inspection on any home is bound to uncover faults. A home inspector will point out conditions that need repair and/or potential safety-related concerns relating to the home. They won’t comment on cosmetic items if they don’t impair the integrity of the home. They also do not do destructive testing.

3. Home inspection reports include only the basics.

A home inspector considers hundreds of items during an average inspection. The home inspection should include the home’s exterior, steps, porches, decks, chimneys, roof, windows, and doors. Inside, they will look at attics, electrical components, plumbing, central heating and air conditioning, basement/crawlspaces, and garages.

They report on the working order of items such as faucets to see if they leak, or garage doors to see if they close properly. Inspectors may point out termite damage and suggest that you get a separate pest inspection. The final written report should be concise and easy to understand.

4. Home inspectors work for the party who is paying the fee.

The NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics clearly state that members act as an unbiased third party to the real estate transaction and “will discharge the Inspector’s duties with integrity and fidelity to the client.” A reputable home inspector will not conduct a home inspection or prepare a home inspection report if his or her fee is contingent on untruthful conclusions.

The inspector should maintain client confidentiality and keep all report findings private, unless required by court order. That means it is your choice whether or not to share the report with others. If you’re a seller, you don’t have to disclose the report to buyers, but you must disclose any failure in the systems or integrity of your home.

5. Inspectors are not responsible for the condition of the home.

Inspectors don’t go behind walls or under flooring, so it’s possible that a serious problem can be overlooked. Keep in mind that inspectors are not party to the sales transaction, so if you buy a home where an expensive problem surfaces after the sale, you won’t be able to make the inspector liable or get the inspector to pay for the damage. In fact, you may not be entitled to any compensation beyond the cost of the inspection.

As a buyer, you need the home inspection to decide if the home is in condition that you can tolerate. You can use the report to show the seller the need for a certain repair or negotiate a better price. You can also take the report to a contractor and use it to make repairs or to remodel a section of the home.

One thing you should not do when buying a home is skip having the home inspected because of cost or undue pressure by the seller. A home inspection is reasonable, it can save you money in the long run, and it’s required by many lenders, particularly for FHA loans. There’s a reason why buyers should beware, and a home inspection gives you the information you need to make a sound buying decision.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Should You Buy A Home For Your College Kid?

If you’re about to send your child to college, you’re undoubtedly suffering from sticker shock. And it’s not just from the cost of tuition and mandatory fees and books and a meal plan and parking, but also from housing. Maybe, especially, from housing. The mouse – hole your dorm – bound child will live in for at least the next year come August or so might as well be the Taj Mahal for what it costs to shelter them in much less extravagant environs.

The high cost of student housing – not just in the first year when they are typically living in on – campus housing – is just one of the reasons people are increasingly looking to purchase property for their college kids to live in. Is this a consideration for your family? We’re breaking down the particulars.

Financial savings

Yes, it may be that buying a property for your college kid to live in is a smart financial decision. “Average prices per year for housing are more than $9,000 in college towns,” said U.S. News & World Report. “In highly desirable college towns outside major cities, housing costs can be much higher. Monthly housing prices in Berkeley, California, home of the flagship of the University of California system, can reach more than $3,000, making the price tag for the academic year more than $27,000. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, outside of university – rich Boston, the four – year price for housing can exceed $100,000 as well.”

If that has you getting ready to search for homes for sale RIGHT THIS SECOND, “Don’t forget to factor in the additional costs of homeownership besides the mortgage, like maintenance expenses, homeowners’ association fees, insurance and taxes,” they said. You may find that buying a home doesn’t make as much financial sense as you think.”

Tax savings

You can enjoy a tax write – off on a second home, which could make a college town purchase much more affordable in the long run, but you have to be careful about how the property is used and the way it is reported on your taxes. “Many homeowners look forward to purchasing a second home that can be used for vacations, rental income, investment purposes or as a primary residence during retirement. Current tax laws offer several tax breaks that can help make second – home ownership more affordable,” said Investopedia. “If you already own, or are thinking about purchasing a second home, it will be in your best interest to understand the tax breaks and how they work. Different tax rules apply depending on how you use the property, for either personal or rental use, or a combination of the two.

As long as you use the property as a second home – and not as a rental – you can deduct mortgage interest the same way you would for your primary home. You can deduct up to 100% of the interest you pay on up to $1.1 million of debt that is secured by your first and second homes (that’s the total amount – – it’s not $1.1 million for each home).”

That would mean adding rent – paying tenants/roommates to the mix would be off the table. Keep in mind also that you can deduct property taxes on a second home. You will want to talk to your tax advisor about the tax situation in the state in which you are considering making a purchase.

Appreciation

Is your child attending college in an area that is appreciating nicely? It might be a good investment to purchase a property that you can sell after graduation for a nice profit, or hold onto for passive income by turning it into a rental for future college students.

Depreciation

Then again, there is the chance that entrusting your child, and your child’s future roommates and friends, with a property you own could spell financial disaster if the home is not maintained. Worried about college parties that trash the place and/or illegal activities like drug – taking in the home, which could endanger your child’s future? If you’re thinking about buying a property for your child (and possibly other people’s children as well) to live in, you need to have an honest conversation with him or her, and with yourself, about the responsibilities involved. Is your offspring responsible enough to make smart decisions and properly care for a home?

To roommate or not to roommate

There are additional questions and potential concerns around the roommate issue. Yes, allowing your child to live with friends will provide companionship that is important for college students and will cut down on your monthly costs – and perhaps even provide some monthly income. But consider these questions from Bader Martin:

“If your child will have roommates, how much do you plan to charge them and can they be depended upon to pay their share of the rent on time each month? What will you do if a roommate – renter moves out and how long are you willing to carry the mortgage without replacing the roommate? And will your child and roommates occupy the property all twelve months of the year or only during the school year? What are your potential liabilities if a roommate is hurt on the property or loses personal possessions in a robbery or fire? Are you adequately insured?”

Retirement strategies

Individual real estate markets differ widely, and what seems like a good investment in one city may be totally undoable in another. Having an alternate or future use for the property in question can tip the scales. In some cases, parents purchase a condo or townhome in the city for their college student child to live in, with the intention of keeping it in the family for the child post – graduation, for another child intending to attend the same college, or even as a place for themselves. Another growing real estate trend has parents following their child to the city in question as part of their retirement plan.

“Increasingly, parents are also considering the move as part of a long – term plan in which they also participate,” said U.S. News & World Report. “If your child goes to school in a city whose lifestyle and cultural offerings are pleasant to you as well, why not retire there? Schools from Berkeley and Cambridge to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Bellingham, Washington, can be pleasant places to retire. The property you purchase could thus be part of your long – term retirement strategy.”

Stability

Having to find a new place and move every year, find storage, and put down new deposits is a drag for anyone. Buying a home that your child can live in for his or her entire college experience provides stability as well as a fixed expense they (and you!) can count on.

In – state tuition

If your child is attending college out of state, you’re being hit with even higher expenses. “About 17 percent of students attend college out – of – state, and they pay dearly for it,” said Parenting. “The typical out – of – state tuition rate at a four – year public university is three to four times more than the in – state rate.”

For this reason, parents often explore options for in – state tuition, like purchasing a property – but with varying success. “Most states have established residency requirements designed to prevent out – of – state students who become residents incidental to their education from qualifying,” said FinAid. Buying a home in the state is a good start, but likely won’t be the only commitment that needs to be made in order to get that elusive in – state tuition. It’s a good idea to learn all you can about the requirements for the school and state in question before making a purchase for this sole reason.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

What You Should Know About Home Inspections

For many first-time buyers, buying a home can be a scary experience. They know they’ll be maintaining or improving a home with little to no maintenance experience, so the solution is to buy a home in perfect condition. So they hire a home inspector to point out all the flaws.

The problem is — no perfect home exists. Air conditioners break, plumbing pipes leak, and roof tiles blow off in the wind.

If you’re buying a home, start with a reasonable expectation of what home inspectors can do. Their job is to inform you about the integrity and condition of what you’re buying, good and bad.

A home inspection should take several hours, long enough to cover all built-in appliances, all mechanical, electrical, gas and plumbing systems, the roof, foundation, gutters, exterior skins, windows and doors.

An inspector doesn’t test for pests or sample the septic tank. For those, you need industry-specific inspectors.

Here’s what else you need to do.

1. Make sure the inspector you hire is licensed. The responsibilities of home inspectors vary according to state law and their areas of expertise.

2. Ask what the inspection covers. Some inspection companies have extensive divisions that can provide environmental for radon and lead paint. Be prepared to hire and schedule several inspectors according to your lender’s requirements and to pay several hundred dollars for each type of inspection.

3. Some inspection reports only cover the main house, not other buildings on the property. For specialty inspections such as termites, make sure the inspection covers all buildings on the property including guest houses, detached garages, storage buildings, etc.

4. Attend the inspection and follow along with the inspectors. Seeing problems for yourself will help you understand what’s serious, what needs replacement now or later, and what’s not important.

5. Don’t expect the seller to repair or replace every negative found on the report. If you’re getting a VA or FHA-guaranteed loan, some items aren’t negotiable. The seller must address them, but otherwise, pick your battles with the seller carefully.

A home inspection points out problems, they also point out what’s working well. It can help you make your final decision about the home – to ask the seller to make repairs or to offer a little less, to buy as is or not to buy at all.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

How Much Home Can You Really Afford?

So, you’re getting ready to buy your first home, and you feel like you’re at the mercy of the market. And your mortgage lender. In some ways, it might even feel like they’re working against each other – especially if you’re in a really hot market in which you can’t qualify for the amount you’d need to buy what you want.

When it comes to providing pre-approvals for would-be homebuyers, lenders today are more careful than they were in the years leading up to the market crash, and that means your financial picture will be more rigorously scrutinized to determine your credit-worthiness and develop your max approval amount. Trust us, that’s a good thing. The last thing you want is to be house poor. Having a great place to live that you can’t enjoy or furnish or even leave because you have no money left won’t be fun.

“Just because a lender says you can afford a certain mortgage doesn’t mean you should,” said TIME: Money. “Consider your take-home pay – what actually goes into the bank after taxes, health insurance, and savings for retirement and college. Then add up all your monthly bills, not just debt but also things like utilities, phone, and groceries. You want to feel comfortable that you can cover all your household obligations while still meeting your other financial goals and keeping six months of expenses in an emergency fund.”

That’s why it’s so important to consider all of your monthly expenses related to buying a home. Beyond the principal, interest, taxes, and insurance that the lender, there are other line items to weave in that will help you determine your purchasing power and also help you to be comfortable from month to month.

Increased commuter costs

Are you moving out to the ‘burbs? That hour-long commute each way is going to add to your bottom line. Of course you’ll be using more gas. Will you also incur tolls? Then there is the wear and tear on your car, which could mean additional costs. You can estimate your commuter costs here.

Higher utility bills

A larger place could mean higher utility bills. Then again, more energy-efficient appliances, windows and doors, and HVAC could potentially result in lower bills, which could be a reason to look for a newer home over something older. It’s not out of line to inquire about utility bill costs from the existing owner (through your Realtor is probably best). This information could be critical in helping to make the best decision when buying a new home.

Homeowner’s association

Your pre-approval amount is an all-in number, but that number only includes principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. If you are buying in a community that has a Homeowner’s Association, your fee will be a separate cost that needs to be considered. An HOA fee can range greatly depending on your location, the number of homes in the community, and the amenities and services included.

Home improvements

You’re likely going to have a mailbox full of credit card pre-approvals and offers from places like Home Depot and Lowe’s after you close escrow – and they can be tempting. Reeeaaallly tempting, especially if you need new appliances or countertops or flooring (or all of the above). Ditto for furniture stores, because, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, those offers are often zero-interest deals. It may make sense to take advantage of one (or more) of them to make some necessary or wanted updates to your home – if you can swing the payments. They obviously add to your monthly obligations, even at no interest. And keep in mind that if you miss, or are late on, a payment, that zero interest is replaced with a much larger number, and that means you’ll face a much larger balance to pay.

Landscaping

If you’re coming from an apartment or a rental where the outside maintenance is taken care of by someone else, get ready to either: buy a lawnmower and an edger and spend your Saturday mornings in the yard, or pay someone else to take care of it.

Warranty

If you’re buying a brand-new home, you’ll typically have a warranty provided by the builder or developer, often for one year. You have the option of extending that, or buying/extending an existing warranty on an older home, and all of those options will cost you.

Creative Ways To Save For A Down Payment

You’d love to buy a house, and if it weren’t for that pesky down payment, you’d be sitting pretty in a place of your own, right? You’re not alone. Not surprisingly, the “top challenge for would-be homebuyers is the down payment requirement,” said The Mortgage Reports. In a recent study, “Over half of potential buyers claimed saving a down payment was a bigger issue than credit scores, income needed or housing prices.”

There are some creative ways to get there.

Look for down payment assistance

Many homebuyers don’t realize that these programs even exist. “Down payment grants are designed to help eligible buyers bridge the gap between their savings and the required down payment for a mortgage,” said The Mortgage Reports. “This money doesn’t usually have to be repaid.”

Grants are available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and typically have eligibility requirements that are tied to income. In addition, “You must be a first-time buyer purchasing a primary residence,” they said. You can check for available grants here.

Save your pennies

Every little bit helps! Get used to paying for things with cash, which is another tip financial analysts recommend to keep track of spending. At the end of the day or week, put aside any change. You’ll be surprised how it can add up over a few months.

Shop for a better savings account

Some banks offer special rates or even kick in money if you open a new account and maintain a certain balance. If you already have a good head start on your down payment, this could be a great way to get a bump. Also pay attention to any fees you are currently paying at your bank just to have your savings and checking accounts. If you can’t negotiate to get them removed, it might make sense to open fee-free accounts elsewhere.

Among the best out there: “Discover Online Savings has no minimum deposit requirement and offers a competitive APY of 1.40%. In addition, there’s no monthly fee and no minimum balance requirement,” said NerdWallet in their review of the best savings accounts of 2018. “Discover is a decent choice for simple, stress-free savings.” Discover also offers bonuses that are tied to a $15,000 minimum deposit.

Do automatic transfers

Setting up an auto transfer from your checking to your savings on payday is a relatively painless way to pump up your down payment. You’ll want to keep track of what’s coming out, and when. This is no time to get hit with an overdraft fee.

Get a gift

For many types of loans, the down payment can come via a gift. Just make sure you know the rules so you don’t run into trouble. “Even though lenders do allow gift funds, they also require mortgage applicants to disclose the source of these funds,” said Cherry Creek Mortgage. “There are specific rules for using gift funds as a down payment. For starters, your lender will need information about the donor. Donor requirements vary by lender and mortgage program. Some programs only allow gifts from a blood relative, or in some cases, a godparent. Other programs, however, will also allow gifts from a charitable organization or a non-blood relative. Speak with your lender for information on acceptable donors.”

Save all raises and bonuses

If you get a raise or a bonus during your saving period, don’t celebrate by blowing it on a new living room set. Pretending it didn’t happen and socking the money away will pay off in the end. “For a set period of time, consider saving all extra income you receive from work,” said Quick and Dirty Tips. “For instance, if you get a 3% raise, increase your down payment savings percentage by at least that amount. Or if you get quarterly or annual bonuses, transfer the full amounts to savings.”

Shift some money toward repairing your credit

That might seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to get together as much cash as possible to buy your house, but it might just be that doing a little credit repair can improve your buying position, which could lower your interest rate and lower the amount of money required by the bank for your down payment. A conversation with your lender or broker and a detailed look at your credit history may yield some surprising suggestions.

Pare down

This is a great time to take a good look at your stuff and decide what’s going with you, and what’s not making the trip to your new place. “You likely have some used furniture you no longer use or old clothes that are no longer in style. Sell it to make a few more bucks to use for your down payment,” said Bankrate. “You can sell your items on sites like Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Amazon to turn your trash into someone else’s treasure.”

Call your cable, Internet, and phone providers

There may be lost money floating around out there. Bundling your services with one provider can create dramatic savings. It might also be time to look at new providers – just make sure you won’t incur a penalty or cost when you move and have to have your services set up again.

Make your coffee – and your lunch – at home

“If there are two people buying one coffee each at $4 every day, or $8 total, that adds up to $240 per month! So by getting a good coffee maker and putting it in a TO GO cup, you can potentially save more than $2,880 over the course of a year,” said Blue Water Credit. “If you think coffee was expensive, add up all of those $12, $20, and $25 lunches at restaurants when you step out from work. Even if you only buy lunch three times a week, that could easily end up with $50 a week in savings per person, or about $400 a month, or $4,800 per year!”

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