Archives For Buyers

Are you shopping mortgages and struggling to understand what products best fit your needs? To help clear up your confusion, we’ve listed the most common mortgage types along with their advantages and disadvantages. We’ve also provided information on who should consider each type of loan.

ITA18FXIBLOnce you’ve narrowed down the type of financing you’re after, contact a mortgage pro. They will walk you through the entire process and get you the best available deal.

Fixed Rate Conventional

  • Description: A fixed rate loan offers a stable interest rate amortized over the life of loan, which are most often set in 15, 20, or 30 years terms.
  • Advantages: Your monthly payment stays the same over the entire life of your loan.
  • Disadvantages: If interest rates drop after you’ve locked in your loan rate, you may be stuck with a higher monthly payment.
  • Consider If: You plan on staying in your home long-term and desire the security of a predictable monthly payment.

Adjustable Rate (ARM) or Variable Rate

  • Description: A variable rate mortgage or ARM usually offers a low introductory interest rate over a 3, 5, or 7 year term. After the initial-rate period ends, the interest rate fluctuates based on market trends.
  • Advantages: Introductory rates are often lower than rates for conventional mortgages, offering short-term savings. 
  • Disadvantages: If interest rates rise after your initial-rate period your monthly payments could go up.
  • Consider If: You’re confident you’ll be out of your home before the end of the initial-rate period or you plan to refinance.

Interest Only

  • Description: A borrower pays only the mortgage interest, in monthly payments, over a fixed term.
  • Advantages: Without paying principle, monthly payments are often less than fixed rate or adjustable rate loans.
  • Disadvantages: With Interest Only loans, the balance is often due in a lump sum after the initial period ends. This could mean significantly higher monthly payments or facing a large lump sum payment.
  • Consider If: You plan to live in the home for only a short amount of time or have confidence you can handle the larger payment down the road.

FHA Loans

  • Description: Allows buyers who may not qualify for a conventional mortgage to obtain financing with a lower down payment.
  • Advantages: First-time homebuyers or individuals who may not qualify for traditional funding have better access to home financing.
  • Disadvantages: Not everyone will qualify for FHA funding and even if you do, there may be restrictions on how much you can borrow or what types of property you can buy.
  • Consider If: You’re a first-time homebuyer or have low income and/or challenged credit.

VA Loans

  • Description: These loans are offered through the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs to eligible Veterans, active duty personal, or surviving spouses.
  • Advantages: VA Loans offer competitive rates, often with low or no down payments.
  • Disadvantages: As with FHA loans, the size of your loan may be limited.
  • Consider If: You’re a veteran, active duty personal, or surviving spouse.

Jumbo Loans

  • Description: Jumbo loans are for amounts exceeding $417,000 (or $625,000 in Alaska and Hawaii), which is the maximum Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are willing to purchase.
  • Advantages: Jumbo Loans make it possible to purchase large homes and help finance home purchases in states with high home costs.
  • Disadvantages: Jumbo loans often require 20% down payments and interest rates can be .25-.50 higher than comparable conventional loans.
  • Consider If: You want to purchase a large home or live in a high-cost area.

Reverse Mortgage

  • Description: Reverse Mortgages are for seniors aged 62 and older with substantial equity in their property. With this loan, the lender pays the borrower a fixed monthly payment for as long as they live in their home.
  • Advantages: Allows seniors to convert their home equity into cash, which is often used for living expenses. The loans and interest don’t have to be paid back as long as the borrower lives in the home.
  • Disadvantages: Often an area of fraud by unethical lenders who prey on the elderly. If you’re considering a Reverse Mortgage, make sure your lender is reputable and the loan is federally insured.
  • Consider If: You’re retired and need extra monthly income.

UnknownMoving into a new home is an exciting experience! Especially if it’s a space that’s been remodeled or designed just for you. But for too many people, moves are a stressful time, from packing to coordinating the logistics of the actual move to finally unpacking and settling into their new space. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Today we’ll look at how you can skip the chaos and stay organized after a move. We’ll break it down into three phases: preparing, unpacking, and living in your new space. Keep reading to learn more.

Preparing

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s a cliche for a reason: it’s true! And it’s especially true when it comes to moving into a new home and staying organized and sane. For every extra hour you invest in preparing for your move, you’ll save at least two hours of frustration when it comes to unpacking and moving into your new home.

Leave it to the Pros

When you look at the bottom line cost, hiring a moving company can seem expensive. But if you value your sanity and peace of mind, it can be a investment that more than pays for itself.

Professional moving companies move houses everyday, whereas you’ll probably only do it a handful of times throughout your life. Their experience is incredibly valuable. They can provide the tools, equipment, trucks, and manpower needed to move the the heaviest, most unwieldy items in your home. And they know how to pack your valuables so they stay safe throughout the move!

Most moving companies offer customized moving packages that will allow you to do as much or as little as you like. If you’d prefer to handle packing or unpacking of your belongings (perhaps as a family bonding experience), a moving company can just handle the moving. This can save a bit of money, too. Or you can have a moving company do it all, which really cuts down on the stress and the chaos.

Donate & Discard

After the move, there’s nothing more demoralizing than unpacking boxes and saying, “I don’t even know what this is,” or “Does anyone remember why we own this?” And then imagine finding a place in your new home for possessions you don’t need or even like.

Whether you’re moving yourself or hiring movers, the first thing you should do is ruthlessly discard and donate. If you can’t remember the last time you used a kitchen tool, wore a piece of clothing, or why you bought a gadget the first place, you probably won’t need it in your new home.

Make it a fun game with your family. Go room by room and make piles for donations and discards. Encourage your kids to donate unused toys and help them find an organization that needs them! They’ll learn a lot and you’ll have less to deal with when you’re unpacking.

Develop a System

If you’re packing your own belongings, create a system that’ll make unpacking them easy. A common strategy is to label each box with its contents. I suggest taking this a step further and making sure the room in your new home that the box belongs in is also clearly labeled. That way you or your movers won’t be stuck carrying a heavy box not knowing where to put it.

A great trick if you’re really looking to take your preparation to the next level is to assign one of your family members to write or type up notes as you pack. Consider including information like:

  • A unique number for each box
  • The box’s contents
  • The room that box belongs in
  • A ranking (high/medium/low) for the priority of unpacking the box

 By determining priority for unpacking each box, you won’t waste time on your first night in your new home sleeping without blankets or waking up the next morning having to hunt around for your coffeemaker.

Unpacking

Odds are, your new home will be quite different from your old space. Maybe you’re upgrading from a small apartment to a starter home or to a larger house to accommodate your growing family. Or maybe you’re downsizing to a condo or smaller home to enjoy retirement.

That’s why, no matter where you’re moving, a smart unpacking strategy is key to avoiding post-move chaos.

Start with a Plan

Luckily, you followed my advice for preparing for your move, so you know where everything is and where it should go, right? If so, you’re ahead of the game and will find unpacking to be a fun, low-stress activity.

If not, you’ll need to settle down and make a plan. Start unpacking in your largest room and organize your possessions. Don’t just run around putting things away as fast as you can. Unpack as much as possible and develop a plan to keep from just stuffing your possessions into whatever space is available.

Make the Best Use of Your New Space

Consider the available storage in your new space and make the best of it. Don’t just put everything back the same way it was in your old home. Now’s your chance to use the features of your new home that made it so attractive in the first place.

Do you have more closet space? Consider organizing clothes by season, or create a place for supplies for guests (linens, toiletries, etc.). Is your kitchen bigger? Think about hanging your beautiful copper pots and pans instead of hiding them under the stove.

Be Systematic & Relaxed

Depending on the size of your new home, getting settled in and relaxed probably won’t be a morning project. Start by unpacking the essentials so you can live your life. Then chip away at the rest. Make a schedule and stick to it. Don’t get overwhelmed and don’t rush. Take your time, think through your options and make smart choices. The more relaxed you stay throughout the process, the easier it will be. And if you stick to your schedule, the end of the move will be in sight and you’ll be able to anticipate and look forward to enjoying life in your new home.

Enjoy Life in Your New Space 

Once you’ve moved in and finished unpacking, there’s one key to enjoying your new home.

Don’t fall back into old bad habits. A new home is a new beginning and it’s your chance to get and stay organized and avoid inviting chaos into your life. Just because the move is over, don’t stop planning, organizing, and keeping everything running smoothly.

Conclusion

Moves are stressful, but they don’t have to be– and they shouldn’t be! They should be a time to celebrate an exciting time in your life!

So prepare for your move, don’t move anything you don’t need, have a unpacking plan in mind, get the essentials put away first, take advantage of your new space, and then slowly but steadily get everything else put in its place. And those are my keys to skipping the chaos and staying organized after a move. Are there any other tips that helped with your last move? I’d love to hear about them.

Erin Davis is owner of Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland Oregon. For more information and tips visit http://mosaikdesign.com/ or contact her at erin@mosaikdesign.com

  1. Ask your friends and family

Get referrals, but take them with a grain of salt. Do your due diligence researching potential agents, no matter who recommends them. The right agent for one person might not be a good fit for you.

  1. Check out our Househappy Trusted Agents

We’ve done all the legwork and have a curated selection of local experts interested in earning your business and helping you find a home you love.

Househappy_-_Real_Estate__Homes_For_Sale__Photo-Driven_Search

  1. Attend Open Houses

Realtors are always in attendance here, so this can be a great opportunity to meet them face-to-face. Many real estate agents who work open houses are not the listing agent, they are most likely holding the open house to meet buyers like you. However, in many states one agent may work with both buyers and sellers in a transaction, but they’re under contract to watch out for the seller’s best interest. You want an agent who can take your side fully in any negotiations. If you want to work with the agent holding the open, be sure to ask who they represent.

  1. Look for ads

Successful Real Estate Agents will often put ads out in local publications. These ads can tell you a lot about who their team is and what their marketing materials may look like.

  1. Google them

Take a look at their website, check-out their LinkedIn and their Facebook. You are interviewing them to handle one of the most important transactions in your life, be picky.

  1. Interview a few potential candidates

Do they seem like someone you’d get along with? Are they open and honest? Is their personality and energy level compatible with yours? Are they focused on your needs?

Go with your gut here. They should make you feel at ease and you should feel comfortable disclosing personal details, if the need arises. If you don’t like the person or don’t trust them, their many acronyms on their business card won’t make the experience any better. Go with someone you actually like!

  1. Ask Some Key Questions: 
  • Do you have an active real estate license?
  • Is real estate your full-time career?
  • How much of your business comes from referrals?
  • How long have you been working in the area?
  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in?
  • What type of network do you have to help find the right house for us outside of an online search we can do ourselves?
  • How are you going to help us win a listing?

Having the right real estate agent has a huge impact on your home purchase. You need to feel confident in your decision when the time comes for any kind of negotiations. Someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing can end up costing you – keep in mind they are paid a commission when you buy a house whether or not you are satisfied with their service (or your experience). Take the time and effort to find someone whose personality, experience, dedication and skill level fit your needs.

If you  are putting your home on the market anytime soon, safety should be a top priority. Below we outlined a few tips to help you prepare.

  1. Make sure valuables are locked up or off-premises during showings and open houses. Jewelry, cash, liquor, checkbooks and credit cards, prescription drugs, keys and other small valuables should all be out of reach when your home is being toured. Safeguard your personal information, too – lock your computer and filing cabinets and don’t leave bills that might show your account numbers lying out.
  2. Choose an agent who uses an electronic lockbox system. Modern electronic lockboxes restrict access to licensed real estate professionals and track every time someone uses the lockbox to enter your home.
  3. Don’t show your home by yourself. If you wouldn’t normally let a stranger into your home and show them around just because they asked, adding a For Sale sign to the yard shouldn’t change that. Direct any inquiries about the property to your real estate agent, who will pre-screen buyers and collect contact information before bringing anyone through. If you opt to sell your home without the help of a real estate agent, this still applies – insist that all showings be prescheduled, collect contact information and verify drivers licenses of potential buyers before they come for a tour, and try to have someone else there any time you are showing your house.
  4. Either take your pets with you or keep them penned during showings. This prevents both the possibility of your pet getting loose during the showing and/or attacking an agent or potential buyer. Even usually calm animals can sometimes get defensive when unfamiliar people are in their space and you could be held liable for any injuries.petsemail
  5. Check that your home is securely locked up after showings and open houses. Doors and windows might be left unlocked unintentionally by distracted buyers trying to take in everything about your home, or would-be-thieves who intend to come back and use the entry later. Either way, you can help keep your home safe by doing a quick walk-through to check the locks after any tour.
  6. If you are selling a vacant home, consider a home staging service. Staging a home can help keep it from looking empty to a casual passerby and decrease your chance of a break-in. Use timers on the lights to boost the illusion that someone lives there. Bonus: According to the National Association of Realtors, “staged homes sell 80% quicker, and for up to 11% more money than non-staged properties.”

 

What makes us happy at home? Houzz.com asked more than 6,000 people just that—and the results are fascinating.

  • 87 percent said that their home design impacts their overall happiness.
  • Big windows and comfortable furniture top the list—74 percent and 70 percent, respectively.
  • Men are more than twice as likely to derive happiness from a big-screen TV than women.
  • Overall, homeowners are happiest in rooms that are clean, organized, and comfortable.
  • Rural homeowners prefer the sounds of wildlife, while suburbanites love to hear the conversations among children and family members. City dwellers dig music the most.
  • 15% say the kitchen is their happy place.
  • Being surrounded by immediate family is preferred.

Source: Houzz

Illustration: Alice Stevenson

 

Curb appeal—everyone wants it, but not everyone knows how to achieve it. Especially when it comes to capturing engaging photos for online listings. Here are four relatively simple ways to take your exterior shots to the next level.

1. Focus on the front door. It’s important to set a welcoming tone with exterior shots. Consider both symmetry and framing, paying special attention to the front door. An inviting image will make a lasting first impression.

2. Deal with the driveway. Make sure that you remove all detritus from the driveway, including garbage cans and recycling bins. If your driveway is paved, consider hosing it down and using an indoor-outdoor broom to scrub stains.

3. Let there be light. A well-lit home is as much about security as it is about aesthetics. But in photographs, lighting is paramount. Try taking photos at different times of day to find out when your home looks best—and rely on natural light as much as possible. Harsh artificial lighting can make a home seem dated.

4. Use plants for color. Make sure that there is mulch in garden beds or add colorful flowers. This will help give your photos a pop of color, as well as highlight any landscaped areas that add value to the home.

Illustration: Julia Rothman

Rarely do we give anything but compliments when invited into someone’s home—right? After all, it seems awfully rude to enter a new space and immediately start to critique design choices.

And yet, it’s an all too common experience for many homeowners and agents when showing their house to prospective buyers. Elle Decor spoke to Sheila Heen, author of Thanks for the Feedback, about strategies for dealing with constructive or even negative comments about your home.

1. Know what to listen for. There are three different kinds of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Keep that in mind and approach every conversation knowing that all three can yield helpful information.

2. Know your own standards. “People have really different criteria by which they’re making choices about decor and cleanliness,” says Sheila. “And it differs at different times of our lives.” Your choices may simply reflect your lifestyle.

3. Look for the good. Rather than take offense, imagine that the intention of the feedback is to make your life easier or more enjoyable.

4. But don’t be a doormat. If your agent, designer, or family member is constantly rearranging your home, Sheila suggests saying something like: “I appreciate your help and one unintended result is that I find myself constantly searching for things. If you don’t know where something goes, please feel free to leave it on the counter.”

5. Before you speak, consider the consequences. Be sure to remember that if you cannot accept the feedback in the spirit it was given, you may risk alienating the relationship.

6. Consider the source. Try to separate the feedback from the individual providing it—sometimes a critical statement from a family member stings more than when it’s said by a professional.

Photo: Flickr