Real Estate 411

Real Estate 411
When you’re buying or selling, the obvious source to get your real estate question answered is your agent but where do you go the rest of the time? As a homeowner for many years to come, you’ll need reliable help and solid suggestions.
Our business goal is to have a select group of our friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional. We want to earn that trusted position so they’ll enthusiastically refer their friends to us. Our plan to achieve this is simply to help these people with all of their real estate needs not just when they buy or sell but for all the years in between.
Throughout the year, we offer reminders and suggestions by email and social media that benefit your homeowner experience. When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along. You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.
We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate. If we don’t have the answer you need, we’ll point you in the right direction to find it.
We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future. Please let us know how we can help you.

Homeowner Tax Tips

Even if you’re having a professional help you with your income tax return, you need to provide them with information on the money you spent that might be deductible.  Look at the following list to see if any of these things need a little more investigation to determine if they apply to your situation.

  • If you refinanced your home for the second or subsequent time in 2015, there may be points that can be taken as an interest charge.
  • Compare mortgage interest, property taxes and other eligible itemized deductions to your standard deduction to see which will give you a larger deduction.
  • If you’re paying mortgage insurance premiums with your payment, you may be eligible to deduct them.
  • If you purchased a home in 2014, there may be some deductions found on the HUD-1 form you received at closing.
  • If you purchased a home in 2014 and the seller paid points on your behalf in order to get a mortgage, you may be able to deduct them.
  • If you purchased and installed in 2014 qualified residential energy efficiency property or improvements, you may be eligible for tax credits.
  • If you have dedicated, exclusive space in your home for a home office, you may be eligible for a deduction that may include a pro-rata share of insurance, utilities and other things.

For more information, see IRS Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction; 2014 Instructions for Schedule A.

If you need another copy of your closing statement for the home you purchased or sold in 2015, contact your real estate professional.

 

Putting you home on the market in the fall..

By
Beth Braverman 9

After a record-setting summer selling season in many parts of the country, home sales have quieted down for the fall. If you’re putting your home on the market, you might see that as an obstacle, but it can be an opportunity. Even if there is less traffic, there’s less competition from other sellers. In a market where inventory is already tight, that gives you an even greater advantage.

Fall is a particularly good time to sell if you’re marketing to retirees, millennials, or those with very young children—they’re less concerned about tying a purchase to the school calendar. Going into winter, you’ll find that buyers who are willing to trudge through snow to see a home tend to be much more motivated to make a purchase than those who spend a sunny Saturday dropping into open houses.

If you’re thinking of listing your home in the next few months, follow these steps to ensure a quick sale at a great price:

  1. Skip the holiday décor

Staging basics such as decluttering and depersonalizing still count during the holidays, so it’s best to keep the inflatable Rudolph and the tinsel in storage.

“You never know who your potential buyer is,” says David Peterson of Synergy Staging in Portland, OR. “We don’t want to pigeonhole or potentially turn someone off.”

  1. Update your photos

Even without holiday decorations, photos can quickly look dated as the seasons change. It’s fine to lead your listing right now with a gorgeous photo of crimson- and gold-leaved trees on the front lawn, but once the leaves have fallen, you’ll want a new photo to keep the listing looking fresh, says Jan Niebauer of Niebauer Realty in Milford, MI. Try to snap photos on days when there’s a blue sky, which will pop against a blanket of white snow.

  1. Keep the outside neat

Curb appeal is just as important but slightly more difficult to achieve in fall and winter. A leaf- or snow-covered lawn can be beautiful, but it can also get messy quickly.

“Make sure it’s neat and tidy,” Peterson says.

Put an added focus on raking and removing leaves, and consider hiring a snow-removal service to be sure that your driveway and walkways are clear and safe for visitors at all times.

  1. Clear the entryway

You’ll want to make sure there’s space for a few people (like a couple and their agent) to stand in the foyer, shed their winter clothes, and stomp off the debris on their shoes, Peterson says. Provide an umbrella stand and shoe covers to keep visitors from tracking mud and snow through your home.

  1. Make it warm—literally and figuratively

If you’re going to be out of the house, be sure that your Realtor® arrives early to crank up the thermostat before a showing (or leave it at a warmer temperature when you leave in the morning), which will help potential buyers feel more comfortable.

“It’s vital that a house be warm,” Peterson says, but “not too warm that people have to peel off all their clothes, but definitely not so cold that they want to get out as fast as possible.”

If you have a gas fireplace, make sure it’s lit, and enhance that warm, hospitable feeling with a tasteful throw blanket or area rug.

  1. Be more flexible with showings

There are fewer hours of daylight, when your home looks its best, in the winter months, so try to accommodate potential buyers who want to come for daytime visits, Niebauer says.

  1. Light it up

Even during the day, cloudy gray skies can make window-lined rooms feel gloomy. Adding floor lamps and turning on all the lights will make the property feel more welcoming.

“Light up every dark corner because they can make a room feel smaller than it is,” Niebauer says. If visitors are coming at night, you’ll want to turn on all your exterior lights as well.

Why Borrowers Pay Different Rates

Why borrowers pay diffferent Interet Rates

Lenders, like any business, have to make a profit. The cost of acquiring the funds, the operating costs to service and the expected profit margin are easily identified. The variable in pricing is the type of mortgage and the credit worthiness of the borrower.
A loan with a 3.5% down payment is riskier than a loan with 20% down payment. If the lender has to take the property back to recover their expense, the margin is greater between what is owed and what the property is worth on an 80% mortgage.
Credit scoring is a risk-based pricing method that allows a lender to be competitive in the market for the best loans from different borrower groups. Individual lenders set their own levels for what they consider “A” credit which is reserved for the best rates. If good credit is approximately 710 to 740, scores below that are considered higher risk and will have higher rates.
Risk must be assessed for both the borrower and the property that collateralizes the loan. The borrower’s credit history and income stability are strongly evaluated by the lender but if a default should occur, the property must secure the loan to avoid a loss to the lender.

The challenge for some buyers is they are unaware of what their credit score is and how it will affect the interest rate offered by the lender. It is to the buyer’s advantage to be pre-approved by a reputable lender prior to starting the process of looking for a home. In some cases, the lender can actually improve the borrower’s credit score to help them qualify for a lower interest rate.

Why borrowers pay diffferent Interest Rates 2
Call or text me at 970-227-7355 or email me at [email protected] for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional –

Lower Anxieties/Improve Marketability

Home Inspection report
One of the anxiety highpoints during the sale of a home is waiting for the buyer’s home inspection report. Most sellers willingly disclose what they know about their home to any potential buyers. The concern stems from the inspector finding something that they’re totally unaware of and that it will either cost them a lot of money to correct or the buyer will simply use it to void the contract.
If the inspection does reveal some unknown problem with the home, it’s probably as big a surprise to the buyer who is not as emotionally or financially invested as the seller. It is human nature to fear what you don’t understand and when a report identifies defects, they may simply opt-out of the home.
The solution to the situation may be for the seller to have the home inspected prior to putting it on the market. There is still a risk of becoming surprised by an unknown defect which at that point, would have to be disclosed to potential buyers or repaired by the seller. The advantage is that it creates a baseline to compare discrepancies that may arise when a future buyer has the home inspected.
If the seller’s inspection report is made available during the marketing process, it could give buyers a sense of confidence about the home even though they may still choose to have the home checked by their own inspector.
The cost of the inspection, possibly $500, keeps some sellers from taking this initiative when selling their home. In an effort to minimize their expenses, they fore go getting valuable, disinterested 3rd party advice that could help sell their home. On a $175,000 home, the fee for the inspection will probably be less than 3/10 of one percent of the sales price.
Another option to the seller to increase marketability of the property and bolster buyer confidence in the home would be to offer a home protection plan. Generally, the seller doesn’t incur cost for this coverage until the home is sold and there may even be some coverage for the seller during the listing period. The benefit to the buyer is avoiding unanticipated expenses for specific items that are covered during their first year of ownership.
Contact me via phone or text at 970-227-7355 or email e at [email protected]  for recommendations of home inspectors or home protection plans.

Rating Your Best Friend

Rating Your Best Friend
Man’s best friend enjoys many of the benefits of his master’s home besides food and shelter and a comfortable place to live and play. In return, dog owners expect companionship and possibly, protection; after all, even a small dog can bark to signal intruders.
Few people doubt that most dog owners love their pets and treat them well. The costs associated with having a dog can include medical and dental that rivals human expenses, premium food, toys, grooming and license fees. However, one of the expenses not anticipated by pet owners is a higher homeowner’s insurance premium.
There are almost five million dog bites a year with children being the main victims.
“Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, which amounted to more than $489 million,” said Peter Robertson, representing the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, testifying against the bill at a hearing of the Committee on Financial Services. He said, “The total cost of dog bite claims increased by more than 51 percent between 2003 and 2012.” It is now estimated that dog bites cause losses of over one billion dollars a year.
Some insurance underwriters have denied or canceled coverage or increased the premium of the owner’s liability insurance based on the homeowners’ specific breed of dog such as Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Akitas, Mastiffs, Malamutes and even German Shepherds. The aggressive nature of certain types of dogs combined with specific training or lack of training, abuse or neglect are identified by insurer’s refusal to provide liability coverage.
If you are considering what insurers identify as a high-risk pet, you might want to visit with your insurance agent prior to acquiring your new best friend to see if it affects your rates.

Equity Dynamics

Equity Dynamics
Equity is the difference in what your home is worth and what you owe. Ideally, as the value goes up and the unpaid balance goes down with each amortized payment made, the equity grows from two directions.
This dynamic leads to increasing a person’s net worth much faster than many other investments.
A homeowner has minimal control over value. It is necessary to maintain the property to avoid depreciation and make good decisions on capital improvements. After that, appreciation is generally controlled by supply and demand and the economy.
Mortgage management is something that the homeowner does have control. Making the decision to select a shorter term mortgage at a lower interest rate can have an impact on equity build-up. Lower interest rates amortize faster than higher interest rates which will also affect equity growth. Currently, it is possible to get a 1% lower rate on a 15 year mortgage than a 30 year mortgage.
Compare two alternatives of a 30-year and a 15-year mortgage. The payments will definitely be higher on the shorter term because it pays off quicker. However, if a person can afford the higher payments of $362.53 more per month in this example, the equity will be greater. Even after you take into consideration the higher payments, the increased equity is $17,236 at the end of the seven year holding period.

Equity Dynamics 2
Another decision that can affect equity build-up is making additional principal contributions along with the regular payments. Whether you’re making an occasional lump sum payment toward principal or regular monthly contributions, it will save interest, build equity and shorten the term on a fixed rate mortgage.

Don’t Do It!

Dont do It
You’ve seen lists telling buyers what to do to find the right home but knowing what not to do can be just as important. After finding the right home, negotiating a contract, making a loan application and inspections, buyers, understandably, start making plans to move and put their personal touches on the home.
In today’s tenuous lending environment, little things can derail the process which isn’t over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller. Verifications are made by a lender at the beginning of the loan process to determine if the buyer qualifies for the mortgage. The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower’s credit or income that might disqualify them.
Simply stated:
1. Don’t make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
2. Don’t apply, co-sign or add any new credit
3. Don’t quit your job or change jobs
4. Don’t change banks
5. Don’t open new credit accounts
6. Don’t close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
7. Don’t buy things for your new home until after you close
8. Don’t talk to the seller without your agent
Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home. It’s understandable to be excited about one of the biggest decisions you’ll make and that you feel you need to be getting ready for the move.
Planning is smart but don’t do anything that would affect your credit or income while you’re waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.

Who is my agent?

Who is my agent
More often than you’d expect, homeowners refer to the person they bought their insurance from as their agent. It sounds reasonable but it’s definitely not accurate. That person is the agent of the insurance company and they legally represent the company, not the customer. Even an independent agent who can place a policy with different companies is still an agent of the company.
A mortgage officer, in most cases is an employee and represents the company. And the same is true for a title or escrow officer. It’s important to understand the actual relationship to know what you can expect from them.
Any business person who wants to stay in business must treat their customers fairly and with a high degree of service. As a customer, you should be able to reasonably expect honesty and accountability. The difference is that employees owe their loyalty to their employer and agents owe their loyalty to their principal.
An agent owes more than just honesty and accountability. The principal can expect complete disclosure, obedience, loyalty, reasonable skill and care and confidentiality from their agent.
This advocacy is very beneficial during the buying or selling process to coordinate all aspects of the transaction. The agent can bring valuable experience to your side of the transaction to provide confidence that your best interests are being represented from start to finish.
Most states have a recognized procedure for the real estate professional to create a formal relationship between themselves and a buyer or seller. This requires a fiduciary/statutory responsibility that places the principals’ interests above the agent’s own personal interests. I take my job working for you very seriously. Please call or text me at 970-227-7355 or email  me at [email protected] for my references

3 Tips to Prep Your Garden for Winter Right Now

By
Margaret Eby

The air outside is getting nippy, the leaves are changing, and though there’s still time to enjoy the warmer temperatures of fall, we all know that “Game of Thrones” adage to be true: Winter is coming. If you have a garden or even just a yard, it’s time to start thinking about how best to prepare your plants for winter. Much of how to care for your greenery during the fallow, cold months depends on the climate you live in, but here are a few general tips that all gardeners should heed to make the seasonal transition:

  1. Prune to protect

Fall is time to think about protecting your garden—and one of the best ways to do that is to do a thorough pruning of the existing plants.

“You want to get rid of anything diseased or insect-infested, because those can, over winter, infect your other plants,” says Melinda Myers, a gardening expert and the host of the “How to Grow Anything” DVD series. So uproot those annuals and trim the perennials back to the ground. Find out the proper way to dispose of these things depending on your municipality, too—in most places, yard waste has a special disposal process.

If you’re dealing with more of a lawn than a garden situation, the trick is to keep mowing your grass. Why? It will increase its winter hardiness so you have a more lush lawn come spring.

  1. Plant a few new things, too

Fall is actually a wonderful time to think about planting, and for looking at some of the seasonal plant sales for inspiration.

“The air is cooler but the soil is still warm,” notes Myers. “For Northerners, that warm soil promotes root growth, while the cooler air is less stressful for plants. We tend to think of bulbs this time of year, but it’s also a great time to put in shrubs and even perennials. For warmer climates, you may be transitioning from summer crops to fall ones.”

If you enjoy watching the wildlife in your yard, planting a few ornamental grasses, trees, or shrubs with berries, or perennials—anything that has seedpods and could provide food for birds—will increase the diversity of wildlife on the property.

  1. Keep plants warm

If you have vegetables or herbs and want to continue reaping the benefits, Myers suggests protecting them through the first hard freeze. You can do this a couple of ways: First, bring in cuttings from nonhardy plants before the first frost, root them, and grow them in a sunny window. Second, cover up the plants in the ground outdoors.

“Sheets work great,” Myers says. “You can cover them up late afternoons or evenings to trap the heat. But my favorite solution is using floating row covers, which trap heat but allow in light, air, and water. You can cover them and leave them on until the snow falls. I threw them on shallots, radishes, and spinach, and harvested greens that spring. And I’m in Wisconsin! It was great.”

Who knows? With a few of these simple steps, you could be eating salad fresh from your garden again by April.