Month: March 2012

Is Mortgage Refinancing Right for You?

These days, it’s hard not to be enticed by the historically low mortgage refinancing rates. Now could be the perfect time to refinance, but is refinancing your loan right for you? Here are a few points to take into consideration if you’re thinking about refinancing your home loan.

The Benefits of Refinancing

Beyond potentially saving you thousands of dollars, refinancing your mortgage can also help you consolidate debt and pay off other bills. Your life has probably changed from the time you first got your home loan. Perhaps you got a better paying job or you have a new baby on the way. You may have new expenses that never existed before, or you may be making more money than when you started. In many cases, refinancing your home loan could save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars – money which could be well spent in other areas of your life. Ideally, your mortgage should not be costing you above one third of your total gross income. If you’re dealing with a high interest rate, you’ve been hit with an adjustable rate that has skyrocketed, or you’ve experienced a drop in income for whatever reason – it’s a good idea to consider refinancing and locking in a better rate.

Working with a Trusted Lender

Working with a trusted lender is one of the best decisions you can make when you decide to refinance. Trusted lenders, like Aurora Bank (Equal Housing Lender, member FDIC) for example, understand a multitude of product options and can explain those options to you as well as the costs that are involved in the refinancing process.

Know Your Options

There’s no shortage of lending companies vying for your business. But it pays to do your own research as well.Take advantage of online mortgage calculators and run different scenarios based on your income, property tax, and extra payments you can afford to make.See exactly how much home you can afford and create a spectrum of possibilities for refinancing. Then, speak with a home loan consultant who can help you with your financing needs.You may be pleasantly surprised at just how much money you’ll save by refinancing at today’s low rates. Overall, honest, exceptional service and a dedication to customer satisfaction are what make the best mortgage refinancing lenders stand out.

Source: Jess Hall

Beat the crowd when investing in Real Estate

We all are thinking about it and some of us are actually taking action and getting their hands on real estate investment properties. The longer the NY Stock Exchanges doesn’t produce desirable returns the more people are starting with real estate investments.

For most of us the obvious choice of properties are single family homes. Although you can invest in real estate without owning a home, most people follow the experience they made while purchasing their own home. This is familiar ground and the learning curve for doing a real estate deal of this type is pretty slim.

Of course there’s a drawback with this approach. The competition is fierce and there are markets where investors are artificially driving up the cost of the properties while completely discouraging first time home buyers. If this is the case, the burst of the real estate bubble is just a matter of time.

How do you avoid these situations and still successfully invest in real estate? How do you get ahead of the competition and be prepared for bad times in real estate investments as well? The only answer I have is commercial real estate.

Why commercial real estate you might ask? Commercial real estate is a solid investment in good and bad times of the local real estate market. The commercial real estate I’m referring to are multi unit apartment buildings.

Yes you will become a landlord and No you don’t have to do the work by yourself. You are the owner and not the manager of the apartment building. The cost of owning and managing the building is part of your expenses and will be covered by the rent income.

Apartment buildings are considered commercial real estate if there are 5 or more units. To make the numbers work you should consider to either own multiple small apartment buildings or you should opt for bigger buildings. This will keep the expense to income ratio at a positive cash flow. Owning rental properties is all about positive cash flow.

With investing in single family homes it is easy to achieve positive cash flow. Even if your rent income doesn’t cover your expenses 100%, the appreciation of the house will contribute to the positive cash flow. With commercial real estate the rules are different.

While single family homes are appraised by the value of recent sales of similar homes in your neighborhood, commercial real estate doesn’t care about the value appreciation of other buildings. The value of the property is solely based on the rent income. To increase the value of a commercial real estate you need to find a way to increase the rent income. The formula on how this is calculated would be too much for this short article. I listed a few very helpful books where you can find all the details.

What’s another advantage to invest in commercial real estate? Commercial real estate financing is completely different than financing a single family home. While financing a single family home you are at the mercy of lenders who want to make sure that you are in the position to pay for the house with your personal income. Commercial real estate financing is based in the properties ability to produce positive cash flow and to cover the financing cost.

After reading all these information about commercial real estate you want to go out there and dive into the deals. Not so fast. First, you need to learn as much about real estate as possible. In commercial real estate you’re dealing with professionals. If you come across too much as a newbie you will waste these guys’s time and your commercial real estate career ended before it actually started. Second, no commercial real estate lender will lend you any money if you can’t show at least a little bit of real estate investment experience.

What’s the solution to this? Go out there and do one or two single family home deals yourself. It doesn’t matter if you make huge profits to start off with. Most newbie investors are loosing money on their first deal anyway. If you can manage to show positive cash flow with your single family home deals you are ahead of the pack.

My advice, buy a small single family home in a decent neighborhood and rent it immediately. This will keep your out of the pocket expenses at a minimum and you will have rent income to cover for your monthly expenses. Bonus, you gain experience as an investor and as a landlord.

Here’s another observation I made during my real estate investment career. Most people like to analyze, learn, discuss and analyze some more. They never actually got to do a real estate deal. They love to talk about real estate investments, but never did it themselves.

My approach to real estate investment was simple.

I bought some books about real estate investment.
I read every single one of them.
I put together a simple plan on how I want to get started.
I started looking for properties.
I bought my first investment property 30 days after I started reading my first book.
I made positive cash flow with all of my properties so far.

What is my point? You have to go out there and practice what you’ve learned. The only valid credential in the real estate business is practical experience. Having a couple of deals under your belt, you can go out there and start looking at commercial real estate and even impress seasoned investors with your knowledge. Because you made this experience by yourself and you know what you’re talking about.

Book reference for commercial real estate investments:

Gary W. Eldred, PhD: “Make Money with Small Income Properties”

Jack Cummings: “Real Estate Financing and Investment Manual”

You will find these books and many more on my real estate investment website at www.suncoastrenttoown.com/author_directory.htm

Sincerely,
Peter Dobler

Thinking About Selling Your Home?

Owning a home is the original American dream. It’s the old frontier spirit, wanting to claim your own tuft of the New World. Then again, these days it also makes perfect economic sense. Experts estimate that all of the homes in the United States alone are worth a combined $14 trillion. That goes a long way to explain why a housing boom has been sweeping the globe.

Where there is a boom, though, there may be a bust. Read any headline from your local newspaper, and you’ll see headlines such as “Bye-Bye, Housing Boom” to “Housing Boom is Leveling Off.” Some economic forecasters predict a bubble that may be about to burst. They make you wonder: am I missing the boat?

Whether you’re looking to cash in on this real estate bubble before it pops-or simply wanting to move to a bigger home or move across the country-selling your home can be more a nightmare than a dream. Not only do you have to find and trust a real estate agent. You need to prep your home for open houses. You need to haggle with prospective buyers. Not to mention, you have to worry about the moving and selling of all of your valuables.

It’s almost enough to make you want to live in one home for the rest of your life-just as folks did in your grandparents’ day. Then again, your home is worth a percentage of that $14 trillion. Don’t you want to see just how much?

As hectic and horrible as selling a home may seem, it really isn’t so bad if you break it down into a few simple rules. If you don’t believe us, read the rules for yourself.

Fuss over the facade. Your home’s future owners do not want to worry about repairs and renovations as soon as they move in. So make certain they don’t. Be sure to have your home immaculately clean before you invite prospective buyers over. Redecorate if your interior is outdated. And invest in minor renovations if necessary. You’d be surprised what a coat of paint can do.

Focus on the fine details. Prospective buyers will leave no stone unturned when they visit your home. They will test every light switch, run every faucet, and lift up every toilet seat. Everything-and we mean everything-should be in working order before your open house.

Double check for blown out light bulbs and leaky faucets. Scrub the bathroom and clean up any ring around the bowl, tub scum, and any other nasty surprise.

Don’t settle for maybes on safety. Ensure that there are no safety hazards anywhere on your property. Something as small as uncovered electrical sockets or as large as an unfenced pool can scare off buyers, especially parents of small children.

Create a soothing selling atmosphere. Imagine the last time you visited a bed and breakfast. Your home should be as welcoming and accommodating as that. One easy way to accomplish this is by brightening up the place. Turn on all your lights for your visitors. Plus, fluff up your bedroom. After all, most people want the bedroom to be the most comfortable spot in the house. Make sure it is-at least when buyers are around.

Clear the joint. Along with the last rule, there is the standard real estate practice of vacating the premises when buyers come for tours. This is done for good reason. Buyers are there to evaluate your home, not meet your sisters, sons, cousins, and cats. So send your family to the mall for a day of shopping, or to the park for a picnic.

Cut the clutter. All of your stuff can get in the way, too. That’s why it’s important to start packing and storing your personal belongings as soon as you know you’re going to move. An empty house is a cleaner looking house is a more attractive house. You don’t want your perspective buyer opening a closet and having a bowling ball fall on their head, do you?

Make a killing on said clutter. One option is to simply move your personal items to your new home and create instant clutter there. That’s the way of the pack rat. Or, you could sell what you no longer need and turn a quick profit. That’s the way of the fat cat.

If you choose wisely-the latter option-be sure not to hold your garage sale on the same days as your open houses. Neighbors in their undershirts and jeans on your front lawn do make for a great sales ploy. Instead, it makes you look desperate and could hurt you come negotiations. Schedule your yard sale on separate days.

Better yet, sell your goods online. Classified Web sites allow you to negotiate with potential buyers, get the best rates for your stuff, and ship it off at your own convenience. And it’s all accomplished on your own time, inside your own home (where you can wear your undershirt and jeans and no one will care).

Take a deep breath. Lastly, never let the home-selling experience overwhelm you. Sure, there are a load of responsibilities to take care of. But that is what your real estate agent is there for. They handle all of the grunt work. They do all of the hard talking with the buyer. They make all the follow-up calls. And they showcase your home for you. Your job is just to smile, be polite, and answer the buyer’s questions if they come up.

Source Donald Lee

Home Staging: 50 Tips – Get Started on Your Home Staging Journey

“Home staging” was coined by Barb Schwarz back in the early ’70s, and the concept has become well known as “house fluffing,” “dressing to sell,” and “home presentation” to name a few, but the concept has not taken hold among home owners when selling a home because many people do not understand the idea or cannot create a workable plan for staging their home correctly.

The focus of staging is to make a home more marketable by creating the most appealing home to the greatest number of prospective buyers. It should be impersonal enough not to infringe on a buyer’s own sense of style.

Decorating is optional. Staging, on the other hand, is essential – that is if you want to sell your house for the most possible money in the shortest amount of time. Staging – it is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.

Since home staging is truly an essential part of selling your home, I wanted to share these 50 Tips To Get You Started on Your Home Staging Journey.

1. Be sure that your home is staged before you or your realtor takes the photos for the web. Over 70% of all new apartment/home searches are started on the Internet. It is imperative that the property looks good in the photos so that it can attract as many people as possible to see the real thing.

2. You should not have one person look at your house until it has been staged completely. It should not go through the broker walkthrough, MLS, open houses, or anything. Stage first!

3. Kate Hart of Hart & Associates Staging and Design LLC knows that home staging works for all properties regardless of the price point because home staging is about preparing your home for a faster and more profitable sale and marketing your property to the most potential buyers for its target audience. “I have staged homes ranging from $100,000 to $10 million and have had the same result- the homes sell faster and for top dollar compared with the competitors within their price range.”

4. If you have dark cabinets, a light colored handle or something in shiny gold will enhance them. If you have light cabinets, you can give them the sleek look by using handles of the same color so that they are hardly noticeable or by using brushed silver handles. With light wood, you can also use darker handles, gold, bronze, or even colors.

5. Sometimes renovations are needed. However, here are five that you should avoid:

– Adding high end appliances to a modest home
– Adding hand painted tiles to the bath or kitchen
– Adding a central vacuum
– Adding air conditioning (unless you are in an area that all homes have it)
– Replacing windows with newer models

6. Be sure to check with your city or county building inspector before beginning a new project. Many departments require permits, even for things as simple as changing a dishwasher.

7. Everything in its place is a good motto to remember. Always find appropriate places to store your items. Litter boxes in the kitchen and trashcans in the pantry are just two examples of inappropriate placement.

8. Julie Dana of The Home Stylist has the following tip: Do not have any cleaning products visible. You want the buyer to think that the house cleans itself. You do not want to remind buyers that there will be work to do in this house, so put away laundry baskets and dish drainers as well!

9. Lisa Wonsey of Space/Lift explains that selling an empty home can be a huge mistake. Buying or renting furniture is especially vital in an empty home. Empty homes do not show well and can sit on the market for months until a buyer with a good visual imagination comes along, or until the seller drops the price so low that the home is a steal.

10. Your refrigerator will need to be cleaned, even if you are not leaving it. People will still look inside and a dirty refrigerator will turn them off. If you are taking it with you, you may as well clean it now. If you are leaving it, then it is imperative to have it sparkling.

11. Ruthanne Hatfield of Art of Interior Placement emphasizes that taking away items is needed, but adding back is essential, too: Each room should be embellished with accessories artwork, mirrors, accent tables, silk trees and florals, as well as dishes, bedding, and towels so all areas look inviting.

12. Check for unusual odors in your house. It may come from a pet or even from your upholstery.

13. Cleaning is rarely fun for anyone, but it does not have to be a terrible chore. Play some fun, lively music. Before you know it, your adrenaline will start pumping and you will be dancing your way through the house.

14. To clean those irritating stains in the bathtub, make a paste by using hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar. Use an old toothbrush to rub the mixture into the stain and rinse thoroughly.

15. To clean the microwave, fill a paper cup with water and a few tablespoons of baking soda. Nuke it for about 30 seconds, or until you see the contents explode. Then just take a paper towel and wipe it all off. The explosion spreads the cleanser over the entire area, and you can even use the moistened rag or paper towel to wipe outside the microwave and its surrounding area.

16. Mary Larsen of Larsen-Trochlil Designs offers the following professional tip: Do not offer money towards painting or installing new carpeting. Remember, if you are not willing to do it, your buyer is not likely to either.

17. Take a look around you. Do you have items in your home that are unused and have no real sentimental value? If so, get rid of them! These types of items can often be found in closets, cupboards, basements, and garages. Sometimes they are on bookshelves or even in your everyday living space. The more you are able to move out the more the next buyer will want to “move in.”

18. If you do not have a plan for what to do with the stuff you no longer need, it will get put in the basement or the attic or the garage or simply stay in a pile in the room where it began. If this happens, then you really did not get rid of clutter – you just moved it to another location. When you are clearing the clutter for home staging purposes, you will have many different piles. Some things may go to a thrift store such as the Salvation Army, some things may go to the dump, some things may go into storage, and some things may be set aside for a garage or yard sale. Knowing what you are going to do with the extra clutter is essential to really decluttering your home.

19. Sylvia Beez of m.a.p. interiors inc. reminds us that: A home for sale should always be presented in its best light and immaculate condition, which is not the reality of everyday life. Potential buyers do not want to see how you live, with your children, cats and dogs, and mess. They want to see themselves in a perfect house under perfect conditions and that is how a home on the market should always be presented.

20. If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers – even your refrigerator – look jammed packed, it sends a negative message to the buyer. This message is that there is not enough room in your kitchen. If they were looking for plentiful storage space, after opening your crowded cupboards, they will believe that they will not find it in your kitchen. The best way to change this negative first impression is to have as much “empty space” as possible.

21. Marlene Feldman of Marlene Feldman Associates has the following suggestion for small dining rooms: If the dining room has an oversized china cabinet, consider removing it. Or, if has a top and bottom, remove the top. This will open up the space considerably

22. Take a look at your bathroom. If you are like most people, you will find half-used shampoo bottles, a jumble of hair accessories, a curling iron, foam curlers, several cans of shaving cream, tub toys, lotions, medication, books and magazines, oils, candles, toilet paper, and on and on and on. The amount of stuff we store in our bathrooms is far greater than the storage capacity for these small rooms, especially, if like many bathrooms, you have just a medicine cabinet and a very small vanity. The “stuff” that is not in use needs to be boxed up and moved out.

23. Katie Joanow of Star Staging explains that: You should remove extra chairs from the tables. Unless you have a massive space, you will not need more than 4 chairs around a table. Also remove extra leaves from the table. This will make the room feel larger.

24. Buyers want to see your carpet or your hardwood floor or your linoleum. Most home stagers suggest removing all area rugs, unless you have a large area of hardwood, where one rug is acceptable. Area rugs make spaces seem more crowded. Without them, your floor plan opens up.

25. Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. Perhaps the clutter is wrapping paper, or Christmas items, or an old sewing machine. Maybe you have some keepsakes, or photo albums. Then of course there are the extra clothes and shoes. None of these things are likely to be in the throw away pile, but they should not be in your closet if you want to reduce the look of clutter.

26. Gail Greer of All Rooms Great and Small gives this tip about painting your home: You need to be willing to change paint colors. There are certain universally accepted colors and these should be used when repainting your home. Yellow or shades of gold are warm and inviting. You should also accent with yellow. Your eye absorbs more yellow and therefore sees it first. Green or blue in the bedrooms are great colors because they are restful.

27. Stand a few feet away from the entrance to the bedroom. What do you see? Whatever you see is the first thing that a buyer will see. Is it pretty? Is it bulky? Does it make the room feel small? Move anything from the doorway that is not inviting.

28. A spare room should be viewed as a bonus. It is a “plus” feature of your home, but only if the buyers can view it as such. For example, if your spare room is used mostly as an office, then, during the selling process,you need to make it just that – an office! Get rid of the spare bed and the extra dressers full of last season’s clothes. Get rid of the boxes of storage items in the closet. Keep the essentials of your office such as a desk, filing cabinet, bookshelf, and a nice chair in the corner with a small table and lamp.

29. Holly Weatherwax of Momentum Realty explains that whenever possible, she recommends leaving the garage free from storage. If people see that the seller does not have enough storage and has to use the garage, they will begin to wonder if the same thing will happen if they buy the house. People like to think that they might actually be able to use a garage!

30. Find out what organizations in your area pick up items. Such organizations often include Goodwill, The Salvation Army, veteran’s associations, and other local organizations. Another good way to get rid of items you no longer need is to use Freecycle. Here, you can list items you no longer need and then choose someone from a list of takers to have them. The best part is the person wanting the items comes to your home on your timetable to get them. You can find a freecycle group in your area by going to www.freecycle.org.

31. Get everything off the counters. Everything. Remove all appliances from the countertops. Even the toaster. Doing so will make you kitchen look larger and more spacious. It will also keep the buyer’s eye from stopping on a particular item rather than getting a full view of the room. Put the toaster in a cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place where you can store everything in cabinets and drawers.

32. Charlie Ann Taylor of C.A.T.’S ROOMER has a lot to say about these focal points in your home: The kitchen and baths need to be model perfect because the kitchen and baths sell the home.

33. Have you taken away so much that your home no longer has any sparkle? Although YOUR personality needs to be removed, the personality of the house still needs to come through.

34. One of the most important factors to consider when placing items into a room is the idea of transition. As your eye moves around the room, you do not want it jumping from place to place or piece to piece. The movement of the eye should flow – not bounce. To accomplish this, you want to avoid abrupt changes in height.

35. Gail Jackson of Weichert Realtors explains that home staging does not need to be expensive: Paint is very inexpensive and gives you a big bang for your buck. Although a bit labor-intensive, painting is not expensive and gives your home a new, fresh, clean look.

36. Give each room a touch of the unexpected. This can be done with artwork placed in an unusual way, using a piece of furniture in a way that you normally would not use it, or adding a dash of color where the eye least expects to find it. Be creative.

37. Follow the “like-with-like” rule of the thumb. Tall with tall, small with small, wide with wide, and narrow with narrow will guide you throughout the decorating process. Mimic the shape of each space you are decorating. For example, a sofa should be accessorized with horizontal art so you are complementing wide with wide.

38. Marcia Smart’s (Smart Interior Styling) tip is to: Recognize that your major competition comes from newer homes. People will take a newer home over an older home if all else is equal. That is why it is essential to give an older home something that puts it above the rest.

39. My favorite decorating tip is to look outside the box. You do not always need to use an item for its intended purpose. For example, do not just use a tablecloth for a table; make it a slipcover for your ottoman. It can save you lots of money and time when you purchase a tablecloth at a local chain verses buying yards of fabric and by purchasing the correct size it can become a no-sew project. Always keep your eyes open for new uses for everyday items.

40. Select a focal point for your room and subtly orient other furnishings and some lighting toward it. If there is a fireplace, it will nearly always be the focal point; other focal points might be bookcases or built-in shelving to house lovely collectibles, or a sofa with a striking painting on the wall above it.

41. Donna Reynolds of Home Rearrangements explains that there are two times that you can angle furniture: In a square room and if a room already has an angle in it, like a corner fireplace or a bay window.

42. In a bedroom, unless you have no other choice, you want to see the foot of the bed when you walk in. You do not want a bed to cross the doorway because it blocks the flow and makes the room look smaller. It is better to see the foot so that you can see the pretty pillows.

43. One of the easiest ways to create color is to add beautiful accent pillows to any room. Introducing a complementary accent color in a room can make a room “pop” and come alive. Accent pillows not only add color but texture and warmth as well. By adding throw pillows in a coordinating or contrast fabric to a couch chair, bench, or bed, you can transform your room and add instant warmth inexpensively!

44. One way to see if your home has curb appeal is to walk across the street and have a good look at your house. where did your eyes go? They should be drawn to the front door and entryway. If they are not, then you need to do something about it.

45. Kimberly Cash of ASPM Tidewater Home Staging Consultants, Inc. offers the following advice: People do not see their house as a product that you have to market and sell. However, selling your home is like packaging. People look at the outside before deciding to come in. Then they look at the inside before deciding to buy, and it is mostly based on looks. It is packaging. You need to wrap up your product, your home, like a beautiful package.

46. Once you have gotten the front yard in shape, it is time to work on the backyard. The most important areas of the backyard are the patios, decks, and porches. Getting these areas up to date will give the buyers a feeling that they are getting bonus space.

47. New window treatments can make a world of difference. They can add value and style to your home and be something the buyers view as a bonus – something they will not have to buy or replace when they move in. The caution, however, is that you keep the treatments neutral (keep your personality out of the room) and that you make sure they do not block the amount of light that comes into a room.

48. Debra Blackmon of Blackmon Design offers the following suggestion for your windows: Many homes have the louvers of the blinds turned down to face the floor. A more enhancing way to use blinds is to turn the louvers up to reflect much-needed ambient light onto the ceiling.

49. Sometimes, refreshing a room can be as easy as changing a light bulb. Bulbs like GE Reveal filter out yellow rays common in ordinary light bulbs, making colors, fabric, walls, and artwork appear richer, crisper, and more vivid.

50. Add pampering accessories! Things like bath bubbles, fluffy towels, and candles not only add the pampering feeling you are trying to achieve, they offer visual comfort with color and texture as well. Psychologically, we all crave that long soak with a good book, and even if we are only in the bathroom for 10 minutes to whip on some make up, just seeing those items displayed promises wonderful baths to come!

As you know, your home becomes a house – a product for sale. Staging your property gives you a more competitive edge in today’s market by transforming it into a marketable product. A staged property helps you sell your investment for top dollar and is the first line of defense over lowering the price. Do not settle for less at the closing table simply because you did not understand the value of staging or did not want to take the time or spend the money to do it properly.

In this world of busy buyers, a property has to be staged to appeal to the their imagination. They want to be able to look at your home and know that they can live there. They want to know that their furniture will fit. They want to know that everything is in “move in” condition. That is why staging is so important. It allows buyers to imagine themselves living in your home with their stuff, not yours.

Presentation is everything and staging is presentation! The result is improved functionality and complementary space. Following the techniques in this book will maximize your equity while reducing the market time for your home.

Source:

Please Note: While delighted to respond to real estate related inquiries, Ryan is not particularly interested in being contacted by persons with a specific interest in any “celebrity” affiliations.
Photography and Design Copyright Ryan Melcher. All Rights Reserved. This website may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the consent of the publisher.
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