Best Questions to Ask When Purchasing Your Home.

Before making an offer on a house, you want to be absolutely sure that it’s “the one.” But with so many options out there, for seasoned houses, how do you find your perfect match?

Finding the right home involves research, so you’ll need to ask the right questions. That way you know you’re making a competitive offer on a home that you can afford — and one that meets your long-term needs.

To clear out the doubts here are a few crucial questions to ask when buying a house.

WHAT’S MY BUDGET?

Don’t waste your time looking at houses without first understanding how much house you can afford. There are additional costs to consider beyond just the sales price, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, ongoing maintenance and any renovations you want to do in the future. Keep in mind, If you want your offer to be accepted, you must show the seller you have the financial means to buy their house. This means getting preapproved for a mortgage.

WHY IS THE SELLER SELLING the house?

Understanding why the seller is moving whether it’s due to downsizing, a job relocation or as a result of a major life event might help you get a better deal on the property. A good buyer’s agent will try to find out this information for you and gauge how flexible (or not) the seller might be during negotiations. A motivated seller who needs to move quickly or whose home has been on the market a while is more likely to work with you than someone who isn’t in a rush to move.

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE SALE?

Anything that’s considered a fixture is typically included when purchasing a house — think cabinets, faucets and window blinds. However, there could be items that you think are included but actually aren’t. This depends on your state’s laws. The listing description should spell out anything the seller is not including, but that’s not always the case.

So make sure to ask in your offer what is (and isn’t) included with the home. Do you really want that washer and dryer, or that stainless-steel refrigerator? Confirm whether the seller is willing to throw these items into the deal.

ARE THERE ANY MAJOR RENOVATIONS DONE TO THE PROPERTY?

In some cases, property records and listing descriptions don’t always match up. For example, a home might be advertised as having four bedrooms, but one of those rooms may be a non-conforming addition that doesn’t follow local building codes.

Find out what major repairs or renovations the seller has done since owning the home. It’s also smart to request the original manufacturer warranties on any appliances or systems that have been replaced. Knowing a home’s improvement history can help you better gauge its condition and understand the seller’s asking price.

HOW OLD IS THE ROOF?

Let’s face it: Roofs are necessary, and expensive. If a home’s roof is at the end of its lifespan and you wind up having to replace it shortly after move-in, you’ll be shelling out thousands of dollars. Ouch. And if the roof has existing damage, the lender may require that it be repaired in order to approve your loan. If listing description doesn’t list the roof’s age, make sure to find out so you can avoid a costly home-improvement headache later.

ARE THERE ANY HEALTH HAZARDS?

Issues like lead paint, radon, mold or other major hazards can be costly to address and can hold up your loan approval. Ask the seller to provide documentation if there have been past issues, and find out exactly what was done to resolve those problems. If you suspect hazardous problems — or a home inspector suggests additional testing — you might need to pay extra for those specialized services.

HOW OLD ARE THE APPLIANCES AND MAJOR SYSTEMS?

Again, understanding the anticipated lifespan of essential systems and appliances — like the air conditioner, furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and stove — can help you anticipate major repair or replacement expenses. If these items are already at the end of their lifespan, or near it, ask the seller to purchase a home warranty, which can help cover the replacement costs in certain instances.

HOW LONG HAS THE HOUSE BEEN ON THE MARKET?

The longer a house sits on the market, the more motivated the seller will likely be to make a deal. This means you might find flexibility to negotiate the price, contingencies, terms and credits for replacing outdated carpet or other noticeable issues.

Many times, a home will languish on the market if it was priced too high at the onset, resulting in the need for multiple price reductions. A listing that shows multiple price cuts and has been sitting on the market too long may give buyers the impression that something is wrong with it. And that gives you a prime opportunity to negotiate a deal.

DO YOU HAVE NEIGHBORHOOD COMPARABLES TO SHOW ME?

Understanding the current local market will help you determine whether a seller’s asking price is reasonable  — or way too high. Your Realtor can pull the comparable listing data for similar homes that are currently on the market, and ones have sold in the last six months or so, as a basis for comparison.

ARE THERE ANY INSURANCE CLAIMS?

Get a copy of a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE report, from the seller to see if there have been any homeowners insurance claims filed in the last seven years. This report can give you insight into what, if any, damage the home has sustained from a weather event or vandalism that a home inspection doesn’t catch or a seller fails to mention.

SELLER DISCLOSURE.

Sellers are required to provide a disclosure form listing any known defects. But what they don’t disclose — and you don’t know — can lead to major issues later. That’s why it’s critical to get a home inspection done by a professional home inspector as soon as a purchase agreement is signed.

The inspection report outlines the home’s overall condition and can help you negotiate future concessions, such as repairs or seller-paid credits, before closing the deal. If a home has too many problems and you included an appraisal contingency when you made an offer on the home, you’ll be able to back out of the deal without penalty and (in most cases) get your earnest deposit returned.

SOURCE: BANKRATE.COM

How Can You Avoid Mortgage Mistakes when Purchasing Your Home.

Mortgages don’t have to be scary. After all, they’re just business transactions, albeit big ones.  

Yet, a survey by mortgage website Freeandclear.com found that 75% of home loan applicants compared the mortgage loan process to an annual physical or a dentist visit. Yep, a credit check and a ton of paperwork scared them as much as flu shots, dental drills, and lectures on flossing.

We asked for confidence-building advice from a couple of mortgage lenders: and here’s what they had to say.

#1 Communicate With All Parties

This deal involves several people: you, the seller, your agent, the seller’s agent, and the lender. Keep everyone in the loop on every bit of information, or your closing could get delayed.

#2 Have Enough Money to Pay Closing Costs

Of course, you’ll need to pay closing costs — thousands of dollars for an appraisal, credit check, and title search. Closing costs are usually 2% to 5% of the amount you’re borrowing. If you don’t have enough money, there are a few ways to work around the problem.

  • Look for assistance programs that cover some of the closing costs.
    Call a relative and ask for a gift.
  • If you’re fortunate enough to have relatives who are both generous and flush with cash, ask them for the money.
  • Negotiate with the seller to have them pay the closing costs.
    Ask your agent to help you strike the deal with the seller, you’ll need to be willing to pay the full asking price, close quickly, and accept the house as is.

#3 Unfreeze Your Credit

Buyers may have placed a security freeze on their credit, which restricts access to their reports. This can prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in their name, but can cause trouble when they’re applying for a mortgage. Head off problems as soon as you begin mortgage shopping. Log into your online accounts at the three credit reporting agencies and unfreeze your credit. If you forget your password or get locked out of your account, you’ll have to reset it by snail mail. “It can take 10 to 14 days to unfreeze your credit that way,” Delgadillo says. This delay could force a rescheduling of the closing. 

#4 Steer Clear of Big Purchases After Mortgage Pre-approval

Your lender will check your credit twice: when you apply for the mortgage and days before you close on the house and get the keys. In the interim, if you buy a houseful of furniture, you could delay your close or even cause it to fall through. Even applying for a credit card or car loan can affect your mortgage rate. To get the information it needs, the lender will request your credit file from the credit bureaus. That results in a “hard inquiry” that shows up on your credit report and may affect your credit rating, according to Experian.

#6 Ask Questions So Your Lender and Agent Can Help

There are no dumb questions. Lenders and agents are there to help you, so pick their brains. For example, ask if they know of home loan programs to help you get into a home and how to access them. See about getting the seller to pay closing costs. Check on anything you don’t understand. “More people can get down payment and closing cost assistance now than ever before,”.

Taking these simple actions can keep your home loan application on track. And that means fewer hassles and less stress for you. SOURCE: HOUSELOGIC

The Benefits of Using Ceiling Fans in Your House.

Consider that we use our heating and cooling systems to keep our homes comfortable when the weather outside doesn’t match what we desire indoors, and that many homeowners wisely invest in annual maintenance to make sure they keep running safely and efficiently – but is there more that we can do to help increase comfort levels? Maybe help reduce the bills a little? There sure is!

Ceiling fans may not be the most complex of home comfort products, but they can provide considerable benefits that you can take advantage of all year-round. Not merely a fancy light fixture – not to ‘throw shade’ on the quality lighting options offered by these products – ceiling fans can absolutely assist and enhance the performance of your heating and cooling systems, and most importantly, improve your indoor comfort levels.

Simply put, the blades on a ceiling fan can spin in either direction. Depending on the direction the fan blades are turning, air is either directed downward from the center of the fan or pulled upward toward the center of the fan.

During the summer, your ceiling fan is ‘normally’ operated so that that air is blown downward from the middle of the fan, the blades spinning counterclockwise, creating a comfortable breeze at sitting level which can be felt around much of the room. During wintertime, the fan direction is typically reversed, blades turning clockwise, so that air is pulled upward in the center, the result being that warm air collecting near the ceiling is pushed downward around the perimeter of the room.

In this ‘winter mode,’ you are not subjected to a direct breeze from the fan, and floor-level temperatures will be uniformly more comfortable. This is a good starting point for understanding the operation of your ceiling fan or fans.

Depending on factors such as the presence of a wood or gas stove or fireplace, an adjacent sunroom, vaulted ceilings, location of sofas and chairs, you may find that more preferable comfort levels may be achieved by running your ceiling fan a little differently, at times. Our recomendation: experiment and see what you prefer!

By operating a ceiling fan in a fashion that best suits your home and your needs, during the heating season you should be able to turn down your thermostat setting a little bit and maintain the same comfort level. And when it’s hot outside – AC season! – you should be able to accomplish a similar feat, adjusting the temperature setting upward a little.

Late summer, when the heat is typically not as intense, you may even be able to turn off the AC and achieve your desired comfort level using just ceiling fans. These small changes can yield measurable savings on your electric and gas bills, and those savings will continue to add up, every year! While everyone has their own personal comfort levels and preferences, we’ve found these practices ring true for many homeowners. SOURCE: Save Some Heat, Co.

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Preventive Maintenance to Make Your Appliances Last Longer.

Major appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers are costly to repair and even more expensive to replace. But you can stave off those repairs and keep your appliances running longer by performing a few easy maintenance tips. You won’t need a lot of mechanical expertise to keep your appliances in tip-top shape—just some common sense and a little elbow grease.

REFRIGERATORS

The best way to maintain your refrigerator is simply to keep it clean, inside and out.

Clean under and behind your refrigerator regularly. Whirlpool Institute of Kitchen Science expert Lucinda Ottusch says it’s important to remove and clean the refrigerator’s base grill often to improve air flow to the appliance’s components. Ryan Huntley, of RepairClinic.com, says that the coils at the bottom or behind your refrigerator need regular cleaning so the coils can efficiently cool the unit.

Wash the door seals. If the seals in your refrigerator door are sticky, it’s time to clean them. Ottusch says warm, soapy water and a soft cloth will do the trick. Applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the seals will make them last longer, Huntley says. 

Don’t forget the ice dispenser. If your refrigerator has a built-in ice/water dispenser, you’ll need to clean that, too. The drip tray should be removed and cleaned at least every two to three months, Huntley says. He also recommends cleaning the ice bucket assembly once a month so your ice doesn’t pick up refrigerator odors. The dispenser’s water filter should be replaced at least every six months.

DISHWASHERS

The job of a dishwasher is to clean and dispose of the food residue you leave on your dishes. It’s a dirty job, indeed. But keeping your dishwasher clean is only part of your plan of action to keep it running at its best.

Fix the filter. Most new dishwashers use a filter system that traps food particles during the wash cycle. Ottusch says dishwashers that use a filter system are quieter and more energy efficient than older dishwashers that use a chopper system. Check and clean the filter regularly to prevent a buildup of food, pits, seeds and anything else that might get trapped there.

Rinse out mineral deposits. Hard water is tough on dishwashers as mineral deposits (as well as bits of food or other matter) can build up in the water holes in the dishwasher’s spray arm. Huntley says you can clean out the water jets in the spray arm with a toothpick. Also, the water inlet valve can begin to clog, which means your dishwasher won’t get the proper amount of hot water. You’ll need to replace a clogged water inlet valve. For general cleaning, Whirlpool’s Ottusch recommends a dishwasher cleaner such as Affresh to help remove some of the hard water deposits.

WASHING MACHINES

Top-loading washers require little if any home maintenance, according to Huntley, but front-loading washers need more care.

Leave the door open. Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science expert Tremitchell Wright says it’s a good idea to leave your washer door open after you’ve completed a load of laundry. This will allow air to circulate in the washer, rather than trapping in moisture, which can lead to mold and mildew problems. Wright also recommends using a cleaner designed for washing machines once per month, such as Affresh tablets. He also recommends checking the door’s rubber gasket (called a bellow) to make sure it’s clean and intact.

Don’t overload it. Huntley says that overloading the washer can wear out and break some of the machine’s components more quickly than with typical usage. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maximum capacity so your washer will last longer. That goes for dryers, too.

DRYERS

Clothes dryers go hand-in-hand with washers, but dryers have different maintenance needs. You know you should empty the lint trap after every load, but there are several other things you should do to keep your dryer going strong.

Keep the exhaust vent clean. Both Wright and Huntley stress that it’s important to make sure your dryer’s exhaust vent is clean. Wright recommends cleaning it at least once per year. Be sure to check the outside air vent, too.

Make sure the dryer is level. If your dryer is tilting or hopping around while it works, then the components supporting the dryer’s drum will wear out more quickly. Additionally, your dryer will be a lot more noisier.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to do a little simple maintenance on your major appliances, but the payoff is big. A clean, well-maintained appliance can run well for years, which will leave more money in your pockets and you won’t be on a first-name basis with your repairman.

All appliances do eventually wear out, however, no matter how well you take care of them. When something does break, you need to know whether to repair or replace. Click that link to learn when to fix it versus when to buy a new one. SOURCE:NEA

Common Mistakes People Make When They Are About to Close on their Dream Home.

Once you put in an offer on your dream home, the weeks spent waiting to close can be brutal.

While deciding whether or not to give you mortgage, lenders are looking at your accounts and credit history with a fine-tooth comb. You may be tempted to celebrate early by buying new furniture or splurging on a celebratory I-just-bought-a-new-house purchase, but real estate agents recommend waiting until you actually close on the home to do anything big.

Here are a few common mistakes homebuyers make during the closing process that hurt their chances of getting their dream home.

Opening a new line of credit.

Real estate agent Cedric Stewart at Entourage RG in Washington, DC says that homebuyers typically have more access to credit before they buy a home because they’ve likely spent time paying down debt and cleaning as much of their credit history as possible.

It can be tempting to open up a new credit card, but Stewart says, “If [the lender] sees you reaching out to get your hands on more credit, it could trigger questions about your financial situation that sink your chances of owning your dream home.”

Buying new appliances or furniture.

Stewart also says that buying new furniture or new appliances, like an HVAC for a fixer-upper home, can hurt your chances of closing on a home as well. “A bill for $10,000 worth of beds and couches can make underwriters unhappy and throw your debt profile out of whack,” he explains, adding, “It’s the right thing to do for your home, just at the wrong time.”

Buying or leasing a car.

Similar to opening up new lines of credit, or incurring big costs for furniture and appliances, buying or leasing a car during the closing process can raise red flags for the lenders and hurt your process of closing on a home.

Cosigning anyone else’s loans.

Stewart shares a story with Insider about a client who had to walk away from a deal because he had cosigned a friend’s car loan a few months ago.

“We were at the settlement table and the loan officer said there was a problem,” Steward says. “The client ruined his chances of becoming a first-time homebuyer because he wanted to help a friend with bad credit.” Don’t cosign anyone else’s loans, or make anyone an authorized user on your credit card during this time.

Quitting your job or switching to a new job

“The lender has equated your employment and ability to pay the loan based on your current job,” realtor Chantay Clark Bridges at eXp Realty of California, Inc. tells Insider. Any sudden changes in your employment can raise red flags in the lender’s eyes and hurt your chances of closing on the house.

Listening to your friends over your realtor.

“In lieu of trusting their realtor who has years and years of experience closing on homes, they listen to their cousin or the coworker in the cubicle next to them — who in turn have provided very bad advice,” Bridges says.

For example, a family member might tell you to play hardball with closing costs without considering how competitive your neighborhood is, and their advice might cost you the house. While your cousin or coworker might have done something to help secure their own mortgage, the same exact piece of advice might not work for your own process.

Paying down student loans, or other large debts.

Realtor Kate Ziegler at Arborview Realty in Boston, MA and Coldwell Banker Lifestyles in New London, NH says you should avoid “what might otherwise seem like positive credit changes,” like paying off your student loans in one fell swoop.

She continues, “Unless your lender specifically advises that course of action, changes to credit combined with a dip in your savings can be a red flag to underwriters when they do a final check just before closing.” SOURCE: Business Insider

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