Going green is not just a new trend; it is a way of life that benefits not only the environment, but also your health — and your pocketbook.
Green living cuts down on carbon emissions and creates a healthier environment both inside and outside of a home. While green structures sometimes cost more initially, the money (and environment) saved in the long run is well worth the investment.
Owning a green South Orange County home has significant health benefits. Many conventional buildings are not properly ventilated and indoor air quality is often more polluted than the air outside.
Poor air quality is bad for your health and can aggravate asthma and allergies. Certified green properties tend to have excellent airflow and ventilation. They also use toxin-free materials in building and may have fewer problems with mold and mildew.
Homes are responsible for a significant portion of the carbon emissions on earth. A green home has a smaller carbon footprint since it is built with better insulation and fitted with energy-efficient appliances.
Green structures are built from sustainable or recycled materials that are meant to lower the impact on the environment. Proper green buildings also take advantage of natural lighting and airflow to reduce the use of electricity to light and to help warm and cool their interiors.
Green buildings are constructed to use less energy, which means you should pay less in energy costs. Ventilation systems in green structures are better insulated to reduce air leakage.
Builders also install fixtures that conserve water and are energy efficient. The initial cost might be slightly higher, but the monthly bills can be cut almost in half in many cases.
There are even more financial, environmental and health benefits to owning a green property. Living in a green home can allow you to save yourself money and help the earth, all while living in a healthy environment.
If you’re looking to purchase a new house, consider a green property.
Everyone knows that first impressions are important. By carefully staging your home, you can positively influence the feelings your potential buyers have when they are viewing the property.
Staging is the art of decorating and arranging the spaces within your house to make it more appealing to buyers. If you can adapt the rooms to create an attractive and welcoming zone that home buyers can see themselves in, they will be more likely to buy your property.
One of the most important rooms to stage is the living room, because it is such a central part of the house. This is where a lot of the social activity occurs, so it should appear comfortable and welcoming.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when staging your living room before the next showing of your home:
- Clear out the clutter. The most important step is to de-clutter, because a mess will turn off potential buyers. Clear away any papers, toys and other items to make your living room as clean and minimalist as possible.
- Go zen. The main purpose of a living room is for relaxation, so make the space look as comfortable as possible. Try a soft throw on the sofa, plush cushions and a big chair that is just begging you to come curl up with a book.
- Strategically place furniture. Arrange the living room furniture to create areas of conversation, such as two sofas facing each other with a low coffee table in the middle.
- Depersonalize. Remove your personal items. If you have too many family photos and personal effects in the room, it can make it difficult for your potential buyers to imagine their own family living there.
- Remove the bulk. If your living room feels small, you can remove some of the furniture to give it the illusion of being bigger.
- Channel your green thumb. You might want to consider bringing in some plants to make the space feel fresh.
- Brighten it up. If your living room has dark corners, invest in upright lamps that will help illuminate the space and provide an aura of intimacy.
With these seven tips, the living room in your South Orange County home will be much more appealing to potential buyers.
For more ideas on how to get the highest price possible in the shortest period of time, shoot me an email or give me a call. I’m ready to go to work for you.
When deciding to sell a piece of South Orange County real estate, there are certain things you must disclose about the property to the buyer before the sale can go through.
Disclosure laws are put in place to protect the buyer from unknowingly purchasing defective property. Not disclosing certain information about the property can jeopardize the sale, or worse, invite a lawsuit.
This has become more of an issue lately as some sellers are tempted to gloss over deficiencies in the home they are selling in order to try to get a higher sales price. In fact, a recent poll of real estate agents showed that 75% of agents ranked non-disclosure among the “top three current and future issues.”
What You May Need To Disclose
The main items that need to be disclosed are any defects with the home. This includes, but is not limited to, plumbing problems, water leaks, cracks in the foundation, insect infestations and toxic materials in the home — such as lead, asbestos, carbon monoxide or mold.
Be sure to fully disclose anything that may be pertinent to the buyer before purchase. Some disclosure laws include reporting issues with neighbors and whether the home has a criminal or notorious past.
If you are unsure about some information regarding your real estate, one option would be to state that you do not know that specific information. Remember though, if you knowingly withhold information, it may cause the sale to fall through or could be used against you in a lawsuit.
Does It Make Sense To Have A Pre-Inspection Done?
Sellers can also have their home inspected prior to placing the property on the market to prevent any surprises of unknown problems with the home. This way, defects can be fixed before listing the property, and the disclosure form can state the problem has been fixed. Buyers will almost surely want an inspection prior to closing, and a pre-inspection may suffice.
Disclosing information does not mean the seller needs to fix the problem. Any disclosed problems with the real estate can become a negotiation point. Remember, the most important thing is to be honest about any known issues with the property.
Real estate disclosure laws may be different depending on the state in which you live. The best way to know what you need to disclose in your area is to check with your trusted real estate agent and discuss any potential property issues with them before you fill out the seller disclosure form.
Mortgage rates rose last week with average rates a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rising from last week’s 3.35 percent to 3.42 percent with buyers paying all closing costs and 0.7 percent in discount points.
Average rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 2.56 percent to 2.61 percent with buyers paying their closing costs and 0.7 percent in discount points.
Freddie Mac also reports that average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.56 percent last week to 2.58 percent with buyers paying their closing costs and 0.5 percent in discount points.
Here are noteworthy points from last week’s economic news:
Monday: In spite of improving economic conditions, a majority of participants in the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices indicated that their lending institutions would not be relaxing residential mortgage lending standards. Lenders perceive a significant risk in terms of being required to absorb losses incurred on defaulted mortgage loans.
Mortgage owners including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with mortgage insurance companies can require mortgage lenders to buy back defaulted loans or make them whole for losses related to foreclosed and otherwise defaulted mortgage loans.
Tuesday: CoreLogic reported an increase of 1.9 percent in national home prices for March. This news represents the 13th consecutive increase and a year-over-year increase of 10.5 percent.
Home prices were boosted by strong increases in the West; Nevada posted a 22.2 percent gain from last March and California posted a 17.2 percent year-over-year gain.
CoreLogic predicted a year-over-year increase of 9.6 percent for home prices for April, with a monthly increase of 1.3 percent increase expected between March and April.
Thursday: Weekly jobless claims brought good news as they came in at 323,000; this was lower than expectations of 335,000 new jobless claims and the 327,000 new jobless claims reported in the prior week.
Friday: The Treasury Department reported that the federal budget has a surplus of + $113 billion for April. This was $54 billion higher than for April 2012 and the highest monthly surplus since April, 2008.
Increasing home values and federal budget surpluses, along with falling consumer debt pointed the way toward overall as well as personal economic recovery last week.
What‘s Coming Up
This week brings a couple important economic reports affecting the real estate industry including the Home Builders Index on Wednesday and the Weekly Jobless Claims and Housing Starts numbers released on Thursday.
The Consumer Sentiment and Leading Indicators reports will round out the week on Friday. Consumer Sentiment is important in terms of housing markets and mortgage lending; consumers typically don’t buy homes or move up to a larger home if they aren’t feeling secure about economic conditions.
This week’s economic data may provide further evidence of a stronger U.S. economy as well as a snapshot of retail spending and consumer costs.
But I understand the urge to post them — Spring Cleaning is one of those tasks that is daunting and dread-making until you’re done, and you feel the great sense of accomplishment, freshness and possibility of your post-cleaning space.
Removing clutter at home removes obstacles to mental clarity by stopping up those little nagging drains that leak a little bit more of your energy every time you see that pile of papers that need shredding or the boxes of toys your kids no longer use. And the same goes for Spring Cleaning your credit report in advance of kicking off your house hunt. It’s stressful to have little credit report glitches get in your way and hold up the process after you’re already in heated house hunt mode.
Getting out in front of potential financing issues by doing a DIY credit cleaning gives you the chance to remove all those glitches and obstacles to a smooth loan approval, underwriting and home buying transaction.
Here’s how to do-it-yourself:
1. Do one scan for flat-out errors. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and order your credit reports from all three reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Look for accounts that aren’t yours, that have long been closed or otherwise are erroneously reported (e.g., payments listed as late that were actually on-time, a short sale listed as a foreclosure, etc.). Follow the instructions on the reports to dispute such report errors immediately – both online/on the phone and in writing.
Be prepared that it might even take several rounds of disputes and submissions of documents proving your case to ultimately clear everything up – if you experience this, make sure to loop your mortgage pro in after the first dispute round, rather than waiting months and months to even make the first call. It might be the case that the hard-to-dispute items are simply not making much of a difference to your ability to get a home loan.
2. Do another scan for small reporting inaccuracies you think don’t make a difference – but do. In particular, you’re looking for things like:
- delinquencies that should have aged off
- balances listed as higher than they truly are
- limits listed as lower than they really are, and
- short sales/foreclosures that are improperly dated, among other things.
Paying bills late or not at all is only one thing that dings your credit report and score. Having a maxed out credit account (loan, line or card) limits is another. So, if your credit report shows your balances as higher than they actually are or your limits as lower than they actually are, this by itself can actually impair your credit score.
These sorts of little, technical errors can, cumulatively, create a serious, negative impact on your credit score. They are very common – and commonly overlooked by consumers who are looking primarily for big, bad errors and wrong reporting that might indicate identity theft or other nefarious goings-on. So take a second tour through your credit reports looking for inaccurate balances and limits.
In the same vein, triple-check the dates of any delinquent payments, collections, short sale(s), foreclosure(s), or bankruptcies that are legitimately reported. Another common error is for these sorts of derogatory credit marks to have been dated inaccurately. Delinquencies should age entirely off your report after 7 years, and bankruptcies after 10. The precise date of a short sale or foreclosure can actually make or break your ability to qualify for a home loan – so make sure it is reported accurately.
3. Pay the right things off – and take care not to pay off accounts you need to show your responsible use of credit. A few things that most lenders will demand you settle, bring current or pay off entirely before you can buy a home:
- accounts in collections
- state and federal tax liens
- past home loans or lines of credit in default that were not extinguished through foreclosure or short sale (e.g., second loans, home equity lines of credit, etc.)
- defaulted federal student loans (for FHA loan applicants).
If you do have to negotiate with any such creditors for settlements or repayment plans, consider including the way they report the account as one of the negotiables in your settlement deal. Consult with your mortgage professional about how you should ask the creditor to report the resolution as part of the settlement – you might not get it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
Your mortgage pro can also help you understand how you should sequence and prioritize the various items on this little laundry list. For example, some lenders might allow you to simply extinguish a tax lien at closing, while most FHA loans won’t allow for a credit pre-approval while you have a defaulted federal student loan on your report.
But do exercise some caution when you start paying off debt in preparation for home buying. Some house hunters take the opportunity to pay all their debt off and close out old, unused accounts, thinking it will document their readiness for the financial responsibilities of homeownership. Not so: credit scores are optimized when they show that you (a) have credit available to you, and (b) are responsible in how you use it. The ideal for the FICO score calculations is to be using roughly 30 percent of the credit available to you on your accounts. So don’t pay them entirely off, and whatever you do, don’t close accounts that are open and/or current.
That said, don’t go out charging up a storm trying to bring zero balance accounts up to 30 percent credit limit usage. A flurry of new charges can upset your debt-to-income ratio and be seen by the FICO calculating robots as a sign of potential financial distress.
4. Get your mortgage pro to help. Up to now, you’ve been working on the reports that you can pull yourself, for free, as mandated under the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) through AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports are free and are the smart starting point for your credit Spring Cleaning, but they have two important shortcomings:
(1) They are almost never identical to the report your lender will actually use as the basis of your mortgage application, and
(2) They do not include the FICO credit score on which lending decisions are based.
So, once you’ve dealt with any major or minor reporting errors you detect on the free reports, get your mortgage pro in the loop (if you haven’t already) and ask them to pull your report and FICO score, and help you to troubleshoot it. From the report, they can tell you whether you’ll have any challenges qualifying at the price range you desire and, if so, they can help you put a plan of action into place for finishing up your credit fitness program.
Many mortgage pros have software or expertise that can power a set of recommendations about what you need to do to complete your credit report Spring Clean, like paying 3 particular accounts down by a specific dollar amount, each. Also, they generally have access to Rapid Rescore or similar programs that will have your report updated and your credit score revised within a day or two after you pay a bill down or execute your mortgage broker’s other score-boosting advice. (By contrast, it can take 30 days or more it can take for your score to be updated if you dispute your report on your own.)
5. Ask about augmenting your report with non-traditional “tradelines,” if needed. If you simply don’t have much credit because you like to pay cash, kudos to you for managing your finances responsibly. Increasingly, lenders will allow borrowers to use non-traditional accounts to document their credit history. If you can document your history of paying your rent, health insurance, or even child care bills on time, every time, for at least 12 months, talk to your mortgage professional about whether you can use any of these accounts to prove yourself creditworthy to mortgage lenders.“
ALL: Is anyone Spring Cleaning their credit report right now? What have you found – any tips or insights you can share?
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RealtyTrac recently reported that national foreclosure filings are down while foreclosure filings are seeing marked increases in some states.
There are two systems for foreclosing residential real estate in the United States; judicial and non-judicial foreclosure. The states individually decide which foreclosure process will be followed in their state.
Judicial foreclosure requires action by the courts because the mortgage is not written including a “power of sale clause”. Judicial foreclosure proceedings generally take longer than non-judicial processes due to this court involvement.
A log-jam of delayed judicial foreclosures are beginning to move through backlogged courts with the result of higher numbers of foreclosures started, foreclosure auctions scheduled, and properties either sold to third parties at foreclosure auctions or repossessed by mortgage lenders.
In states allowing non-judicial foreclosure, the matter may be handled outside of the judicial system as the mortgage is written with the power of sale clause which allows the lender to take control of the mortgaged property to satisfy the outstanding lien.
Here are highlights of April’s foreclosure report:
Nationally, 144,790 foreclosure filings were made in April, a decrease of 5 percent compared to March and representing an annual decrease of 23 percent year-over-year.
Overall, April’s residential foreclosure activity was at its lowest since February 2007. About one of every 905 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing during April.
Due to the aforementioned backlog of judicial foreclosures, scheduled foreclosure auctions hit a 30-month high in April rising by 22 percent between March and April.
Some states had markedly higher rates of foreclosure sales scheduled in April 2013 as compared to April 2012. Examples include Maryland (+199 percent), New Jersey (+91 percent), Ohio (+73 percent), Oklahoma (+57 percent), and Florida (+55 percent)
Foreclosure auctions scheduled in non-judicial states were 7 percent lower in April as compared to March, and were an encouraging 43 percent lower in April 2013 as compared to April 2012; this was the lowest reading for non-judicial foreclosure sales scheduled since December of 2005.
Non-judicial foreclosure sales were impacted in some states as the result of legislation affecting foreclosure procedures. Affected states included Arkansas, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
70,133 U.S. homes went into foreclosure in April 2013, which is 40 percent lower than for March 2013 and 28 percent lower than during April 2012.
With home values increasing and large numbers of delayed foreclosures clearing the books, this data offers further evidence that the U.S. real estate market is steadily improving. As more foreclosures are removed from the housing inventory, home prices should continue to stabilize and increase in the South Orange County area.
Whether you’re looking to buy a new house this month or do a little remodeling, take advantage of the opportunity to give the mom in your life a present she’ll appreciate every day.
Below are a few ideas for housing priorities and renovation projects that typically rate high on women’s wish lists for their homes.
Open Living Areas
The open floor plan is usually a big plus for any mother. They want to be able to cook dinner in the kitchen while monitoring their children’s schoolwork at the dining table.
So look for a house that affords this visual luxury or consider the generous gift of getting dirty and knocking down some walls.
What woman doesn’t need more room for her clothes, shoes and purses? If you’re looking at houses, keep in mind how much closet space will work for your wife or mother.
If it’s not enough, see if there’s another area you could convert to create a custom closet. Another great gift would be to upgrade your mom’s closet with a new shelving and organizing storage system.
And great storage doesn’t stop in the bedroom. Most women like to keep the family’s things organized and put away, so think about upgrading some of the other cupboards and closets in the home as well.
Some women are expert gardeners or love home-improvement projects; however, many just want to leave those tasks to someone else.
Many moms love easy-to-wipe-down granite counters and hardwood floors. These can be beautiful and functional home upgrades all at the same time.
And especially if you’re shopping real estate for an elderly mother, consider looking at South Orange County homes that are nicely planned, have easy-to-care-for landscaping and maintenance-free siding or brick.
Easy-to-Use Security System
While security is important to everyone, it ranks high on most women’s list of priorities. As a Mother’s Day gift, research providers and have a security system installed.
Whether your mother is living alone or your wife is worried about the family’s safety, this practical present will give everyone peace of mind.
Make a big gesture this Mother’s Day by giving the woman in your life that renovation project she’s been pining over.
And, if looking at buying a new place to live, keep in mind what’s important to Mom.
Finally, if you’d like more tips on Mother’s Day home shopping or upgrades, call your favorite real estate professional for the best advice. In South Orange County, California, your most experienced choice is Bob Phillips, with more than 36 years of helping families find a home that a Mom can truly appreciate.
Here’s to wishing the women in your life a Happy Mother’s Day!
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly Non-farm Payrolls and National Unemployment Rate for April last Friday. These two reports are collectively called the Jobs Report.
165,000 jobs were added in April, while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.60 percent in March to 7.50 percent in April. 673,000 jobs have been added since January. Jobs were added in employment sectors including business and professional, health care and eating and drinking establishments.
The main impact of the jobs report on home sales and mortgage lending is the ability of would-be home buyers to qualify for mortgage loans.
Long term unemployment and under-employment has worked against consumers wanting to buy homes when interest rates and home prices hit significant lows.
Falling Long Term Unemployment Numbers Help New Home Buyers Buy Homes
Long-term unemployment (workers unemployed for 27 weeks or more) fell by 258,000 workers to 4.4 million in April. The share of long term workers among all unemployed fell by 2.2 percent to 37.4 percent of unemployed workers.
Since January, the number of long-term unemployed has decreased by 687,000 workers and 3.1 percent. Gaining employment is a plus for the economy and for households facing financial stress due to unemployment.
Another significant data set in terms of U.S. jobs measures workers who are working part-time, but who want to work full time. This sector increased by 278,000 in April to 7.9 million.
February and March 2013 Non-farm Payrolls numbers were revised upward. In February, jobs added were changed from 268,000 to 332,000. In March, jobs added were revised from 88,000 to 138,000. This adjusts the number of jobs added for February to March by an additional 114,000 new jobs.
Federal Reserve Bond Purchase Point To Continued Low Mortgage Rates
The Federal Reserve is continuing its program of quantitative easing (QE) by buying $85 billion in bonds and mortgage backed securities (MBS) monthly.
Reducing or eliminating QE would lessen the demand for bonds and MBS; when bond and MBS prices fall, mortgage rates usually rise. Lower mortgage rates can help offset rising home prices and allow more consumers to buy homes.
While home prices are gradually increasing, mortgage rates are still low. This helps moderate-income home buyers with affordability, but these conditions won’t last indefinitely.
In some regions, such as the West, available homes and land are in short supply, which is driving up home prices. This trend is helping home owners, and potentially home sellers, gain higher sales prices for their real estate. Overall, increasing the number of jobs is positive for the economy.
Contact your trusted mortgage lender for a personalized mortgage interest rate quote and to learn more about affordable home loan options. Don’t have a trusted mortgage person? I have a few that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Just shoot me an email, or give me a call.
In almost every South Orange County home, there are awkward spaces that are difficult to utilize.
Especially in older houses, there are rooms, closets and nooks that once had a purpose that is now outdated.
So before you try to cover it up or fill it with junk, take a look at the smart solutions below to see how you can revitalize those problematic spaces and turn them into something useful.
The Space Under The Stairs
While this is likely to be more of a hiding spot for dust-bunnies than teenage wizards, it is valuable space that you don’t have to board up. Use it for storage!
Create custom storage cabinets, or if it’s near the kitchen, build in a wine refrigerator or display shelves for china.
You could also build in a coat or shoe closet if the stairs are in the front entryway.
The Bedroom Too Small For A Bed
You might have an office that sometimes needs to be used as a bedroom or a bedroom that could fit a bed and nothing else.
If these issues strike a chord, then you might want to invest in a Murphy bed.
These space-saving inventions allow you to use a small space for another purpose during the day, and then miraculously have a place to sleep at night.
The Unused Closet
Especially in an older home, you’ll run across closets that just don’t make sense. If you don’t need it for storage, then turn it into something creative, such as a small library or toy room.
Take off the door, add adjustable shelves, build a comfortable cushioned bench and install attractive lighting. Now you and your family can curl up for story time in your new book nook.
Or put in a desk or countertop, an office chair and table lamp and use it as an office nook that can be closed off when you’re not using it.
Don’t write off awkward spaces in your home as lost causes. With a little ingenuity, hard work and smart design, you can create a useful area that everyone in your family can use and enjoy.