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Community Matters When Buying A Home

August 18, 2016

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

 

 

Community Matters When Buying a Home

Kitchen Remodeling Decisions You’ll Never Regret

August 11, 2016

kitchen remodeling

 

 

From: ClientDirect

We see lots of kitchen trends, so we know it’s easy to get swept along with what’s in vogue, only to get bummed out by your faddish design choices a few years later.

But chances are you’re only going to remodel your current kitchen once. After all, a complete kitchen renovation has a national median cost of $60,000, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. With that much on the line, you want to make all the right moves. If you do, you could recover about 67% of your investment if you sell.

So we’re here to future-proof you from angst by naming the seven definitive kitchen features that will retain their beauty, marketability, and value — all while giving you lasting enjoyment.

#1: White is the Dominant Color
Bottom line: White is the most marketable color. You’ll always find it atop the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s annual survey of most popular kitchen colors. It simply doesn’t go out of style.

Throughout history, it’s been associated with happiness, purity (think Snow White), and new beginnings.
It’s a bright color that reflects light and makes even small kitchens feel larger.
It’s a neatnik’s dream — dirt has no place to hide.
Even better, it’s uber-tolerant of both your budget and taste: A standard color for any manufacturer, you’ll find white cabinets, tile, counters, faucets, sinks, and appliances at any price point.

And with a white backdrop, you can be as conservative or expressive as you want. After all, it’s about your enjoyment, not just dollars and cents. For example:

Add your personal touch with colored glass knobs and pulls.
Show off antique Fiesta ware on open shelves or in upper cabinets with glass fronts.
Paint walls the color du jour — even off-white!
Heck, with a white palette, you can change your mind about paint color on a whim. Those all-white basics will make any hue you choose look fresh and contemporary.

#2: Hardwood for Flooring
It’s been our love for years. That’s especially true ever since hardwood flooring was mass-produced during the Industrial Revolution, making beautiful flooring readily available at a reasonable cost.

Today, more than half of home buyers who purchased a home without hardwood floors say they would have paid an extra $2,080 for them, according to the “2013 Home Features Survey” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And among buyers of any age, upwards of 80% say hardwood floors are “somewhat” or “very important.”

“It’s the one feature men and women agree on,” says Debe Robinson, NKBA treasurer and owner of Kitchen Expressions Inc. in Sheffield, Ala., who’s also worked in the flooring industry.

Why? The love of wood is in our genes. Our nesting instincts know that hardwood has warmth, personality, and makes our homes cozy and inviting. That’s why this clever chameleon pairs well with any kitchen style.

More reasons why wood flooring is the goof-proof option:

Perfect for open floor plans. It flows beautifully from the kitchen into adjoining rooms.
It’s tough. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, and maple will shrug off your kitchen’s high-traffic punishment for years. Solid hardwood flooring can be refinished 10 to 12 times during it’s typical 100-year lifespan. It’s eco-friendly. Hardwood is considered a green building material when it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and comes from sustainably managed forests.

#3: Shaker Style for Cabinets
Thank heaven for the Shakers. While they were busy reducing life to its essentials, they made cabinets with clean, simple lines that will forever be in style.

Shaker cabinets are an enduring legacy of American style and, like wood flooring, have the knack for looking good in any setting. Their simple frame-and-panel design helps reduce the amount of busyness in a kitchen, making it a soothing, friendly place to be.

“In a kitchen with a timeless look, you want the cabinets to be part of the backdrop,” says Alan Zielinski, a former president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “You don’t want to be overpowered. You’re looking for plain, simple, clean lines.”

Those plain, simple, clean lines are a perfect fit for transitional style — a beautiful combo of traditional and contemporary styles. In fact, the National Kitchen and Bath Association says that after creeping up on traditional for years, transitional is now the most popular kitchen style.

As our families grow more diverse, transitional style will only get more popular. It lets us personalize and blend cultural influences — Latin, Asian, Mideastern — into our homes; it’s the perfect balance of old and new, just like Shaker-style cabinets.

#4: Carrara Marble for Countertops
Carrara marble is a timeless classic that’s been used in homes for thousands of years. (Michelangelo’s “David” was carved from Carrara.) It’ll look as good in the next millennium as it does now.

Here’s why:

Carrara’s lacy graining and subtle white colors look terrific in a white kitchen (or any kitchen, for that matter).
It has a whiteness you won’t find in other natural stones. It’s readily available, making it less expensive than other high-end choices, such as quartz. It’ll last for generations. If you Google it, you’ll find a lot of debate about it (and marble in general) because it stains easily. But if you want something truly timeless, Carrara is the answer. And with today’s sealants, the problem of staining is almost moot if you reseal once or twice a year.

Still not sold? Or don’t have the budget? Laminate countertops are relatively inexpensive and can be upgraded to stone when you do have the budget.

#5: Subway Tile for the Backsplash
Subway tile goes back to the early 1900s, when it was used to line New York’s first subway tunnels. Classic subway tiles are white, 3-inch-by-6-inch rectangles — a look that became popular in American kitchens and baths, and has stuck around ever since. Now it’s an iconic part of the American design vernacular, destined never to go out of style.

In the kitchen, ceramic tile excels as a backsplash, where it guards against moisture, is a snap to clean, lasts forever, and always looks classy.

Sure, a backsplash can be an opportunity for a blast of color and pattern, but neutrals will always be current and blend with any look. Plus, a subway tile backsplash and a marble countertop make a dashing couple that will stand the test of time.

To make it even more enduring, keep it achromatic and camouflage dirt with gray or beige grout.

#6: Ergonomic Design
Adaptability and universal design features mean easy living at any age. A recent survey on kitchens from the American Institute of Architects points to the growing popularity of smart ergonomic design, a sign that kitchen adaptability will stay in vogue.

Smart ergonomics simply mean convenience — for young or old, party people or homebodies — a key factor when remodeling a kitchen that will function well, retain its value, and always feel right.

No matter you or your buyer’s current or future needs, everyone wins with these approaches:

Create different countertop heights. Standard height is 36 inches, but you can raise or lower sections of cabinets by altering the height of the base. Add color-match shim strips to the bases of countertops that don’t include sinks or appliances. You (or a new owner) can easily remove them or add to them to adjust the height. Swap a standard range for a wall oven and a cooktop. Ranges have fixed heights. There’s no getting around the fact you have to bend to access the oven. But a wall oven conveniently installs about waist-high. Add pull-out shelves to base cabinets. Lower cabinets with doors mean having to twist like a pretzel to see what’s inside. Pull-out shelves put everything at your fingertips. Keep wide clearances. Kitchens attract people, and with open floor plans, you’re apt to have folks hunting for snacks, helping you cook, or just hanging out while you prep meals. Keep traffic flowing with a minimum of 42 inches between counters and islands.

Today’s families store about 47% of their kitchen stuff outside the kitchen — in laundry rooms, basements, even sheds — according to data released at the 2013 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.

We blame it on the fact that kitchens have evolved from a tucked-away place at the back of the house into a multiple-chef, multi-tasking space that’s the hub of family life. Plus, our love of open kitchens and stocking up at warehouse stores means less wall space and more stuff, kitchen design expert Robinson says.

The solution: smart storage. Cabinet manufacturers have you covered with nearly unlimited storage options — shelves and compartments that unfold, turn, extend, and slide.

But it’s not just about having storage, it’s about designing it smartly. Follow these guidelines to make your storage timeless:

Create a primary storage zone. This is an area 30 to 60 inches high and within two feet on either side of your body. Store your most-used items here — your favorite work knives, measuring cups, salt and pepper for cooking, your trusty pots and pans. With one easy motion, you can grab what you use all the time.

Plan for the unknown. A truly timeless kitchen anticipates and adapts to future needs, such as:

A space that can easily convert to an office, wine storage, or a closet. Lower cabinet spaces that can accommodate a wine cooler, under-counter refrigerator, a second dishwasher, or new must-have kitchen appliances on the horizon. (Remember when microwaves didn’t exist?) An open space that fits a freestanding desk or favorite antique that can personalize the kitchen — no matter who owns the home.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

4 Drawbacks of Home Equity Loans

August 4, 2016
home equity loans
Article from ClientDirect

When you need a quick source of funds, a home equity loan can be tempting. Done wisely, you can use the lower-interest debt secured by your house to pay off debts with high interest rates, like credit cards. It’s also a good choice if you know exactly how much you need to borrow for a big expenditure like a new kitchen.

Home equity loans aren’t always the best choice for accessing cash. The best use for home equity is to buy things that will contribute to your home’s value, like a needed remodel, or your family’s future income, like a college education. Consider carefully before you cash in home equity to spend on consumer goods like clothing, furniture, or vacations.

The fact that you’re staking your home against your ability to pay off the debt is just the beginning of the potential drawbacks.

Drawback #1: Money Doesn’t Come Cheap
A home equity loan is a second mortgage on your house. Interest rates are usually much lower for a home equity loan than for unsecured debt like personal loans and credit cards. But transaction and closing costs, similar to those for primary mortgages, make home equity loans a pricey — and imprudent — way to finance something you may want but don’t absolutely need, like a fur coat, exotic vacation, or Ferrari.

The average closing costs on a $200,000 mortgage are $4,070. To compare offers on competing home equity loans, use a calculator that compares fees, interest rates, and how long you’ll take to pay back the loan. Ask your current mortgage lender if it offers any discounts if you get a second mortgage from the same company.

Drawback #2: Early Payoff Can Be Costly
Home equity loans almost always have fixed interest rates, so you know your monthly payment won’t rise. Do check to see if there’s a pre-payment penalty — a fee the lender will charge if you pay back the loan early because you sell your house, or you just want to get rid of the monthly payment.

Such early-termination fees are typically a percentage of the outstanding balance, such as 2%, or a certain number of months’ worth of interest, such as six months. They’re triggered if you pay off part or all of a loan within a certain time frame, typically three years. Despite the penalty, it may be worthwhile to refinance if you can lower interest rates sufficiently.

If you want to be able to borrow money periodically, it may make sense to go for a home equity line of credit instead of a lump-sum second mortgage. Although more lenders are charging stiff prepayment penalties for HELOCs too, these are triggered when the line is closed within a certain period, such as three years, not when the balance is paid off. Bear in mind that interest rates on most HELOCs are variable.

The big advantage to a credit line is that you can borrow whatever amount you need as you need money. The big drawback is that the lender can shut off the line of credit if the value of your home falls, your credit goes south, or just because it no longer wants to offer you credit.

Drawback #3: Beware Predatory Lenders
Some lenders don’t act in your best interest. Theoretically, lenders are supposed to follow underwriting guidelines on appropriate debt and income levels to keep you from spending more than you can afford on a loan. But in practice, some unscrupulous lenders bend or ignore these rules.

Always shop for the best deal, rather than accepting the recommendation of a home-improvement contractor. Some will try to pressure you into taking their loans at above-market rates — and jack up the price if you don’t. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, you should avoid anyone who insists on only working with one lender or who encourages you to do things like overstate your income.

Drawback #4: Your House Is at Stake
A home equity loan is a lien on your house that usually takes second place to the primary mortgage. As such, home equity lenders can be left with nothing if a house sells for less than what’s owed on the first mortgage. To recoup losses, second-mortgage lenders will sometimes refuse to sign off on short sales unless they’re paid all or part of what they’re owed.

Moreover, even though the lender loses its secured interest in the house should it go to foreclosure, in some states, it can send debt collectors after you for the balance, and report the loss to credit agencies. This black mark on your credit score can hurt your ability to borrow for years to come.

There are benefits to home equity loans. Often you can write off the interest you pay on the loan. Consult a tax adviser to see if that’s the case for you. And the rates can be lower than what you’d pay for an unsecured, personal loan or if you used a credit card to make your purchase.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

Who’s Checking Your Credit?

July 28, 2016

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

 

CheckingYourCredit

7 Steps to a Stress-Free Home Closing

July 21, 2016

7 steps to closing home escrow

By: G. M. Filisko, ClientDirect

This cheat sheet helps you do your homework, so you know what you’re signing when you close the sale of your home.

You’ve already cleared several hurdles by finding the right home, negotiating the best price, and getting approved for a mortgage. The last obstacle on your homebuying track is the closing, which can be both tedious and tense. By knowing what to expect and doing some legwork, you can smoothly put your closing behind you. These seven steps will guide you.

1. Set a Closing Date
Ask your title company to set a closing date and time that meshes with the end of your lease or the sale of your existing home. Don’t want to skip work? Ask for an evening or weekend closing. Tight on cash? Schedule your closing for the end of the month. That’s when you’ll pay the least amount of interest at the closing table.

2. Gather Your Funds
Buyers usually have to bring money to the closing. Ask the title company what forms of payment it accepts. Chances are you can’t use a personal check.

If you have to move money into your bank account to pay your closing costs, do so a week ahead to avoid last-minute problems. If the title company requires the funds in the form of a cashier’s check, stop by the bank a few days before closing to pick it up.

3. Purchase Title Insurance
If you’re getting a mortgage, you have to buy a title insurance policy. Think it protects you against problems with the title of your home? Nope, it protects the lender in case the sellers really didn’t own the home or someone else had a claim on it.

To cover yourself, you can buy an owner’s title policy from the same insurance company that sells you the lender’s title policy. Or, shop online at Closing.com, EasyTitleQuote.com, or FreeTitleQuote.com. An owner’s title policy insures you against losses from fraudulent claims against your ownership and errors in earlier sales. In some areas, sellers traditionally pay for the buyer’s title policy.

Whether or not you get the owner’s policy, if you buy a title policy from the same company that issued the prior owner’s title insurance, you can ask for a reissue discount or “bring-down” rate. There’s a discount because the title company only has to check the records filed since that prior owner bought the home, not since the dawn of time.

4. Line Up Homeowners Insurance
Get quotes and compare policies to be sure coverage will start by your closing date. An annual policy should run $500 to $1,000, depending on your home’s size, age, and amenities. To get a lower premium, opt for a high deductible or buy your homeowners insurance from the same company that insures your car.

If you live in an area where natural disasters occur, like earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes, you’ll need separate insurance to protect your home from those hazards.

5. Review Your Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 Settlement Sheet
Your lender already gave you a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) that showed your estimated closing fees. Some of the fees on your GFE can’t change and others can rise by 10%. Before you go to the closing, compare the numbers on your GFE with the numbers on your HUD-1 settlement statement. Question your loan officer about any fees that increased.

6. Do a Walk-Through
Schedule an appointment to walk through the home one last time just before your closing.

Make sure repairs you requested have been made.
Look for major changes since you last viewed the property.
See if the sellers left everything they promised to leave.
Check to see that the sellers took all their personal belongings.
Test electronics and appliances to ensure they’re still working.
Turn on the HVAC and hot water. Are they functioning right?
Walk the yard to be sure no plants or shrubs have been removed.

7. Resolve Issues Identified in Your Walk-Through
If your walk-through uncovers problems:

1. Delay the closing until the seller corrects them (if your state allows it). But that’s often not feasible because your lease is probably over and you’ve already scheduled movers. 2. Negotiate a discount to your sales price to cover the cost of the work needed. If the air conditioning is on the fritz and a contractor says the repair will cost $500, ask that the sales price be reduced by that amount. If you make that request at closing, however, be ready for a delay while the title company redoes the paperwork. 3. Have the title company hold a portion of the seller’s proceeds in escrow until the dispute is resolved. Once that happens, the funds will be released to you or the seller, depending on the outcome.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has endured several property closings, but the easiest was done through the mail. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

COPYRIGHT© 2016 CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® All rights reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Accessibility

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

Real Estate @ A Glance: July 2016 Edition

July 14, 2016

 

 

 

Here is the most recent information on the San Diego housing market. For specific information on your neighborhood or a market analysis on your home, please send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Reportable Period :: JUNE 2016:: SAN DIEGO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Median Sales Price: $500,000
Days on the Market Until Sale: 29
Housing Affordability Index: 2016-Q1: 28%
Months Supply: 2.3

Reportable Period:: JUNE 2016 :: SAN DIEGO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Halfway through 2016, residential real estate markets are performing as predicted at the beginning of the year. Sales and prices have been going up in most areas, while the number of homes for sale and total months’ supply of inventory have been going down. Meanwhile, many sellers have been getting a higher percentage of their asking price, and supply continues to struggle to meet demand. The message may be repetitive, but it is largely positive.

Total Market

 

To view larger image, click here.

The Rehabbers’ Guide to 203(K) Loans

July 7, 2016

FHA 203K

Article from ClientDirect

Lenders’ weak stomach for extending credit doesn’t have to sour your upgrade dreams. The old but new again FHA 203(k) loan rolls remodeling and mortgage costs together, whether you’re buying or refinancing an existing home loan to pay for upgrades.

First, some 203(k) basics:

  1. 15- or 30-year term option
  2. ARM or fixed-rate option
  3. 3.5% down payment for loans of $625,500 or under and 5% for loans above $625,500; other FHA loan qualifications apply
  4. Interest rate a tad higher than market
  5. Higher fees compared with equity or other FHA loans, for such things as title checks, architectural plan reviews, appraisal, and FHA inspections
  6. No balloon payment
  7. Loan amount = projected value post-rehab, including the cost of the work
  8. FHA loans take longer to close than conventional mortgages
  9. More paperwork than a straight mortgage loan

 

Now, 13 rules for what you can and can’t do with a 203(k):

1. You can buy a fixer-upper so awful it wouldn’t qualify for a regular home loan. Whether buying or refinancing, all that needed work might keep your home from qualifying for a regular bank loan. Banks don’t finance homes in ill repair because they’re too hard to resell if they have to take the house back via foreclosure.

2. You can DIY with a 203(k) if you can show you know how to DIY. You can do the work yourself, or act as your own general contractor, if you can prove you’ve got the chops, and can get the job done on time (the maximum timeframe is six months). Of course there’s a catch: When you DIY, you can only use the 203(k) proceeds for supplies. You can’t pay yourself to do the work on your own house.

3. You can use a mini 203(k) for mini-sized projects. If you’re just doing your kitchen, bathroom, or another project that costs $35,000 or less, there’s a streamlined version of the 203(k) designed just for limited-size projects.

4. You can’t use it to buy a new-construction home. The house you’re fixing up has to be at least a year old.

5. You can’t use it to buy and install a new toilet, even one of those fancy Totos. You have to spend at least $5,000 on your renovation to use the 203(k) program. And the whole mortgage, including those remodeling costs, has to be under the FHA mortgage limit for the area where you live.

6. You can expect the lender to be up in your grill about how and when the home improvements get done. An inspector will be dispatched to your home multiple times to check in on the progress, which is why rule #7 is so important.

7. You have to keep your contractor from going on a long vacation to Europe.

Your contractor has to start work within 30 days of the loan closing.
He can’t stop working on the project for more than 30 days.
He has to get the whole job done within six months.
Doing it yourself? The same timelines apply. So no long vacations for you until the work gets done.

8. You can use the loan to make your mortgage payments if you can’t live in the house until the work is done. This is one sweet provision of the 203(k) program because it means you don’t have to make a mortgage payment on the home you’re remodeling and pay to live somewhere else while the work is going on.

You can use the 203(k) loan to pay for up to six months of principle, interest, taxes, and insurance payments when your property is going to be uninhabitable because of the renovation work.

9. You can use it to make energy-efficiency upgrades like installing a new furnace, windows, or attic insulation. You can get a 203(k) loan to pay for 100% of the cost of energy-efficiency improvements. You don’t have to get those improvements appraised, but they do have to be cost-effective, meaning they’ll pay for themselves over their useful life. The HUD inspector will make the call.

10. You can rip the house down if you plan to build something in its place. As long as you keep the foundation of the home, you’re good to go.

11. You can have a little shop downstairs. It’s kosher to use a 203(k) loan to remodel a home that includes some commercial space, as long as you use the money only for projects in the residential part of your home and the amount of commercial space doesn’t exceed these limits:

25% for one-story building
49% for two-story
33% for three-story building
12. You can use a 203(k) for a condo unit, but … your condo building must have FHA approval — which is tough to get these days — or meet VA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac guidelines. Also, your building can have no more than four units, though there can be multiple buildings in the association.

13. You can’t break these rules or the lender can take its money back. Like immediately. Your lender can also refuse to advance you any more money or apply any money left in the escrow account to reduce what you owe on the mortgage.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

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