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  • These Ideas Will Improve Your Basement and Make It More Livable May. 24th 2019
    A basement is often a very special space. This is where people get away from the rest of the home. It can be your teen's bedroom, or the bedroom you keep for guests. It can be the perfect man cave, or the space you use for a party. Basements are extra spaces. If you're thinking about ways you can improve your basement, there are many little things that will make a big difference. This is the ideal part of your home to give a little extra thought and let your imagination run wild. Best of all, you can make your basement a room of many purposes so you'll always have the exact space you need. Lighting is a Must Basements can be dank spaces with little light. Lighting is essential. This will help prevent accidents and make the basement much safer. There are lots of ways to bring lighting to your basement. Basement window wells bring in natural light and air. Other parts of the basement benefit from artificial lighting of all kinds. Begin with any stairs to the basement. Stairs should have enough lighting so everyone can see where they're going even late at night. Overhead lights are a good choice as they can illuminate all parts of the basement. Set up a cozy corner in one part of the space with scattered uplights. Storage Considerations Many homeowners choose to use the basement for additional storage. Make this task easier with the right kind of storage. For example, consider lots of built-in storage. Use the staircase to put in extra shelving. Storage space can also be carved out of other spaces in the basement. Using awkward spaces such as little corners allows every single space to be used efficiently. Add in other options. A hanger with hooks for clothing and cubicles next to the door are good choices that help you stay organized. Dress up Plain Drywall The basement drywall can feel drab and unappealing. It can be hard to clean and get dinghy over time. Make the basement more appealing by redoing the walls. Wainscot paneling is a great way to add detail. Use them to help define the space better. Paint the bottom of the panels white to bring in more color. You can also consider adding a contrasting color such as vivid red or deep blue to help show off the panel's fine details. This is also a good space to use your favorite fabrics. If you have a collection of scarves from your travels abroad, hang them across the walls. They'll add color and pattern. Create a man cave feel in this part of your home with dark green walls and lots of pictures of your favorite sports teams everywhere. The Flooring Your basement floors need to be thought about carefully. You want flooring that can take a beating and still look good. This is a good place for options that are soft underfoot and easy to clean. Rubber tiles offer lots of give for a basement you're using as a family room. Tile is durable and stands up to potential water damage easily without staining. Tiles that look like wood offer a warm welcome and yet are also easy to clean and will take on water without a problem in the event the basement floods. You can layer on the texture and warmth with lots of different kinds of rugs. Place several in varied areas. This helps define each space and provide softness underfoot when you want to take off your shoes and snuggle up with your family as you all watch your favorite shows. Extra space in any home is incredibly useful. The basement offers the space you'll need to hold a party, welcome guests or just stretch out on a cold winter day. Making your basement more livable is easier than ever. Lighting, storage, and flooring help bring it to life.

  • Tips to Finding a Pet-Friendly Rental May. 24th 2019
    One of the causes of pet relinquishment is lack of pet-friendly rental houses. Research by the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals revealed that lack of pet-friendly housing was the top reason many Americans gave up on their pets. Worse, not all pets are allowed in rental apartments. Many rental houses only allow cats and dogs and restrict certain breeds. Thus, people should give themselves plenty of time to research and prepare because moving with their pets can be hard and expensive. Below are a few tricks of the trade to make it easier to find a pet-friendly housing option. Start to Prepare Early Rarely do people pack their household and move without notice. Pet owners should give themselves more than one month ahead of relocating to research and save up for expenses such as refundable pet deposit. Of course, everyone wants to make their home comfortable for their pet, and people are looking for ways to introduce their puppy or cat to a new home. Ask Around You might be surprised how experienced your relatives and friends are with pet-friendly houses. Maybe a workmate has experience living in rental apartments that were pet-friendly and can refer you to a landlord who allows tenants to move in with their pets. Your vet can also help you find a pet-friendly house, so heed to their advice and suggestions. Alternatively, contact the animal care agency serving the region you want to relocate to and ask them to provide you a list of apartments that are pet-friendly. You can also ask for leads from any resident managers, rental agents, and realtors who share your love for pets or own pet themselves. Online Search The best place to search for a rental apartment that allows pets is the internet. You can also like Facebook pages or join Whatsapp groups dedicated to rental services. You can also check the lists of apartments that allow tenants to move in with their pets with the Animal Humane Society. Offer to Pay a Refundable Pet Deposit Pets can damage rental properties, and property owners are responsible for ensuring tenants cover any damage caused by their pets once they move out. Your landlord is likely to ask for a pet deposit because it gives them a sense of security, so don’t hesitate to pay it. However, some, if not all of this money will come back your way because pet deposit is usually refundable. Brush up Your Pet’s Resume Of course, you want to move with your lovely pet wherever you go, but pets aren’t welcome in all rental houses. Convincing a landlord why you have to move in with your pet can sometimes be difficult. Thus, it’s crucial for tenants to pitch not only themselves but also their pets. Consider reaching out to former landlords, vets, and obedience trainers for recommendation letters to show your landlord. You can also draft your pet’s resume detailing its medical history, age, certification, and breed. You can also suggest to set up a pet interview if the landlord is still not convinced why they should allow you to move in with your pet. Consult Your Vet Your pet might need to undergo certain tests before you move with it across state borders. The USDA requires that every pet that will cross state lines to be vaccinated against rabies and obtain certification from a veterinarian. The same requirements apply to overseas travels but can differ based on the country you’re relocating to or from. You have to prove that your pet’s rabies is up-to-date and that it’s vaccinated against any contagious disease. Use the time you’re with the vet to discuss the potential pet stressors during the move and how you can address them. Of course, you want to be well-informed so that you can monitor your pet during the journey.

  • 5 Reasons Every Agent Needs Video Marketing May. 23rd 2019
    Anymore, agents are utilizing social media, newsletters, mailers, and so much more in their marketing plans in order to stay in front of past, present, and potential clients, but one of the most valuable tools that every agent needs to add to their marketing repertoire is the use of engaging videos. Don’t believe us? Here are five reasons why every real estate agent should be using video marketing: 5. They’ll remember you According to Insivia, the average viewer retains 95% of a message when they watch it, versus when they read it in text. Take market conditions, for example. Market conditions can be difficult to swallow for the average consumer, but integrating a market conditions video will make them much more user friendly, all while providing useful information your clients will thank you for. 4. You’ll go “viral” Chances are you’re currently utilizing social media as part of your marketing plan, but if you aren’t seeing the engagement you’re hoping for from your followers, video could be the solution. Sharing videos to your social feeds generates 1,200% more shares than text and images combined. Plus, 92% of users watching video on mobile devices will share it. Consider posting more videos in order to engage your audience, get shares, and expand your reach. Try a video about real estate advice or home improvement ideas. Even if you’re camera shy or not savvy with a video camera, these videos can be totally done-for-you with your branding and agent info. 3. Videos help consumers buy Forbes states that 90% of consumers use video to assist them with making buying decisions, while 64% of consumers say that watching a video makes them more likely to buy that product. Consider what those stats could do for a listing video; agents who utilize video as part of their listing strategy will likely see a rise in offers and viewing requests, thus, increasing the likelihood of increased sales. 2. It’s great for your website’s SEO Every real estate agent vies for the opportunity to be listed on the first page of Google search results – adding video to your landing page can help. In fact, video drives up to a 157% increase in organic traffic from search engines to your website, and makes it 53% more likely to show up on page one search results. Not to mention that websites that include video on their landing pages have historically seen an 80% increase in conversions. Not bad at all!   1. Video makes an incredible first point of contact Whether you utilize an e-newsletter service, or simply want to get a better response rate in your everyday communications with potential clients, video can help. Including a video in place of a lengthy email text actually increases your click-through rate by 300%. This is yet another place where a listing video can come in handy, or even an agent introduction video to give your potential client an idea of who you are as an agent, without having to spend time reading your digital “resume.” If video marketing isn’t currently in your marketing arsenal, it should be. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Give the VScreen marketing suite a try with their free two-week trial. You’ll be able to utilize their totally customized and done-for-you video products to see just how beneficial video marketing can be to your business.

  • Redfin Goes Direct with Buyers: The Future of Real Estate or Back to a Bad Idea? May. 23rd 2019
    Redfin just rolled out Redfin Direct, a new-old program that seeks to eliminate agents for buyers, and we have questions. Well, one big two-part question, really: Is this a disruptive move whose time is come or a way to fleece homebuyers who don’t know any better? At this point, the jury is out. But people have some feelings. What is Redfin Direct? “Real-estate broker Redfin Corp. will allow visitors to its website to make an offer on a house with a click of a button, marking a renewed effort to reduce the role of real-estate agents,” said the Wall Street Journal. It works like this, according to MarketWatch: “Homes listed by Redfin in a market where the program is available get a banner ad on the online listing explaining that the home can be bought ‘online without an agent.’ The listing agent, or person representing the seller, will be paid the standard Redfin commission, which is either 1% or 1.5% of the sale price of the home. Redfin Direct calculates 2% of the asking price of the home, which is the average of what a buyer’s agent might expect to be paid. That amount is split between buyer and seller, saving both money.”Unrepresented buyers would answer 55 questions, which Redfin calls a “step-by-step guide” to generate the offer paperwork. A general inspection contingency is included.So, in essence, Redfin is providing buyers with the tools they would have had if they used an agent, but without the guidance. Which is kind of important. Right? Will it work? The company first launched Redfin Direct back in 2006, but it was a bust. “Redfin didn’t have the huge volume of listings it does today — 25,000 in 2018 — nor the tech capabilities to make direct offers feasible,” said GeekWire. Boston is the company’s test market, so let’s take a look at what’s happened there since the launch. “Of the 122 Boston Redfin listings that have accepted an offer since March 28, the company said, five were Redfin Direct offers,” said GeekWire. “Another 12 of those listings rejected a direct offer, though they were competitive. Redfin said 77 percent of the offers were within 5 percent of asking price and 30 percent were cash offers.” Are we missing something? But did the buyers feel taken care of? Listings and tech capabilities are great, but removing the element of representation feels…scary? Bad? Sad? Not in line with the whole facilitating the “American dream” thing?Rob Hahn, a veteran real-estate industry consultant, echoes what many in the industry are saying about this program. “Most people buying a house would prefer to be represented,” he said to MarketWatch. “Given the current setup of compensation, buyers don’t feel like they’re paying for it. My gut feeling is, most people when they’re spending $200,000-300,000 or more want someone to hold their hand.” Fast Company likened the program to “TurboTax for home buying,” which could either be a compliment or an insult; We’re not sure. It should also be noted that, on the earnings call during which Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman announced the program, he said “he believes the vast majority of people will still want an agent to guide them through the complex process of buying a home,” said Fast Company. “But the Direct program could appeal to a new kind of savvy consumer: People willing to do it themselves for a better price.” So there’s that. Redfin has said their expansion plans include heading to Virginia next.

  • Home Upgrades Millennials Love May. 23rd 2019
    A recent study by COUNTRY Financial showed that young people care more about buying a home than getting married, paying off student loans, and traveling. But in the hot real estate market in the Portland area and surrounding suburbs, younger home buyers can’t be too selective. In fact, they’ll often end up with a fixer-upper in need of a little TLC. In this article, we’ll talk about a few of the home upgrades and modern features first-time younger homebuyers should consider. Kitchen remodels Older homes in the Portland area have one big — or rather not so big — drawback: small galley-style kitchens. A kitchen remodel can open up an otherwise cramped space, creating more room for cooking, eating, gathering, and entertaining. It’s a great investment, too. Kitchen remodels offer one of the highest returns on investment of any home remodeling project. Ideas for your kitchen remodel: • Kitchen island - Great place for hidden storage, a prep sink, extra counter space, or just a place to sit and eat!• Modern appliances - Reduce your electric bill and environmental footprint. Plus, modern appliances make cooking more enjoyable.• Custom cabinetry and built-in storage - Custom cabinets can change how your kitchen looks and feels. Built-in storage is customizable to meet your needs and more flexible than standalone shelving. Open floor plans Just like the small kitchens common in these homes, older properties frequently feature heavily closed-off floor plans. Modern homeowners tend to prefer a more flexible open floor plan. Open floor plans make a home feel more airy, spacious, and brighter. More natural light in your home is always a good thing, especially during a long and gloomy winter. Ideas for your open floor plan: • Connect kitchen and dining room - Great for families who love to entertain.• Create nooks and private areas - Use furniture or other design elements to help an open floor plan flow.• Add larger windows for even more light - Big windows mean big light! Custom window coverings add privacy when needed. Plus new energy-efficient double-pane windows are better at insulating your home. Whole home transformations Sometimes it’s better to start from scratch. If your fixer-upper needs a lot of work, you might get the most value out of a whole home remodel. You can create a cohesive design that checks all the boxes you’ve been looking for in your dream home. If you love your neighborhood but don’t love your home, think about a whole home remodel. Ideas for your whole home remodel: • Upgrade electricity and plumbing - If you’ve got an outdated electrical system or your plumbing needs some work, tackle those projects while you’re remodeling to save money down the road.• Expand your closets - Buying an older home usually means fewer and smaller closets. Borrow a little space during your whole home remodel to make your closets bigger and more useful.• Change your floor plan - Anything is on the table during a whole home remodel! Don’t like where a bedroom is? Move it. Need an extra half bath in the basement? Do it! Finished basement space Many older homes also feature a basement, but they’re often unfinished, minimally insulated, and poorly waterproofed. Pest infestations, water damage, and mold growth are all common in unfinished basement spaces. Younger homeowners may find that finishing their basement can pay off in increased resale value down the road, additional and useful living and storage space, and even improved energy efficiency. Ideas for your basement remodel: • Create an apartment or Airbnb suite - Earn extra income and build equity in your new home.• Add a family room or playroom for kids - When your family grows, your kids will need space of their own.• Build a home office, gym, or home theater room - Your home is your oasis. Find what brings you joy and make it part of your home! Outdoor living space In places blessed with mild and beautiful spring and summer weather Take advantage of it. We’re seeing more and more Millennials looking to create outdoor living spaces like decks and patios. Outdoor living spaces are more than just a great investment, they’re a way to feel more connected to nature. Ideas for your deck or patio addition: • Seamless integration with your master suite - Just imagine starting your day by stepping from your master suite onto your custom deck — that’s the life.• Outdoor kitchen for summer dinner parties - What’s better than an evening BBQ or night around a roaring fire with friends and family? S'mores anyone?!• Covered and heated seating - Now you’ll be able to enjoy your outdoor living space all year round. Modernize your bathroom There’s no better way to pamper yourself than with a truly luxurious bathroom. And it’s a great investment, too! On average bathroom remodels provide a 70% return. But we find that homeowners love their new bathrooms far beyond the return on their investment. When your bathroom is more than just another room in the house, it becomes a place to relax, unwind, and de-stress. Ideas for your modern bathroom: • In-floor heating - Warm floors on a cold winter morning? Yes, please!• Soaking or jacuzzi tub - Who needs to make the trip to spa or hot springs when you have your own private heated soaking tub at home?• Dual sinks - Save time getting ready in the morning by giving yourself and your partner the personal space you need. No more fights over who’s taking more time in the bathroom! Home additions If your family’s starting to grow, you run a home business, or you just find your home a bit too cramped, a home addition might be just what the doctor ordered. Younger homeowners find that added space helps them truly love and enjoy their homes that much more. Ideas for your home addition: • Add rooms - Home offices, extra bedrooms, or a guest bathroom are all popular home additions• Make rooms bigger - With a thoughtful design and expert construction, an addition can look like a seamless part of your home’s original design• Add an ADU or MIL apartment - Great for guests or to use as a rental, a thoughtfully designed ADU can add a lot of value to your property. I hope these ideas have inspired you to imagine the possibilities and create a home you’ll love. Erin Davis is lead designer of Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, Oregon.

  • 4 Hazards Facing New First-Time Homebuyers May. 22nd 2019
    Home ownership is a cornerstone of the American dream. Unfortunately, there are many ways that the American dream can turn into your family’s personal nightmare. These hazards include purchasing more house than you can really afford (becoming house poor), unexpected surprises that weren’t identified during the home inspection, and finding out that your pre-approval for financing is about as flimsy as the paper it’s written on. In a market inundated with realty advertising , let’s look at 4 critical areas where first-time homeowners run into trouble. Pre-Approval is Not Approval Homebuyers are inundated with commercials on TV and the internet telling them that they can get pre-approved for a certain amount and shop with the confidence of a cash buyer. This is a bit of an exaggeration. Pre-approval is a good first step. But, it’s important to understand that a pre-approval is different from an approval. Pre-Approval is when a lender tells you that you are approved for a certain loan, with general terms, but does not require you to provide paperwork and other supporting documentation. Approval is when the lender has completed the underwriting process and offers you a firm loan offer that can be executed. The easiest way to know the difference is to consider what information the bank has required of you at this stage. First time homebuyers are understandably upset when they select a home based on what they thought was an approval, only to find that some information came up during the underwriting process that cancelled out their pre-approval. Digital Verification vs. Manual Verification In the final stages of becoming approved for a mortgage, you’ll need to provide proof of income and other financial disclosures. Most mortgage lenders offer homebuyers the option of enrolling in digital verification. This means that the lender can digitally access your required documentation on your behalf. Some of this information will need to be manually uploaded, but the ability to digitize these records will allow the entire underwriting process to be expedited. Manual verification involves a loan officer giving you a long checklist of documents they’ll need in order to verify your identity, income and existing financial obligations. Manual verification can take three-times as long because you need to gather the documents, submit them to the lender and then the lender needs to manually verify their authenticity. If you are given the option, enroll in digital verification. How much home can you really afford? If you’re used to paying rent, the idea of a less-expensive mortgage payment may seem appealing. After-all, landlords price-in the various additional costs they have into your monthly rental payment. If you could just pay the mortgage, it seems that you’d lower your overall housing costs. This is not exactly true. Just because you can afford the mortgage payment does not mean you can afford the full cost of homeownership. Be sure to inquire into the real costs, including: • PMI: Private Mortgage Insurance • Homeowner’s Insurance Premiums, Deductibles and Coverage Limitations • Maintenance Costs: While renting, your landlord took care of all the costs associated with your residence’s maintenance. As a homeowner, if a major appliance fails, or there’s structural wear and tear, it’s your financial responsibility. • Natural Disasters: Hurricanes, tornadoes and forest fires can cause substantial damage to your home. Homeowner’s insurance can help with this, but there are policy exceptions. The average ranch-style home would require an investment of $6725-$9000 in order to replace it after major damage. • Property Taxes are often rolled into the monthly mortgage cost, but it’s important to understand the various fees and assessments you’ll be required to pay for your property. Just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t make it true. Most homeowners turn to their smartphones or laptops when home shopping. Online listings for homes and properties are filled with heavily enhanced photos of the property - from the best angles, of course. Future properties, or areas that are still being developed are impossible to see in-person. But, it’s important to dig deeper than an architectural rendering or an artist impression. This article about off-plan purchases highlights a few examples where the mock-ups provided to potential residents were way off the mark. This includes: • Amenities, like pools, which are far smaller once constructed - an important consideration for apartment buildings with hundreds of residents. • The perspective is enhanced to make a future high-rise look far larger than other surrounding buildings - implying that views will be more breathtaking than they will be in reality. To avoid getting taken advantage of, they recommend visiting the construction site yourself, viewing the surrounding area on Google Maps and take advantage of Google Earth’s features that show building shadows and other factors that could impact your future home. In conclusion, there are many pitfalls for first-time homebuyers. A pre-approval is a great first step, but it’s only the beginning of the actual approval process. Don’t make the mistake of selecting manual verification when digital verification is available - especially if timing is a factor. And just because you can get a loan, does not mean you can afford the total cost of home ownership. And, as always, trust but verify. If you’re looking at an online listing or prospectus, nothing can substitute an in-person visit to the construction site.  

  • Replacing Your Roof? Now You Can Use Shingles That Improve Air Quality! May. 22nd 2019
    Your typical roof keeps the rain out. A Tesla roof turns the top of your house into an energy source. And now the latest roof innovation aims to improve the quality of the air we breathe. You’ve gotta love innovation. The new smog-reducing roof Granules from 3M will “harness the power of the sun to improve air quality, a first of its kind roof type,” said the company. “The smog-reducing granules are mixed with standard roofing granules allowing shingles to maintain their trusted performance and visual appeal while improving our climate.” The science behind the product looks like this: The patented granules “contain a photocatalytic coating layer that releases radicals when activated by the sun. The radicals transform smog pollutants into water-soluble nitrate (NO3) ions that simply wash away with rainwater over time.” That photocatalytic coating was designed to be used with asphalt roofing, which, by some accounts, is used on the roofs of at least 75 percent of homes today. 3M has gone to some length to prove their claim of improved air quality, conducting their own in-house tests and also taking the product to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to have the granules evaluated for their effectiveness in absorbing various gases and pollutants. “They found that an average-sized roof coated in granules removes around as much pollution from the air as three trees could,” said Fast Company. “One company that sources from 3M, Malarkey Roofing, has pledged to incorporate the smog-reducing granules into all of their shingles. So far, Malarkey shingles have pulled the equivalent amount of smog from the air as 100,000 trees.” In fact, Malarkey Roofing Products has announced the inclusion of 3M Smog-reducing Granules to the Highlander NEX laminated architectural roofing shingle line. For their efforts, 3M was also named to TIME Magazine’s list of Best Inventions of 2018 in the Sustainability & Social Good category. “Smog-reducing technology, embedded into mainstream roofing materials” are a “great step forward in addressing air quality and climate concerns,” said Jonathan Parfrey, founder and executive director of Climate Resolve, a U.S. non-profit organization “focused on local solutions to global climate change.” The product could have huge application in the residential roofing market, which has not been as robust as commercial building when it comes to conservation. “Commercial buildings for many years have had solutions such as solar-reflective granules and ‘green roofs,’ which grow grass or gardens on top of buildings to help with the environment,” said the Star Tribune.

  • What Happens When Tariffs Hit Home? May. 21st 2019
    Get ready to pay more—again. The escalating trade war with China, which means rising tariffs on both sides, is bad news for Americans. “Tariffs on goods traded between the U.S. and China have already increased in several stages since early 2018,” said CNBC. “Now, President Donald Trump has added a 25% tariff (up from his original proposal of 10%) on another $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China hit back with 5% to 10% percent duties on another $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.” Experts say we could be seeing higher prices as a result of this escalation as early as this summer, and that has economists yelling, “Buy, buy, buy now!” in order to avoid what a report from Oxford Economics estimates will be an $800 hit to every U.S. household. There is some question as to how the tariffs will play out—after all, Trump said that China will suffer most of the economic impact. “Yet experts say the burden will land squarely on U.S. consumers,” said CNBC. They used tariffs imposed last year on imported washing machines as an example; “U.S. manufacturers responded to reduced competition from imports by raising their prices and, as a result, more than the full amount of the tariff was passed on in the way of higher prices. U.S. consumers paid 125% to 225% more.” So what can you do? Ramp up future spending now, if possible. “To get ahead of the next waves of tariffs, (University of California, Davis, professor of economics and specialist in international trade) Katheryn Russ recommends buying some items now, if possible — such as backpacks and other back-to-school supplies — rather than holding off until later in the year,” said CNBC. Ditto for things like iPhones; “The price for an iPhone XS would rise to $1,142, up from $1,000, if the White House implements a 25% tariff on the rest of China imports, J.P. Morgan said in a note to clients.” Expect a “similar impact on TVs and everyday purchases, “where consumers will be harder hit, such as frozen food and paper goods, including diapers and paper towels.” Phil Crone, Executive Officer of the Dallas Builders Association, warns of the effect on the housing market. “From tile to countertops, laminates, lighting, and furnishing, about 450 products commonly found in new homes and remodeling projects are seeing tariffs rise from 10 percent to 25 percent,” he said. “According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), homeowners and homebuilders nationwide will be paying an additional $2.5 billion.”

  • Don’t Judge a House by its Photo May. 21st 2019
    Judging a property by its photograph may prove expensive when you discard poor photos without knowing if they represent excellent real estate opportunity for you. PJ Wade suggests a time-saving, better way to choose property. If you spend hours on the internet trying to find your dream home by searching through photos or video of properties, you may be overlooking important flaws in this superficial approach to evaluating real estate. The big question is: What percentage of time are you incorrect in your decision to discard a property based on a photograph? Judging a property by its photograph may prove expensive when you discard poor photos without knowing if they represent excellent real estate opportunity for you. Just ask yourself, how many selfies does it take to achieve a great and, therefore, accurate picture of you? Even when you eventually find photogenic real estate to visit, how many better choices or better bargains did you miss out on because you did not approve their visuals? • Have you studied photography and earned the advantage of knowing how to evaluate second-rate equipment or poor photographic technique that results in failure to present a home’s good bones or reveal a hidden gem worth a closer look? Even a good photo may present poorly as an online image through bad decisions regarding lighting, resolution, cropping, coloration.... • What percentage of properties are discarded because the photo is unappealing? Listing photos are not intended as works of art. Was this a drive-by photo where the photographer did not get out the car because they had so many photos to take? Was it raining or snowing that day? Just like people, houses have a “good side” and a “bad side.” Which side is in the photo? • Do you have a magazine or Instagram pic in mind that you are intent on matching? Houses that are beautiful from the curb earn high-value ratings relative to their location, but buyers still need to physically explore inside to fully appreciate the complete package. • You can’t live in a photograph or even a video. Ideally, a photograph or short video of a property should reveal all the benefits of the buildings and the land. In reality, most photographic representations fall short of this goal. Some are more successful that others, but none are a substitute for experiencing “the big picture” first-hand: the feeling of being there, the volume of rooms, the acoustics of the building, the effects of daylight, the flow through the building…the reality of inspecting the property yourself. In addition, street-face photos cannot reveal interiors that are in marked contrast to facades: a house with a renovated, ultra-modern interior may maintain its historic exterior. • What percentage of the time are you attracted by a great photo of a house, which you later discover has “a lot of ugly” going on outside the photo i.e. beside the house is a high-rise building, auto body shop, shopping mall, night club…? Or, did you discard a property which, invisible to you, had wonderful green space around it? Since location is the most important value factor in real estate, howcan a photo of a property in isolation enable you to fully evaluate its location value without knowing context? The above list of flawed reasons for discarding properties based on photographic representations explains how you may allow your lack of knowledge, on many levels, to limit your ultimate success identifying desirable real estate. Select only the “pretty pictures” and you may inadvertently eliminate properties that would be ideal and perhaps less expensive purchases for you and your family. The Smart Approach We’re not advising that you view every listed property. Instead, work with experienced real estate professionals who’ll process listings, visit properties using your criteria, and, therefore, save you time by selecting the best prospects for you to view. Describe what you’ll want in a new home and the professional will converse with you to clarify that description for you and for them. Buyers are often surprised when these conversations reveal how much they had not realized about what they thought they wanted and needed. Search out a professional who makes it their business to know area product from the outside in. They’ll share their insider view, so you won’t miss out on what could be your dream home. This informed culling of properties will save you from having to view too many properties that are a poor fit for your needs and dreams. “This house was a big surprise inside; from the outside, it looked much smaller,” is a common buyer observation. Most buyers, particularly first-timers or first-time-in-a-long-time buyers, are not experts at architecture or construction, nor have they inspected as many properties as experienced real estate professionals. Your secret weapon is your real estate professional who makes it their business to keep up-to-date viewing area listings. They understand the advantages of knowing the whole property and its entire potential, not just its street face. They appreciate the difference between a real estate dream and a home that’s a dream to live in. Professionals are also aware of smart buying strategies based on poor photos or less inspiring facades. For instance, if you’d like to invest in the best location your budget will allow, there may be advantages to viewing properties in choice neighborhoods with less attractive street faces. When there is value in the location, interior, and backyard, over time the curb view can be improved on, increasing property value in the process. Online buyers of clothing who rely on photos alone discover that it’s the fit that makes the difference—something only first-hand experience (trying the garment on) settles. Real estate is like that, too. Make sure it fits in all the important ways before you buy.

  • What to Expect When Applying for a Jumbo Loan May. 20th 2019
    A jumbo loan is one where the loan amount exceeds current conforming loan limits. Conforming loans are those that conform to standards issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the many requirements for a conforming loan is the loan limit which is currently $484,350 in most parts of the country. In higher cost areas where home values are much greater compared to the rest of the country, the conforming limit can be as high as $726,525. Beyond that is jumbo territory. When applying for financing to purchase a higher end home, jumbo approvals are issued in much the same manner as other types of loans, it’s just a bit more difficult to qualify for one. Conforming loans can ask for a down payment for as little as 5.0 percent of the sales price. With a down payment of less than 20 percent however, private mortgage insurance, or PMI, will be needed. PMI insures the difference between 20 percent down and the actual amount of down payment. with a 5.0 percent down payment, the insurance would cover 15 percent. With jumbo loans however there is no PMI available. That means the loan amount for a jumbo loan should be no greater than 80 percent of the sales price. This equates to a 20 percent down payment, but slightly better terms are offered with a down payment of 25 percent or more. There are some niche portfolio products that ask for a lower down payment but in general this is what you can expect. Credit score minimums are also higher for most jumbo loans. Conforming loan programs can go as low as 600 or so but jumbo loans need higher scores. Minimum scores can vary from one lender to the next but not by very much. Many jumbo loans ask for a minimum credit score of 700 while a few programs need a score of 680. Better rates and terms are typically available with a credit score of 740. If there are two borrowers on the same application, the lender will use the lower of the two qualifying scores. Finally, jumbo loans typically require a bit more documentation both from the borrower as well as third parties. For example, a jumbo loan program might need two appraisals instead of just one. Again, if there are two appraisals, the lender will use the lower value for approval purposes. Jumbo loan applications are also fully documented. There are no “stated” type loans where income or employment is not verified via third parties. There are a couple of programs out there that review 12 months of bank statements in lieu of paycheck stubs or W2s, but the bank statements must show regular monthly deposits from a verified source. On these statements, there needs to be sufficient cash to close for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves. Lenders can separately mail a Verification of Deposit to the financial institution asking the bank to verify how much cash is in the bank as well as an average of recent balances. Jumbo lenders can set their own guidelines because they’re not bound to conforming rules which means qualifying at one lender may be easier or more difficult compared to another. Your loan officer will tell you what types of documentation you’ll need to provide, but once submitted, your jumbo loan application will be processed just like any other.