Buying A Home Virtually

Buying A Home VirtuallyDuring the past few months, everyone has been going through unprecedented times. Every industry has been impacted and this includes the real estate sector. There are lots of people who are still trying to buy and sell a home during an era of social distancing. This can make it hard to look at a prospective property in person. The good news is that there are still ways for people to buy a house virtually. There are a few tips that everyone should keep in mind. 

Go On A Virtual Tour

Of course, everyone wants to take a close look at a home before they decide to buy it. Even though it is challenging to schedule live tours, virtual tours can still be helpful. With virtual real estate software, it is possible to take a virtual, walking tour the home. Furthermore, if tours have been recorded using drones, then a virtual tour might provide everyone with a new perspective on a potential home. 

Ask The Right Questions

It is important for everyone to make sure they ask the right questions. Even if someone is not going on a  tour of a home in person, it is still important to ask the same questions. For example, ask about the age of the roof, the age of the HVAC system, and other pertinent questions to the property. This will help everyone make sure they understand exactly what they are buying. 

Know What Is Not Seen Virtually

When it comes to asking questions, it is also important to think about items that cannot be seen virtually. For example, it might be difficult to judge noise levels outside of the home from a virtual tour. It might also be challenging to figure out where puddles tend to form during thunderstorms. These are important topics that have to be discussed as well. 

Prepare Early To Buy A Home Virtually

Even if people cannot see a property in person, the real estate market can still be relatively active. Therefore, anyone who is looking to buy a house in this market has to make sure they stay on top of their information. This will help them remain competitive when they are trying to buy the perfect house for their needs.

 

Important Advice For Locating The Right Neighborhood

Important Advice For Locating The Right NeighborhoodWhen people are thinking about moving, they want to make sure they find the right neighborhood. At the same time, it is not always easy for many homeowners to decide where they are going to live. Particularly if they are not familiar with the local community, there are a few important points that everyone should keep in mind. By thinking about these factors ahead of time, potential homeowners are going to place themselves in a position to be successful when they purchase their next home. 

Consider The Importance Of The Schools

Many people who are moving are looking for a bigger house because their family is getting larger. Therefore, one of the most important factors that families need to think about involve the quality of the schools. Schools are going to play a major role in the pricing of the neighborhood. Think about whether the kids are going to go to public school or private school. For families that are going to send their kids to public school, they need to think about the quality of the public schools and what school system the neighborhood is zoned for. 

Think About The Commute To Work

Another important factor that the family should consider is the commute to work. There are many people who are moving in an effort to shorten their commute or because they are getting a new job. Therefore, it is a smart idea to think about the traffic, the time it will take to work, and how challenging the driving route is going to be. This is going to play a major role and where the family is going to end up settling. 

The Access To Amenities

Finally, it is also important to think about access to amenities. This could include parks, shopping, hiking trails, and even access to the airport. Families need to think about what is important to them and prioritize this during the housing search. It is also a great idea to think about any development that might be taking place in the local area that could influence housing prices in the future. All of these factors should be considered when families are considering which neighborhood they would like to move to.

 

The Importance of Reviewing Your Insurance Policies During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The Importance of Reviewing Your Insurance Policies During The COVID-19 PandemicThe COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm. Millions of people all over the world have been infected and businesses have ground to a halt. During this time, it is important for everyone to take a breath, pause, and look at their insurance policies.

The reality is that the economic crisis is following in the footsteps of the obvious public health emergency. In order for everyone to hold their finances together, it is important to explore all of the options. This includes looking at insurance policies.

Business Interruption Insurance

One of the first policies or riders that everyone has to look for is called business interruption insurance. This is an insurance policy that might be able to assist companies that are struggling with reduced revenue streams due to interruptions in their normal business operations.

For example, if a business is forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this might fall under the category of business interruption insurance. This can help businesses bridge the gap until they can reopen again.

Civil Authority Clauses

This is a feature that is common in property insurance. This insurance claim can be triggered if government policies restrict the entry of people onto the property of the policyholder. If this restriction leads to lost income, then the insurance policy can be triggered. Everyone should check their policies to see if this clause is included as this can provide funds to businesses that might not otherwise be able to stay open.

Defensive Policies And Riders

Finally, defensive policies are often put in place to help companies defend against lawsuits that might be filed against the company related to injuries and illnesses. Without a doubt, there will be a slew of lawsuits filed related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Defensive policies can help companies cover legal fees, settlement costs, and other expenses related to these lawsuits.

Defensive policies are also called D&O insurance (Directors and Officers Insurance) as well as General Liability Insurance. It is important to read the insurance policy carefully to see if these policies are included.

Businesses need to explore every available option when it comes to reopening. These insurance policies can help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to Pack Weird Shaped So They Are Free From Damage

How to Pack Weird Shaped nothey Are Free From DamageIf you are like a lot of homeowners who have just sold their homes, packing up to move is the least enjoyable aspect of the whole thing. Packing is always time consuming, but it is worse when you have weird shaped items to pack. Sometimes the most commonly used items end up being difficult to pack.

Here are some tips for how to handle it.

Think Outside The Box

Many weird shaped items either do not fit inside a standard sized box or they will rattle around and get damaged. Try to think of unusual packaging materials that might fit the bill, such as egg cartons, cardboard paper towel tubes, insulated coolers and even file cabinet drawers. Often, you will be able to fit a odd or strangely shaped item into one of these. 

  • For instance, sharp knives can be tucked into paper towel tubes. Fold the two ends down and tape shut. 
  • Your kids rock or shell collection can be packed inside egg cartons, layered with newspaper and taped up.
  • A delicate light fixture such as a small chandelier can be packed into an insulated cooler and surrounded with Styrofoam peanuts.

Deal With Sporting Goods And Gardening Equipment

Sporting goods pose a particular challenge when packing. If your family engages in water sports, archery or other activities, you will be wondering how to pack things like fins, a crossbows, skis, and other expensive but weirdly shaped equipment. Here are some ideas.

  • Pack snorkeling and scuba gear into a large, new, plastic trash barrel. The fins will be able to fit on end so they get warped, and there will be plenty of room for masks, snorkels and scuba tank, if necessary.
  • Use a specially designed television box to pack a cross bow and arrows or any other item that?s flat and wide.
  • Ski poles will fit nicely into a bicycle box (along with the bicycle). You can get one from a local dealer or buy one from the moving company. Secure the poles with a zip tie first. 
  • Wrap up garden shovels and hoes with a zip tie and pack them into their own bicycle box. You can use the same box to pack rolled up tents, sleeping bags and other camping gear. 

You can see that with a little ingenuity there is always a way to pack weird shaped items. Be forewarned though – the stranger the item, the more creative you may have to get!

 

 

Should You Buy A Fixer Upper?

Should You Buy A Fixer Upper?If you’ve expressed any interest in buying a home that you can work on, your real estate agent may present you with one or two fixer upper properties for your consideration. Fixer upper homes can offer good value for certain kinds of homebuyers.

But not everyone should buy a fixer upper. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

There May Be Unforeseen Conditions

Until you actually get in there and start renovating, you cannot know exactly what is behind those walls. Fixer uppers could have unforeseen conditions that could blow away your renovation budget.

If you do decide to forge ahead with an offer, consider hiring a structural engineer, a pest control technician and a mold expert to carefully inspect the property first.

Will You Be Able To Live There During Renovations?

Sometimes a fixer upper requires a complete overhaul. Other times there are a few inhabitable rooms you can stay in while completing the rehab.

Consider whether you and/or your family can be comfortable during the work, or if you will need to rent an apartment or stay with family.

This will heavily impact your fixer upper experience.

How Handy Are You – Honestly?

This is the time to be really honest with yourself. How much of the work can you actually do? Are you a wannabe handyman, or do you truly possess the skills and experience to complete quality work? If everyone you know is astonished that you want to work on a fixer upper house, it is a smart idea to take stock of your abilities. 

Can You Afford To Hire Workers?

Just because you buy a fixer upper does not mean you have to do the work yourself, either. Maybe you have the money to hire a contractor or workers to get the job done. If hiring others is part of the plan, make sure you budget accordingly. Do not forget to budget for the unexpected because with a fixer upper, you can expect the unexpected.

Finally, if the only house you can afford is a fixer upper and you really want to buy now, then maybe you should go for it. After all, when you finish the rehab, you could be in a position to take some equity out of the house after a new appraisal.

For the right person in the right circumstances, a fixer upper can be a viable choice.

 

4 Ways To Choose The Right Home Service Professional

4 Ways To Choose The Right Home Service ProfessionalAs a homeowner, there are numerous situations in which someone might need a home service professional. On the other hand, this can also create a sense of vulnerability because people might not know who to choose. In order to find the right home service professional, there are a few tips that people need to follow.

Confirm Credentials

Credentials and experience are great markers of a home service professional’s training and track record; however, it is still important to confirm these credentials. Be sure to ask the contractor for references regarding his or her prior work.

Then, take the time to confirm these references. This will help homeowners make sure they are getting the right person for the job. If the past contracts went well, the future ones are likely to meet expectations as well.

Talk About Licensing And Permits

Home service professionals need to have the right licensing and permits for the project. In some cases, it might be the responsibility of the homeowner to collect these permits. If someone doesn’t have the right permits for the job, this could lead to a ticket. This might also impact the home’s value when it comes time to sell it. A contractor should be able to help homeowners work through these issues.

Ask About Insurance

All contractors need to have insurance for their work. In some cases, problems might arise as the project unfolds. This could lead to expensive home repairs. Contractors are supposed to have insurance to cover the cost of these repairs. If not, the contractor is opening himself or herself up to a lawsuit. Ask to see the contractor’s proof of insurance upfront before the project starts. This will provide an extra layer of protection.

Get Everything In Writing

Finally, all expectations need to be written down. While some contractors might not like to have their words set in stone, professionals who are confident in their ability to deliver should not have a problem with this. This is particularly true when it comes to price quotes. Make sure that all guarantees are received in writing and kept organized. Any agreements on behalf of either the client or contractor need to be tracked. This way, everyone is held accountable.

Pros And Cons Of Completing Home Renovations Before Selling

Pros And Cons Of Completing Home Renovations Before Selling

Whether you originally bought a fixer-upper or you’re just a homeowner who wanted to update their house, chances are you have seen your share of home renovations. Home renovations have the potential to greatly add to the value of your property, but they can also add to your own quality of life. Hopefully, you have completed your home renovations and gotten plenty of use out of them before listing your home for sale. 
If not, you may find yourself wanted to move before all the renovations are complete. What’s the best course of action? Should you put the time and money in to finish? Or should you cut your losses and list the home for sale? What are the pros and cons of completing home renovations before selling?
Pro: The Home May Sell Easier
Your real estate agent will be happier if your home is fully renovated. That’s because they know that the home may sell easier in a fully renovated condition. Of course, you could get a prospective DIY homebuyer eager to put their own “stamp” on the home, but that is nothing you can count on.
Con: You May Not Recoup The Extra Expenses
Not all home renovations equate to value-added improvements that you can count in your wallet. If your renovations are small things like replacing door hinges, patching a hole in the plaster, or stripping outdated wallpaper, you are unlikely to see an equal increase in what you can get for your home sale.
Pro: There Will Be Less Explaining
If you have finished the renovation, you have nothing to explain and no excuses to make to anyone. In the renovated condition, the home is what it is. Even if a prospective home buyer does not happen to like the new paint color you have chosen, they still can?t complain that it is old or worn looking. 
Con: You Will Need To Delay Your Listing
Home renovations can take up a lot of time, as you may know, if you have done a lot of them already. You will have to delay listing your home, which in turn will mean putting your moving plans on hold for what could be an extra month or two. Depending on your future plans, this could impact your child’s school entry date and more.
No one will force you to complete half-finished renovations. But consider these pros and cons before deciding how to proceed.

Whether you originally bought a fixer-upper or you’re just a homeowner who wanted to update their house, chances are you have seen your share of home renovations. Home renovations have the potential to greatly add to the value of your property, but they can also add to your own quality of life.

Hopefully, you have completed your home renovations and gotten plenty of use out of them before listing your home for sale. 

If not, you may find yourself wanted to move before all the renovations are complete. What’s the best course of action?

Should you put the time and money in to finish? Or should you cut your losses and list the home for sale?

What are the pros and cons of completing home renovations before selling?

Pro: The Home May Sell Easier
Your real estate agent will be happier if your home is fully renovated. That’s because they know that the home may sell easier in a fully renovated condition. Of course, you could get a prospective DIY homebuyer eager to put their own “stamp” on the home, but that is nothing you can count on.

Con: You May Not Recoup The Extra Expenses
Not all home renovations equate to value-added improvements that you can count in your wallet. If your renovations are small things like replacing door hinges, patching a hole in the plaster, or stripping outdated wallpaper, you are unlikely to see an equal increase in what you can get for your home sale.

Pro: There Will Be Less Explaining
If you have finished the renovation, you have nothing to explain and no excuses to make to anyone. In the renovated condition, the home is what it is. Even if a prospective home buyer does not happen to like the new paint color you have chosen, they still can?t complain that it is old or worn looking. 

Con: You Will Need To Delay Your Listing
Home renovations can take up a lot of time, as you may know, if you have done a lot of them already. You will have to delay listing your home, which in turn will mean putting your moving plans on hold for what could be an extra month or two. Depending on your future plans, this could impact your child’s school entry date and more.

No one will force you to complete half-finished renovations. But consider these pros and cons before deciding how to proceed.

 

4 Surprising Things That Might Increase Your Home’s Value

4 Surprising Things That Might Increase Your Home's ValueYou’ve probably heard that living near excellent schools or having curb appeal can boost the value of your home. However, a home’s value is dependent upon a lot of different factors. Some of these things are more obvious than others. Things that might seem insignificant can have an impact on your home’s worth. Here are some surprising things that can affect the existing value of your home or how much a buyer is willing to pay for it.

#1 A Blue Kitchen or Bathroom

Painting your home is an easy and cost-effective way to update your home. Just make sure that you select the right colors. Based on recent research, walls that are painted cool neutral colors like blue are more likely to appeal to buyers. According to a 2017 study by Zillow, homes with blue bathrooms sell for an average of $5,500 more than expected. Houses that had blue kitchens sold for $1,809 more compared to similar homes that had a white kitchen.

#2 How Close You Are To A Supermarket

Being next to a well-known supermarket can increase the value of your home. If the supermarket is considered upmarket, then the increase in value is even higher. According to “Zillow Talk, The New Rules of Real Estate,”  homes that are near a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods grocery store appreciate up to 40 percent faster than other homes. The presence of a popular store like Trader Joe’s has a positive effect on market values over time.

#3 A Joanna Gaines’ Aesthetic

Joanna Gaines’s urban farmhouse aesthetic is more than just chic; it can have a surprisingly positive effect on the value of your home. According to a Zillow analysis of home sale descriptions from 2016, houses that had the keywords “farmhouse sink” and “barn door” sold quicker and at a premium compared to similar homes. Listings that had the words “barn door” sold 57 days quicker and for 13.4 percent more than similar homes. For sale listings that included a “farmhouse sink” sold for 8 percent more. So, if you plan to make interior updates in your home, you might want to watch a couple of episodes of “Fixer Upper” for inspiration.

#4 Your Proximity to Starbucks

Do you live within a quarter of a mile from a Starbucks? If so, then you are in luck? A study released by Zillow in 2015 found that homes that were within a quarter of a mile from the Seattle-based coffeehouse increased by 96 percent on average from 1997 to 2014. This number is well above the average of 65 percent of all U.S. homes.

Whether you are in the process of buying a new home or updating your existing home, think about the above factors as they may play a role in the value of your home.

The Benefits of Using a Veterans (VA) Loan To Purchase Your Home

The Benefits of Using a Veterans (VA) Loan To Purchase Your HomeU.S. military veterans have opportunities to enjoy some richly-deserved benefits in other aspects of their lives, including some special options for financing their homes. VA loans may give active military personnel, retired veterans, and sometimes surviving family members of veterans the ability to purchase homes that might not prove available to them through more conventional mortgage loans.

But the mere fact that you can do a thing doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. In some circumstances, military home seekers may find other types of loan options more amenable to their specific needs.

If you’ve decided to pursue a mortgage loan during or following your military career, you may want to examine these considerations before leaping into a VA loan application.

Loan Qualifications and Limits

A VA loan can open the door to home ownership for cash-strapped or credit-challenged military personnel who might otherwise struggle to get a conventional mortgage loan. This type of loan offers tremendous flexibility in qualifying factors such as credit scores and debt-to-income ratios; in fact, VA loans may come with no maximum debt ratio at all.

Potential For Zero Down Payment

Additionally, VA loans do not require the down payment typically needed for a more conventional or FHA loan. (The only other loan with no down payment requirement, the USDA loan, applies to rural areas and comes with some prohibitive income restrictions.)

The elimination of a mandatory down payment, coupled with the relaxed financial qualifications, can make a VA loan the most sensible choice for individuals who suffer from limited resources, “upside-down” credit and short credit histories.

Additional Qualifications To Consider

That said, VA loans usually impose some qualifications of their own — qualifications which may not appeal to some buyers. For one thing, a VA loan can only go toward the primary place of residence, not a summer cottage or second home. Military personnel who already own a home may therefore find this restriction a deal-breaker for their specific needs.

VA Loan Limits

VA loan amounts may also impose varying guaranty limits depending on where you live. The guaranty limit refers to your VA entitlement, the portion of your loan that escapes the down payment requirement.

In most counties, that limit currently levels off at 435,100, although in several major metropolitan markets it can range as high as 679,650. If you want to buy a more expensive home, you may end up making a down payment — potentially making your VA loan competitive against other loan options.

As always, your best move is to call your trusted mortgage professional to discuss the VA home loan option and find out if it’s the best option for you.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 29, 2016

Last week’s economic reports included readings on new and existing home sales, a speech by Fed Chair Janet Yellen, and a report on consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

New Home Sales Rise in July as Pre-Owned Home Sales Fall

Sales of new homes jumped in July to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 654,000 sales, which surpassed expectations of 579,000 sales and June’s downwardly-revised reading of 582,000 sales. This was the highest reading for new home sales since 2008 and represented a 31.30 percent increase since July 2015.

Builders were seen by analysts as addressing the need for more affordable homes; this trend contributes to a healthy housing market by supplying homes for a wider range of buyers. First-time buyers play a vital part in housing markets as their purchases enable current homeowners to buy larger homes or relocate.

Sales of pre-owned homes fell 3.20 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million sales as compared to expectations of 5.59 million sales and June’s reading of 5.57 million sales. Year-over-year, sales were 1.60 percent lower. Limited inventories of available pre-owned homes have narrowed buyer options; increasing prices and narrow choices were seen as factors contributing to lower sales. There was a 4.60 month supply of available homes in July. Real estate pros typically consider a six months a normal reading for homes on the market.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, noted that a slowdown in home appraisals may have contributed to July’s lower sales reading for pre-owned homes. Low mortgage rates prompted a surge in refinancing which created a backlog in home appraisals. While low mortgage rates may entice home buyers, stricter mortgage requirements can also keep prospective buyers at bay.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated that the stage could be set for a federal rate increase as early as next month. If the Fed hikes its target federal funds rate, interest rates for consumer credit and mortgages can be expected to rise.

Mortgage Rates Hold Steady; New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that fixed mortgage rates for 30 and 15-year loans were unchanged at 3.43 and 2.74 percent respectively. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.75 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent.

New jobless claims were lower last week. 261,000 new jobless claims were filed against expectations of 264,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 262,000 new claims filed. Declining jobless claims can indicate strengthening labor markets, but can also indicate that workers are leaving the labor markets.

Consumer sentiment declined slightly in August due to concerns over the upcoming presidential election. Analysts expected a reading of 91.0 for August, but the reading for August was revised from 90.4 to 89.80.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on pending home sales, inflation, construction spending and consumer confidence. National unemployment, non-farm payrolls and ADP payrolls are also scheduled.